The Federal Government has announced that it will be reducing
Commonwealth funding for Legal Aid nationally by up to $15 million
in its most recent budget. The funding changes come at an untimely
moment following the Productivity Commission's inquiry into
Access to Justice Arrangements. The proportion of
Commonwealth funding for the Legal Aid Commission will now
represent 35% of its funding following the changes.
A number of peak legal bodies have expressed concern with the
funding changes and their impact on access to justice in
President of the NSW Bar Association, Phillip Boulton SC has
"These cuts will further increase the numbers of
unrepresented litigants coming before our courts. It is well
established that self-represented litigants increase the demand on
time, costs and resources of the court system".
The Law Council of Australia has also expressed its concern
that the reduction of legal aid funding will not only exacerbate
the strain of frontline legal aid staff by imposing more stringent
means tests, but will also result in increased downstream costs for
the economy and society as a whole. Its President, Mr Michael
Colbran QC has called for an increase in the Commonwealth funding,
as well as the readjustment of funding arrangements to reflect a
50-50 split between Federal and State/Territory funding of legal
The funding changes will certainly have an adverse impact on
those less well off to fend for themselves at a time of great need.
The provision of Pro-bono legal assistance by private firms and
solicitors will increasingly be essential to improving access to
justice for disadvantaged clients.
Carroll & O'Dea provides legal assistance on a Pro-bono
basis in accordance with our Pro-bono policy. We welcome all
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