Written by Imogen Kars, edited for online by Riana Horner
The Law Council is calling for both sides of the government to commit to an extra 350 million dollars to fix the nation’s legal aid crisis.
A recommendation was given by the Productivity Commission in 2014, that Legal Aid funding be boosted by $200 million
Law Council of Australia president Stuart Clark told the ABC they were very disappointed to see that the Government did nothing.
“We’re equally as disappointed that the Opposition, who after all, commissioned that report have done nothing in terms of announcing what they would do if they win the election.”
New statistics show more than 45,000 people have been forced to represent themselves in court in the last five years.
Legal experts have warned miscarriages of justice are becoming more common because of the inadequate funding legal aid is receiving.
The crisis heavily affects vulnerable people, including women trying to escape domestic violence and those living below the poverty line.
President of the Queensland Law Society Bill Potts said Queensland is seeing disastrous under-funding, with around 30 million dollars being taken out of legal aid centres this year alone.
“Courts and justice are social infrastructure,” Mr Potts said.
“These are people who see approximately 80,000 people per year, but have had to turn away 50,000 people per year simply because they don’t have resources.
“If they are not kept in good repair then the people that will suffer are our most vulnerable, in this case people who can’t afford legal assistance and those who are on the margins of society,” he added.
The director of the international body Legal Action Group, Steve Hynes, told the ABC that in the UK they spend almost double per head in legal aid funding.
“I am very struck by how under funded it is,” Mr Hynes said.
“Constitutional rights are so dependent on ensuring you have that access to justice.”
The call for funding coincides with National Law Week, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of law and justice in our society.
The Law Council said funding will be fought hard for in the upcoming election.