Leading Australian human rights lawyers have welcomed a landmark UK Supreme Court judgement handed down last Wednesday, arguing the decision sets an important precedent for Australian courts in relation to the need to ensure access to justice and equality before the law.
“Women, in particular, are systemically disadvantaged within Australia’s legal system. For example, in NSW the majority of legal aid goes to assisting men, with only 26% of legal aid clients being women. This is despite the fact that women are more likely to be living in poverty than men.”
Kerr noted that “fees in Australia’s courts must be affordable so that people involved in complex or intractable matters are not denied access to the court because of their financial vulnerability. Reductions in legal aid funding by governments over recent years are having a very real human rights impact on vulnerable members of our community accessing justice. Despite the recent restoration of some funding, Australia’s legal assistance sector remains chronically underfunded.”