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Commonwealth legal financial assistance

The Attorney-General's Department administers a range of statutory and non-statutory legal financial assistance schemes. Each scheme has a different purpose, but all schemes are targeted towards helping people who could not otherwise afford to pay for their legal costs.

Depending on the scheme, funding can be provided for legal representation costs and disbursements (costs other than the fees paid to be represented by a solicitor or a barrister). Some schemes are limited to disbursements only.

The Attorney-General's Department cannot help people facing criminal charges in Australia or with legal matters under state or territory laws. For these matters, contact your local legal aid office.

What assistance is available?

Payment of cost certificates

The department administers the payment of costs certificates issued by federal courts. To apply for reimbursement under a costs certificate visit the Payment of costs certificates page.

Legal financial assistance schemes

The department provides legal financial assistance under the following schemes:

For an application form, select the scheme you wish to apply for.

Other legal financial assistance schemes

The department also provides legal financial assistance under the following statutory schemes. Information on how to apply is at the bottom of this page.

  • Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, section 27:
    The Attorney-General may help a person summoned to give evidence before the Australian Crime Commission. The Attorney-General may also help a person challenging a decision made under this Act before the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.
  • Competition and Consumer Act 2010, section 170:
    The Attorney-General may help people involved in proceedings before the Federal Court, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the Australian Competition Tribunal under certain parts of the Act.
  • Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, sections 324(1) and 326(1), (4) and (5):
    The Attorney-General may help parties (other than organisations or branches of organisations) to proceedings before the Federal Court relating to registered organisations.
  • Freedom of Information Act 1982, section 66:
    The Attorney-General may reimburse a person where:
    • they successfully appeal a decision made under this Act before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
    • the Tribunal makes a recommendation for their costs to be paid by the Commonwealth.
  • Judiciary Act 1903, section 69(3):
    The Attorney-General may help defendants in trials of federal indictable offences if a Justice in Chambers or a Supreme Court Judge certifies that counsel be appointed.
  • Judiciary Act 1903, section 78B(4):
    The Attorney-General may reimburse parties for additional costs caused by an adjournment of proceedings to allow for notice of a constitutional matter to be given to the Commonwealth or State Attorney-General.
  • Jurisdiction of Courts (Cross-vesting) Act 1987, subsection 6(7):
    The Attorney-General may reimburse parties for additional costs caused by an adjournment of proceedings in a Supreme Court to allow for notice of a special federal matter to be given to the Commonwealth or State Attorney-General.
  • Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006, section 103:
    The Attorney-General may help a person summoned to attend a hearing before the Integrity Commissioner. The Attorney-General may also help people being represented by a lawyer at a hearing with the consent of the Integrity Commissioner.
  • Privacy Act 1988, section 63:
    The Attorney-General may help:
    • a respondent, who is not an agency or the principal of an agency, in privacy matters where a tax file number complaint is dismissed
    • a party to a proceeding for the enforcement of a determination of the Privacy Commissioner before the Federal Court or Federal Magistrates Court.
  • Proceeds of Crime Act 1987, section 102:
    The Attorney-General may help people affected by proceedings seeking forfeiture orders or restraining orders against the property of a person convicted of, or charged with, a federal indictable offence.
    This scheme only applies to matters arising before the commencement of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 on 1 January 2003.
  • War Crimes Act 1945, section 19:
    The Attorney-General may help people charged with war crimes committed in Europe during World War II who are being brought to trial in criminal courts in Australia.

The Attorney-General's Department will not generally grant funding:

  • to people who can meet their legal costs without incurring serious financial difficulty
  • for costs incurred before an application is made, unless the scheme allows for reimbursement.

How to apply

There are two ways to send an application; however, online applications are preferred.

You can apply online or download the following application form and email a completed copy to finass@ag.gov.au with the required attachments:

If you cannot send your application by email, contact the Financial Assistance Section on:

1800 117 995 (toll free within Australia), or
02 6141 4770 (charges apply).

Assessment timeframes

Complete applications will be assessed within 28 days. Incomplete applications will not be assessed. You will be notified if your application is incomplete.

Seeking a review of a decision

If you disagree with a decision (or any part of it), you may request a review in writing.

If a review is sought, the whole application will be considered by a decision maker of the department who did not make the original decision. The written request must explain why you believe that the decision was wrong and must be received by the department within 28 days of the date of the letter.

More information is available on how to seek a review and the Review Request Form:

Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance

The Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance are available to download below:

Privacy

The department treats all applications for legal financial assistance as confidential, as explained in the following privacy collection notice (Australian Privacy Principle 5):

Information for lawyers

If assistance is granted for legal representation, the department is to be invoiced directly, by email to finass@ag.gov.au.

Complete invoices will be paid in approximately 28 days. Incomplete invoices will be returned without being assessed.

More information is available in the department's cost assessment policy: