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Means Test Review to make legal aid eligibility fairer

Means Test Review to make legal aid eligibility fairer

By LIV Media

Justice 

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A review initiated by Victoria Legal Aid to make the legal aid means test fairer is calling for input from Victorians who have missed out on getting a grant for legal representation.

The Means Test Review will draw on community input, lawyers and social services organisations to develop ideas to make the means test fairer, more efficient to administer, easier to understand and more financially sustainable.

The consultation was launched at the Multicultural Hub on Wednesday evening with speakers including Victoria Legal Aid managing director Bevan Warner, Victorian Council of Social Services deputy CEO Mary Sayers, Federation of Community Legal Centres chair Belinda Lo and LIV president Steven Sapountsis.

Mr Sapountsis said the private legal profession provides around 70 per cent of the legal services funded by legal aid. Legal aid lawyers have seen the eligibility criteria tighten considerably over time, leaving deserving clients unable to access legal assistance.

The Legal Aid Matters campaign revealed that legal aid is presently available to only around 8 per cent of Australia's population – despite about 14 per cent or 2.5 million Australians living on or below the poverty line.

In 2014, fewer than 74,000 legal aid grants were offered nationally. “That is considerably less than the poverty line figures and needs surveys would indicate as being required,” Mr Sapountsis said.

"That means too many deserving Victorians who are facing court, at the risk of serious sanctions or great family or personal disruptions, are left without the legal representation that every Australian deserves.

“We urge lawyers to report their experiences of clients being denied legal aid on the basis of the current means test to the review – and to encourage their clients to share their experiences as well,” he said.

Lawyers and members of the public can share their experiences of legal aid:

For further information regarding this media release please contact the
LIV Media Department

T: 03 9607 9373
E: media@liv.asn.au


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