Joining the conversation at the 2024 Civil Justice Research Conference

Victorian Law Foundation shares insights on two upcoming research reports with scholars at the trans-Tasman Civil Justice Research Conference.

Monday, February 12, 2024

The 2024 Civil Justice Research Conference was an opportunity to share current research works in progress on civil justice issues. Hosted by the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation at Monash University’s Faculty of Law on February 8 and 9, we met with over 20 researchers to discuss projects on a variety of topics related to civil justice.

Our very own Bridget McAloon and Dr Georgina Rychner, Senior Researchers at Victoria Law Foundation, shared their current works in progress, which present new analyses from Victoria Law Foundation’s flagship research project the Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS).  

This conference marked the return of the annual trans-Tasman gathering of civil justice scholars after a pandemic hiatus.

Collaborating with researchers from all areas of civil justice

Across two days, the conference created a space for scholars from a range of backgrounds to share their projects and contribute to the growing body of research in civil justice. Scholars presented on an array of topics, from courts and litigation to legal capability and the experience of justice.

Attendees were encouraged to collaborate and create a collegial and constructive environment. with time for feedback and discussion, providing an opportunity for scholars to share thoughts and insights with other experts in the civil justice field.

Scholars participated from a range of organisations, including Monash University, UniSA ANU, UNSW, RMIT, Court Services Victoria and New Zealand’s University of Otago.

PULS provides the stepping stones for new projects at Victoria Law Foundation

The Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) was a large-scale face-to-face survey designed to explore how Victorians understand, experience and navigate justiciable problems. PULS is being released in three volumes, two of which you can explore now on the dedicated website.

Drawing on the results of PULS, both Georgina’s and Bridget’s reports focus on how two cohorts from the survey experience justiciable problems; young people with employment issues, and those who have experienced bushfires.

Legal needs arising from bushfires and other natural disasters a growing concern

PULS revealed that natural disasters can have a significant impact on Victorians’ likelihood of experiencing justiciable problems and their ability to resolve them. Bridget McAloon’s report specifically explores the experiences of those who were affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Those affected by bushfires were revealed to have a higher likelihood of more and prolonged justiciable problems. While those affected were found to make greater use of legal services, they still had higher unmet legal need than other respondents. With more frequent, concurrent and severe natural disasters on the horizon because of climate change, the report points to the increasing burden on legal services and the need for longer lasting, tailored legal assistance services to support those affected.

“Hearing about various research underway to both identify barriers to accessing justice, and explore innovative ways to reduce these barriers, helps us reimagine what access to justice, especially for the most vulnerable, could look like." Bridget commented. "This is hugely exciting, and rich discussions at the conference provided lots of interesting ideas and directions as to how services and processes can evolve to better meet people's legal needs.”

Young people facing high unmet legal need on employment issues

PULS findings indicate that young people—those aged between 18 and 24—experience employment problems at a higher rate than older cohorts, and have a high level of unmet legal need. They’re less likely to characterise employment problems as being legal and less equipped to seek out legal services compared to older age groups in the survey.

Dr Georgina Rychner’s project aims to better understand the specific problems that young people face in the workplace and their strategies for addressing these problems, to help inform how legal assistance services can successfully meet their legal need.

"The conference was a great opportunity to introduce the Public Understanding of Law Survey to an academic audience, and present some of the new analysis we’ll be publishing in the coming months."

Closing the conference with helpful insights and direction

As the conference reached its conclusion, each researcher had an assortment of invaluable feedback and advice for their reports to take home with them. We look forward to seeing what all the research reveals about civil justice in Australia and New Zealand.

"It was fantastic connect with the research community and hear about current projects, particularly about person-centred approaches to civil justice such as unbundled legal services and remote court hearings." Georgina said.

Both Bridget and Georgina have left the conference feeling optimistic about the direction of their current reports and future research projects. We’re excited to share their reports with the justice sector later this year.

You can discover the first two volumes of PULS now.

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