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Push to improve access to legal help

Date

Michael Inman

TAKING ACTION: Simon Corbell.

TAKING ACTION: Simon Corbell. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

More than half of Canberrans do not seek legal advice to resolve their legal dramas, a nationwide survey has found.

The poll, conducted by the Law and Justice Foundation, found consumer law, criminal law, housing law and accidents were the largest areas of concern.

The findings were discussed as part of a legal assistance symposium held in the capital on Wednesday.

The conference discussed the experiences of vulnerable people in the ACT when faced with legal problems, their difficulties in accessing help, and how services could better meet the needs of vulnerable people.

ACT Legal Assistance Forum chairwoman Carol Benda said survey results showed that the enormous unmet need in Canberra required attention.

''We know that 51 per cent of people surveyed do not take any action when they experience a legal issue [and] many of these people have multiple legal problems,'' Ms Benda said.

''Given these findings, we have to find ways to improve access to legal services for vulnerable people in the ACT, especially people with disabilities, single parents and unemployed people.''

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell, who spoke at the inaugural symposium, applauded the forum's efforts to improve access to legal services for vulnerable people in Canberra.

''ACTLAF takes an active role in building collaborative relationships to improve the co-ordination of services between Canberra's legal assistance service providers,'' Mr Corbell said.

He said the government was also working to improve access, by committing more than $1 million over four years to help establish a new community legal centre hub.

''At a broad level, improving socio-economic status and social inclusion will reduce the prevalence of unaddressed legal need,'' Mr Corbell said.

''More specifically though, it is up to us to take all possible steps to ensure that people who are experiencing disadvantage are able to access legal support when they need it.''

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