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What justice needs from the budget

What justice needs from the budget

By Law Institute Journal



The LIV believes the Victorian government must address funding in its 2018-2019 budget in the following key areas...

The LIV lobbies government on behalf of members, the legal profession and the community. It believes the state government must address funding in its 2018-2019 budget in the following key areas to achieve a productive justice system.

More funding for courts

Victoria’s courts need greater funding to address the backlog of cases. The state government must properly fund the courts and ensure full support services are available to help people attending court. This would relieve pressure on lawyers, court staff and the judiciary, reduce the backlog and ultimately improve public confidence in the justice system.

Health and wellbeing of the legal profession

Lawyers are more likely than other professional groups to suffer anxiety and depression, with a third of solicitors and a fifth of barristers affected. Magistrates and judges are particularly vulnerable due to the nature of their work. Providing wellness resources will help safeguard legal professionals and professional responsibility and assist in a productive justice system.

Address elder abuse

Increased funding is needed for VCAT’s Guardianship List to hear contraventions of legislation governing support and substitute decision-making. Increased funding could lead to the expansion of VCAT’s jurisdiction over elder abuse matters, including family agreements and assets-for-care arrangements. This would reduce the burden on the aged care system and community legal centres. It could also lead to a shift in community attitudes, breaking the cycle of abuse and resulting in better outcomes for older people.

Prison video link hubs

The current video link court appearance system for prisoners is inadequate. Prisoners have limited opportunities and time to speak to their lawyers. Prison video-link hubs would allow multiple prisoners to engage with lawyers, improving the efficacy of the system and access to justice.

Support for regional government lawyers

Government bodies are increasingly moving operations to regional hubs. This has resulted in government lawyers working in these areas missing out on support services and experiencing isolation. Supporting regional government lawyers ensures robust services and a viable legal workforce.

Education of sports organisations on child protection changes

The Victorian Child Safe Standards and changes to the Working with Children Act 2005 came into effect on 1 January 2017 and 1 August 2017 respectively. The changes apply to all sporting organisations in Victoria. There is a lack of resources for education of sporting bodies about the new laws, particularly at the local level. Education ensures compliance, which is cost effective in the long-term as there will be less need for legal intervention.

Education on changes to conveyancing practice

Land Use Victoria’s requirement of digital conveyancing by 1 August 2019 has put commercial and regulatory pressures on practitioners and, in turn, clients. The changes need to be communicated to the community effectively, ensuring a smooth transition.

Raise age of out of home care availability to 21

Extending foster care beyond the age of 18 for those in need is a necessity. Forcing individuals to leave state care at the age of 18 has ramifications for young people in relation to homelessness, unemployment, dislocation from education and health services. Current support services for young people are insufficient and fragmented. Providing ongoing support would help young people create their role in the community, reducing a future burden on social welfare systems.

Housing support for released prisoners

Forty per cent of Australia’s prisoners expect to exit custody into homelessness. Current housing services cannot meet demand. Housing-related services reduce reoffending and order revocations, which alleviates overcrowded prisons.

Treatment for people in custody with mental illness

There is a severe shortage of psychiatric treatment available to people in custody. Providing adequate mental health care will help people in need, decrease risk to the community and result in spending fewer resources in the long-term and cut costs to the justice system.

Lawyers in Schools program

Young people are vulnerable to having their education disrupted by legal issues. Lawyers in Schools programs improve legal awareness and facilitate access to legal services for young people. Legal knowledge means students can avoid coming into contact with legal issues and are better equipped to manage legal issues if they arise. Ultimately, it helps with the development of disadvantaged children and young people.

Investment in diverting young offenders

Young people are over-represented in the justice system. Their recidivism rate is higher than the general population (52.7 per cent in 2014/2015 compared to 44.1 per cent for the general population). Research shows that the younger a person has contact with the criminal justice system, the more likely it is they will reoffend. By improving youth diversion and engagement services, crime and recidivism will be reduced by preventing the offending trajectory that often occurs after imprisonment – which itself does not act as a deterrent for reoffending. It will also help them stay connected to family, education, employment and the community, ultimately improving the safety of the wider community.

Health justice partnerships

People are more likely to talk about their legal problems with a health professional than seek out a lawyer. Health justice partnerships (HJP) facilitate provision of free legal advice or referrals for patients needing legal help, resulting in fewer health problems caused by legal issues and reduced financial burden on the health system.

Cultural support for Indigenous children in out-of-home care

The law requires a cultural support plan for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care to encourage the child’s connection to their community and culture. A recent report found limited culturally appropriate education, widespread non-compliance, failure to adequately engage Aboriginal communities in decision-making, and governmental failure to comply with existing protocols to safeguard the cultural rights of these children. Cultural support for Aboriginal children would ensure compliance with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 as well as the current legislation. It would enable children to stay connected to their culture and preserve Aboriginal heritage.

Support for export of legal services

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade valued the Australian legal services export market at $598 million in 2016, yet there have been few events, trade missions and other programs to support Victorian law firms expanding globally. Victoria would benefit from investing in the export of legal services to international customers in terms of the state’s economy, reputation and jobs. It would also benefit from a developing and expanding legal profession, minimising PC fee increases and ensuring that our members have a strong voice across government.

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