ContentJust Search pageLJF site navigationLeft navigation links
LJF Logo
Research sectionPublications sectionGrants sectionPlain language law sectionJustice Awards sectionNetworks section
Just Search

cover image

The legal needs of older people  ( 2004 )  Cite this report

Print chapter
Search or view whole report
View PDF


The objects of the Law and Justice Foundation are to contribute to the development of a fair and equitable justice system which addresses the legal needs of the community, and to improve access to justice by the community (in particular, by economically and socially disadvantaged people).1

In 2002 the Foundation commenced the Access to Justice and Legal Needs research program, which aims to examine the ability of disadvantaged people to:

  • obtain legal assistance,
  • participate effectively in the legal system,
  • obtain assistance from non-legal advocacy and support, and
  • participate effectively in law reform processes.

The main purpose of the program is to provide a rigorous and sustained assessment of the legal and access to justice needs of the community, especially disadvantaged people, which would provide evidence to assist government, community and other organisations develop policy and plan service delivery. The research is a challenging program involving an interconnected set of projects employing a range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

An important feature of the program is the examination of the particular access to justice and legal needs of selected disadvantaged demographic groups. This report is a qualitative study examining the legal needs of older people. Other groups to be examined as part of the program include homeless people and people experiencing a mental illness. These groups have been chosen principally because less is available in the literature concerning their legal needs.

Given the ageing of the population over the last twenty years and the likely continuation of this trend in the coming decades, there is a pressing need to consider the particular legal issues confronting older people, their ability to access legal services, and the issues within the legal system which present barriers for them. This report attempts to address this need, within the scope of the research methodology.

This report into the legal needs of older people is based on a review of existing literature, consultations with legal and non-legal service providers, academics, and older people themselves, and seeks to canvass many of the particular issues relevant to older people in NSW. While the report ‘stands on its own’, it is also important to consider this report in the context of the relevant data on legal barriers and legal need for older people contained in other quantitative and qualitative components of the access to justice and legal needs program. The following reports, in particular should be considered:

  • Public Consultations Report (August 2003)
  • Quantitative Legal Needs Survey — Bega Valley (Pilot) (November 2003)
  • Data Digest (February 2004)
  • The Legal Needs of Homeless People (to be published 2005)
  • Quantitative Legal Needs Survey – Six Regions (to be published 2005)
  • Legal Needs of People with a Mental Illness (to be published 2005)

Geoff Mulherin
Law and Justice Foundation of NSW
December 2004 (Last accessed 15 December 2003). (Last accessed 15 December 2003).

Ellison, S, Schetzer, L, Mullins, Perry, J & Wong, K 2004, The legal needs of older people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney