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Legal aid matters: Sign up

Briefs

Cite as: September 2013 87 (9) LIJ, p.14

Lawyers are being urged to advocate for increased funding of legal aid online.

Practitioners can lobby for greater government support of legal aid via the Legal Aid Matters section on the LIV website, developed with the Victorian Bar.

Individuals can sign an online petition (www.liv.asn.au/petition) calling on federal and state governments to increase legal aid funding, write to their local federal and state members with their own letter or using an online template, post comments and share stories via an online forum (www.liv.asn.au/forum) and forward website content on to others to encourage them to get involved.

They can also join the conversation on social media by following the @LIVPresident and LIV Young Lawyers Facebook page using the hash tag #Legal Aid Matters.

Practitioners can learn more about the background of legal aid issues, explore FAQs and read media releases and blogs on the issue in the Legal Aid Matters section of the LIV website.

The state’s peak legal bodies for solicitors and barristers partnered to create the website to bring the legal aid crisis to the attention of federal and state governments and opposition.

The website points out that under the current system of legal aid eligibility, women will be cross-examined by their male abusers; children under 10 will be at risk of defending themselves; and accused will not have legal representation unless they face jail.

LIV president Reynah Tang said the legal aid funding crisis was the most important issue for the legal profession this year. While the LIV and the Victorian Bar have lobbied heavily for greater funding of legal aid, they remain deeply concerned about access to justice for thousands of disadvantaged people.

“The LIV and the Victorian Bar are joining forces to launch this petition because we feel that access to justice should be a federal election issue. It is unacceptable that some of our most disadvantaged and vulnerable people cannot get legal representation,” Mr Tang said. “We need the Commonwealth to restore its 50 per cent share of legal aid funding, and for the Victorian government to at least maintain its current funding levels, with a view to increasing that funding to reflect growing demand arising from its law and order policies.

“We invite people to check out our Legal Aid Matters forum. It is a place where people can share their stories about legal aid, and learn more about why access to justice is so vital for everyone.”

Victorian Bar chair Fiona McLeod SC said legal aid needs to be restored to ensure a just legal system and also because of the cost in the long term if that commitment isn’t made.

“We’ve seen the erosion over time of the ability of legal aid to serve its original purpose as a justice safety net,” Ms McLeod said. “There are long-term consequences for our community and the kind of society we are if we abandon the most vulnerable and leave them voiceless in our justice system. It costs more in the long term –socially, morally and fiscally.

“The issue of legal aid is not just about money, it is about who we are as a community and how much we believe in a fair go. This petition is a way for everyone who is concerned about how we look after the most disadvantaged people in our community, to get involved and declare their concern.”

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