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

9. Findings across Australia in context



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Predicting prevalence of legal problems


The LAW Survey replicates past findings that vulnerability to legal problems is not random but varies according to demographic characteristics. In each jurisdiction, regressions were conducted to examine the characteristics that are significantly related to three ‘general’ measures of prevalence:
    • the prevalence of legal problems overall
    • the prevalence of substantial legal problems (i.e. problems rated as having a ‘severe’ or ‘moderate’ impact on everyday life)
    • the prevalence of multiple (i.e. a greater number of) legal problems.

Summaries of these models are presented in Tables 9.2–9.4.(15) In addition to these three regressions, 12 further regressions were conducted in each jurisdiction to examine the significant predictors of each of the 12 legal problem groups.(16)

Table 9.2: Regression summaries — prevalence of legal problems overall, each jurisdiction [click to enlarge]



Table 9.3: Regression summaries — prevalence of substantial legal problems, each jurisdiction [click to enlarge]



Table 9.4: Regression summaries — prevalence of multiple legal problems, each jurisdiction [click to enlarge]



The results were similar across jurisdictions. However, not all of the demographic variables that were significant in each Australian model reached significance in all the corresponding state/territory models, as might be expected, given the larger national numbers. As detailed below, the regressions confirm past findings that different ages or life stages are significantly associated with different types of legal problems, and that disadvantaged or socially excluded groups have increased vulnerability.

Age

Past research has typically reported that age has a strong influence on the prevalence of legal problems, and that older people have the lowest prevalence rates (Buck et al. 2005; Coumarelos et al. 2006; CSRA 2003; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; GKA 2006, 2008; LASNSC 2005; LSNJ 2009; Maxwell et al. 1999; Miller & Srivastava 2002; Pleasence 2006; Pleasence et al. 2010; TALS 2004; van Velthoven & Klein Haarhuis 2010; van Velthoven & ter Voert 2004). The LAW Survey confirms these findings. In all jurisdictions, age was the strongest, or one of the strongest, predictors of prevalence. It was significantly related to all three general prevalence measures — that is, to the prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems. Respondents aged 65 years or over had significantly lower prevalence levels according to these measures when compared to some, and usually most, other age groups (see Tables 9.2–9.4). In most jurisdictions, the prevalence of legal problems overall was at peak or near peak levels at 35–44 years of age.(17)

In keeping with past research, the LAW Survey also demonstrated that different types of legal problems tend to peak at different ages and appear to reflect people’s changing life circumstances as they progress through different stages of life.

According to past studies, frequent legal problems in the younger age groups include problems related to criminal activity, accidents, personal injury and rented housing (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Maxwell et al. 1999; Pleasence 2006). The LAW Survey supports these findings. First, the odds of crime problems peaked at either 15–17 or 18–24 years across jurisdictions, and the odds of rights problems for these age groups were also elevated or at peak levels. Rights problems included some problems that are potentially related to criminal activity — namely, problems concerning unfair treatment by police and student bullying/harassment. These results are consistent with official court statistics and crime data, which show high rates of criminal offending and victimisation among younger adults, particularly young males (ABS 2011d; NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (NSW BOCSAR) 2011a). Second, the LAW Survey found that the odds of accidents and personal injury problems peaked at either 15–17 or 18–24 years in most jurisdictions. It is noteworthy that the LAW Survey categorised motor vehicle accidents within these two problem groups. The accidents problem group consisted solely of injury-free motor vehicle accidents, while the personal injury problem group included motor vehicle injuries. Thus, these results may reflect poorer driving skills and greater risk-taking behaviour among young adults (Coumarelos et al. 2006). Third, the percentages of rented housing problems were high among 18–24 year olds, although they tended to peak at 25–34 years in most jurisdictions.(18) Problems with rented housing have been argued to reflect younger people’s lower levels of economic independence and resultant lower standards of housing (Pleasence 2006).

In the late 20s and early 30s, high rates of legal problems related to credit and debt have been reported by past research and have been argued to echo increasing personal expenditure and use of debt as people become more economically independent and commence acquiring major assets such as motor vehicles and houses (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006). Similarly, the odds of credit/debt problems in the present study peaked at 25–34 years in most jurisdictions. In Australia as a whole, the peak was at 25–34 years, with particularly elevated odds also at 18–24 and 35–44 years, and still elevated odds at 45–64 years. In addition, the types of housing problems experienced by 25–34 year olds appear consistent with the notion that this age group is starting to become more economically independent and to enter into home ownership. While this age group had apparently high percentages of rented housing problems, it also had apparently high percentages of owned housing problems when compared to the group aged 18–24 years. Owned housing problems tended to remain elevated during middle age.(19)

Past research has found that family-related legal problems, such as divorce, relationship breakdown, problems ancillary to relationship breakdown and child-related problems, tend to be frequent in the late 30s to early 40s (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006). Similar results were obtained by the LAW Survey. The odds of experiencing family problems peaked at 35–44 years in most jurisdictions. Most jurisdictions also showed elevated odds at 25–34 years and some also at 45–54 years. In Australia as a whole, the peak was at 35–44 years, with particularly elevated odds also at 25–34 years, and significantly elevated odds in all other age groups between 18 and 64 years. Again, these findings appear to reflect changing life circumstances whereby, by middle age, many people have chosen long-term partners and have dependent children.

The LAW Survey reinforces past results that most types of legal problems tend to decline significantly after middle age, from the mid 50s onwards (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006). Again, these findings are consistent with changes in life circumstances, such as retirement and grown children leaving home. Most obviously, the low odds of legal problems related to employment in the oldest age group across jurisdictions are likely to largely reflect the high retirement rates in this age group. Although most types of legal problems are less prevalent among older people, some types of legal problems are relatively common in this age group. In particular, past research has found that wills, estates and power of attorney issues are common in the older age groups (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Maxwell et al. 1999). The LAW Survey replicates these findings. Wills/estates issues were categorised within the money problem group in the present study.(20)The odds of experiencing a problem from this problem group tended to peak at 45–64 years in most jurisdictions and tended to reflect peak percentages of wills/estates problems.(21)

Gender

In Australia as a whole, gender was related to all three general prevalence measures: legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems. Although significant, these relationships were not strong, and their direction was inconsistent. Males had higher prevalence of legal problems overall and multiple legal problems but lower prevalence of substantial legal problems. Gender was usually unrelated to the general prevalence measures in most states/territories, and, again, the few significant relationships were weak (see Tables 9.2–9.4).

Legal needs surveys have occasionally found differences in the types of legal problems experienced by males and females, although the particular problem types exhibiting gender differences have varied (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Pleasence 2006). The LAW Survey similarly found significant gender differences in the prevalence of some types of problems, and these relationships were most often in the direction of males having higher prevalence. However, again, these relationships between gender and prevalence were usually not very strong. In the Australian analysis, males had higher odds of problems from six of the 12 problem groups: consumer, credit/debt, crime, government, money and personal injury. Females had higher odds only of health problems. The state/territory analyses typically revealed gender differences for only a few legal problem groups. In addition, like the Australian results, the significant gender differences at the state/territory level usually showed elevated prevalence for males rather than females. Each of the six problem groups that was elevated for males in the Australian analysis was also elevated for males in at least a few states/territories. Males had elevated odds of credit/debt and personal injury problems in four states/territories, elevated odds of crime, government and money problems in three states/territories and elevated odds of consumer problems in two states/territories.

Disadvantaged groups

The LAW Survey supports existing evidence that many types of disadvantage increase vulnerability to legal problems. The survey examined the following indicators of disadvantage: Indigenous background, disability, low levels of education, unemployment, single parenthood, disadvantaged housing, government payments, non-English main language and living in remote areas.(22) In particular, people with a disability stood out as the disadvantaged group with the greatest number of significant associations with increased prevalence of legal problems. In addition, the associations of disability with high prevalence were some of the strongest in the analyses. In all jurisdictions, significantly higher vulnerability was also evident according to some prevalence measures for other disadvantaged groups, such as single parents, people living in disadvantaged housing and the unemployed. The NSWLNS (Coumarelos et al. 2006) did not examine single parenthood, disadvantaged housing and unemployment. Thus, the LAW Survey provides fresh evidence within the Australian context of a link between these indicators of disadvantage and vulnerability to legal problems.

Like past surveys, the LAW Survey found that low levels of education and non-English main language, unlike most other indicators of disadvantage, tended to be related to low rather than high prevalence of legal problems when they were significant. Further details about disadvantage and vulnerability are provided below.

Disability

Disability status(23) was often one of the strongest significant predictors of prevalence. In addition, of all the disadvantaged groups examined, people with a disability had increased vulnerability to legal problems according to the greatest number of prevalence measures. In all jurisdictions, they had increased prevalence of legal problems overall (see Table 9.2) and substantial legal problems (see Table 9.3). Except in Western Australia and the Northern Territory, they also had high prevalence of multiple legal problems (see Table 9.4). Furthermore, people with a disability had high prevalence of problems from at least nine of the 12 problem groups in each jurisdiction. In particular, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they had very high prevalence of legal problems from the health problem group. In Australia as a whole, people with a disability had high prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems, multiple legal problems and problems from all of the problem groups.

Past surveys have also found people with a disability to have increased vulnerability to legal problems (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006). Like the present survey, the NSWLNS identified people with a disability as the most vulnerable of the demographic groups examined (Coumarelos et al. 2006).

Single parenthood

Family status was related to prevalence according to a number of measures and, when significant, often had one of the strongest effects. Single parents(24) had high prevalence of legal problems overall and substantial legal problems in all jurisdictions (see Tables 9.2 and 9.3), and high prevalence of multiple legal problems in most jurisdictions (see Table 9.4). Single parents were the only disadvantaged group apart from people with a disability who had significantly higher vulnerability according to at least two of these three general prevalence measures in every jurisdiction. Single parents also had high odds of problems from eight of the 12 problem groups in Australia as a whole, and from at least a few problem groups in each jurisdiction. They had particularly high odds of family problems in all jurisdictions, and elevated odds of credit/debt, crime and rights problems in most jurisdictions. The high odds of family problems are not surprising, given that single parents have the defining circumstances necessary for the experience of both relationship breakdown problems and problems related to children. In Australia as a whole, single parents had high prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems, multiple legal problems and problems from the following eight problem groups: consumer, credit/debt, crime, family, government, health, housing and rights.

Past surveys have similarly found single parents to be among the demographic groups most vulnerable to legal problems (Buck et al. 2004; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006; Pleasence et al. 2010).

Disadvantaged housing

Typically, housing type was significantly related to a number of prevalence measures and was often one of the strongest predictors of the prevalence of multiple legal problems. In most jurisdictions, people living in disadvantaged housing(25) had increased prevalence according to at least two of the three general prevalence measures of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems (see Tables 9.2–9.4). They also usually had increased odds of problems from at least a few of the 12 problem groups in each state/territory. Credit/debt, crime, employment, family, health, housing(26) and rights problems were elevated for people living in disadvantaged housing in at least five jurisdictions. In Australia as a whole, people living in disadvantaged housing had increased prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems, multiple legal problems and problems from seven problem groups: credit/debt, crime, employment, family, health, housing and rights. Western Australia was the only jurisdiction where there was no significant relationship between housing type and any of the three general prevalence measures of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems. In Western Australia, people living in disadvantaged housing had significantly higher prevalence only of crime and housing problems. While it is not clear why there were fewer significant relationships in Western Australia, the section of the population living in disadvantaged housing may be slightly different. Western Australia has a low proportion of the population living in disadvantaged areas and also a somewhat lower than average proportion living in housing authority dwellings (ABS 2007a, 2008c).

Unemployment

Employment status was usually significantly related to a number of prevalence measures and was occasionally one of the strongest predictors. In most jurisdictions, unemployed people(27) had increased vulnerability to legal problems according to at least two of the three general prevalence measures of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems (see Tables 9.2–9.4). The relationship between employment status and the prevalence of problems from each problem group apart from the employment problem group was also examined. The employment problem group was not examined, due to its overlap with the employment status demographic variable.(28) Unemployed people had high odds of problems from eight of the remaining 11 problem groups in Australia as a whole and of problems from at least one problem group in each state/territory. Increased odds of credit/debt, government and rights problems for unemployed people were found in the majority of states/territories. In Australia as a whole, unemployed people had increased prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems, multiple legal problems and problems from the following eight problem groups: consumer, credit/debt, crime, family, government, health, housing and rights. In Tasmania, however, employment status was significantly related to prevalence according to only two measures. Unemployed people had increased odds only of credit/debt and rights problems. In fact, Tasmania was the only jurisdiction where unemployed people did not have significantly higher prevalence according to any of the three general prevalence measures of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems. The Tasmanian findings may reflect differences in the demographic composition of this state’s labour force (i.e. people in the workforce or looking for work). For example, Tasmania has relatively high proportions of people on government payments, people in part-time work and people who did not finish school (ABS 2009a, 2009b, 2009c).

Government payments

Past surveys have not reliably found high overall prevalence of legal problems for people on low incomes or welfare benefits (e.g. Pleasence 2006; Pleasence et al. 2010; van Velthoven & Klein Haarhuis 2010). However, poorer respondents have tended to report different types of legal problems from wealthier respondents. Wealthier respondents have reported legal problems that appear to reflect their greater opportunity for economic activity, such as problems related to consumer activity, investments, home ownership, clinical interventions and stolen/vandalised property (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Pleasence 2006). In contrast, poorer respondents have reported legal problems that reflect their socioeconomic disadvantage, such as problems related to debt, domestic violence, family relationships, homelessness, mental health, rented housing, social services and welfare benefits (Buck et al. 2005; Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; Dignan 2006; Pleasence 2006).

The LAW Survey examined whether prevalence was related to receipt of government payments as the main source of income.(29) The results reinforce past findings. First, there were few significant relationships between main income and the three general measures of prevalence. More specifically, people on government payments did not have high overall prevalence of legal problems in any jurisdiction (see Table 9.2) or high prevalence of substantial legal problems or multiple legal problems in most jurisdictions (see Tables 9.3 and 9.4).(30) Second, in most jurisdictions, the LAW Survey found that the types of legal problems experienced by respondents on government payments were significantly different from those experienced by other respondents.(31) People on government payments were more likely to experience legal problems reflecting socioeconomic disadvantage. They had increased odds of problems from the following problem groups in at least one or a few jurisdictions: family, government, health, housing and rights. The high levels of government problems were largely due to problems related to receipt of government payments. The rights problems included problems related to discrimination and unfair treatment by police. In contrast, respondents with other main sources of income were more likely to experience legal problems reflecting a greater opportunity for economic activity or greater economic independence. These respondents had higher odds of consumer, employment, money and personal injury problems in at least one jurisdiction. The money problems experienced often included problems with business or investment. The high levels of personal injury problems, which often involved work-related injuries, and the high levels of employment problems are consistent with higher rates of employment among this group. In Australia as a whole, people on government payments had increased prevalence of substantial legal problems, but not of legal problems overall or multiple legal problems. They had increased risk of family, government, health and rights problems, whereas other respondents had increased risk of consumer, employment, money and personal injury problems. In Queensland and the Northern Territory, main income was not significantly related to any measure of prevalence — neither to the three general prevalence measures, nor to the prevalence of problems from any problem group. The reason for the Queensland result is unclear, given that the proportion of people on government payments is similar to the Australian proportion (ABS 2009c). However, the Northern Territory finding may reflect this jurisdiction’s unique demographic profile. It has a smaller proportion of people on government payments, reflecting lower proportions on the age pension, due to its younger age structure (ABS 2000b, 2011a).

Low education levels

Past studies have typically demonstrated that people with low levels of education have lower rather than higher rates of legal problems (Coumarelos et al. 2006; Currie 2007b; GKA 2006, 2008; LSNJ 2009; Maxwell et al. 1999; Pleasance 2006; van Velthoven & Klein Haarhuis 2010; van Velthoven & ter Voert 2004). The LAW Survey confirms these findings. People with low education levels(32) had significantly lower overall prevalence of legal problems in all jurisdictions (see Table 9.2). They also had significantly lower prevalence of substantial legal problems in several jurisdictions and of multiple legal problems in two jurisdictions (see Tables 9.3 and 9.4). In addition, people with low education levels had lower odds of problems from at least four of the 12 problem groups in each jurisdiction, often including the accidents, consumer, crime, employment, government, housing and money problem groups. Family and personal injury problems were not significantly related to education in any jurisdiction. In Australia as a whole, people with low education levels had decreased prevalence of legal problems overall, substantial legal problems, multiple legal problems and problems from 10 problem groups: accidents, consumer, credit/debt, crime, employment, government, health, housing, money and rights. As already noted, unlike people with low levels of education, most other disadvantaged groups tended to have increased prevalence of legal problems.

Ethnic minorities

Past studies have often found relationships between ethnicity and vulnerability to legal problems. However, some studies have found increased vulnerability, while others have found decreased vulnerability among ethnic minority groups (see Coumarelos et al. 2006; CSRA 2003; Currie 2007b; Dale 2000, 2005; LASNSC 2005; LSNJ 2009; Maxwell et al. 1999; Miller & Srivastava 2002; Pleasence 2006; TALS 2004). This variation across surveys may reflect the study of different ethnic groups, the use of different measurements of ethnicity and insufficient numbers of ethnic minority respondents within samples. The LAW Survey examined two ethnic minority groups: Indigenous Australians and people with a non-English main language.

Indigenous background

The NSWLNS by Coumarelos et al. (2006) did not find high rates of legal problems overall for Indigenous respondents but found high rates of credit/debt, employment and family legal problems. The LAW Survey similarly found no significant relationship between Indigenous status(33) and the overall prevalence of legal problems in each jurisdiction (see Table 9.2). With the exception of Tasmania, Indigenous status was also not significantly related to the prevalence of substantial legal problems (see Table 9.3). Notably, however, Indigenous people had significantly higher prevalence according to the measure of multiple legal problems in most jurisdictions, and sometimes these relationships were among the strongest for this prevalence measure (see Table 9.4).(34) Like the NSWLNS, the LAW Survey found significantly higher prevalence of one or a few types of legal problems among Indigenous respondents in most jurisdictions. The problem groups with elevated risk for Indigenous people in some jurisdictions were the crime, government, health and rights problem groups.(35) The crime problems experienced by Indigenous people included both offender and victim problems, and the government problems included problems related to fines and government payments.

With the exception of Western Australia, all jurisdictions had at least one significant association between Indigenous status and prevalence, although there were generally no more than a few significant associations in each jurisdiction (see Tables 9.2–9.4). In Australia as a whole, Indigenous respondents had increased prevalence of multiple legal problems, but not of legal problems overall or substantial legal problems. They also had increased odds of government, health and rights problems. Methodological issues, such as the small numbers of Indigenous respondents interviewed in many jurisdictions, may have militated against observing a greater number of significant associations with prevalence.(36)

Non-English main language

The NSWLNS (Coumarelos et al. 2006) found that respondents born in a non-English-speaking country had low overall prevalence of legal problems and low prevalence of accident/injury, wills/estates and general crime problems. Similarly, the LAW Survey found significant relationships between prevalence and main language(37) in some jurisdictions, and these relationships generally indicated lower prevalence for people with a non-English main language.(38) More specifically, in about half the jurisdictions, this demographic group had low odds of legal problems overall (see Table 9.2) and low odds of problems from at least one of the 12 problem groups. In most jurisdictions, however, the prevalence of substantial legal problems and multiple legal problems was not significantly related to main language (see Tables 9.3 and 9.4). In Australia as a whole, people with a non-English main language had lower prevalence of legal problems overall and substantial legal problems, but not of multiple legal problems. They also had lower prevalence of problems from seven problem groups: accidents, consumer, credit/debt, crime, family, government and money. In addition, they had higher prevalence of health problems.

NSW and Victoria were the two states/territories that had the greatest number of significant associations between main language and prevalence. This finding may reflect differences between states/territories in the population from a non-English-speaking background. First, this demographic group is relatively large in NSW and Victoria compared to most other states/territories. The proportion of LAW Survey respondents with a non-English main language was nine per cent in NSW and Victoria compared to 2–5 per cent in the other states/territories, with Tasmania (2%) and Queensland (3%) having the lowest proportions.(39) The smaller numbers of respondents with a non-English main language in all states/territories other than NSW and Victoria may have militated against a greater number of significant associations in these other jurisdictions. Census data similarly indicate that NSW and Victoria have relatively large proportions of people from a non-English-speaking background, while Tasmania and Queensland have the smallest proportions (ABS 2007a).(40) Second, the composition of the demographic group from a non-English-speaking background also varies between states/territories. Most notably, according to the census (ABS 2007a), this demographic group in the Northern Territory is distinct from those in all other states/territories because Indigenous languages are far more common among the non-English languages spoken (ABS 2007a).(41) As a result, the Northern Territory is the only state/territory where Indigenous people comprise a large proportion of the non-English-speaking population.(42) The different composition of the non-English group in the Northern Territory may have contributed to the fewer significant relationships between main language and prevalence.

Given that ethnic minorities are often disadvantaged, the lower reporting of legal problems by these groups is notable, because it contrasts with the elevated reporting by other disadvantaged groups.

Living in remote areas

The few studies that have examined prevalence according to remoteness or urbanisation have produced inconsistent results (cf. Dignan 2006; GKA 2006; Gramatikov 2008; LASNSC 2005; Miller & Srivastava 2002). Similarly, in the present study, remoteness of residential area was significantly related to the prevalence of legal problems only occasionally, and the direction was inconsistent. Thus, the present findings did not reliably reflect higher prevalence rates in remote areas, which tend to be the more disadvantaged areas across Australia (ABS 2008c). People living in major city areas had high overall prevalence of legal problems in Victoria, South Australia and Australia as a whole and high prevalence of substantial legal problems in Victoria and Western Australia, but low prevalence of multiple legal problems in NSW and Australia as a whole (see Tables 9.2–9.4). Remoteness of residential area was also not reliably related to the prevalence of different types of legal problems. It was not a significant predictor of any problem group in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In the other jurisdictions, people living in major city areas in some cases had significantly higher prevalence and in other cases had significantly lower prevalence of problems from certain problem groups. As noted earlier, Australian jurisdictions vary enormously in their geographical profiles. As a result, identical comparisons on the remoteness variable could not be made across jurisdictions. For example, remoteness could not be examined in the ACT, because it comprises major city areas almost exclusively.(43) The geographical compositions of jurisdictions may have contributed to the inconsistent findings for remoteness.

15. In each jurisdiction, the model on overall prevalence was comparable to the Australian model shown in Table 3.5, the model on prevalence of substantial legal problems was comparable to the Australian model shown in Table 3.7, while the model on multiple legal problems was comparable to the Australian model shown in Table 3.8. Further details are provided in Appendix Tables A2.8 and A2.9 (models 1a, 2 and 3), while the full results are provided in the LAW Survey report for the relevant jurisdiction.

16. The models on the prevalence of each problem group in each jurisdiction were comparable to the Australian models shown in Table 3.9. Further details are provided in Appendix Tables A2.8 and A2.9 (models 4a–4l), while the full results are provided in the LAW Survey report for the relevant jurisdiction.

17. Based on the percentages in all jurisdictions apart from the Northern Territory, there was a tendency for overall prevalence to peak at 35–44 years. This tendency resulted in 35–44 year olds having the highest odds of legal problems overall in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and Australia as a whole.

18. The significance of this result was not examined, because, due to small numbers, regressions were not conducted on the prevalence of problem subgroups such as rented housing. A peak at 25–34 years in the percentages for rented housing was not evident in Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT. In Australia as a whole, the prevalence rate of rented housing problems was five per cent for 18–24 year olds, six per cent for 25–34 year olds and less than four per cent for all other age groups.

19. The significance of these results was not examined, because, due to small numbers, regressions were not conducted on the prevalence of problem subgroups such as rented housing and owned housing. In Australia as a whole, as noted above, the prevalence of rented housing problems was five per cent for 18–24 year olds, six per cent for 25–34 year olds and less than four per cent for the other age groups. The prevalence of owned housing problems in Australia as a whole was less than one per cent for 18–24 year olds, three per cent for 25–44 year olds and two per cent or less for the older age groups.

20. The money problem group also included business and investment problems.

21. In Queensland, money problems peaked at 35–44 years rather than 45–64 years. In the Northern Territory and the ACT, age was not significantly related to the prevalence of money problems according to the regression results. Across jurisdictions, consumer, government and health problems tended to show less obvious peaks according to age, and these types of problems were generally elevated for 18–54 year olds compared to those aged 65 years or over.

22. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Other demographics’ section and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

23. The LAW Survey defined ‘disability’ as any long-term illness or disability that had already lasted, or was likely to last, at least six months, and included a wide range of sensory, intellectual, learning, mental health, neurological and physical conditions. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Disability status’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

24. The LAW Survey defined ‘single parents’ as people who, at the time of interview, were not living with a partner and had one or more children under 18 years, regardless of whether these children were living with them. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Family status’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

25. The LAW Survey defined ‘disadvantaged housing’ as any of the following housing situations at any time during the previous 12 months: being homeless, living in emergency or basic accommodation (e.g. refuge, shelter, boarding house, caravan park, tent, motor vehicle, shed or barn), living with relatives or friends due to having nowhere else to live, or living in public housing. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Housing type’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

26. Homelessness and/or living in emergency/basic/public housing led to membership in the disadvantaged housing demographic group but did not constitute problems within the housing problem group. Although living in public housing per se did not constitute a problem within the housing problem group, experiencing a problem with public renting (e.g. a problem with the rental agreement) did constitute a problem within the housing problem group (see Appendix A1, question P6).

27. The LAW Survey defined ‘unemployment’ as being out of work and actively looking for work at any time in the previous 12 months. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Employment status’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

28. Being sacked or made redundant was a legal problem within the employment problem group. This legal problem would almost invariably have also resulted in a period of unemployment and, hence, membership within the unemployment demographic group. Due to this overlap, it was not possible to run reliable regressions on the prevalence of the employment problem group if the employment status demographic variable was included as a predictor.

29. The LAW Survey defined ‘government payments’ as means-tested government payments received on a fortnightly basis at any time during the previous 12 months. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Main income’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

30. The relationship to prevalence of substantial problems was significant only in Victoria and Australia as a whole, and the relationship to multiple problems was significant only in Victoria and the ACT.

31. The crime problem group was an exception. Government payments were linked to higher odds of crime problems in Victoria and South Australia, but to lower odds of crime problems in Tasmania.

32. The survey measured the highest level of education completed at the time of the survey and categorised respondents into three groups — those who had not finished school, those who had finished only Year 12 and those with post-school qualifications. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Education’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8 for further details.

33. For details about the measurement of Indigenous status, see Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Gender, age and Indigenous status’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8.

34. The NSWLNS (Coumarelos et al. 2006) did not examine the predictors of substantial legal problems or multiple legal problems.

35. Different problem groups had elevated prevalence for Indigenous respondents in the LAW Survey compared to the NSWLNS (Coumarelos et al. 2006).

36. In unweighted numbers, the fewest Indigenous interviews were conducted in the ACT (26), Western Australia (31) and South Australia (35). See Appendix Table A2.7 in each LAW Survey report. See Chapter 10, ‘Tailoring services for specific demographic groups: Indigenous background’ section, for further discussion of the methodological issues potentially affecting the results for Indigenous status.

37. Respondents with an Indigenous language as their main language were included in the non-English main language group. However, many Indigenous respondents were included in the English main language group. For further details about the measurement of main language, see Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Main language’ section, and Appendix Table A2.8.

38. Increased prevalence for people with a non-English main language was found in only two instances. This group had increased odds of health problems in Australia as a whole and increased odds of housing problems in Tasmania.

39. These sample percentages are based on weighted numbers. See Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Main language’ section, in each LAW Survey report for details on weighting. A significance test was not conducted on these data.

40. According to the census (ABS 2007a), the proportion of the population aged 15 years or over who speak a non-English language at home and do not speak English very well is 10 per cent in NSW and Victoria compared to only two per cent in Tasmania, four per cent in Queensland and 5–6 per cent in all other states/territories except the Northern Territory. Like NSW and Victoria, the Northern Territory has a relatively high proportion at 11 per cent.

41. People who speak a non-English language include 44 per cent whose main language is an Indigenous language in the Northern Territory compared to less than three per cent in the other states/territories (ABS 2007a).

42. Thus, although, as noted above, the Northern Territory, NSW and Victoria all have a high proportion of people from a non-English-speaking background according to the census (ABS 2007a), only in the Northern Territory does this group include a relatively large percentage of Indigenous people. Note also that the LAW Survey estimate of the Northern Territory population with a non-English main language (5%) is likely to be an underestimate partly because the survey undersampled disadvantaged Indigenous people. See Chapter 10, ‘Tailoring services for specific demographic groups: Indigenous background’ section for further details.

43. In Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Australia as a whole, three categories were compared: remote, regional and major city. Due to insufficient weighted numbers in remote areas in NSW and Victoria, major city areas were compared to a combined remote/regional category. Due to there being no major city areas in Tasmania and the Northern Territory (ABS 2007a), remote areas were compared to regional areas. In addition, there were relatively small weighted numbers in the remote category for some jurisdictions (e.g. 58 in Tasmania) where this category was not combined with the regional category, which may have militated against significant differences. For further details about the measurement of remoteness of residential area, see Appendix A2, ‘Comparison of sample and population profile: Remoteness’ section in the LAW Survey report for each jurisdiction, and also see Appendix Table A2.8.

  


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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