Wednesday, 20 September 2023
NSW Budget: Wins for housing and closing the gap; justice system needs more
More investment to help disadvantaged people in need of housing stability and a substantial commitment to improving Closing the Gap targets are welcome, but it’s hoped ‘an additional $97 million over four years’ for the justice system will fund more than overdue salary increases.
President of the Law Society of NSW Cassandra Banks welcomed initiatives in the Minns Government’s first Budget that would help provide housing stability for those who need it most and funding to modernise grant application systems at Legal Aid NSW.
“Housing stability is a major factor in reducing contact with the criminal justice system. Investments in programs for the homeless, children in out of home care, those with mental health issues, domestic and family violence (DFV) victim-survivors and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a positive step,” Ms Banks said.
“The Law Society has consistently supported measures to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, so the $131 million investment in initiatives of the Coalition of Peaks towards the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is also welcome.”
The Budget also includes an additional $9.5 million to allow Legal Aid NSW to use the latest technology to manage applications those who need legal help and private practitioners who deliver these services for disadvantaged clients.
“Better funding for legal assistance is one of my President’s Priorities for my term leading the Law Society. The increase of 14 per cent for Legal Aid NSW appears generous. However, increases in staff costs, while reasonable, may well consume a significant portion of this funding, while limiting increased to access to justice.” Ms Banks said.
"The Law Society welcomes the previously announced expansion of the Sydney CBD Drug Court and again encourages the Government to examine further expansion across NSW. The expansion and 12 month continuation of a pilot supporting DFV victim-survivors in whichever Local Court their matters are heard is commendable.”
The Law Society recognises the ongoing need for strong, independent integrity agencies in NSW and so applauds the increased funding to these agencies and the move to a more ‘arm’s length’ funding model.
Ms Banks said stable funding for the remainder of the justice system will allow it to continue functioning, but in the face of a growing population and slowing criminal finalisations, additional new funding will be needed very soon.
“The Law Society looks forward to measures to address increased demand and workload in our justice system and recognises further significant investments to increase judicial resources and improve court infrastructure are difficult in the present budgetary environment,” Ms Banks said.
“As the Budget moves back into surplus, the Law Society and its members will continue to advocate for a properly resourced justice system, which is essential to the continuing stability of a democratic society.”
Damien Smith | Director, Media and Public Relations
The Law Society of New South Wales
M: +61 417 788 947 | E: Damien.Smith@lawsociety.com.au