health justice systems

Established in 2016, Health Justice Australia works with lawyers and health professionals to create health justice partnerships – collaborative arrangements that allow vulnerable Australians to access free legal advice through their local health services.

One year into its operation, the organisation has secured a $3 million philanthropic grant from the Paul Ramsay Foundation to examine whether increased collaboration between health and justice services can give more Australians access to the support they need.

CEO of Health Justice Australia, Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine, said Australia’s most vulnerable people continued to fall through the gaps between health and human services.

“We know that 8.5 million Australians experience three or more legal problems a year,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

“We also know that health and justice issues are often linked – for example, mould left unaddressed in rental housing can cause respiratory problems.

“With lawyers working in health services, as part of health teams, to deliver the range of services people need in the familiar settings they trust, we can reshape the way we address these kinds of related issues,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

She said the funding, to be invested over the next three years, would allow Health Justice Australia to build on the work of more than 20 health justice partnerships already operating in Australia, and evaluate their impact.

“This funding will give us the resources we need to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of existing health justice partnerships and, if proven, build a case for rolling out the program on a national scale.”

“We believe these partnerships, which began organically through effective collaborations at a local level, can become a strong and coordinated network driving innovation in health and legal services, and lead to improved services to those most in need,” Dr Boyd-Caine said.

The Paul Ramsay Foundation’s backing builds on Health Justice Australia’s founding grant and continuing support received from the Clayton Utz Foundation and community legal centre Justice Connect, along with funding and support received from philanthropists, health, legal and research organisations over the last year.

CEO of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Simon Freeman, said he and his team were looking forward to working collaboratively with Health Justice Australia to support their growth and bold push to challenge norms within the health and justice sectors.

“Health Justice Australia has identified a specific area where innovation and shifting established systems could significantly and positively impact the lives of vulnerable Australians,” Freeman said.

“We’re excited to be supporting Tessa and her team on their mission, and look forward to testing whether disruption to the current health and justice systems could effectively lead to more Australians receiving the support they need.”