We recently reviewed 1500 community legal information resources available to Victorians. Here are some of our findings:
- Of the over 1500 resources reviewed:
- 18% met community legal information best practice standards
- 23% were satisfactory needing some improvement, and
- 59% fell into the unsatisfactory grading (C and D) requiring significant improvement
- The legal categories with the highest overall number of legal resources available were:
- ‘Consumers, business and contracts’ (24.4%)
- ‘Family, relationships and children’ (16.1%)
- ‘Crime and fines’ (11.6%)
- The legal category with the highest amount of resources graded A was ‘Consumers, business and contracts’ (4.9%)
- There is limited high quality information available in all legal categories, and particularly:
- ‘Health, disability and ageing’ (0.2%)
- ‘Rights, discrimination and government’ (0.3%)
- ‘Accidents, compensation and insurance’ (0.3%)
- ‘Crime and fines’ was the only legal category with more high quality resources than low quality resources
- The producers of the majority of high quality legal information are:
- Consumer Affairs Victoria
- Victoria Legal Aid
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s SmartMoney website.
Consumer Affairs Victoria had the highest percentage of their resources graded A at 86% followed by Victoria Legal Aid at 66%. Most of these organisation’s resources also fell within the A and B categories – 88% for Consumer Affairs Victoria and 81% for Victoria Legal Aid. This is a good news story as these organisations are the two largest producers of community legal information in Victoria – 112 and 243 respectively.
Of the 136 organisations with material included on Everyday-Law, 44% had no resources that met the A and B standard. Many of these organisations were statutory bodies that have a responsibility to provide information to the public. A greater awareness and commitment to investing the appropriate resources in this material is needed.
Identifying gaps in legal information
While a considerable amount of legal information is available, only a limited amount is suitable for the public. Addressing gaps in legal information involves improving the quality of the legal information available across all topics.
Given the number of resources that were graded C (778) and D (103) – 881 in total – there are significant areas that need work. This is in addition to those areas where no resources exist at all.
The poor quality of legal information means it is of little merit to identify gaps in legal information as so much material needs to be improved to bring it to best practice. With only 18% of currently available material meeting best practice the focus now needs to be on improving the quality of legal information in Victoria. The overall poor quality of the legal information in Victoria points to a need to concentrate first of improving the quality of legal information rather than identifying specific gaps or areas where a focus for development may be required.
Background to review
We undertook this review in 2015 with the aim of:
- determining the quality of legal information available to Victorians
- identifying gaps in legal information
- making recommendations for improvement.
These 1500 resources were selected from approximately 3000 community legal information resources as the ‘best available’ for quality and scope of topic.
A and B were considered the ‘pass’ levels with C and D requiring significant improvement to be of practical use for a community audience.