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Commonwealth legal financial assistance

We administer a range of legal financial assistance schemes. Each scheme has a different purpose, but all schemes are generally targeted towards helping people who do not qualify for legal aid from a Legal Aid Commission and could not otherwise afford to pay for their legal costs.

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

What assistance is available?

Payment of cost certificates

We administer 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

We provide legal financial assistance under non-statutory and statutory schemes.

Non-statutory schemes

Statutory schemes

We also provide 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 Circuit 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.
  • National Anti-Corruption Commission Regulations, Part 4 Financial assistance (general)
    The Attorney-General may provide assistance to you if you are represented at a hearing of the commission by a legal practitioner. Eligibility is determined in accordance with the National Anti-Corruption Commission Regulations 2023.

    The Attorney-General may also provide assistance to you if you have applied or propose to apply for review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for an order of review in respect of a matter arising under this Act.
  • 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 Circuit 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

Download and complete the Application form for Legal Financial Assistance and email it to finass@ag.gov.au with the required attachments.

If you are applying under a non-statutory scheme, you also need to complete a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check Form and submit directly to us along with your completed application. Do not submit the form to any other organisation, as we will submit it on your behalf as part of the assessment of your application.

If you cannot send your application by email, contact Legal Financial Assistance Casework.

Assessing your application

When we assess your application, we will also consider:

  1. your income, assets (including whether you are able to sell assets, or to secure a loan against the assets), liabilities and expenses
  2. whether your legal representative has received or may receive any payment or legal assistance from a third party
  3. the estimated cost of the legal proceedings
  4. whether the costs of the legal action will cause you financial hardship.

In most cases, it is considered that you are unable to meet the cost of your legal action if you receive Centrelink benefits as your main source of income.

We may also consider circumstances where finances are unable to be accessed temporarily due circumstances outside your control, for example, domestic violence, incarceration or where your assets have been restrained but may be returned to you at a later time.

Further information is in the Application form for Legal Financial Assistance.

Assessment timeframes

Generally, complete applications will be assessed within 28 days. You will be notified if a decision on your matter is taking longer this. 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 within 28 days of the decision letter. The written request for review must explain why you believe that the decision was wrong.

More information on how to seek a review, including the Review Request Form, is available to download below:

Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance

Download the Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance.

Privacy

We treat all applications for legal financial assistance as confidential, as explained in our privacy collection notice (Australian Privacy Principle 5).

Information for lawyers – invoices

If a grant of legal financial assistance is provided for legal representation, the department is to be invoiced directly, by email to finass@ag.gov.au

Complete invoices will be paid in approximately 21 days.

More information is available in our legal financial assistance cost assessment policy.

Contact details

1800 117 995
02 6141 4770
Outside Australia: +61 2 6141 4770
finass@ag.gov.au