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NSW Legal Needs Survey in disadvantaged areas: Fairfield (Justice Issues Paper 5)  

, 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....


Introduction


The broad aim of the research reported here was to provide a quantitative assessment of the legal needs of disadvantaged communities in New South Wales. This study was the most comprehensive quantitative investigation of legal needs undertaken in Australia for 30 years. The survey questioned a sample of residents in six disadvantaged local government areas (LGAs) across New South Wales, including urban, regional and rural/remote areas. Within these disadvantaged communities, the study examined the incidence and type of legal events people experienced as well as their approaches to such events, including the use of legal and non-legal assistance, and the outcomes achieved.

A full report of the overall findings of the survey across the six LGAs has been published previously (Coumarelos, Wei & Zhou 2006). The present document aims to provide detailed descriptive information on the main indices for the Fairfield LGA. The objective is to give service providers an overview of the findings within this LGA to assist them with planning local services and formulating policy. Where appropriate, contrasts with the overall group are provided to demonstrate how the Fairfield LGA fares in comparison to the sample overall. However, it should be noted that the overall sample is not representative of New South Wales but consists of people living in a selected number of geographically diverse regions that rated highly on indicators of socioeconomic disadvantage. Although this limits the degree to which the results can be generalised to other areas of New South Wales, the data elucidate the issues facing people living in these areas and perhaps point to barriers to accessing justice among disadvantaged populations more generally.



Structure of report


This report will give a brief overview of the study methods and a profile of the six LGAs sampled for the survey. This will be followed by background information regarding the levels and types of expressed legal need in Fairfield LGA, as shown by calls to LawAccess and contact with the Legal Aid service. The report will then provide details of the findings from the survey for Fairfield LGA with respect to:


Survey method


Sampling

The six LGAs included in the survey were selected based on the following considerations:
  1. socioeconomic disadvantage
  2. cultural and linguistic diversity
  3. geographic diversity.1

For details of how these considerations shaped the selection of the final six LGAs, see Appendix 1. The sample included three suburban LGAs within Sydney (South Sydney, Fairfield and Campbelltown), a major regional centre (Newcastle) and rural/remote (Nambucca and Walgett) LGAs in New South Wales. Together, these LGAs exhibit relatively high socioeconomic disadvantage, include an area that is culturally and linguistically diverse (Fairfield) and an area with a relatively high Indigenous population (Walgett). They also reflect geographic diversity in terms of urbanisation as well as in terms of inland versus coastal regions of New South Wales.

Sample size

Table 1 shows the size of the population in each LGA and the proportion of the population surveyed.

The total sample size was 2431, with approximately 400 residents drawn from each LGA. On average, the sample drawn from each LGA represented approximately 0.5 per cent of the LGA population aged 15 years or over. However, the samples from Nambucca and Walgett LGAs represented somewhat larger proportions of their total populations (2.8% and 6.2% respectively) as these are less populous areas when compared with the other LGAs.

Table 1: Sample and population size of each LGA, 2003
Statistical divisionLGA
Population (15+ years)a
Sample size
Sample as % of population of LGA
SydneySouth Sydney
55 840
406
0.7
SydneyFairfield
147 960
401
0.3
SydneyCampbelltown
113 459
402
0.4
HunterNewcastle
119 481
408
0.3
Mid-North CoastNambucca
14 529
414
2.8
North WesternWalgett
6 477
400
6.2
Total
457 746
2431
0.5
a Source: Coumarelos et al. (2006). Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimated resident population data at 30 June 2003

Procedure

The survey was administered via telephone interviews in the six selected areas during September and October 2003 to 2431 residents aged 15 years or over. Random sampling from the electronic White Pages was used to draw a pool of potential participants from the six areas. Quota controls were employed to achieve a gender and age profile that reflected the population profile in these areas. The estimated survey response rate ranged between 23.9 and 34.1 per cent.2

Survey instrument

A copy of the survey instrument can be found in the full report of the study (Coumarelos et al. 2006). Briefly, the survey examined the sample’s experience of a total of 101 different events that have the potential for legal resolution. These events are detailed in Appendix 1, Table A1. They include:
The following findings represent a small subset of the overall set of analyses undertaken on the entire sample. As mentioned above, the results presented here are designed to inform service providers about expressed and unexpressed local legal need across a broad range of legal issues. Further, people’s responses to their legal issues are also explored. It is hoped that such indices may contribute to more informed planning by local legal and non-legal service providers that come into contact with people who have legal needs.

Analysis

The main statistical tests undertaken for this report involved standard and mixed-effects logistic regression (for further detail on these techniques see Appendix 2). The p-value for statistical significance was set at p = .05. Deviation contrasts were used for comparisons between Fairfield and the overall sample. That is, the rate observed in the Fairfield sub-sample was compared to the average rate across all regions.


Selected indices from the overall sample


Demographic profile

The demographic characteristics of the survey sample in each LGA are shown in Table 2.

Note that for each LGA, the gender and age profile in the sample was proportionate to that in the population.3 As Table 2 shows, there are quite striking differences between the regions in their demographic make-up.4 For example, Nambucca LGA had the highest proportion for the oldest age group (approximately 25% compared with 8–15% in the other areas), and the lowest proportion aged 44 years or younger (approximately 39% compared with 49–69% in the remaining areas). Nambucca LGA also had the highest proportion reporting a disability (27.5%) which may partly reflect the greater proportion of older citizens. On the other hand, nearly 70 per cent of the South Sydney LGA sample was aged younger than 44 years, only 8.9 per cent aged 65 and over, and 18.3 per cent reporting some kind of disability. Such differences between LGAs are significant in terms of planning for legal services, as age and disability are important factors in determining which and how many legal problems people experience (Coumarelos et al. 2006).

Table 2: Distribution of demographic characteristics of overall sample by LGA, 2003
VARIABLE
South Sydney
Fairfield
Campbelltown
Newcastle
Nambucca
Walgett
%
%
%
%
%
%
Gender
Male
54.4
48.1
47
48.3
48.8
56
Female
45.6
51.9
53
51.7
51.2
44
Age (years)
15–24
15.6
20.8
21.9
18.4
11.6
11.5
25–34
31.4
18.8
19.5
17.9
9.9
17.3
35–44
21.5
21.8
20.4
18.9
16.9
19.5
45–54
13.6
17.8
20.2
18.4
21.3
20
55–64
9.1
10.8
9.7
11.8
15.5
17
65+
8.9
10.3
8.2
14.7
24.9
14.8
Indigenous status
0.6
0.3
1.7
2.1
3.6
13.2
Country of birth
16.5
45.8
18
2.9
3.4
4.5
Disability
18.3
16.2
20
19.9
27.5
23.7
Personal income ($/week)
$0–199
11.7
28.8
22.5
19.4
23.3
25.7
$200–499
22.8
34.6
34.5
36.6
47.6
43.2
$500–999
38.9
30.5
31.8
34.2
25.4
23.8
$1000+
26.6
6
11.1
9.8
3.7
7.3
Education level
Didn’t finish/at school
2.5
13.6
10
8.7
15
17.3
Year 10/equivalent
8
24.7
32.9
26.2
35
38.3
Year 12/equivalent
19.9
28.7
21.9
17.1
17.2
20.8
Certificate/diploma
15.9
17.6
20.7
18.3
18.4
10.5
University degree
53.7
15.4
14.5
29.7
14.3
13.0
Notes: All regions, n = 2431 participants. Not all percentages add to 100 per cent within strata due to rounding.
Indigenous status shows proportion of sample identifying as Indigenous.
Country of birth shows proportion born outside Australia.
Disability status shows proportion with a disability, including physical disabilities, mental illness and chronic disease.

The Sydney LGAs of Fairfield, Campbelltown and South Sydney showed a greater number of participants born in a non-English speaking country (approximately 17–46% compared with 3–5% for non-Sydney LGAs). The finding for Fairfield is not surprising given that one reason for including this LGA in the sample was that it is an area culturally and linguistically diverse, and that quota sampling of Vietnamese, Chinese (Cantonese) and Spanish cultural/linguistic groups was used to yield numbers proportionate to population for these groups. Walgett LGA had the highest proportion of Indigenous residents (25.1% in 2001) compared with the other LGAs (South Sydney 2.5%, Fairfield 0.7%, Campbelltown 2.7%, Newcastle 1.7% and Nambucca 5.9%) (ABS 2006). The sampling technique also accounts for this higher proportion of Indigenous participants in Walgett LGA (13.2%) compared with the other LGAs (0.3–3.6%). Another notable difference among the six LGAs is that South Sydney appears to be relatively more advantaged in terms of income and education. Over half of the respondents from South Sydney LGA reported having a university degree (compared with approximately 29% or less in the other LGAs) and almost 27 per cent reported a weekly income of $1000 or more (compared with approximately 11% or less from the other LGAs). For further details comparing the population and sample demographic profiles for each LGA, see Coumarelos et al. (2006).

Incidence of legal events

Table 3 shows the distribution of reported legal events by broad area of law (civil, criminal and family). Note that the spread of legal events between these areas of law is likely to partly reflect the survey’s focus on civil law events rather than criminal or family law events. Thus, the large proportion of civil events reported is consistent with the high number of questions contained in the survey pertaining to these types of legal events.

Table 3: Distribution across respondents of reporting at least one legal event under the broad areas of law for six LGAs, 2003
Broad area of law
South Sydney
Fairfield
Campbelltown
Newcastle
Nambucca
Walgett
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
Civil Law
289
71.2
*
225
56.1
*
253
62.9
151
63
253
61.1
241
60.3
Criminal Law
148
36.5
*
104
25.9
123
30.6
119
29.2
97
23.4
*
142
35.5
*
Family Law
25
6.2
27
6.7
40
10
34
8.3
52
12.6
*
28
7
All areas of law
76.4
*
61.3
*
71.9
69.6
65.9
69.2
* Statistically significantly different from average over all regions at .01 level.
Notes: South Sydney n = 406 participants (data missing for one participant on family events), Fairfield n = 401, Campbelltown n = 402, Newcastle n = 408, Nambucca n = 414, Walgett n = 400. Note that respondents could report more than one type of event

Table 3 shows that there was variation across the regions in the incidence of at least one legal event. South Sydney LGA had a significantly higher proportion of people saying they had experienced at least one legal event in the past 12 months (76.4%),5 while Fairfield LGA had a significantly lower proportion (61.3%),6 compared with the average rate overall. These results are likely driven by the reporting patterns for civil events where South Sydney LGA had the highest (71.2%)7 and Fairfield LGA had the lowest (56.1%)8 proportions of people reporting these types of legal events. Reporting of criminal events was also higher than average in the South Sydney (36.5%) and Walgett LGAs (35.5%) and lower than average in Nambucca LGA (23.4%).9 Nambucca LGA registered a marginally higher than average rate for family events (12.6%).10

These findings indicate that the LGAs that constitute the sample for this survey are not homogeneous, either demographically or in terms of legal need. The differences suggest that it would be helpful to practitioners working in these (and perhaps demographically similar) areas to be able to access the results of the survey at the local level. This report is one of a series of six that considers a selection of the main indices from the survey on legal need, separately for each LGA. This particular report describes the results for the LGA of Fairfield. Where appropriate, the results for Fairfield LGA will be displayed along with the corresponding result from the total sample so that comparisons may be facilitated.


Fairfield LGA


Fairfield LGA is a 101.7 square kilometres area, 32 kilometres south-west of Sydney that stretches from Blacktown in the north to Liverpool in the south (ABS 2006). In 2003, the ABS estimated the population in the Fairfield LGA to be 188 329, approximately a 2 per cent increase on the 2000 estimate. The population density as of June 2004 was 1846.2 per square kilometre, compared with 8.4 persons per square kilometre for New South Wales.11 The unemployment rate in 2003 was 9.9 per cent, compared with 6 percent for New South Wales, and 55 129 people were receiving income support12 (29.3% of total population), compared with 22.2 per cent for New South Wales (ABS 2006). The average taxable income in this area in 2003 was $34 860, lower than the state average of $43 649. In combination, these figures indicate that Fairfield LGA, at least in 2003, was an area with significant disadvantage. Finally, as discussed earlier, Fairfield LGA is notable for its cultural diversity with 65.5 per cent of its population in 2001 coming from a non-English speaking background (ABS 2006).


Expressed legal need in Fairfield


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 Fairfield LGA are shown in Table 4.

Table 4 shows that most of the inquiries to LawAccess from the Fairfield area concerned civil issues, but for Legal Aid, the distribution of inquiries across broad area of law differed according to the type of service provided.

Table 4: Inquiries to LawAccess and Legal Aid services by broad area of law,
Fairfield, October 2002 to September 2003
Service
Civil
Criminal
Family
Total
LawAccess
684
159
256
1099
Legal Aid
– advice
689
908
661
2258
– info/referral
774
643
804
2221
– duty solicitor
231
2601
155
2987

For example, the overwhelming majority of duty solicitor services, as one might expect, come under criminal law, because duty solicitor services are most commonly provided for criminal matters. Similarly, most inquiries to the Advice Service concerned criminal law, while inquiries to the Information and Referral Service are more evenly spread among civil, criminal and 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 private lawyers or community legal centres.

Inquiry data can, however, provide a broad-brush picture of the level of legal service usage in an area. In the Fairfield LGA, there was less than 5 per cent rate of use of these services for the population size (approximately 8500 service events for a population around 188 300 people). 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.


Survey results


Incidence of legal events14

For the Law and Justice Foundation’s 2003 survey, 401 participants were drawn from the Fairfield LGA, who reported a total of 888 legal events. Table 5 displays the number of legal events reported per participant. The corresponding proportions for all regions are also shown.

Table 5: Number of legal events per participant, for Fairfield
and all regions, 2003
Number of legal events
Fairfield
All regions
No.
%
%
0
155
38.7
30.9
1
86
21.4
22.3
2
44
11.0
13.9
3 or more
116
28.9
32.9
Note: All regions, n = 2431, and for Fairfield, n = 401 participants.

Table 5 shows that almost 39 per cent of Fairfield participants reported that they did not experience any legal events in the past 12 months. The remaining 61 per cent reported experiencing at least one legal event. This proportion was significantly lower than the total sample (69.1%).15 In fact, of the six LGAs surveyed, Fairfield LGA had the lowest proportion of participants reporting at least one legal event (range 66 - 76% for other regions). However, it appears that the Fairfield subgroup had a similar distribution to the overall survey sample in the frequency of legal events reported during the reference period. In detail, Fairfield LGA had similar rates for reporting one or two events (32.4% vs 36.2% respectively), and three or more events (28.9% vs 32.9% respectively) compared with the average over all regions.16

Areas of law

Figure 1 displays the broad areas of law in which respondents reported legal issues. The bars show the proportion of respondents who reported at least one of these types of issues (civil, criminal, or family) in the last 12 months.

Figure 1: Incidence of legal events by broad area of law, Fairfield, 2003



Note: Fairfield, n = 401 participants (of which 246 participants reported 1 or more legal events).

As Figure 1 shows, the most commonly reported area of law in the past 12 months among participants in Fairfield LGA was civil law (56.1%). This was not surprising given the survey questionnaire predominantly covered civil legal issues. The proportion of the Fairfield sub-sample reporting a civil issue was significantly lower than the sample overall (62.4%).17 In fact, of the six LGAs surveyed, Fairfield LGA had the lowest proportion of participants reporting civil matters (range 60–71% for other regions). The proportion of Fairfield participants reporting criminal matters (domestic violence, general crime and traffic offences) was also significantly lower (25.9%) compared with all regions (30.2%).18 Only a small proportion of Fairfield respondents (6.7%) reported at least one family law issue, which was not significantly different from the percentage for all regions (8.5%).19 Given the result reported in the previous section (Incidence of Legal Events), where Fairfield participants reported lower rates of experiencing at least one legal event to the overall sample, these results in combination suggest that it is civil and criminal events specifically that are reported at lower rates than average in the Fairfield LGA.

Table 6: Incidence of legal events by broad area of law and legal event group,
for Fairfield and all regions, 2003
Area of lawEvent groupFairfieldAll regions
Number of participants
% of participants
% of participants
CivilAccident/injury
80
20.0
19.2
Businessa
12
3.0
5.0
Consumer
77
19.2
22.0
Credit/debt
45
11.2
12.0
Educationb
22
5.5
7.4
Employmentc
53
13.2
12.1
Government
78
19.5
19.5
Healthd
11
2.7
3.2
Housing
76
19.0
22.6
Human rights
20
5.0
5.8
Wills/estates
38
9.5
14.6
CriminalDomestic violence
15
3.7
3.9
General crime
87
21.7
26.6
Traffic offences
16
4.0
3.2
FamilyFamily
27
6.7
8.5
a 85 Fairfield participants and 562 overall owned a small business. Of these, 12 (14.1%) and 122 (21.7%) respectively reported at least one business event.
b 206 Fairfield participants and 1076 overall were full- or part-time students, or were responsible for a student. Of these, 22 (10.7%) and 181 (16.8%) respectively reported at least one education event.
c 242 Fairfield participants and 1417 overall were employed full- or part-time at some time during the reference period. Of these, 53 (21.9%) and 293 (20.7%) respectively reported at least one employment event.
d 115 Fairfield participants and 768 overall had chronic conditions or mental/physical disabilities or were responsible for a person with a disability or an elderly person. Of these, 11 (9.6%) and 77 (10.0%) respectively reported at least one health event.
Notes: All regions, n = 2431, and for Fairfield, n = 401 participants. Some participants reported multiple legal events (within or across legal event groups). As a result, proportions reporting each event will not total 100 per cent.

Details of the incidence of the different event types under each of these broad areas of law (civil, criminal and family) for both Fairfield LGA and all regions are shown in Table 6. Civil matters include: accident/injury, business, consumer, credit/debt, education, employment, government, health, housing, human rights, and wills and estates. Within civil law, the legal events reported most often by Fairfield participants were accidents/injury (20.0%), government (19.5%), consumer (19.2%) and housing (19.0%). Although the previous section (Areas of Law) showed that Fairfield LGA had the lowest proportion of participants reporting civil matters, when broken down by legal event type the Fairfield sub-sample generally reported experiencing events within almost every civil law event group at a similar rate to the general sample.20 It was only for wills and estates and education legal events (9.5% vs 14.6% and 5.5% vs 7.4% respectively) that Fairfield residents experienced significantly lower rates than the overall sample.21 For criminal matters, further to the result in the previous section (Areas of Law) that Fairfield participants experienced criminal law events at lower rates than the overall sample, Table 6 suggests that it is events under the general crime group that are significantly lower than the overall sample (21.7% vs 26.6% respectively).22 There was no legal event that Fairfield residents reported experiencing at significantly higher rates than the overall sample.23

Response to legal problems

As noted earlier, respondents in Fairfield reported a total of 888 legal events (range 1 to 33, median = 1 event). Further details about how participants responded to the most recent events (up to a maximum of three) were obtained. The following data are based on the 434 most recent events for the Fairfield sub-sample.

Figure 2: Action taken in response to legal events, Fairfield, 2003



Note: n = 421 events, data missing for 13 events.

Figure 2 shows that help was sought for almost 51 per cent of the ‘most recent’ legal events experienced. In approximately 14 per cent of legal events, the respondents dealt with the issue themselves. A sizeable minority, however, did not take any action (34.9%). These rates were similar to those for the overall sample (51.2%, 16.0% and 32.8% respectively).24

Figure 3: Most important reason for doing nothing in response to legal events, Fairfield, 2003



Notes: Fairfield, n = 138 events, data missing for 9 events.

Those grouped into the 'other' category (n = 15) did not seek help because they were too embarrassed or did not trust anyone, thought the problem was their fault or had no internet access.

When the reasons for ‘doing nothing’ in response to their legal problems among the Fairfield sub-sample were further examined (see Figure 3), two main explanations emerged. In approximately 36 per cent of legal events where the respondent did nothing about their legal problems, it was because the respondent felt that action either would not make any difference or would make things worse. In 29 per cent of legal events, 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. The other main reasons for Fairfield residents taking no action were that the respondent had bigger problems, was too busy, or thought the issue would take too long to address (in almost 12% of legal events). Only a small proportion mentioned cost as a reason for not seeking help (6.5%).25

Figure 4: Action taken in response to legal events by broad area of law, Fairfield, 2003



Notes: Fairfield, n = 420 events, data missing for 14 events.

Totals for each broad area of law are total events for which information was provided on action taken in response.

Figure 4 displays what the Fairfield sub-sample did in response to their three most recent legal events, broken down by broad area of law. Help was sought in approximately 49 per cent of civil legal events. This was similar to the average over all regions (51.4%).26 However, help was sought in approximately 53 per cent of criminal matters. This was higher than for all regions (46.7%) but not statistically significant.27 Similarly, a greater proportion of Fairfield respondents reported that they sought help with family matters, compared with respondents over all regions (76.5% vs 55.4% respectively), although this figure is based on a small number of legal events for Fairfield (n = 17).28 Looking at the results overall, there is some suggestion that for criminal matters, compared with family matters, a greater proportion of those who did not seek help did nothing about their matters rather than dealing with it themselves. However, statistical testing showed this difference to be only marginal.29

Type of adviser

Although it appears that there are considerable differences in the types of advisers people go to for different types of events (Coumarelos et al. 2006), it is still useful to look at overall patterns in help seeking.

As previously indicated in Figure 2, help with a legal issue was sought in response to approximately half of the most recent events experienced by the Fairfield sub-sample. In 80 per cent of the cases where help was sought, only one source was approached for help. This figure was 78 per cent for all regions (Coumarelos et al. 2006). The following data relate to the first (or only) adviser consulted for each event.

The types of advisers from whom Fairfield participants sought help could be roughly divided into two groups: legal and non-legal. Legal advisers included traditional legal advisers (i.e. a private solicitor or barrister, local court, Legal Aid NSW, LawAccess, NSW Aboriginal legal services, a community legal centre) as well as less formal legal advisers, such as a friend or relative who is a lawyer, and published sources (i.e. the internet and self-help sources). Non-legal advisers included a friend or relative who was not a lawyer, a member of parliament, local council, non-legal community group or organisation, library, trade union/professional body, employer, school/school counsellor/teacher, insurance company/broker, industry complaint handling body, police, or other professional (such as doctor) or private agency/organisation. Figure 5 displays the types of adviser approached by the Fairfield LGA sample and across all regions.

Figure 5: Type of (first or sole) adviser used, for Fairfield and all regions, 2003



Note: All regions, n = 1455 events, data missing for 41 events and for Fairfield, n = 208, data missing on 6 events.

For the Fairfield sub-sample, the first (or sole) source of advice was more likely to be to a non-legal source rather than a legal source (82.7% vs 17.3% respectively). This is consistent with the overall sample and statistically comparable.30 Specifically, a non-legal adviser was sought in the first instance in 79.8 per cent of legal events and a legal adviser in only 20.2 per cent over all regions.

Respondents who sought help from more than one adviser for the same event were asked to nominate the adviser they found most useful. The following section relates to the adviser judged to be the most useful (if more than one adviser was used) or their sole adviser if they used only one source.

Pathways to advisers

It is important for practitioners to be aware of the pathways through which people find assistance for their legal problems. Table 7 displays the channels through which people found their sole or most useful adviser (legal or non-legal), for both the Fairfield sub-sample and the overall sample.

Table 7: Source of knowledge about sole or most useful adviser,
for Fairfield and all regions, 2003
Source of knowledge about adviser
Fairfield
All regions
No.
%
%
General knowledge
59
28.6
30.2
Adviser was a friend or relative
33
16.0
16.7
Referral by another agency/persona
32
15.5
14.5
Referral from a friend or relative
32
15.5
8.7
Used the service before
28
13.6
17.7
Telephone book
6
2.9
3.0
Pamphlet/Poster
5
2.4
2.3
Media
4
1.9
1.8
Internet
2
1.0
2.1
Walked in off the street
2
1.0
1.1
Community Legal Centre referral
2
1.0
1.0
Adviser approached them
1
< 1.0
< 1.0
Other
0
< 1.0
Total
206
100.0
100.0
a Referral from another person or agency includes, but is not limited to, referrals by private business, mental health agencies, insurance companies, local council, police, Workcover, Skillshare, doctor, accountant, psychologist, counsellor, financial counsellor, financial adviser, or loan broker.
Note: All regions, n = 1447, data missing for 49 events, and for Fairfield, n = 206, data missing for 8 events for which help was sought.

Table 7 shows that Fairfield participants were generally similar to all participants in terms of the channels they used to source their advisers. Similar to all participants, those from Fairfield frequently found their adviser by using their own personal knowledge and personal networks (e.g. 28.6% used their general knowledge, 13.6% had used the adviser before, in 16.0% of cases the adviser was a friend/relative and in 15.5% of cases the adviser was referred from a friend/relative).

However, when compared with all participants, Fairfield participants were even more likely than average to use an adviser who was referred by a friend or a relative (15.5% vs 8.7% respectively).31 This was the only apparent difference between Fairfield participants and those from all regions in terms of the channels used to source advisers.

As with the overall sample, Fairfield participants were also often referred to their adviser by another agency or someone other than a friend/relative (15.5%). Also similar to the overall sample, Fairfield participants used sources such as the telephone book, a pamphlet/poster, the media and the internet relatively infrequently to source their advisers (1.0% to 2.9%).

Barriers to assistance

When considering the issue of access to legal assistance, it is important to elucidate what may hinder somebody receiving that assistance once they have decided to get help. Table 8 shows the barriers experienced by Fairfield participants when they sought help for their legal problems.

According to Table 8, Fairfield participants experienced barriers to receiving assistance in 47 per cent of legal events where help was sought, higher than for all regions (38.2%). However, the most common types of barriers experienced by the Fairfield participants appear similar to those for the overall sample, but with slightly higher rates. The main barriers reported were difficulty getting through to an adviser on the telephone (25.9%, this was the most common barrier to obtaining assistance over all regions), delay in getting a response back from an adviser (17.3%) and difficulty getting an appointment (15.1%).

In only a small proportion of legal events did people report not being able to afford an adviser (7.6%). In light of this information, services may need to reflect on their communication means and procedures they have in place from when clients make initial contact to when they receive a response to their inquiry. There is evidence that people, especially vulnerable or marginalised groups, may abandon pursuit of legal assistance if such aspects of a legal service break down (Forell, McCarron & Schetzer 2005). For more than half of legal events reported in the current study, however, no problems were reported with the assistance sought.

Table 8: Barriers to obtaining assistance from any advisers,
for Fairfield and all regions, 2003
Type of Barriers
Fairfield
All regions
No.
%
%
No problem
98
53.0
61.8
Telephone engaged/on hold too long
48
25.9
18.4
Delay in getting response
32
17.3
17.0
Difficulty getting an appointment
28
15.1
11.0
Problem with opening hours
24
13.0
7.6
Difficulty affording it
14
7.6
6.0
Difficulty understanding advice/information
14
7.6
4.7
Lack of local services/couldn't get there
12
6.5
8.1
Other problems
12
6.5
4.8
English language problems
7
3.8
1.5
Embarrassed to be seen using services
4
2.2
1.8
No ability to access the internet
2
1.1
2.4
Notes: All regions, n = 1246, data missing for 250 events, and for Fairfield, n = 185, data missing for 29 events where help was sought.
Percentages do not add to 100 per cent because multiple barriers were sometimes reported for the same event.
The category of 'Other problems' included issues such as receiving inadequate or incorrect advice, refusing to assist or the problem was beyond the area covered by the service contacted.

Distance travelled for assistance

The distance a person has to travel to obtain help may affect their willingness to access legal help. Table 9 shows the distance Fairfield participants travelled to obtain help from the sole or most useful adviser.

Table 9: Distance travelled to obtain assistance from sole
or most useful adviser, for Fairfield and all regions, 2003
Distance travelled (kilometres)
Fairfield
All regions
No.
%
%
Didn’t need to travel
85
46.4
44.0
< 3
41
22.4
19.6
4 - 10
34
18.6
15.8
11 - 20
15
8.2
8.2
21 - 40
5
2.7
4.5
41+
3
1.6
8.0
Total
183
100.0
100.0
Note: All regions, n = 1249, missing data on 247 events, and for Fairfield, n = 183, data missing for 31 events.

Among the Fairfield sub-sample of most recent events, approximately 46 per cent of legal events where help was sought involved no travel to access assistance. In general, Fairfield participants had to travel slightly less to obtain assistance than did participants overall. Indeed, Fairfield participants reported travelling more than 40 kilometres to obtain help in only 1.6 per cent of legal events, compared with 8.0 per cent over all the regions.32 Not surprisingly, those residing in metropolitan areas such as Fairfield interviewed for this survey had, in general, closer access to advice than those in regional and rural or remote areas (Coumarelos et al. 2006).

Type of assistance

It would be reasonable to assume that when people are asked whether they sought assistance for their legal problems, they were seeking legal help. However, it appears that legal advice, information or referral may not be the sole type of assistance they receive for events that have legal implications. Table 10 displays the type of assistance the participants in the current survey said they received as help for their legal event.

Table 10: Type of help from sole or most useful adviser for three most recent events, for Fairfield
and all regions, 2003
Type of advice
Fairfield
All regions
Legal adviser
Non-legal adviser
Legal adviser
Non-legal adviser
No.
%
No.
%
%
%
No help received
2
5.4
19
13.1
5.5
9.1
Legal
27
73.0
17
11.7
63.9
15.0
Non-legal
3
8.1
45
31.0
5.8
34.1
Legal vs non-legal help not specified
7
18.9
64
44.1
29.2
42.2
Notes: All regions, n = 1243, data missing for 253 events, and for Fairfield, n = 182, data missing for 32 events.
The percentages represent the proportion of legal events for which a type of adviser was used where at least one type of legal help, non-legal help, and/or non-specific help was received for sole or most useful adviser.
Multiple types of help could be reported, therefore percentage do not total 100.

In Table 10, it is worth noting how advisers are actually used by people experiencing legal problems. Examples of legal help include assistance with legal documents, preparation for court proceedings or advice about the legal implications of a course of action. Examples of non-legal advice include medical advice, advice about financial options and counselling and support. Unsurprisingly, in the overwhelming majority of legal events where assistance was sought from a legal source, the help received was legal in nature (73.0%). Interestingly, legal help was also received from non-legal advisers in 11.7 per cent of events where a non-legal adviser was consulted. In 31.0 per cent of cases the help was non-legal. This seems to indicate that people’s needs when experiencing a legal event are multiple and include non-legal matters. In some cases, these needs may constitute supporting evidence or assistance with the original problem that gave rise to the legal event (e.g. a medical condition). However, there are also other roles played by advisers such as moral support, housing or financial support (Coumarelos et al. 2006). It is unfortunate that there was also a sizeable minority for whom the type of help was not specified and therefore the issue of type of help received needs to be further clarified in future research.

Satisfaction with assistance

The moderate rate at which barriers were encountered when obtaining assistance described in Table 8 may have contributed to the high levels of satisfaction that Fairfield respondents felt with their sole or most useful adviser. Figure 6 shows the rate of satisfaction, broken down by type of adviser.

Figure 6: Satisfaction with assistance from sole or most useful adviser by type of adviser, Fairfield, 2003



Notes: Fairfield, n = 180 events, missing data for 34 events for which help was sought.
The 'not satisfied' category includes those who reported being dissatisfied with help received as well as those who were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with help received.

It appears from Figure 6 that in the majority of legal events, respondents were satisfied with the assistance they received from their sole or most useful adviser, with satisfaction expressed in greater than 70 per cent of legal events. There was no statistical difference between the levels of satisfaction with legal or non-legal advisers (81.1% vs 73.4% respectively), even though non-legal advisers were more commonly approached by Fairfield participants.33 Fairfield participants had a slightly lower level of satisfaction than the overall sample (81.1% vs 85.8% respectively) for legal advisers, although the small number of events where legal advisers were used did not allow for this difference to be statistically tested (n = 34). For non-legal advisers, Fairfield had a comparable level of satisfaction to the overall sample (73.4% vs 76.3% respectively).34


Summary


In summary, the Fairfield sub-sample was similar in many ways to the overall sample interviewed for this survey on legal need, with only few points of difference between the sub-sample and all regions. Fairfield LGA is an area where people experienced a reasonably high incidence of legal needs over a one year period. However, the incidence of legal events reported here is considerably lower than those reported for the other regions. In fact, of the six regions surveyed, Fairfield LGA had the lowest proportion of participants who reported experiencing at least one legal event, with approximately 61 per cent reported experiencing one or more legal events in the previous 12 months, compared with 69 per cent over all regions.

The legal events experienced among the Fairfield sub-sample related to a broad range of civil, criminal and family law issues. As with the overall sample, of the legal events reported by Fairfield respondents, the majority fell under the broad heading of civil law, although this was somewhat a function of the structure of the questionnaire. However, the Fairfield participants reported civil matters at a significantly lower rate than the overall sample and had the lowest proportion of participants reporting this type of legal events of the six LGAs surveyed. Similarly, criminal matters were reported at a significantly lower rate than the overall sample. The most commonly reported legal events for the Fairfield LGA were in the 'accident or injury' 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, Fairfield participants most often source their help through their own personal knowledge and personal networks. However, when compared with all participants, Fairfield participants were even more likely to use an adviser who was referred by a friend or a relative. 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 Fairfield respondents who took no action for their legal problems, the most important reason provided was 'seeking help would make no difference or make things worse'.

In general, the majority of Fairfield participants experienced no problems with getting assistance for their legal problems. Correspondingly, satisfaction was high with the sole or most useful adviser, with over 70 per cent of Fairfield participants satisfied with the help they received. However, this was a slightly lower satisfaction rate for legal advisers than found in other regions. Perhaps this was related to the finding that the proportion of participants reporting experiencing difficulties in getting assistance was slightly higher in this sub-sample than other regions. Although in the minority, a number of Fairfield residents participating in the current survey reported experiencing difficulty in getting through to an adviser on the telephone, the most common barrier to obtaining assistance for all regions. Being located in suburban Sydney, it appears that the majority of Fairfield participants had less distance to travel for their legal assistance than participants from non-metropolitan regions included in the survey — they reported travelling over 20 kilometres for assistance in only eight events.

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.



References


Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner 2002, Social Justice Report, 2002, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 1995, Getting results: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survey, 1994: Australian summary, cat. no. 4191.0, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Census of population and housing: selected social and housing characteristics for statistical local areas, cat. no. 2015.0, Canberra.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, National Regional Profile: Fairfield, cat. no. 1379.0, Canberra.

Coumarelos, C., Wei, Z. & Zhou, A. 2006, Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.

Forell, S., McCarron, E. & Schetzer, L. 2005, No home, no justice? The legal needs of homeless people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney.

Hedeker, D. 1999, 'MIXNO: a computer program for mixed-effects nominal logistic regression', Journal of Statistical Software, vol. 4, pp. 1–92.

Vinson, T. 1999, Unequal in life: the distribution of social disadvantage in Victoria and New South Wales, The Ignatius Centre, Jesuit Social Services, Richmond NSW.



Appendix 1: Details of sample selection


To identify LGAs with relatively high rates of socioeconomic disadvantage, we used the risk score for cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage provided by Vinson (1999). This score is based on a range of socioeconomic indicators including proportions of unemployed persons, low income households, confirmed incidences of child abuse, people who left school before 15 years of age, households receiving emergency assistance, convicted persons, child injuries, long-term unemployment an unskilled workers.35 Among the three Sydney LGAs used in the survey, South Sydney and Campbelltown were chosen because they were the only two of the 45 LGAs in the Sydney area that featured postcodes among the 50 most disadvantaged postcodes for the New South Wales area. Fairfield LGA was also chosen as it too had a relatively high cumulative disadvantage risk score, but also, because it has a highly culturally and linguistically diverse population. According to the census, a language other than English is spoken in 70.9 per cent of households, with Vietnamese (15.5%), Chinese languages (10.2%) and Spanish (4.9%) being the most common non-English languages. Accordingly, the survey instrument was translated into Vietnamese, Cantonese and Spanish and interviewers speaking these languages were made available for people who preferred to be interviewed in one of these languages (ABS 2001).

The three non-Sydney LGAs (Newcastle, Nambucca and Walgett) selected all featured at least three postcodes among the 50 most disadvantaged postcodes in New South Wales according to the cumulative disadvantage risk score. Further, Walgett and Nambucca LGAs also had relatively high Indigenous populations (21.5% and 5.4% respectively) compared with the New South Wales average (1.9%) and at such population levels, Indigenous people generally have poor outcomes on measures of social justice (ABS 1995; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission 2002). For further details about the methodology and the survey see Coumarelos et al. (2006).

Table A1: Classification of legal events in survey of legal need, 2003
Area of law
(no. of items)
Survey question no.Legal event group (no. of items)
Legal event
CIVIL (76)Accident/injury (4)
19Car accident – property damage
39ACar accident – personal injury
39BInjury at work
39COther personal injury
Business (2)
7Problem as landlord
9Problem re own business
Consumer (5)
20FProblem re superannuation
21Problem re goods/services
22Dispute with financial institution
23Problem re insurance
56Complaint about lawyer
Credit/debt (5)
20AProblem paying bill/debt
20BDispute re credit rating
20CProblem re money owed to you
20DProblem as guarantor
20EBankruptcy
Education (6)
35AUnfair exclusion from education
35BHECS issue
35CSchool bullying/harassment
37AUnfair exclusion from education – parent
37BHECS issue – parent
37CSchool bullying/harassment – parent
Employment (5)
2ADispute re employment conditions
2BUnfair termination of employment
2CWorkplace harassment/mistreatment
2DWorkplace discrimination
2E*Other problem re employment
Government (15)
5Problem re gov. pension/benefit
31CProblem re gov. services – carer of disabled/elderly
43AProblem re gov. disability/community services
44ADispute re taxation/debt
43E*Other problem re gov. services as disabled person
44BProblem re freedom of information request
44CImmigration problem
44DLocal council problem
51Non-traffic fines you challenged
53AProblem re medical treatment – immigration detention
53BProblem re legal advice – immigration detention
53CSafety threats – immigration detention
53DHarassment/abuse by staff – immigration detention
53EProblem re release – immigration detention
57B*Problem re legal system
Health (11)
31BInvoluntary psychiatric hospitalisation – carer
31F*Problem re quality of medical treatment – carer
31G*Problem re disability facilities – carer
42A/52Involuntary psychiatric hospitalisation
42BOther mental health care issue
43BProblem re non-government disability services
53AProblem re medical treatment – psychiatric ward
53BProblem re legal advice – psychiatric ward
53CSafety threats – psychiatric ward
53DHarassment/abuse by staff – psychiatric ward
53EProblem re release – psychiatric ward
Housing (11)
10ABought/sold home
10BDispute with neighbour
10CHomelessness
12Tenancy problem
14Home ownership problem
16AStrata title problem
16BProblem re caravan/home estate
16CProblem re boarding house/hostel
16DProblem re retirement home/village
31ANursing home problem – carer of disabled/elderly
43CNursing home problem as disabled person
Human rightsa (8)
24ADiscrimination – marital status
24BDiscrimination – age
24CDiscrimination – gender
24DDiscrimination – religion
24EDiscrimination – sexuality
24FDiscrimination – ethnicity
24GDiscrimination – disability
31H*Discrimination – carer of disabled/elderly
Wills/estates (4)
32AMake/alter will
32BExecutor of estate
32CDispute over will/estate
32DPower of attorney
CRIMINAL (16)Domestic violence (3)
47AVictim of domestic violence by family member
47BVictim of domestic violence by household member
48Domestic violence allegation against you
General crime (11)
46AUnfair treatment by police
46BCriminal charge
46CProblem re bail/remand
46DPolice failing to investigate crime
47CAssault victim
49Property stolen/vandalised
53AProblem re medical treatment – prison/juvenile detention
53BProblem re legal advice – prison/juvenile detention
53CSafety threats – prison/juvenile detention
53DHarassment/abuse by staff – prison/juvenile detention
53EProblem re release – prison/juvenile detention
Traffic offences (2)
50ALoss of driver’s licence
50BOther traffic fine/offence you challenged
FAMILY (9)Family (9)
25AProblem re residence/contact for child
25BProblem re residence/contact for grandchild
27AProblem re child support payments
27BChild protection issue
27CFostering/adoption/guardianship issue
29ADivorce/separation
29BDispute re matrimonial property
31DGuardianship problem – carer of disabled/elderly
57A*Other family law problem
Unclassified (3)Unclassified (3)
31EOther problem – carer of disabled/elderly
43DOther problem re disability
57Other problem
a Human rights events are not related to employment.
* Legal events marked by an asterisk were not specifically asked about in the survey, but were identified by post-coding.
While the question number listed for each of these events in the table does not appear on the survey, it indicates the survey question from which the event was post-coded. For example, the legal event numbered ‘43E’ was post-coded from question 43.


Appendix 2


The main statistical technique used to test differences among regions was logistic regression. Logistic regression is an appropriate form of multivariate analysis when the outcome variable is discrete rather than continuous. Like other forms of regression, it examines the relationship of an outcome variable (e.g. whether someone has experienced a legal event or not) to one or more potential predictor variables (e.g. geographical region). In the regressions performed for this report, deviation contrasts were used to determine whether this region was different from the average of all regions to a statistically significant degree. Standard logistic regressions were used for all data where respondent was the unit of analysis (up to Figure 2 in the main body of the report). For the analyses where legal event was the unit of analysis (Figure 2 onwards in the main body of the report), mixed effects binary logistic regression was used (Hedeker 1999). While standard logistic regression assumes the independence of observations, mixed effects logistics regression allows for observations to be correlated. In detail, in the current study, where participants were the unit of analysis, there was only one observation per participant. However, where legal event was the unit of analysis, legal events were clustered within participants. That is, the one participant could have multiple legal events and therefore legal events were not independent of each other. The mixed effects logistic regression technique adjusts the statistical analyses appropriately for this clustering effect.




Introduction


Structure of report


Survey method
 Only LGAs with a population of 5000 or greater were considered for this study.
 The estimated survey response rate gave rise to this range because the rate quoted is dependent upon the assumptions underlying which elements denote the potential population from which the sample is drawn and constitute the denominator. For further details on the calculation methods, please see Coumarelos et al. (2006).


Selected indices from the overall sample
 Although there were significant `age by gender` interactions in the tests examining sample distribution versus population distribution, suggesting that there were some departures from proportionality of age groups within each gender group.
 Note that none of these differences were formally statistically tested and are only discussed here for descriptive purposes.
 OR = 1.43, p = .001.
 OR = 0.70, p < .001.
 OR = 1.48, p < .001.
 OR = 0.77, p < .01.
 OR = 1.34, p = .002
10  OR = 1.29, p = .009


Fairfield LGA
11  2003 data were not available.
12  This figure is based on the selected income streams comprising: the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension, Newstart Allowance, Parent Payment (single), Youth Allowance, Other pensions and allowances (ABS 2006).


Expressed legal need in Fairfield
13  LawAccess is a free telephone information advice service that operates under the auspices of the NSW Attorney General`s Department.


Survey results
14  All statistical comparisons between individual LGAs and the overall sample were performed by logistic regression using deviation contrast (see Appendix 2).
15  OR = 0.70, p < .001.
16  No comparisons are statistically significant at p = .05.
17  OR = 0.77, p < .01.
18  OR = 0.82, p = .05.
19  Not statistically significant at p = .05.
20  p > .05.
21  Wills and estates: OR = 0.64, p < .01
22  Education: OR = 0.61, p < .05.
23  OR = 0.78, p < .05.
24  p > .05.
25  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering: sought help vs did nothing/handled alone, p > .05, did nothing vs handled alone/sought help, p > .05.
26  Note that it is possible that those who dealt with the problem themselves could have done so because of cost (or level of seriousness, or they did not know where to go for help). However, data was only collected on why respondents chose not to seek any help, not why they chose to deal with it themselves.
27  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p >.05.
28  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, p > .05.
29  The number of family events was too small for mixed effects analysis.
30  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, marginal result for did nothing vs handled alone and sought help combined for criminal matters vs family, p > .05.
31  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, Fairfield vs average of all regions, p > .05.
32  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, OR = 2.07, p < .01.
33  Logistic regression adjusted for clustering, OR = 0.133, p < .01. Note that South Sydney was removed from this analysis as there were no events for which the respondent travelled over 40km to obtain help.
34  The sample size was too small to conduct a mixed effects analysis. However, a standard logistic regression showed that the difference was not significant at p = .05, but this type of analysis does not take into account the effects of the clustering of events within respondents and therefore should be viewed with caution.


Summary


References


Appendix 1: Details of sample selection
35  Partial use was also made of mortality rates in the risk scores for New South Wales postcodes.


Appendix 2