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Program 1.3: Justice Services

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Major achievements

A major focus of 2012–13 was the provision of effective legal assistance services to disadvantaged Australians and communities.

Review of the Legal Assistance National Partnership Agreement

The review evaluates the quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of all four Commonwealth-funded legal assistance programs, namely legal aid commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services for Indigenous Australians.

Key initiatives under the National Partnership Agreement of Legal Assistance Services were implemented by the department, with a focus on a more strategic approach to service delivery, including early intervention and prevention services. The Agreement sets out objectives, outcomes and outputs for Australia's legal assistance system, as agreed between the Australian Government and the states and territories, and is also the principal source of funding for legal aid commissions.

Legal assistance

Funding totalling $39.5 million was provided to community legal centres to assist them in providing 242,244 advices, closing more than 48,000 cases and delivering more than 3400 community legal education projects nationally. New guidelines for financial assistance programs helped to streamline administration and improve process efficiencies.

The department sought to strengthen and increase the delivery of legal assistance to regional and remote areas by working with the National Broadband Network (NBN) Regional Legal Assistance Program which provided $1.1 million to trial NBN-based service delivery initiatives.

Legal support mechanisms to support the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The department is implementing a range of legal support mechanisms to support the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. More information about the Royal Commission is detailed under Program 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 the Royal Commission. The financial assistance scheme and witness expenses took effect on 1 July 2013.

The department has also established a free national legal advisory service to support people engaging, or seeking to engage, with the Royal Commission. Funds were 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 in providing Indigenous specific services.

Changes to Native Title Respondent Scheme

Changes to the Native Title Respondent Funding scheme were implemented on 1 January 2013. These changes are focused on better aligning native title respondent funding with the principles of access to justice.

Australian Government guidelines for legal financial assistance

The majority of legal financial assistance schemes administered by the department were consolidated under one set of guidelines which came into effect on 1 July 2012. The guidelines introduced a new disbursement support scheme aimed at supporting pro bono work by assisting with the cost of disbursements such as experts' reports and transcripts.

Evaluations and reviews

Review of the National Partnership Agreement of Legal Assistance Services

Key initiatives under the National Partnership Agreement of Legal Assistance Services were implemented by the department, with a focus on a more strategic approach to service delivery, including early intervention and prevention services. The Agreement sets out objectives, outcomes and outputs for Australia's legal assistance system, as agreed between the Australian Government and the states and territories, and is the principal source of funding for legal aid commissions.

Performance results

Table 2.10: Performance results, Program 1.3
Key performance indicator
Results
Those individuals at greatest risk of social exclusion have access to appropriate legal assistance services
Achieved

Data reported by legal aid commissions for the first six months of 2012–13 indicate an increase in the number of these services being provided with a 14.25% increase in preventative services (excluding web hits) and a 30.56% increase in early intervention services from the corresponding six months of the previous year.

In 2012–13, community legal centres have provided more than 242,244 advices, closed more than 48,000 cases and delivered more than 3400 community legal education sessions.

Grants made to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services have helped improve access to legal assistance for Indigenous Australians. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Torres Strait Regional Authority has increased services to remote areas.
Improvement in access to education, information, advice and support services for disadvantaged Australians and communities
Achieved

Data reported by legal aid commissions for the first six months of 2012–13 indicates an increase in the number of these services being provided with a 14.25% increase in preventative services (excluding web hits) and a 30.56% increase in early intervention services from the corresponding six months of the previous year.

In 2012–13, community legal centres have provided more than 242,244 advices, closed more than 48,000 cases and delivered more than 3400 community legal education sessions.

 

Table 2.11: Administered items, Program 1.3
Administered items
Results
Payments for services under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Child Support Scheme legislation
Achieved

In accordance with individual agreements with the States, the Australian Government promotes an accessible system of federal civil justice by providing funds for services under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Child Support Scheme legislation by State courts summary jurisdiction.
Budget Price: $1.533 million
Actual Price: $1.498 million
Payments to Law Courts Limited for contributions to operating and capital expenses
Achieved

The department pays 47.5 per cent of the operating expenses of the Law Courts building in Sydney.
Budget Price: $2.468 million
Actual Price: $2.468 million
Family Court of Western Australia
Achieved

The Australian Government contributes to the operating expenses of the Family Court of Western Australia to ensure access to the Court in family law and child support matters.
Budget Price: $12.640 million
Actual Price: $12.640 million
Payments for memberships of international bodies
Achieved

Funds provided in accordance with approved agreements.
Budget Price: $0.550 million
Actual Price: $0.550 million
Payments for grants to Australian organisations
Achieved

Budget appropriation was reduced by $0.643 million following the review of uncommitted funds — with funds redirected to other government priorities. This budget line also appears in Program 1.4.
Budget Price: $0.768 million
Actual Price: $0.767 million
Payments for the provision of legal aid — legal aid commissions
Achieved

Funding was provided from the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund and the Illegal Foreign Fishing fund for 628 claims from legal aid commissions for reimbursement of costs incurred for expensive matters.
Budget Price: $ 14.423 million
Actual Price: $14.422 million
Payments for the provision of community legal services
Achieved

Payments made in accordance with the terms and conditions of the service agreements.
Budget Price: $43.433 million
Actual Price: $42.751 million
Payments for the provision of community legal services—legal advice service supporting the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Achieved

Funding was provided to the National Association of Community Legal Centres to establish a free, national legal advisory service for the Royal Commission. Further funds for this service will be provided from 2013–14 to 2015–16.
Budget Price: $3.0 million
Actual Price: $3.0 million
Financial assistance towards legal costs and related expenses
Achieved

Funding was provided to 24 schemes of legal financial assistance, all of which are demand driven.
Budget Price: $4.161 million
Actual Price: $4.158 million
Financial assistance towards legal costs and related expenses — expenses for witnesses to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Funding was provided for grants to cover the reasonable costs of legal advice, representation and costs of disbursements in relation to the provision of evidence for witnesses called to provide evidence at the public and private hearings of the Royal Commission.

The original cost estimates for the Royal Commission legal financial assistance scheme were based on the premise that public and private hearings for the Royal Commission would commence early 2013.

Hearings were not held the 2012–13 financial year. Therefore, no funds were expended on this measure for the 2012–13 financial year.
Budget Price: Nil
Actual Price: Nil
Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program
Achieved

Australia's Human Rights Framework provides funding for education and engagement programs to promote a greater understanding of human rights. Projects continuing into the 2012–13 financial year provide human rights education for a range of specific groups. All projects are on track for completion in accordance with relevant funding agreements.
Budget Price: $0.177 million
Actual Price: $0.176 million
Publication of Acts and legislative instruments
This budget line was apportioned to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in line with the transfer of the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing from 1 October 2012.
Budget Price:$0.371 million
Actual Price: $0.371 million
Special Appropriations
Law Officers Act 1964
Achieved

The department processes payments of pensions to former Solicitors-General.
Budget Price: $0.450 million
Actual Price: $0.400 million

 

** Note: this budget line also appears in Program 1.4

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