The Justice Project is one of the most significant pieces of work the Law Council has ever undertaken: a landmark project examining the state of access to justice in Australia, particularly for disadvantaged people.
Beginning at the commencement of my terms as President of the Law Council in early 2017, the Project was inspired by my realisation of a simple truth - that despite our lofty commitment to equality before the law, and years of informed careful advocacy, for many tens of thousands of Australians, equality, and justice, remain out of reach.
The Justice Project was overseen by an expert Steering Committee of eminent lawyers, jurists and academics, and chaired by former High Court Chief Justice, the Hon. Robert French AC. A Progress Report was released in March 2018.
The Final Report includes 59 constructive and informed recommendations which provide a roadmap for future action, building the case for new, whole-of-government justice strategies secured by appropriate funding.
It also includes dedicated chapters for each of the 13 groups identified in the terms of reference as facing significant economic and social disadvantage.
The release of the Final Report has followed an extensive literature review and wide-ranging consultation process. This included more than 150 consultations undertaken across Australia during my term as President with policy staff with numerous rural, regional and metro visits including remote communities, prisons, bush courts, detention centres, nursing homes, hospitals, community legal centres, brothels and back offices gathering the real life examples and building the evidence base for our final report. 129 submissions were received.
It was my intention that we give a voice to those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of this inequality. It has been a privilege to work with the hundreds of lawyers and people who spoke directly to me, and to our team, over the course of the year of consultations. Their stories will stay with me forever.
Fiona McLeod SC
Law Council of Australia