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Access to justice and legal needs. Stage 1: public consultations  ( 2003 )  Cite this report

Ch 1. Who is disadvantaged in seeking access to justice?



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Children and young people


1.23 The disadvantaged position of children and young people, was according to several submissions, a direct result of their age and social, economic and cultural marginalisation. According to the Youth Action and Policy Association (YAPA) and the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC):
      Children and young people are generally acknowledged to be a distinct sector of our society on the basis of their age. They are a marginal group. This is due to their lack of direct access to the powers and benefits that exist in the economic, social and political spheres of society. To some extent this merely reflects the fact that they go through developmental stages in the transition to adulthood. Their age renders them, to varying degrees, dependent on adults to satisfy their needs and interests. However, the marginalisation of young people is also the result of the neglect and failure to provide guarantees and mechanisms for access to those benefits and powers. This is particularly so with respect to the legal system, and to governmental policy and decision-making processes.25
1.24 The Youth Justice Coalition identified the following areas of legal need for children and young people:
  • criminal law
  • victims of crime
  • tenancy, including matters before the Residential Tenancy Tribunal
  • appeals to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal
  • Austudy disputes
  • family law
  • civil claims, including debts arising from uninsured motor vehicle accidents
  • consumer complaints, including matters before the Consumer Claims Tribunal
  • employment
  • discrimination
  • immigration
  • complaints to the

– Community Services Commission

– Health Care Complaints Commission

– Commonwealth Ombudsman

– State Ombudsman.26

1.25 The NSW Commission for Children and Young People’s Inquiry into the best means of assisting children and young people with no-one to turn to, raised the following major areas of concern about the access of children and young people to justice:

  • 'breaching' of young people by Centrelink
  • discriminatory treatment by police, especially with the introduction of new police powers in public spaces.

1.26 Submissions also identified particular groups of children and young people who suffer more acute disadvantage. These include those children and young people:
  • who have suffered abuse, neglect or family breakdown
  • with disabilities, mental illness, intellectual disability, or drug and alcohol problems
  • from non-English speaking backgrounds, especially those from refugee and asylum seeker families
  • who are Indigenous
  • who are in care
  • who are in juvenile detention
  • who are homeless.27

1.27 The YJC reported that it has files going back to 1979 detailing a history of inquiries and reports documenting legal needs and demands for advocacy for children and young people.28 The YJC stated that the recommendations of these reports and inquiries have been overlooked and their content to a large extent ignored.29

Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.
Youth Justice Coalition, Kids and the Maze Submission to the ALRC/HREOC Inquiry into Children and the Legal Process, December, 1996, provided as part of the submission from the Youth Justice Coalition.
Submission from Youth Action and Policy Association, Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.
Kids Courts and Cops, NCOSS, 1985, Legal Aid Needs of Youth, Ian OConnor and Clare Tilbury Commonwealth Attorney-Generals Department, 1986, Our Homeless Children, Brian Burdekin, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1989, Report of the National Legal Aid Advisory Council Legal Aid for the Australian Community, 1990, NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues Report on Juvenile Justice, 1992, NSW Government Green and White Papers on Juvenile Justice 1992 and 1993, Systems Abuse Report, NSW Child Protection Council, 1994, Nobody Listens, Youth Justice Coalition, 1994, National Childrens and Youth Law Centre report on national consultations with young people and childrens and youth advocates 1994, Inquiry into Childrens Advocacy Parliament of NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues, September, 1996, Seen and Heard Priority for Children in the Legal Process HREOC and ALRC, September 1997, The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Reports.
Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.

25  Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.
26  Youth Justice Coalition, Kids and the Maze Submission to the ALRC/HREOC Inquiry into Children and the Legal Process, December, 1996, provided as part of the submission from the Youth Justice Coalition.
27  Submission from Youth Action and Policy Association, Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.
28  Kids Courts and Cops, NCOSS, 1985, Legal Aid Needs of Youth, Ian OConnor and Clare Tilbury Commonwealth Attorney-Generals Department, 1986, Our Homeless Children, Brian Burdekin, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1989, Report of the National Legal Aid Advisory Council Legal Aid for the Australian Community, 1990, NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues Report on Juvenile Justice, 1992, NSW Government Green and White Papers on Juvenile Justice 1992 and 1993, Systems Abuse Report, NSW Child Protection Council, 1994, Nobody Listens, Youth Justice Coalition, 1994, National Childrens and Youth Law Centre report on national consultations with young people and childrens and youth advocates 1994, Inquiry into Childrens Advocacy Parliament of NSW Standing Committee on Social Issues, September, 1996, Seen and Heard Priority for Children in the Legal Process HREOC and ALRC, September 1997, The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Reports.
29  Submission from Youth Justice Coalition.


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Schetzer, L. & Henderson, J 2003, Public consultations: a project to identify legal needs, pathways and barriers for disadvantaged people in NSW, Access to justice and legal needs vol. 1, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney