The "A Just Life" Report

20 October 2017
The role for legal help in building fairer, safer, healthier communities.

Life's problems often have legal solutions. Yet many people don't realise they have a legal problem, don't know how to get help, or can't afford the right help.

Our report, A Just Lifefor the Law Council of Australia's Justice Project, shares our vision for a justice system that is inclusive, that has tailored supports for different kinds of people and different kind of problems, and gives Australians a fair chance at a better life. 

‘When you’re not in the right frame of mind, you let the system beat you; you become resigned to the idea, this is what happens, you get a notice to vacate and you have to go, not even knowing there’s a service or a support out there.’

— Maggie, Justice Connect Homeless Law client

‘You helped me resolve a year’s worth of intimidation and dispute. You used the law to uphold the truth. You helped me, a 60 years old senior widow with high pressure and lots of sickness, finally access justice.’

— Jia, Justice Connect Seniors Law client

 

Jia and Maggie’s comments highlight three key things:

  • the negative impact of legal issues on a person’s health and wellbeing;
  • the challenges spotting legal issues and knowing how, when and why to get legal help; and
  • the power of the law — and legal help — to bring people’s rights to life, create options and prevent crises escalating.

These three insights recur throughout this report, which addresses the following themes:

  1. There are legal dimensions to many of life’s problems and access to legal help can stop problems from spiraling out of control
  2. There are tailored models for providing legal help that we know work - we need to highlight these models and scale them
  3. Partnering with communities and other sectors helps us to reach people who need help at the right time
  4. We should be making laws, policies and building our systems based on evidence of what works
  5. There is an important role for technology and digital inclusion to play in improving access to justice
  6. Lawyers working pro bono are valuable, but there aren't enough pro bono lawyers to help everyone who can't afford a lawyer
  7. We need to recognise — and invest in — innovation and impact.

This report highlights the stories of our clients and their experience of the justice system, and the insights that our lawyers who work with these problems and the system day-in, day-out bring. It contains 12 client stories and eight videos of the people we help, our staff and our colleagues in the legal and non-legal sectors, in their own words.

These stories paint a picture of a legal system that puts itself out of reach for too many. For some, it makes legal rights invisible and for others it hits them harshly and heavily.

Informed by 25 years of work and the insights of our clients, Justice Connect presents 15 priorities that, if embraced, will contribute to a justice system that promotes a fairer, safer and healthier community. These are our suggestions for the priorities to value, embed and invest in. They are the ingredients that we think will make the most difference for the people we work with.

 

 

PDF iconA Just Life: The role for legal help in building fairer, safer and healthier communities