Access to Justice

2018/19 Annual Report

The Access to Justice Committee has broad representation from members of the legal profession and key stakeholders in the provision of legal aid and legal assistance on a pro bono basis. Stakeholder representation includes Law Access Limited, a wholly owned not for profit subsidy of the Society that co-ordinates pro-bono assistance in Western Australia and the Director of Civil Law at Legal Aid. The Law Society is also represented on the Law Access Limited Stakeholder Advisory Committee by a member of the Committee.

The Convenor and the Law Society’s President have represented the Law Society on the Law Council of Australia’s Access to Justice Committee. A key achievement of the Committee and Law Council has been the publication of the Justice Project Final Report. This Report comprehensively reviewed the state of access to justice in Australia for people experiencing significant disadvantage. The Justice Project was overseen by an expert steering group led by the former Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon Robert French AC. The Report identified 13 priority groups and made 59 recommendations.

The Law Society has established a Justice Project Working Group to identify which recommendations are strategic priorities to have implemented in Western Australia. The Convenor, Jenny McKenzie and Mr Justin Stevenson are the Committee’s representatives on the Working Group.

During the recent Federal Election, the Law Council of Australia and the Law Society continued to campaigned for the major parties to adopt policies that would lead to an increase in funding for legal assistance in accordance with the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements’ and the Justice Project’s recommendations.

Initiatives undertaken during the year include submissions made to the Attorney General and the State Solicitor’s Office concerning the requirement for pro-bono work to be included in government legal panel tenders. The submissions broadly followed the Victorian model.

The Aged Care Royal Commission is also being monitored by the Committee with an emphasis on access to justice for the elderly.

To assist practitioners conducting pro-bono matters, the Committee promoted an article that has been published in the June edition of Brief informing practitioners of schemes that assist in the payment of pro-bono disbursements.

The Committee continues to explore options to educate and assist practitioners to engage with their Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders’ clients in an appropriate and culturally sensitive way.

The Committee continues to monitor the situation where legal practitioners engaging in legal practice at a community legal centre on a voluntary basis were not being provided with an exemption from holding professional indemnity insurance under a scheme approved by the Society. The Legal Practice Regulations have been amended to correct this anomaly however the Committee continues to monitor for potential unintended consequences of these amendments.

For more information about this committee please email General Manager, Advocacy – Mary Woodford, advocacy@lawsocietywa.asn.au