By David Weber
Disturbing new figures highlight the need for more legal assistance for victims of domestic violence in family law cases, says National Legal Aid.
The group said a recent audit of work done by Legal Aid Commissions showed domestic violence was a factor in 79 per cent of legal aid family law matters.
The highest incidence was in the Northern Territory with 88 per cent, while Western Australia had the worst figure of the states with 84 per cent.
This was closely followed by Victoria with 81 per cent of cases showing domestic violence as a factor.
The chair of National Legal Aid, Suzan Cox QC said even the lowest incidence — 72 per cent in Tasmania — was still too high.
“It’s very high, it’s not acceptable,” she said.
“We are after funding to be able to assist more people which do have domestic violence issues in their family law matters.
“But at the moment we just can’t reach those people due to a very mean means test which we have to apply for grants of aid to applicants.”
Ms Cox said the data showed how vulnerable people found themselves with a “perfect storm” of legal problems — when low-income domestic violence victims could not afford lawyers.
In actual numbers, domestic violence was a factor in more than 21,000 legal aid family law matters across the nation.
Ms Cox said the funding bucket was “under resourced”.
“The Productivity Commission report, which is just now over 500 days old, recommended that $120 million needed to be immediately injected into the legal assistance sector.”