Public servants ramp up support for at-risk families, Law Council calls for serious boost to Legal Aid

By Melissa Coade

Monday December 6, 2021

Leanne Linard
Queensland children and youth justice minister Leanne Linard. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

New data released by the Queensland government has shown that the number of Child Safety investigations increased by 2.3% in the last quarter, with ice (methamphetamine) being the drug issue affecting 43% of children placed in care last financial year.

In a statement, Queensland’s minister for children Leanne Linard said the most urgent Child Safety cases were prioritised, with 94% being handled on time. More people from the community were also volunteering to become foster carers and kinship carers, she added.

“Over the last year, we have seen 1,641 families taking up that role for the first time,” Linard said.

“We’re so grateful to all of our foster and kinship carers, and because of them, 45.6% of these children were able to be placed with kin.”

The data on Queensland parents whose ice addiction led to the re-homing of their children in the 12 months to 30 June 2021, found a 4% increase on the year before from 39% to 43% of cases.

“Sadly, this is not an area where anyone can ever rest,” Linard said of the growing drug problem.

“That’s why there are 550 more frontline child safety workers than there were in 2015 and why we are opening new facilities as we did recently in Ipswich.”

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) recently webinar event to discuss how the downstream social and economic impacts of commonwealth funding of legal aid in Australia could be resolved, in a renewed bid to put national funding for legal aid services on the federal government agenda.

According to LCA president and Queens Counsel Dr Jacoba Brasch, since 1997 successive federal governments from both sides have dramatically reduced the share of legal aid funding when compared with the contributions of state and territory governments.

“At that time, the Commonwealth provided around 55% of total legal aid funding across jurisdictions, but today it stands at just 33%,” Brasch said. 

“Clearly, the Commonwealth needs to match state and territory contributions. This would increase annual legal aid funding by hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Brasch added that despite the recent significant financial and human resources committed to the family law system, the bigger concern of unmet need across Australia’s entire justice sector persisted. Failing to address legal aid needs only escalated government spending in other areas, with problems being added to areas such as child protection, health care, housing and incarceration.

“How many Australians eligible for legal aid are missing out and what is the impact on them and their families, both short and long-term?,” Brasch asked.

“As highlighted in our recent The Lawyer Project Report, investing in legal aid is economically strategic. It has been estimated the cascading costs of unequal access to justice are 2.35 times those of direct spending on legal aid services.”

Panel members participating in the LCA webinar included  Productivity Commission chair Michael Brennan, PwC Australia’s chief economist Jeremy Thorpe, and the CEO of Victoria Legal Aid Louise Glanville.


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