NSW Legal Needs Survey: South Sydney, Justice issues paper 8 ( 2008 ) Cite this report
There were however, a few points of difference between the South Sydney sub-sample and all regions. South Sydney participants were marginally more likely than the sample overall to report experiencing at least one legal event, and significantly more South Sydney respondents reported three or more events. Specifically, the South Sydney participants were significantly more likely than the general sample to have experienced 'government', 'housing', 'wills and estates' and 'general crime' legal events in the past 12 months.
Although participants from South Sydney sought help at similar rates to the sample in all regions, there did appear to be a difference in the type of legal help sought by the two groups. For example, while both the South Sydney sub-sample and the overall sample used non-legal advisers more frequently than legal advisers, the proportion using legal advisers in South Sydney was significantly greater than the corresponding proportion for all regions. South Sydney participants did not have to travel far for their assistance — in no event did they report travelling over 40 kilometres for assistance. They therefore seemed to be somewhat closer to their legal assistance provider than the average over the six areas included in the survey.
Thus, South Sydney LGA is an area where people experience a high rate of legal events, and where people use legal services to help them with their legal problems. Similar to other regions, South Sydney participants most often source their help through their own personal knowledge and personal networks. However, when compared with all participants, South Sydney participants were even more likely to use an adviser who was a friend or a relative, but less likely to use an adviser they had used before. The data presented here also suggest that their needs are diverse in terms of the kind of assistance they will receive from their advisers. That is, people often receive non-legal assistance when trying to resolve events that have legal implications as well as, or even without, legal advice. However, among those who do seek help, there seems to be a high level of satisfaction with whatever help they obtain. Thus, addressing legal events may require more than just legal advice or representation, but to some degree these needs may be being met in the South Sydney area.
The above findings and those from the overall report (Coumarelos et al. 2006) suggest a range of strategies may be required to promote justice through legal services. The substantial rates of people doing nothing for their legal problems, 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 benefits 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. This may ensure that legal services can react quickly and effectively to resolve legal problems.