This submission responds to the Victoria Legal Aid Means Test Review Consultation Paper.
Jesuit Social Services believes every Victorian should have the opportunity to access legal services so that they can appropriately exercise their rights in the face of a court or tribunal appearance.
Our submission focuses on the difficulties some groups face in accessing legal aid under the current rules, and the consequences of this exclusion both for the individuals involved and the community as a whole.
Specifically, we consider:
- Those with cognitive impairments and mental health problems
- Those who currently fail the means test and yet are living in poverty
- Those applying for bail
- Those who, for geographical or other reasons, are unable to access specialist courts and services
- Those who, as a result of complex disadvantage, are not proactive in accessing legal aid.
Our submission draws on our experience with vulnerable people and communities in Victoria and our Dropping off the Edge research series, which provides extensive information about the extent and geographical spread of disadvantage across Australia, and its entrenched nature.
Our submission is also informed by our involvement in the Enabling Justice project, a collaboration with the Centre for Innovative Justice at RMIT to understand why people with an acquired brain injury are so over-represented in the criminal justice system, and identify opportunities for providing greater support to this group.
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