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Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal need in Australia  ( 2012 )  Cite this report

1. Review of legal needs surveys

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Summary of legal needs survey findings

Legal needs surveys reveal that legal problems are widespread throughout society and can have dramatic adverse impacts on many aspects of daily life. Access to justice must therefore aim to enable all citizens to make effective use of the law.

The evidence also highlights the merits of a multifaceted approach to justice that can accommodate the considerable diversity in the experience, handling and outcome of legal problems. Disadvantaged or socially excluded groups appear to fare worst. Not only are they more vulnerable to experiencing multiple legal problems, they are also less likely to take action to resolve these problems, less capable of handling their problems alone and more likely to suffer a variety of adverse consequences that may further entrench their social exclusion. Thus, tailoring legal service provision to meet the legal needs of socially excluded groups is an important priority, and access to justice is likely to play a critical role in combating social exclusion. In contrast, educated, affluent individuals more often have sufficient legal capability to handle their legal problems successfully without recourse to expert advice. The legal capability of such people could be further enhanced through legal information, education and self-help initiatives.

Furthermore, the empirical evidence indicates the potential benefits of effective coordination among legal services and between legal services and other human services. Notably, socially excluded groups can struggle with numerous, intertwined legal and non-legal problems and, thus, may benefit from a holistic approach to resolution that tackles all the problems they face. In addition, the widespread use of non-legal advisers in response to legal problems throughout the broader community further strengthens the case for better coordination between legal and non-legal services, in order to prevent the escalation and multiplication of legal and other related problems.


Coumarelos, C, Macourt, D, People, J, MacDonald, HM, Wei, Z, Iriana, R & Ramsey, S 2012, Legal Australia-Wide Survey: legal need in Australia, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney