Making justice more accessible
Queensland Law Society has called for a commitment to:
Immediately restore $5 million in funding to Legal Aid Queensland for lawyer-assisted dispute resolution in the family law jurisdiction.
Restore equality between the State and Commonwealth shares of funding for Legal Aid Queensland by 2017-18.
Not proceed with planned reduction of funding to Queensland Community Legal Centres in 2017-18 under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services and implement a consistent and reliable funding model for this invaluable sector.
Investigate allocating money seized from proceeds of crime actions as an ongoing funding source for legal assistance services.
Legal Aid Queensland’s Commonwealth funding for 2015-16 was reduced by $1.5M, which followed a $3M cut in 2014-15.
- Family Early Dispute Resolution pilot project to cease except for domestic violence cases or grandparents caring for children in need of orders for parental authority
- Family dispute resolution conferences to be limited
- Tightened criteria for aid for lawyer assisted family dispute resolution (FDR) services
- Limiting eligibility for grants of aid for parenting order litigation
- Tightened access for grants of aid for property matters
- Limiting the number of funded family reports where an Independent Children's Lawyer has been appointed
- Restricting grants of aid for psychiatric reports.
In 2006 the Commonwealth Government contributed 44% of Legal Aid’s $80M revenue. In 2015 it was reduced to 39% of Legal Aid’s $113M revenue.
Community legal centres
Community legal centres play a critical role in assisting people resolve their legal problems. Last year community legal centres helped almost 50,000 people in Queensland but turned another 80,000 away. Community legal centres are not currently funded adequately to meet existing and increasing demand for services. Unresolved legal problems generate a range of flow‐on effects, including significant costs to the government and the community.
In 2017-18 funding for community legal centres from the Commonwealth drops sharply by $2M from $8.9M to $6.9M under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. These planned cuts will lead to serious consequences for people with legal problems, the justice system and the community more broadly.
Proceeds of crime as a funding source
Budget constraints are always an issue for legal assistance funding. One of the potential sources of legal aid funding that could be explored is the millions raised through the confiscation of criminal profits by federal and state governments.
The balance of the Commonwealth Confiscated Assets Account administered by the Australian Financial Security Authority stood at $95.535 million in surplus as of 30 June 2015.