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Meeting acute legal needs through COVID-19

In March, Health Justice Australia developed a Position statement on Covid19 about the pressing legal and social needs likely to emerge as indirect impacts ...




In March, Health Justice Australia developed a Position statement on Covid19 about the pressing legal and social needs likely to emerge as indirect impacts of COVID19. The statement was informed by the insights received from our national network of community legal and health services. From our advocacy relating to this Statement, we were then asked by community legal services to develop our policy recommendations further. We have now convened the COVID19 Legal Assistance Working Group, comprising peak bodies and representatives of all publicly-funded community legal assistance services across the country.

Through the Working Group we are developing key analysis on the people (cohorts) most likely to be at risk from legal need as a result of indirect impacts of COVID19 (eg increased risk of family violence, elder abuse, child protection risks, insecure or unsafe housing or loss of employment) and for whom phone-based or other remote services are a barrier to accessing help. We are also investigating whether legal need is increasing as a result of the unintended impact of government responses to COVID19 (eg over-policing of vulnerable people under the guides of public health measures).

Health Justice Australia will then develop recommendations for government and sector stakeholders about how to meet the needs of the people within the cohorts. In summary the process includes:

  • Agenda-setting: research into key areas of immediate and longer-term need and possible solutions, development of draft positions to test and review with the Working Group
  • Research design and analysis: developing survey instruments to collect rigorous, comparable data of COVID19-related legal need emerging across Australia. Also to be collected are data about existing remote services being unable to meet that need. Analysis and reporting of survey and administrative data and analysis of cohorts will support the development of tailored solutions
  • Advocacy to government, health and legal sectors and through nonprofit alliances
  • Secretariat support: scheduling meetings, administering surveys, technology for online engagement


Health Justice Australia has the knowledge, relationships and capability to do this work efficiently and effectively. We can fill a key gap in building the critical evidence about the indirect legal and social impacts of COVID19 and the legal needs emerging among those most vulnerable to these indirect impacts. This is needed for the development of immediate responses; and to inform planning over the longer term. While neither a peak body nor a provider of direct legal services, our commitment to working collaboratively has enabled us to bring together the key stakeholders across the community legal sector. This ensures that any policy recommendations we propose are valid, useful and effective for legal assistance broadly. We also have valuable relationships with the health sector to ensure that our policy development and advocacy links to the broader priority of public health and wellbeing, rather than being seen as separate to those agendas. Health Justice Australia is already well positioned with the infrastructure to collect data and undertake analysis.

In addition to adding valuable data and policy advocacy about the current global pandemic, this work will contribute to our broader systems change agenda of building evidence and facilitating connections across the otherwise-siloed systems of health, law and social services.

Profile of Health Justice Australia

Health Justice Australia

Health Justice Australia is a national charity and centre of excellence supporting the expansion and effectiveness of health justice partnership. We work to change service systems to improve health and justice outcomes of the people they exist to support, through:

Research: Developing and translating knowledge that is valued by practitioners, researchers, policy-makers and funders
Practice: Building the capability of health, legal and other practitioners to work collaboratively, including through brokering, mentoring and facilitating partnerships 
Policy advocacy: Working to reform policy settings, service design and funding, informed by the experience of people coming through health justice partnerships, and their practitioners.


Funding sourceAmount
Funding gap (unconfirmed)$40,000
Expense itemAmount
Staff time and technological platforms$40,000

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