The Queensland Budget has revealed that the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) is set to receive additional funding of $7 million over the next two years to assist with the extreme demands and backlogs the tribunal has faced since COVID-19.
QLS President Elizabeth Shearer welcomed QCAT’s much-needed funding after QLS and various stakeholders pushed the issue.
President Shearer says the funding a step in the right direction, but there are broader issues within the civil justice system that need addressing.
“We welcome the additional funding to address the under-resourcing facing QCAT,” President Shearer said.
“QCAT is a vital part of delivering civil justice in Queensland, but it’s only one part. Now the immediate crisis has been addressed; we have the opportunity to step back and look at the system as a whole to ensure access to civil justice becomes a reality for all Queenslanders.
“At the moment, we tend to fix one problem, but then another becomes apparent because all parts of the system are under stress.
“We need a review of Access to Justice in the Civil Justice System in Queensland so we can ensure people faced with civil justice problems of everyday life can be heard and helped.”
Many everyday civil justice problems don’t involve large sums of money. Still, President Shearer says access to an appropriate system to resolve disputes quickly, fairly and at proportionate cost is vital to people’s respect for the rule of law.
“Other important and complex civil justice issues are not about money at all but have profound human rights implications – for example, guardianship of adults where someone else is appointed to make decisions for a person who has lost capacity to make their own decisions,” President Shearer said.
“There is a range of government agencies involved with guardianship as well as QCAT, and we need to ensure that all parts of the system are working well, individually and together.
“It’s crucial that the government ensures the civil justice system has the correct resourcing for better coordination of the right processes for the right matters.”
The additional funding comes as significant relief after QCAT’s 2019-20 annual report, which indicated that its budget only allowed for, on average, $877 per matter.
This, President Shearer says, is concerning considering many of the cases within QCAT can be complex and have profound human rights implications.