The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner has issued an access to justice policy statement. This policy statement is a statement of intent, articulating the VLSB+Cs role in supporting access to justice.
The Policy statement notes the role of the VLSB+Cs as a regulator, funder and investor in access to justice, as well as providing a broad definition of access to justice, which is wider than a person’s ability to access the justice system. The statement goes further stating that access to justice involves:
“any actual or perceived barriers that can affect a person’s experience of the legal system, including cost, availability of services, racism, mental illness, low literacy, poverty, isolation, and violence. All these factors and more can impinge upon a person’s ability to seek legal help or remedy.”
The statement also recognises that the Victorian Legal Services Board plays a significant role in improving access to justice by funding access to justice activities and supporting innovation in legal practice. The Board also aims to reduce regulatory barriers to more affordable and accessible legal services. Access to justice encompasses not only access to lawyers and dispute resolution mechanisms but also social and economic factors that can impact individuals’ experience with the legal system, such as racism, mental illness, poverty, and violence.
A key tool in assisting access to justice in Victoria is the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, which recognizes the importance of access to legal advice and representation for the effective exercise of certain rights.