The Indigenous Legal Needs Project is a national research study of the civil and family law needs of Indigenous Australians.

The project is based at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University (JCU). The Australian Research Council (ARC) has funded the research by way of a Linkage Project grant (LP 100200455). The project funding is for a three year period, commencing in February 2011. As a Linkage Project, the research is to be undertaken in collaboration with 12 project partners, including both legal services and academic institutions. Both Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning (University of Technology) and the Law Faculty at the University of New South Wales are project partners.

The Indigenous Legal Needs Project represents the first comprehensive analysis of Indigenous civil and family law needs undertaken in Australia. The objectives and methodology of the project have been informed by a pilot project completed for the NSW Legal Aid Commission in 2008 by members of the project research team. The pilot project researched civil and family law needs of Indigenous people in NSW. A copy of the pilot project’s final report is available in our Research Publications (see also report’s Executive Summary).

The project aims to identify and analyse the legal needs of Indigenous communities in non-criminal legal areas such as discrimination, consumer matters, credit and debt, child protection, education, employment, health, housing and wills and estates. The research is directed towards identifying priority areas of legal need and is intended to inform successful models of legal service delivery. Improved responses will deliver better access to justice, enhanced compliance with human rights norms and improved social justice outcomes for Indigenous people.

The project will be centered upon a total of 32 prospective project sites distributed evenly across four jurisdictions - Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia. These sites represent Indigenous communities in rural, regional, urban and remote locations and have been selected in consultation with our project partners.

At each of the project sites, the research team will gather information about service provision to, and needs arising within the selected communities in relation to civil and family law. This information will be gathered, primarily, through the participation of Indigenous community members in focus groups held at the sites. Interviews will also be conducted by the research team with staff from relevant stakeholder organisations servicing the nominated communities.