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By the people, for the people? Community participation in law reform: summary report, Justice issues paper 14    Cite this report

, 2011 , 12 p.
Very few people in the community participate in law reform. Yet the participation of citizens, and in particular disadvantaged people, in the making of laws that affect them holds the promise of a more inclusive democracy and more responsive and efficacious law. By the people, for the people? reports on case study research into the processes of law reform in New South Wales, with a particular focus on the opportunities for and constraints to participation experienced by disadvantaged people and the organisations that either represent them or facilitate their participation. The report draws on case study documentation, a review of available literature and collated statistics, and interviews with government officers, parliamentarians, members of government advisory bodies, civil society organisations (CSOs) and individuals. The report reveals that systemic features of law reform processes - including its variability and unpredictability, its political context, and reliance on written forms of communication - mean that the ability to participate effectively in law reform (law reform capability) is contingent upon time and resources. This is beyond the capability of many. The report identifies the range of skills and knowledge required for participation in law reform, including the fundamental importance of functional literacy. In conclusion, the report discusses the implications of the findings and suggests strategies to enhance community participation in law reform.

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By the people, for the people? is part of the broader Access to Justice and Legal Needs Research Program undertaken by the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales, which examines the access to justice and legal needs of disadvantaged people in New South Wales. The report specifically explores:
  • how law reform in New South Wales occurs
  • what opportunities and constraints there are for public participation in law reform, directly and through representative bodies
  • what particular constraints there are for the participation of disadvantaged people in law reform, and
  • the implications of these findings for law reform in New South Wales.
Particular attention is paid to the participation needs of disadvantaged people and the CSOs that often represent them.

Access to justice involves more than simply access to the law or to legal institutions such as courts or dispute resolution bodies. It also extends to access to law reform, as it is through law-making that conditions for justice are established.


Nheu, N & McDonald, H 2011, By the people, for the people? Community participation in law reform: summary report. Justice issues paper 14, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney