Census data in your community - Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales

Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales

According to the Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales (NSW), the Legal Australia-Wide (LAW) Survey found that on average about half the population experiences a legal problem each year. This figure rises for certain disadvantaged groups, such as single parents and people with disabilities.

The Foundation works to improve access to justice in NSW, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people. It has been doing this important work for more than 50 years.

Researcher Sarah Randell said Census data is critical to the Foundation’s daily work to support the planning and delivery of legal assistance services across Australia.

“Many people in communities across Australia are struggling with employment, tenancy, immigration and other legal problems. And in an age of restricted funding, we use Census data to help the sector target legal assistance services to those people who need it most,” Ms Randell said.

“Our focus is on those people in the community who are least likely to have the personal or financial resources to manage their own problems and are most likely to be eligible for public legal assistance services.

“We have developed resources using Census data for Australian service providers in the legal sector, such as legal aid commissions and community legal centres. These resources provide important insight into priority groups.

“One resource is the set of Need for Legal Assistance Services (NLAS) indicators, which highlight the potential demand for legal services by geographic area. They provide a count of the number of residents in an area likely to need public legal assistance services if they were to experience a legal problem,” Ms Randell said.

There are various measures the Foundation uses to develop its NLAS indicators. These include residents’ income, education level, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status and whether they are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The data produced by the Foundation as part of this resource has been:

  • Employed by agencies in the sector as a resource for collaborative service planning processes as directed by the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.
  • Used by agencies in NSW for local service planning processes in combination with other data sources to better understand legal need [at a local level].
  • Adapted as part of a project to identify service catchment areas and gap areas across NSW, and to identify the potential legal need in these areas. The outcomes from this project formed part of a submission to Department of Justice NSW for the review of community legal centres.
  • Used in Victoria alongside other sources of data to inform a sector planning project.

These examples illustrate new and innovative ways data, especially census data, is being used to enhance service planning to better meet the needs of communities.

“The Census data provides us with a valuable resource, to assist our sector in the planning and delivery of legal services,” Ms Randell said.

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