Do justice solutions measure up?

What works to meet legal need in the Victorian community? A new project by Victoria Law Foundation aims to find out.

Clare Kennedy
Wednesday, April 3, 2024

When VLF’s Public Understanding of Law report found significant levels of unmet legal need in the Victorian community, it raised a thorny question. What works to meet the legal needs of Victorians with diverse legal needs and varying levels of capability? VLF’s new project aims to find out.

About the project

The new project, Measure for Measure: Tailoring Everyday Justice is unearthing the initiatives, services, policies, and practices across Victoria that are working or show promise in meeting legal need.  

The research team is surveying a wide range of stakeholders in the legal sector for their views, including legal service providers, court and tribunals and alternative dispute resolution services. The team will follow up with in depth interviews on promising initiatives.

‘We know from the VLF’s Data Mapping Reports that there's a lot of data out there, but none of it actually tells us about how services are meeting need, and what is or isn’t an effective service. We don't know enough about what works - for whom, for which legal problems, and under what circumstances,’ project researcher Bridget McAloon, explains.

Who would find the report useful?

The final report is going to be useful to funders, to policymakers and service providers because it's going to bring together a group of initiatives that people think are working. One of the aims is to identify what common elements make such initiatives work, and what common elements hold them back.

‘We really want to unpack what people-centred justice looks like in Victoria, and actually put some rigor behind it,’ project researcher Dr Georgina Rychner says.

‘People-centred justice looks at the key indicators or elements that need to be in place to ensure access to justice for everyone. When we're talking about legal service design, the person with legal need is central to the design of the legal service, rather than the institution itself.’
-Dr Georgina Rychner, Senior Researcher

Who and what does the research target?

The researchers want to hear from a wide range of stakeholders on what they think is working, and why. ‘That is something we don’t want to put limits on, we want to understand all those different threads of information and evidence people use to start knowing, “Hey, we're on the right track, because this is meeting the needs of the people we're targeting”, Bridget McAloon says.

So, what might an initiative for the research project look like? It might be, for example, an outreach program that has been developed to tap into a particular community or client group that hasn't been accessing services.

‘For example, the legal service might have identified a population of older people, who are not accessing the regular services provided, and they've developed outreach to start tapping into that population. And then they've developed a particular program to start working with that community on their specific legal needs, such as using data and other evidence to look at what's working in their program and why, and how they are making a difference for that community,’ Bridget explains.

‘We also don't necessarily want initiatives that are new and shiny. We're also interested In unsung initiatives that have been running successfully for a few years that we haven't heard much about. They could be recent initiatives, running for less than a year. They could also be services or projects that showed promise but had to stop for reasons such as funding cycles finishing,’ she said.

Georgina elaborates: ‘We want to hear about a range of initiatives, not just the big ones. We're not limiting it to initiatives that have been long running and are established and well known. And they don't have to be huge. It can just be a small tweak in service provision that, for instance, a person walks into a court, and someone goes up to assist them in understanding and navigating the court, and just gives them five minutes of advice. We would love to hear about a small intervention like that as well.

‘We also want to hear what more they might need, in terms of resourcing or other support, to know if an initiative is working – and to then scale up their good ideas.'

The project is led by Bridget McAloon and Dr Georgina Rychner. If you have any questions about the project, contact the research team.

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