The NSW Government is calling on creative lawyers, coders and entrepreneurs to apply for grants of up to $250,000 to develop solutions to improve access to justice.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman in December announced that the Department of Justice would grant up to $250,000 each year to people with tech-savvy solutions to improve access to justice. The Department has set aside a total of $1 million over four years for the scheme, called the Access to Justice Innovation Fund, to make the civil justice system more accessible for vulnerable or disadvantaged Australians.
“Grants will be open to applicants such as legal professionals, community groups, coders and social entrepreneurs who have ideas for projects to improve the way legal problems are resolved, or to help people more easily navigate the justice system,” said Speakman.
The new grants scheme comes as free legal advice has become more difficult to access in recent years. Steady funding cuts to the legal assistance and community legal sector in NSW have made it harder for disadvantaged litigants to find a lawyer, increasing court delays as people are increasingly forced to represent themselves. In 2017, Community Legal Centres NSW reported turning away more than 160,000 people in the 2016-2017 financial year due to a lack of resources. Speakman said that nearly three million people in NSW experienced a legal problem every year – 85 per cent of which were civil, not criminal, law issues.
“The fund will focus on projects that demonstrate how technology or new methods of service delivery can support small business and people who are experiencing social and economic disadvantage to resolve legal problems,” said Speakman.
Speakman said the Department of Justice would begin accepting applications for grants in January.
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