The Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union (ALWU) welcomes the Access to Justice Reportreleased by the New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa.
ALWU believes that the report identifies long standing issues experienced by the legal profession. Lawyers, especially legal aid lawyers, are motivated to ensure that all members of our community can access justice. However, this is coming at a significant cost for many due to high stress, long hours and unpaid work.
“Successive governments have failed to adequately fund access to justice for many New Zealanders, which has forced lawyers to personally pick up the cost. A transformation of the justice system is required to ensure that all people in Aotearoa can access the legal services they require, without compromising the well-being, stress and workload of legal aid lawyers,” says ALWU Co-President Isabella Lenihan-Ikin.
ALWU member and former legal aid lawyer Melissa Harward says “legal aid is an incredibly important service that underpins the provision of justice in Aotearoa. Although the work is meaningful, the limited funding available means that legal aid lawyers are pushed and pulled in every direction.”
“If we don’t properly resource legal aid lawyers, we will continue to see the health and wellbeing of the workforce decline. This isn’t fair to the workers, and it isn’t fair to the people that need our services,” says Harward.
“Ultimately, we need the government to deliver fair pay and conditions to legal-aid lawyers, and reduce the barriers for lawyers who wish to provide legal aid services, but are unable to due to the excessive workload, low remuneration, and high administrative costs involved,” says Lenihan-Ikin.
“What we’re seeing now are consequences of a justice system that has been under-resourced for too long – and we just can’t afford to see the situation get any worse as it will impact on New Zealanders being able to access justice.”