The ACT's new first law officer has vowed to fight for ongoing Commonwealth funding for legal assistance to ensure access to justice for Canberra's most vulnerable citizens.
Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay voiced his support for changes to domestic violence legislation and a planned drug and alcohol court this week as he flagged an ambitious law reform agenda and his vision for an "inclusive" justice system.
Mr Ramsay said the territory government "recognised and valued" adequate support for legal help through Community Legal Centres, Legal Aid, and other legal assistance services to make sure all people could navigate the courts.
Legal aid services across all states and territories are bracing for savage federal government funding cuts from July in a move community lawyers have warned will significantly restrict legal help available to disadvantaged residents.
"It is the ACT government's clear and openly stated position that Commonwealth funding that assists access to justice – such as through community legal centres - simply must not be lost," Mr Ramsay said.
"And so I am committed to fight for improved funding outcomes from the Commonwealth in this regard and I welcome shared voices in this important matter of justice."
His remarks at a ceremony to mark the start of the new legal year provided the ACT law fraternity with one of its first insights into what Mr Ramsay, a corporate lawyer turned former Uniting Church minister, might bring to the position.
Mr Ramsay took on one of the most senior roles in cabinet as a newcomer to the Legislative Assembly following Labor's victory in last year's territory poll and the departure of former attorney-general Simon Corbell.
Mr Ramsay said values of social justice, inclusion and regard for the vulnerable and marginalised were the foundations of the justice system.
"Justice is only true justice when it is available to all – when it is accessible, transparent and timely."
He said a drug and alcohol court, which had been promised by the Labor-Greens coalition, would help cut crime by tackling "one of its root causes" and build more resilient families and communities.
"It is clearly in everybody's interests to provide the appropriate support and responses for people affected by drug and alcohol problems, to reduce any likelihood of re-offending.
"The evidence is strong that if we provide the right support services to people with drug and alcohol problems at the right point in their contact with the judicial system, we can assist people to address their dependencies."
Mr Ramsay would continue to reach out to the judicial and legal community for its expertise in designing and establishing the new court.
Legal reforms would make it easier for family violence orders made in another jurisdiction to apply in the ACT and vice versa, he said.
"Building on these initiatives, we will streamline processes and better support victims of family violence who are seeking protection."