CLA News / The CLA collaborates to gain a reprieve for PacLll and access for justice


The CLA has worked closely with its professional association colleagues in the South Pacific over the past year to help secure the future of PacLII. PacLII is for many countries in the South Pacific the only source of case law and statutes and many other legal materials. Without it, students, government, lawyers, CSOs, NGOs and the public would have no online source to the law, the gatekeeper to equal access to justice for all.

Upon learning that one of PacLII’s last funders, the PNG Judiciary, was to withdraw its crucial support, the CLA met with Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) officials in PNG, alerted numerous other stakeholders, and then met with the Law Council of Australia (LCA) to seek their support. The LCA, led by its President Luke Murphy, together with Dr Gordon Hughes, Chair of the South Pacific Lawyers Association (SPLA), the secretariat of which is hosted by the LCA, convened regional meetings to discuss the crisis, which the CLA attended. It was agreed that the Australian Government would be asked to support PacLII and that through our networks we would request all South Pacific Bars and Law Societies to write and explain the importance of PacLII to their jurisdictions access to justice. The LCA and SPLA drove this work which the CLA supported which resulted in a SPLA Open Letter to the Australian Government and a separate CLA letter. Further South Pacific Bars and Law Societies are continuing to provide letters of support.

Following this, the LCA spent much of 2023 working with PacLII and AustLII to raise the profile of PacLII’s funding situation with all possible Australian Government representatives, explaining the role PacLII plays in enabling the provision of legal services, the administration of justice, and the underpinning of the rule of law and the development of Pacific jurisprudence, which is also vital Commonwealth jurisprudence.

In June 2023, DFAT and the Australian Attorney General’s Department (AGD) paid emergency “critical gap funding” to the University of the South Pacific, which hosts PacLII, to fund PacLII’s operation for a period of 12 months, and support the convening meetings with regional stakeholders to discuss the sustainable future financing and governance of PacLII. As part of the South Pacific justice sector, the CLA expects to continue to play a role in these regional meetings and it is currently working with some of its commercial partners who have expressed interest in supporting PacLII.

Helping save PacLII seemed like a daunting, and given its long precarious situation, a perhaps hopeless task, but with collaboration a lot has been achieved and it is a significant relief to the South Pacific and the rule of law that PacLII’s service will not be abruptly cut off due to lack of funds.

Commonwealth members have committed to promote access to justice in support of democracy and sustainable development. These principles are enshrined in the Commonwealth (Latimer House) Principles (2008), and the Commonwealth Law Ministers Declaration on Equal Access to Justice (2019). They are further reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 16 which strives to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”


Fiona Ey – CLA Council Member for Samoa

Wylie Clarke – CLA Council Member for Fiji

David Denniston – CLA Council Member for Papua New Guinea