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Implementation ‘urgent priority’ after legal aid assessment

A major review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership by Dr. Warren Mundy delivered 39 recommendations, including greater investment in access to justice and frontline legal services for the country’s most marginalized people.

The current NLAP agreement expires on June 30, 2025 and will be replaced by a new framework known as the Access to Justice Partnership or A2JP.

The current scheme funds legal aid boards, community legal centers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services across the country.

In his final report, Mundy calls on governments to address unmet geographic needs, provide core funding for natural disaster response, a comprehensive list of priority customer groups and measures to address Closing the Gap’s Priority Reforms, which he says the existing partnership is failing it worked. .

The report also recommends an increase in funding for civil and family law by $459 million to address the gaps in assistance first identified by the Productivity Commission in 2014.

It calls for higher wages for legal and non-legal staff in community, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and legal services for family violence prevention in the next financial year, at a cost of $66 million.

And the report recommends that governments move away from competitive procurement as the preferred means of allocating new funding.

Commenting on the release of the report, Greg McIntyre SC, president of the Law Council of Australia, said it confirmed what we all knew.

“(T)hat Australians in need have been let down by a decade of inaction and very substantial funding injections must now be delivered to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for those who need them most,” he said.

In his report, Mundy found that the share of funding for each category of service providers had declined.

“While not the policy intention, this is an almost inevitable consequence of governments’ preference for short-term, relatively small dedicated funding packages and the increasing use of competitive tender processes for allocating funding to new programs rather than allocation on an administrative basis. ” the report said.

The Law Council said it welcomed the recommendations, especially those aimed at increased investment in legal aid, better justice outcomes for First Nations peoples and higher wages.

But the council expressed concerns about the lack of response to the findings.

“As the final report has been with governments for almost three months, we are concerned that the lack of a government response to the recommendations means that implementation is being unnecessarily delayed.

“The Commonwealth, states and territories must engage meaningfully with the legal aid sector to urgently progress the report’s recommendations,” McIntyre said.

With current funding arrangements due to expire in just over a year, he said there was a “sword hanging over the heads” of legal aid services, making it very difficult for them to make long-term plans or recruit and retain staff.

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