Queensland Law Society

Need for more funding to represent legal representation for the mentally ill

Date 16 May 2016
Contact Tony Keim
Phone 07 3842 5835
Mobile 0488 433 884
Email media@qls.com.au

More than 97 percent of mentally ill Queenslanders locked up under involuntary detention orders have no legal representation if they wish to fight unjust incarceration, according to Queensland Law Society.

President Bill Potts said the appalling statistics were detailed in the most recent report of the Mental Health Review Tribunal, which revealed a massive gap in access to justice for the state’s most vulnerable members of society.

“Queensland has the lowest level of legal representation in Australia for people appearing before a mental health review tribunal and the lowest level of funding for mental health legal services," he said.

“It is an absolute disgrace and needs immediate redress by way of injection of State and Federal Government funding.”

Mr Potts’ comments come ahead of May 17’s statewide Queensland Legal Walk – an event aimed at raising funds for a much needed community mental health law practice.

He said community law centres (CLCs) – in particular the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) – were all struggling to maintain sufficient government funding and that it was imperative the legal profession and wider community rally to ensure disadvantaged members of the community had access to justice.

"At a time when funding for CLCs is at tipping-point due to diminishing federal government support it is imperative members of the profession unite to say clearly and unequivocally that more needs to be done to ensure the most in need members of our community have access to justice," Mr Potts said.

He said the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW’s LAW Survey, the largest ever survey of legal need, reveals that the largest need for pro-bono – or free -- legal representation in Queensland is for people with a disability – 80 percent of who are mentally ill.

The 2016 Brisbane 5km walk will be led by Queensland’s Chief Justice Catherine Holmes and Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath.

Walks will simultaneously start at 7am in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and the Sunshine Coast.

The Brisbane leg will commence at the Queen Elizabeth II Court Complex and travel along both sides of the Brisbane River before returning to the courts for a complimentary breakfast.

All money raised will help support QPILCH’s Mental Health Law Practice.

QPILCH Director Mr Tony Woodyatt said: “We can assist people with mental health problems stay in housing, reduce their unfair debt and have their voice heard in all the decisions affecting them - without this legal help, the problems spiral downwards.”

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tony Keim on 07 3842 5835, mobile 0488 433 884 or via email, media@qls.com.au.