By Julian Thomas | 2 Apr 2019

The provision of legal assistance services to vulnerable and disadvantaged people is fundamental to ensuring access to justice.

The $1.3billion National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Service 2015-20 (the NPA) guides the allocation of Australian Government funding to legal aid commissions and community legal centres to help disadvantaged people in need. Urbis was commissioned to review the NPA ahead of the renegotiation of the next agreement which will commence 1 July 2020.

In a review of this nature, it is important to truly listen to all stakeholders in order to arrive at informed conclusions . Our review provides clear recommendations to guide future improvements to the NPA and foster a more collaborative, integrated legal assistance system.

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Our experts received over 50 submissions and spoke with nearly 250 stakeholders in all states and territories in the course of the review. The objective of the review was to explore the extent to which the NPA supports a legal assistance sector that is efficient, effective and equitable, and which operates in a collaborative and coordinated way.

The Urbis review provides 21 recommendations and a clear roadmap for developing the next five-year funding agreement. This includes a clearer delineation of responsibilities between governments; refreshing the Strategic Framework for Legal Assistance Services to provide coherence and direction to future reforms; and a strengthened focus on sharing lessons from implementation models across jurisdictions.

  • The NPA’s broad goal of supporting integrated, efficient and effective services and providing improved access to justice for disadvantaged people remains appropriate and enjoys general support.
  • Legal assistance services are doing vital work in their communities.
  • There is commitment to working more collaboratively within the sector, with plenty of scope to strengthen how this happens.
  • There are opportunities to strengthen how legal system outcomes are measured to support better informed sector planning.

 

We are now pleased to see the Attorney General release the report of the Urbis review:

Media release: https://www.attorneygeneral.gov.au/Media/Pages/Legal-assistance-reviews.aspx

Documents: https://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/Legalaidprogrammes/Pages/Legal-assistance-review.aspx

Full report: https://urbis.com.au/app/uploads/2019/04/Review-of-the-NPA.pdf

 

We also welcome release of the review of the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program, which was conducted in parallel to the NPA review. Cox Inall Ridgeway led this report with logistics and advisory support from Urbis. To view this report, click here: https://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/Legalaidprogrammes/Documents/Review-of-the-ILAP.PDF

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