On 22 October 2015, the Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula MP, asked the Department of Justice and Regulation to undertake the Access to Justice Review. The review, released on Tuesday 4 October 2016, contains 60 recommendations. These recommendations are now being considered by the Victorian Government.
The aim of the Review was to identify ways to improve access to justice for Victorians with an everyday legal problem and ensure that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our community, including Victorians from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, receive the support they need when engaging with the law and the justice system.
The Review was asked to examine:
- entry points into the legal system and increasing community members’ understanding of how they can get help with everyday legal issues
- options for diverting people from civil litigation where appropriate, and whether alternative dispute resolution should be expanded
- potential reform to the small civil claims jurisdiction of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
- the availability and distribution of legal assistance funding from the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, including how to get the most from funding for legal assistance providers
- how to boost access to pro bono legal help (where lawyers do work for the community for free)
- how to support self-represented litigants.
The review was undertaken by the Department of Justice and Regulation with the assistance of Crown Counsel, Melinda Richards SC, and the former Chair of the Queensland Legal Aid Commission, Rachel Hunter, at the request of Mr Pakula.
The Access to Justice Review team consulted extensively with stakeholders and the public. It received 90 submissions, 339 survey responses, hosted four expert roundtables, and engaged in over 150 meetings.
The Review proposes strategic responses – better information, more integrated services, better use of technology and stronger governance – to enhance access to justice through a systemic approach. If the Review’s recommendations are adopted, more Victorians will have greater access to better services. They will be able to get information about a legal problem quickly, use processes that resolve their disputes as fairly and quickly as possible, and, if they are disadvantaged or vulnerable, they will have better access to legal advice and assistance.