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Richard Coverdale – Centre for Rural regional Law and Justice Deakin University School of Law Accessing Justice for Rural & Regional Victorians.

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Presentation on theme: "Richard Coverdale – Centre for Rural regional Law and Justice Deakin University School of Law Accessing Justice for Rural & Regional Victorians."— Presentation transcript:

1 Richard Coverdale – Centre for Rural regional Law and Justice Deakin University School of Law Accessing Justice for Rural & Regional Victorians

2 Objectives of the presentation Outline the activities of Our Centre Present findings of the Postcode Justice Report Discuss access to justice issues for people with disabilities living in regional Victoria and recommendations for responding

3 Why a Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice? Fewer law services available in regional Victoria – courts, court programs, legal advice, support/advocacy/rehabilitation services Not equal outcomes between people living in Melbourne and regional Victoria Greater difficulty for regional communities to influence change.

4 Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice Opened by the Chief Magistrate of Victoria in February 2012 What is the Centre for Rural Regional Law and Justice? Mission To enhance access to justice system services for rural and regional Victorians through research, education, engagement and advocacy.

5 Who is the CRRLJ? Director: Richard Coverdale Research Fellow: Dr Lucinda Jordan Centre Fellows: 12 Academics with expertise across a range of areas Board of Management Advisory Committee – 10 representatives working in regional law and human services

6 What does the Centre do! Part of Deakin University School of Law Works to improve access to the law for regional Victorians Some current activities: – Domestic violence research – Conflict of interest issues for regional law firms – Legal service needs of regional small business – Rural Engagement Program proposal

7 Postcode Justice Report Funded by Victoria Law Foundation Aims: – Determine if regional communities are disadvantaged by the justice system in comparison to metropolitan areas – Identify significant areas of disadvantage

8 Report Findings Identified many areas where rural/regional communities are disadvantaged, including: – Lack of court programs in non-metro areas – some of these are identified later – Lack of specialist courts in non-metro areas – Discriminatory court processes – Poorer court services and facilities – security, meeting space, video conferencing – Distance and poor public transport.

9 Courts in regional Victoria In Magistrate Courts In Magistrate Courts In Magistrate Courts Currently 54 Magistrate Courts in Victoria

10 What does this mean for people with a disability in regional areas? Greater distances to travel to court as victims offenders, supporters, service providers. Greater reliance on inadequate public transport Greater cost Greater inconvenience Less likely to use courts to resolve disputes

11 Court Facilities Half of all participants agreed that there was a poorer standard of buildings and facilities at regional courts.

12 Comments from participants “Women experiencing domestic violence feel threatened and unsafe in smaller regional courts. They often have to stand outside, behind the court as a group for protection!” “No security, court layout often means victims and alleged offenders sit in the same waiting area.”

13 Court Programs 65% of those surveyed stated their clients are disadvantaged by the lack of local access to court programs

14 What does this mean for people with a disability in regional areas? Mental Health Court Liaison Service (Established Nov 1994). - 7 Melbourne courts full time and part-time at 5 regional courts only. CISP (Court Integrated Services Program (Established 2006). - 2 Melbourne and 1 regional court. Credit Bail Program (Established Dec 2004). - 6 Melbourne and 2 regional courts. Specialist Family Violence Service - 4 Melbourne courts (Established 2005) A number of Court Programs have no or limited availability in many region areas, including:

15 Specialist Courts 74% of those surveyed agreed that regional communities experience limited or no local access to specialist courts.

16 What does this mean for people with a disability in regional areas? Examples of Specialist Courts: ARC – (The Assessment and Referral Court List) available Melbourne Magistrates Court only Enforcement Review Program (ERP) only available Infringements Court Melbourne Drug Court (Established 2002) – Dandenong only Family Violence Division (Established June 2005) – At 1 metro and 1 regional location

17 Local advocacy/support services 66% of all survey respondents agreed that a lack of locally based services in regional areas impacted on justice system outcomes for their clients.

18 What does this mean for people with a disability in regional areas? ‘Problem solving’ courts model assume appropriate support services locally Regional areas lack adequate disability services So what are the consequences where adequate local support services don’t exist?

19 Where support services don’t exist Examples of potential consequences: Disability can go unidentified Victims less likely to be supported by services Penalties inappropriate Offenders a more likely to be put in remand rather than get bail Offenders more likely to reoffend because: – Services not available to intervene – Court orders harder to comply with because of lack of access to distant services/programs

20 Other Rural Regional Issues Rural lawyers Law Council report indicates that: Nearly 40% of regional Victorian lawyers surveyed stated that they currently had insufficient staff to serve the needs of their community. 38% indicated they would no longer be practicing in rural regional Victoria in the next 5 years. ABS figures indicate that: 14.7% of practicing solicitors and barristers are based in regional Australia, while regional Australia accounts for 36% of the national population.

21 Other Rural Regional Issues Police training/Specialist police services Small town media Border issues

22 Initiatives in response National Rural Regional Law and Justice Conference – 1 st Conference held in Warrnambool Nov 2010 opened by Chief Justice High Court of Australia, 100 delegates nationally – 2 nd Conference Coffs Harbour May 2012 Victorian Centre for Rural Law and Justice (November 2011) based at Deakin University National Rural Law and Justice Alliance (May 2012)

23 Responding to Access to Justice Issues for People with a Disability in Regional Victoria What can we do! -Resolution from the Conference to the current Victorian Law Reform Parliamentary Committee Inquiry -Forming a Rural Disability Law and Justice Alliance -Recommendations for research


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