NSW Legal Needs Survey: Campbelltown, Justice issues paper 4 ( 2008 ) Cite this report
The legal events experienced among the Campbelltown sub-sample related to a broad range of civil, criminal and family law issues. As with the overall sample, by far the most common type of legal event experienced in the past 12 months was civil law, although this was somewhat a function of the structure of the questionnaire. The most commonly reported legal events for the Campbelltown LGA were in the 'consumer' and 'general crime' legal events groups.
When respondents took some action about their legal problems, help from an adviser was sought for approximately half of the legal events reported, generally from only one source. Similar to other regions, Campbelltown participants most often source their help through their own personal knowledge and personal networks. In the majority of cases, help was sought from non-legal advisers such as friends, relatives or non-legal professionals. Thus, unsurprisingly, for a large proportion it was non-legal advice that was received. Among the Campbelltown respondents who took no action for their legal problems, the most important reasons provided were: 'seeking help would make no difference or make things worse' and the respondent felt the issue was not serious (or did not know how serious the event was). These were also the two most common reasons for taking no action over all regions.
In general, the majority of Campbelltown participants experienced no problems with getting assistance for their legal problems. Correspondingly, satisfaction was high with the sole or most useful adviser — over three-quarters of Campbelltown participants were satisfied with the help they received. It also appears that the majority did not have to travel very far for their legal assistance — in only 13 per cent of legal events did they report travelling over 20 kilometres for assistance, closer than participants from non-metropolitan regions included in the survey. However, although in the minority, a number of Campbelltown residents participating in the current survey reported experiencing difficulty getting through to an adviser on the telephone, the most common barrier to obtaining assistance over all regions.
The above findings and those from the overall report (Coumarelos et al. 2006) suggest that a range of strategies may be required to promote justice through legal services. The substantial rates of people doing nothing for their legal problems, mainly because of a view that seeking help would make no difference or make things worse, show the importance of enhancing the general knowledge about how legal processes could assist them to resolve issues. This could be achieved through proactive information and education to increase public awareness about their legal needs and the available pathways for legal resolution. The observation that people go to non-legal advisers when they have legal problems suggests there may be benefit in raising the general level of legal literacy among the community at large, to enable the use of non-legal professionals as effective gateways to available legal services (Coumarelos et al. 2006). Finally, difficulty getting through to an adviser on the telephone may indicate the need to improve the accessibility of legal services through more resources and extended availability of services, to ensure that legal services can react quickly and effectively to resolve legal problems.