NLA Statement on the Final Report of the Independent Review of National Legal Assistance Partnership

12 June  2024

National Legal Aid welcomes the release of the NLAP Review Report.

The Report acknowledges that the legal assistance sector has been under-resourced for more than a decade and its 39 recommendations outline a range of reforms that acknowledge this and aim to re-build    the sector, both in terms of expanding service delivery capacity and in solidifying infrastructure, evidence    and sustainability.

National Legal Aid notes that the NLAP Review Report recommendations broadly align with the    recommendations made in its submission to the Review.

The recommendations outline significant investment in legal assistance. We view the need for    investment as urgent, and that it would be a missed opportunity if the current NLAP agreement were    rolled over for a further 12 months without additional investment provided by 1 June 2025.   

We have identified priorities where we see investment can have the greatest impact meeting the most    acute & currently unmet legal need. We call for urgent investment in the following areas across the legal    assistance sector.   

For Legal Aid services nationally:   

  • Expansion of family and civil law grants – at least $317 million nationally to increase the number of    family and civil grants by 70,000, with priority given to ending gender-based violence, Administrative    Review legal assistance and delivering national services.

  • Increase investment in Independent Children’s Lawyers – at least $40 million nationally to increase    the number of grants by 3,000 and to invest in quality service delivery.

  • Increase the means test – increase funding by at least $98 million to expand the reach of the means    test coverage from 8 to 9% of Australian households.

  • Increase private practitioner fees – by at least 18%.

Commonwealth investment in an uplift in funding across the sector for:   

  • Uplift of funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Community Legal Services    and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services to address service delivery gaps and sustainability    issues including wage parity.

  • Provision of disaster response legal services.

  • Investment in strategic advocacy and law reform.

  • Investment in nationally coordinated collection of all government funded legal assistance service    delivery by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

  • Investment in national strategies for the sector around workforce development, technology and innovation, and sustainability.

Ending gender-based violence:

Investment in legal assistance is critical to ending gender-based violence. We note the recommendation    of a women’s assistance forum in each jurisdiction. We propose this be transformed into women’s safety    forums that include family law and child support; employment and discrimination; child protection, family   

violence orders, victims compensation and criminal law; and that each forum develops agreed    arrangements regarding service delivery, information sharing, collaboration and funding.

The Review report recommends $459 million in funding for legal assistance services in civil and family law in 2025-26, and funding for grants of legal aid to be set at court scales and reflected in baseline funding for Legal Aid Commissions.

Quotes attributable to Louise Glanville, Chair, NLA:

Many of the recommendations in the Review report were highlighted in the Justice on the Brink report commissioned by NLA in 2023. NLA has been calling for increased legal aid funding of $484 million per year. This would increase legal aid grants by 70 000 grants for civil and family law matters, raise our means test to enable legal aid to assist 9% of Australian households (currently only 8% are eligible), and address the crisis in supply of private practitioners due to low fees for providing grants of aid.

NLA welcomes identification of the importance of legal assistance work in domestic and family violence, through a quarantined women’s funding stream. 86% of all Legal Aid Family Law matters have a risk of domestic and family violence.

We welcome the strong focus on meeting Closing the Gap targets and self-determination of ACCOs. The Review Report also identifies the importance of legal assistance in disability, administrative review and supporting government policy priorities.

This is a critical time and opportunity to increase access to justice and improve legal assistance for the most disadvantaged people in Australia. It is important to receive recognition from the NLAP Independent Reviewer Dr Warren Mundy of more than 10 years of under-resourcing.

We look forward to working with the Attorney-General to deliver an implementation plan in partnership with the legal assistance sector, including identification of additional resources so that we can better meet the legal assistance needs of people experiencing disadvantage.

For further comment please contact:
Katherine Mckernan, Executive Director, National Legal Aid
0425 288 446;

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