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Programme 1.3: Justice services

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Programme objective

This programme contributes to Outcome 1 by protecting and promoting the rule of law and building a safe, secure and resilient Australia.

Programme deliverables

Provide services to support access to justice.

Achievements contributing to programme deliverables

Negotiation of new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services

The department negotiated a new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services to deliver Australian Government funding for legal aid commissions and, for the first time, community legal centres. The agreement distributes funding between jurisdictions based on relative need for legal assistance, through the application of evidence-based funding models. It enables states and territories to make integrated, evidence-based decisions about where Australian, state and territory government funding is directed and how services are delivered. The department also developed reforms to funding arrangements for Indigenous legal assistance which align with the new agreement, including introducing five-year funding agreements and streamlining reporting requirements (see Programme 1.5).

Increased financial assistance for native title respondents

In 2014–15, the department delivered a government Budget initiative that provided ongoing funding of approximately $1.6m per year for the Native Title Respondent Funding Scheme. The scheme provides financial assistance to respondents to native title claims, such as farmers and fishers, to resolve their interests in native title claims, or to negotiate Indigenous land use agreements. This assistance is not means-tested when respondents apply as a group, providing an incentive to resolve interests as efficiently as possible and in a coordinated manner and resulting in the faster resolution of native title claims. The scheme also assists industry representative bodies with the costs of employing a native title officer, who provides information to respondents and assists in organising groups of respondents.

Results against key performance indicators

Key performance indicator

Improved access to justice

Result

2014–15: Achieved

2013–14: Achieved

In 2014–15, community legal centres delivered approximately 270,800 advices, worked on approximately 82,200 cases and delivered just under 5,000 community legal education sessions.

In 2014–15, legal aid commissions continued to use $15m in one-off funding to enhance their services through collaboration. Examples of this are set out below.

  • A Legal Aid NSW lawyer attended the Social Security Appeals Tribunal twice a week. A total of 926 legal services were provided to vulnerable people seeking the review of social security decisions. Tribunal staff were trained in referring suitable matters to the legal aid lawyer.
  • Victoria Legal Aid commenced a two-year pilot and will work with Women’s Legal Service Victoria and the Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre to coordinate services at Children’s Courts in selected locations and the pilot Family Drug Treatment Court. The initiative will help people with child protection problems and related matters, such as family violence.
  • knowmore, the free national legal advisory service for people engaging, or seeking to engage, with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, continued to operate in 2014–15 and delivered 7,154 instances of advice, information and referral.

Key performance indicator

Effective administration of the access to justice programmes

Result

2014–15: Achieved

2013–14: Achieved

Legal assistance

In 2014–15, the department administered $50.74m in legal assistance funding to legal aid commissions and community legal centres. Eight legal aid commissions received $204.36m in 2014–15 under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, the appropriation for which is held by the Treasury and payments are made to states and territories.

The Community Legal Services Programme supported the delivery of legal assistance services by 131 community legal centres, as well as the provision of programme support services, such as a data reporting and case management systems and translating and interpreting services.

Under the Legal Aid Programme, the department administered the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund (ECCCF) to reimburse legal aid commissions for the costs of complex Commonwealth criminal cases. In February 2015, the Acting Attorney-General approved the allocation of $5.2m from other programmes to the ECCCF, which enabled all applications for reimbursement that complied with the programme guidelines to be funded for 2014–15.

Legal support mechanisms for royal commissions

The department implements a range of legal support mechanisms to support royal commissions. More information about royal commissions is detailed under Programme 1.8 for the 2014–15 financial year. The legal support mechanisms that the department administers include a national legal advisory service for people engaging with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, payment of witness expenses for the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, and legal financial assistance for eligible applicants who have been called, or given leave, to appear at a hearing of a royal commission.

Legal financial assistance

In 2014–15 the department provided 578 grants of legal financial assistance under a range of statutory and non-statutory schemes, including assistance for witnesses to the royal commissions, for legal representation costs and disbursements. The department also processed 88 payments for witness expenses under the Royal Commission Regulations 2001 and 127 payments for costs certificates issued under the Federal Proceedings (Costs) Act 1981.

In 2014–15, the department processed 92 per cent of grant applications for legal financial assistance within the required time-frame.

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