Strengthening Access to Justice

  • Labor will strengthen the legal assistance sector to improve access to justice.

  • After a decade of neglect of the legal assistance sector by the Liberals, there is significant unmet legal need across many areas of Australian society.

  • Labor will boost funding to community legal centres to help victims of bushfires and flooding in Queensland and New South Wales, restore funding to the Environmental Defenders Office and support the leadership of First Nations legal peak bodies.

  • All Australians, not just the wealthy, should have access to justice and a fair go under the law.  

Why do we need this?

Natural disasters like severe floods and bushfires, cost of living pressures, and disruptions caused by COVID-19 have led to an unprecedented demand for legal services.

Yet over the last decade, the Liberal Government has shown no interest in improving access to justice. Instead, they have neglected the legal assistance sector and made it harder for Australians who can’t afford private lawyers to access justice.

This includes the decision to terminate federal funding to Environmental Defenders Offices across Australia, without consultation or notice, at the expense of farmers and other regional Australians, First Nations people and the environment more generally.

Labor believes all Australians, including those living in regional and remote Australia, those experiencing the impacts of natural disasters and First Nations people, should be able to have their rights defended in court.   

The details

An Albanese Government will invest $25 million to boost funding for the legal assistance sector, including:

  • $12 million over four years to community legal centres assisting victims of fires and floods in Queensland and NSW. This investment will help meet the unprecedented increase in demand for legal services following these natural disasters and help those seeking to rebuild their lives, homes and financial security.

  • $8 million to the Environmental Defenders Office and $1 million to Environmental Justice Australia to restore funding cut by the Liberals and support these organisations to continue representing Australians from all walks of life, from farmers to First Nations people to community and environmental groups who want to uphold our laws and protect Australia’s precious natural assets. 

  • $1 million to support the leadership of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), the representative peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

  • $3 million to support the work of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum, which advocates for First Nations people experiencing family violence, especially women and children – after the Morrison Government cut direct funding in 2020.

These commitments are in addition to Labor’s commitment of $13.5 million to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services to ensure families who have lost loved ones in custody can access culturally appropriate legal assistance for coronial inquests.