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Financial abuse of older people

Legal Aid - is it a thing of the past?




 Legal aid – is it a thing of the past?

Based upon the calls coming through to my office daily, I believe that most people of modest means are unaware that access to legal aid is almost a thing of the past.

As of 8 April 2013, adults facing criminal charges will not be eligible for a grant of legal assistance unless they

  •          face a real risk of immediate imprisonment or
  • fit into a special circumstances category of recognised disadvantage.

The only publicly funded resource available to adults who cannot meet the above criteria is the duty lawyer at the court on the day of hearing.

Children facing criminal chargeswill not be entitled to a grant of legal aid unless they are likely to receive a supervisory or detention order, or have been recommended for a diversion order. In other cases, unless they or their parents can afford private legal representation, the only resource available will be the duty lawyer at court on the day of hearing.


Parents involved in disputes about their children will not be eligible for a grant to undertake negotiations or mediation unless they are “ priority clients”. There are eight (8) categories of priority clients but unless you belong to an identifiable minority or disadvantaged group you will be excluded from using Roundtable Dispute Management, Legal Aid's specific "brand" of early dispute resolution.  If you do qualify for services as a priority client, my experience tells me that you are unlikely to access the services until several months after your application has been accepted. People who are not “priority clients” will be encouraged to seek assistance from a Family Dispute Resolution Provider licenced by the Federal Attorney-General’s Department.

Legal aid for Intervention Order or Child Protection proceedings is limited to very restricted circumstances.

It appears that the service reductions described above are motivated by a desire to reduce state government expenditure and, where possible, shift the expense to the federal government.

In summary, many people who would have obtained legal aid in the past would not qualify under the current eligibility guidelines.

People who are concerned about this state of affairs might consider discussing your concerns with one or more of your political representatives.




Donna M Valentine


DM Valentine & Associates