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Landmark survey shows widespread legal need in New South Wales

The NSW Attorney General, The Hon Greg Smith SC has launched a landmark survey by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, showing that legal problems are widespread.

The report is one in a series of nine reports that provides the initial findings of a national survey of legal needs - the Legal Australia-Wide Survey. The series consists of a report on Australia as a whole and a report on each state/territory.

The Attorney General commended Legal Aid NSW and National Legal Aid for their key role in funding and supporting this research project.

"We now have a rich source of valuable and empirical data as we all continue to address the legal needs of disadvantaged people in New South Wales…this report informs and also challenges us to consider what the next steps will be."

CEO of Legal Aid NSW, Bill Grant presented his vision for the next steps in addressing 'the growing justice gap' where more and more people are not qualifying for legal assistance, or legal assistance beyond advice and minor assistance.  It includes finding a new paradigm for providing access to justice for the NSW community, particularly disadvantaged people with multiple legal problems.

"It must be at a national level as State and Territory Governments cannot do this alone," he said. "I have great expectations that over the next few years we will have sensible and rational debate and discussion about these important issues and begin the work of developing this new paradigm."

Read a transcript of the CEO's speech.

Photo of Geoff Mulherin, Director, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW; Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW; Greg Smith SC, Attorney General of NSW and Christine Coumarelos
Launching the NSW survey report l to r: Geoff Mulherin, Director, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW; Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW; Greg Smith SC, Attorney General of NSW and Christine Coumarelos, author of the report.

NSW survey results
Of the 20,716 people that were interviewed across Australia, 4,113 were from NSW.

The survey estimates that half the NSW population aged 15 years or over - 2.8 million people - experience at least one legal problem in any year, including 1.3 million experiencing three or more legal problems.

Despite the volume and impact of legal problems, there was no 'rush to law'. Respondents sought advice for only half of all legal problems and took no action whatsoever to try to resolve 19% of problems.

Consistent with national findings, the NSW findings show that some of the most disadvantaged groups in the community often fare worst. People with a disability and single parents in NSW were twice as likely to experience legal problems.

Director of the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Geoff Mulherin said the survey demonstrates that access to justice for disadvantaged people must remain a priority.

While this report stands on its own, the Foundation recommends it be read in the context of the other eight reports from this survey.

For printed copies, please email the Law and Justice Foundation at publications@lawfoundation.net.au.

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