Note: the original hard copy of this report is 16 pages .

cover image

NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Walgett, Justice issues paper 9   

, 2008 Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas (2006) is the report of a large-scale quantitative study of the legal needs of disadvantaged people in six local government areas of New South Wales. More than 2400 residents across the regions were interviewed about their legal needs. This report was preceded by an initial study Quantitative legal needs survey: Bega Valley (pilot) (2003). There now follows a series of papers in the Justice Issues imprint. Six individual papers will describe how disadvantaged people deal with legal problems, detailing the responses from one of the regions surveyed: Campbelltown, Fairfield, Nambucca, Newcastle, South Sydney and Walgett....


Expressed legal need in Walgett


The Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales collects data annually from a number of legal service providers, to provide an indication of the level of expressed legal need in New South Wales. 'Expressed legal need' refers to those legal needs which are 'expressed' through accessing a legal service by requesting information or advice, seeking a legal referral or gaining legal representation. The number of inquiries for the 12 months to September 2003 (the period covered in the survey) for LawAccess13 and three different service types provided by Legal Aid in the Walgett LGA are shown in Table 4.

Table 4 shows that although the number of inquiries to these services are small overall, there are some patterns in the use of these services that are worth noting. Most of the inquiries coming into LawAccess from the Walgett area concerned civil issues, but for Legal Aid, the distribution of inquiries across broad areas of law differs according to the type of service provided.

Table 4: Inquiries to LawAccess and Legal Aid services by broad area of law,
Walgett, October 2002 to September 2003
Service
Civil
Criminal
Family
Total
LawAccess
51
15
36
102
Legal Aid
– advice
1
3
20
24
– info/referral
5
10
18
33
– duty solicitor
7
23
1
31

For example, the majority of duty solicitor services, as one might expect, come under criminal law, because duty solicitor services are most commonly provided for criminal matters. It should also be noted that the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) provides a service for criminal matters in this geographical area. Therefore, given the high Indigenous population in this area (and therefore perhaps a preference for the ALS rather than these other services) the statistics shown here may not fully reflect the use of free legal services in Walgett. Most inquiries to both the Advice Service and the Information and Referral concerned family law areas. However, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions regarding the distribution across services as there is no information regarding the independence of inquiries to each service in these data. For example, a person may approach a service a number of times in relation to the same issue, or may make inquiries that fall under different areas of law in relation to a complex issue. Further, people may seek assistance from other legal services, such as the ALS, private lawyers or community legal centres. Inquiry data can, however, provide a broad brush stroke picture of the level of legal service usage in an area. In the case of Walgett LGA, there was approximately 2 per cent rate of use of these two types of services for the population size (approximately 190 service events for a population around 8201 people). In fact, of the six LGAs surveyed, Walgett had the lowest rate of use of these services (range 5–10% for other regions). It is unclear what this low rate might indicate (lower need or less access to service). However, the survey results will help clarify the picture of legal need in the area by giving an indication of not only expressed legal need, but also, unexpressed legal need where no assistance is obtained.


13  LawAccess is a free telephone information service that operates under the auspices of the NSW Attorney General`s Department.