A Just Life

Life’s problems often have legal solutions.

Yet many people don’t realise they have a legal problem, don’t know how to get help, or can’t afford the right help. Our report, A Just Life, shares our vision for a justice system that gives Australians a fair chance at a better life.

A Just Life highlights the stories of our clients and their experience of the justice system, and the insights that our lawyers who work with these problems and the system day-in, day-out bring. It contains 12 client stories and eight videos of the people we help, our staff and our colleagues in the legal and non-legal sectors, in their own words.

These stories paint a picture of a legal system that puts itself out of reach for too many. For some, it makes legal rights invisible and for others it hits them harshly and heavily.

Download A Just Life report

A Just Life ReportDownload PDF (21 MB)

It’s time to focus on the power of prevention

Legal help should not be left at the bottom of the cliff, only seen as relevant once people have already entered crisis through, for example, offending, family violence, family breakdown, homelessness or unemployment.

We need to fund legal services designed and proven to catch people before legal and life issues escalate to crisis point.

50% of Australians have a legal problem, but only 16% seek legal help. This should not be accepted as inevitable. As a community, Australia needs to lead the way in promoting that life’s problems often — at least in part — have a legal dimension.

 Recognise the preventative role of the law and legal help
 Educate the community about the legal dimensions of life’s problems
Mother escapes homelessness and family violence

"When you’re not in the right frame of mind, you let the system beat you."

Read Maggie's story
Photograph of Justice Connect's Homeless Law client Maggie

Build tailored models, so more people access the right help

When a justice system is genuinely accessible, it reaches people in the right way at the right time. Tailored models of legal help to accommodate people with diverse legal needs, resources and capabilities.

For some of the population, well-designed self-help tools, one-off advice or duty lawyer representation will be enough to help effectively navigate the legal system. But for others, a more intensive level of legal and non-legal support will be needed. We must be able to recognise and cater to the continuum of needs within the Australian community.

When reform and innovation can drive effective, high-volume change, we must embrace it. But equally, we need to recognise where intensive models, including integration and partnerships, are required to meet the needs of people and communities. By listening to our clients and embracing user-centred design, we can better understand which model to use, when and for who.


   Tailor and target models of legal help on a continuum
 Know how to invest in models that best meet needs
Hospo worker wins $17,000 in unpaid wages

Tailored legal models helped a vulnerable hospitality worker get the win she needed.

Read Tessa's story
Stock photo of a Justice Connect client

Integrate lawyers and legal services with communities

Because the legal dimensions of life’s problems so frequently go unnoticed, and because knowing when or how to seek legal help can be unclear, legal assistance can be most effective when provided in partnership with frontline non-legal experts.

It is these partners (across healthcare, housing and social work, for example) who are often best placed to listen to clients and spot potential legal issues. With the right knowledge, they can identify legal risk and encourage the person to seek help.

Similarly, we need partnerships across the legal sector. Together we can build a network of knowledge and pathways that make sure legal issues are spotted and the person is linked with the most appropriate legal help at the earliest point.

Shared resources are usually required to establish effective partnerships, and these relationships grow over time. Long-term investment in these partnerships is required for sustained impact. To do this, funding and investment must also look beyond traditional siloes. When a legal issue affects someone’s health, government departments need to work together to foster genuine integration. Funding should not be confined to justice portfolios within State, Territory and Federal Governments.

   Partner outside the legal and justice sector
 Partner inside the legal and justice sector
   Invest in effective and sustained partnerships
 Bring government together
Man with a 20-year history of homelessness avoids eviction

People experiencing homelessness often face complex issues, including legal problems.

Read Ruben's story
Stock photo of Justice Connect client Ruben

Back laws, systems and policies that really work

We should back ideas that work, not blindly rely on the law when it is costly and ineffective. We need to support laws, policies and systems that are founded in evidence – not politics. Through our work, we’ve seen the devastating consequences these laws can have on people’s lives.

   Use evidence to design and review laws, policies and systems

Melbourne narrowly avoids criminalising homelessness

When the City of Melbourne proposed harsh new laws against sleeping rough, we jumped into action.

Read more

We need to bring the law up to speed

Technology can improve the way people access legal services for the better, and it’s about time we got behind it.

That’s why we’re creating projects like the legal help gateway, which will help thousands of people access the legal support they need. It’s also why we’re looking into new ways to provide people with legal help they can access themselves, like our NFP Law website .

To bring the whole justice sector up to speed, we need everyone to log on. That means supporting innovative projects across the entire sector.

   Encourage experimentation, innovation and user-centred design
   Invest in innovation and technology

We need to use pro bono as part of a well-funded sector

We’re in awe of the incredible work our pro bono lawyers do on a daily basis. From preventing school kids from facing religious discrimination, to keeping families in housing, pro bono lawyers have the power to transform people’s lives for the better. But pro bono lawyers work best as part of a well-funded legal assistance sector. That’s why we need to use these talented lawyers effectively and intelligently.

   Resource targeted, effective and impactful pro bono
   Set consistent targets and government panel requirements
   Remember that pro bono is not a substitute for a well-funded sector
Pro bono helped Kat access justice after being unfairly fired

After Kat complained about being underpaid, things went downhill at work.

Read Kat's story
Photograph of Justice Connect client Kat

Put impact first, so we can fund ideas and programs that really work

At Justice Connect, we’ve felt the consequences of funding systems that are hungry for innovation but fail to maintain projects once they’re off the ground. When we’re onto a good thing, we need to keep it going. That’s why we should fund projects that demonstrate impact, so we can continue to pursue new ideas, while continuing to support the ones that are proven to work.

    Build a framework for sustaining and expanding proven programs

Download the full report

Read more about A Just Life. To learn more about our tips for building fairer, safer and healthier communities, download the full report.

A Just Life ReportDownload PDF (21 MB)