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Call to the Parties

Call to the Parties

By Belinda Wilson

Communication Leadership Powers 

As we head into the state election the LIV has outlined 10 key issues the major political parties need to address. The LIV has launched its Call to Parties campaign in the lead up to the Victorian election in November. We have canvassed the views of many of the 1400 members on our 90 committees and working groups, our legal policy team, LIV Council and key stakeholders and asked them to identify the most important justice issues in the community and the law and order issues that need to be debated in the lead up to the election. The LIV believes the major political parties must outline to the Victorian community how they propose to address these issues in government. We are calling on the parties to address: Access to justice Court resourcing and services Metropolitan and regional legal infrastructure Health and wellbeing of the judiciary and legal profession Property and environmental law changes Judicial independence and discretion Accountable policing Health justice partnerships Justice reinvestment and young people Human rights protections. In each category we specify what the LIV is calling for, the background to the issue, and what the LIV has done on the issue to date. I have written to the major parties asking them to respond to these issues so we can share their views before the election. Regarding access to justice, we want a commitment to pursue an agreement through COAG to invest at least $390 million a year nationally in Legal Aid Commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence services to address gaps in the system. We want a whole-of-government approach to access to justice reform, embedding it in policy and funding frameworks. Regarding court resourcing and services, we want to see increased funding for courts to relieve pressures, greater investment in the Court Integrated Services Program and Remand Outreach program, an expansion of specialised court services and better training for magistrates and support workers. In health and wellbeing, we want greater investment in court and justice assistance systems to reduce the unsustainable workload on members of the judiciary, court staff and practitioners. There should be extra funding for legal representation for people experiencing mental illness. I urge you to read Call to Parties (p11), discuss the issues with colleagues and raise them at public forums and meetings with community leaders or with your local MP. Our Call to Parties report is being shared with our 19,000 members via our website and the LIJ, and with our committees, working groups, legal stakeholders such as the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner, Victoria Legal Aid, Victoria Law Foundation, Community Legal Centres, Law Council of Australia and other law societies. We will be advocating on these 10 issues running up to the election and you’ll see this in the media and on our social media channels. I encourage you to share our social media posts. In recent months, on behalf of the LIV, I’ve had the pleasure of welcoming new magistrates and judges to our courts – and a number of them have come from the solicitor ranks. Court welcomes reassure Victorians they can be confident that the best people and legal minds lead our courts and make critical decisions on behalf of the community. More solicitors than ever are being appointed magistrates and judges, showing there are now fewer hurdles to the bench for a solicitor. Over the past three years, nearly half of magistrates appointed have been solicitors, 17 out of 37. Two of the recently appointed County Court judges have been solicitors, bringing the total to half a dozen at the Court. Many of these solicitors have been active on our committees and working groups or have chosen to complete the LIV’s Accredited Specialist program in their field. I’m pleased that the skills, breadth of knowledge and life experience of solicitors is being recognised with appointments as Victorian magistrates and judges. Solicitors, throughout their careers, are exposed to a range of issues and complex cases, giving them the experience that is needed on the bench. I would expect to see more solicitors being appointed as judicial officers in Victoria. Belinda Wilson LIV president email: Twitter: @livpresident  Blog:

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