A new report commissioned by National Legal Aid (NLA) entitled “Impact Economics Justice on the Brink” highlights the urgent need for increased funding for legal assistance services in Australia. The report emphasizes that current under-resourcing of legal aid services creates a significant justice gap, disproportionately affecting disadvantaged Australians. Law Council of Australia President Luke Murphy notes that an annual increase of $484 million in legal aid funding is necessary to address the demand for services, allowing Legal Aid Commissions to tackle under-resourcing in civil and family law matters, broaden eligibility, and modestly raise private practitioner pay. The report underscores that under current income and assets tests, only 8 percent of households qualify for legal aid, leaving a large portion of the population without access to essential legal representation.
The report also points out declining rates of private practitioners willing to take on legal aid work due to low remuneration and the complexity of cases. With over 70 percent of approved legal aid cases assigned to external practitioners, the private profession remains crucial to the “mixed model” of service delivery by Legal Aid Commissions. Murphy emphasizes the urgent need for increased funding to enhance legal assistance availability, particularly in regional and remote communities, and calls for the Commonwealth to restore its share of funding for Legal Aid Commissions to 50 percent, aligning with the ongoing Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP).