Justice made to measure: NSW legal needs survey in disadvantaged areas ( 2006 ) Cite this report
Ch 2. The present study
Following Genn's (1999) lead, 'legal events' in the present study were defined broadly to include all situations where there is the potential for legal resolution, regardless of whether or not a legal resolution is actively sought. Thus, the present study attempted to minimise the under-reporting of legal events by not requiring individuals to be aware of potential legal resolutions.
To obtain a comprehensive picture of the legal events typically faced by disadvantaged communities, the present study examined a broad range of legal events, including civil, criminal and family legal events.
Access to justice
The current study also adopted a broad definition of 'access to justice' given the empirical evidence showing that people faced with legal events use a wide range of both legal and non-legal sources of assistance. More specifically, the present study examined the ability of people living within socioeconomically disadvantaged areas to:
Given past findings that measures of income poverty often fail to overlap substantially with other indicators of disadvantage (Arthurson & Jacobs 2003; Saunders 2003), the present study adopted a broad operational definition of disadvantage that was based on multiple economic and social indicators of disadvantage. Furthermore, given that legal services should ideally be able to meet the legal needs of all people living within the immediate local geographic area, it was decided to focus on residents of disadvantaged areas rather than to restrict the sample to individuals who each met particular criteria of disadvantage. As a result, while all of the individuals interviewed for the present study resided in disadvantaged areas, it is possible that some of these individuals may not themselves be disadvantaged.
Vinson's (1999) composite risk score for cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage was used to select six LGAs in NSW with relatively high levels of disadvantage, and a sample was drawn from these areas.3