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Programme 1.3: Justice services

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The objective of this programme is to contribute to Outcome 1 by protecting and promoting the rule of law and building a safe, secure and resilient Australia. Details of financial results for administered items are provided in Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements.

Achievements contributing to programme deliverables

Completion of the review of legal assistance and the
National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services

The department commissioned a review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. The review was conducted by an independent consultant, ACIL Allen Consulting, and is available from our website (www.ag.gov.au).

The review evaluated the quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all four Commonwealth-funded legal assistance programmes: legal aid commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians.

The review also evaluated the operation of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, which fosters a collaborative approach to service delivery, with a strategic focus on early intervention and prevention activities. The agreement delivers ongoing Commonwealth funding for legal aid commissions and sets out the objectives of Australia's legal assistance system, as agreed between the Australian Government and each state and territory.

The review suggests options for short, medium and long-term reform that will inform decisions about the future direction of government-funded legal assistance services. The review's findings will also inform the final recommendations of a Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice arrangements.

Legal support mechanisms for royal commissions

The department is implementing a range of legal support mechanisms to support royal commissions. More information about royal commissions is detailed under Programme 1.8. The legal support mechanisms include legal financial assistance and witness expenses for individuals who have been called, or given leave, to appear at a hearing of a royal commission. The department also has a free national legal advisory service to aid people engaging, or seeking to engage, with a royal commission. Funds have been provided to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence prevention legal services to work alongside and support the work of the legal advisory service.

Evaluations and reviews

Review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services

The department commissioned an independent review of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, as required in the final year of the agreement. The review has been completed and final reports have been published on our website (www.ag.gov.au).

Results against key performance indicators

Table 8: Results against key performance indicator, Programme 1.3

Key performance indicator
Results
Improved access to justice

2013–14: Achieved—trend information is not available as this is a new key performance indicator set out in the Portfolio Budget Statements

Legal aid commissions are funded under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services to provide legal assistance to disadvantaged people for priority Commonwealth law matters. Delivery of Commonwealth funded legal assistance services by legal aid commissions has increased 2.8 per cent nationally when compared with the corresponding six months of the previous year (July–December).

Data reported by legal aid commissions for the first six months of 2013–14 show that there has been a 4.1 per cent increase in preventative services (excluding web hits) and a 7 per cent decrease in early intervention services.

In 2013–14, community legal centres have provided approximately 262,000 advices, closed approximately 49,000 cases and delivered approximately 4,300 community legal education sessions.

In 2013–14, funding was provided to establish and operate a free national legal advisory service for people engaging with, or seeking to engage, with the
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The centre, knowmore (www.knowmore.org.au), has provided over 3,600 instances of advice, information and referral since opening in July 2013.

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