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Research continues apace

October 12th 2021

Greetings from the VLF research team in Victorian lockdown. Research continues apace despite challenges posed by public health restrictions. An update on some of our work below.

Our Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS)

As mentioned in our last update, public health restrictions have meant that the fieldwork for the PULS has been temporarily postponed. However, we are looking forward to starting fieldwork in the new year once more of Victoria is vaccinated and it is safe to return to the field. Once we finally get there, PULS will provide a unique opportunity to look at the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on the Victorian public in the broadest possible terms. It will show how the pandemic related to problems with employment, health, housing, family and government payments among a whole range of justiciable issues. It will show how these issues extend beyond health restrictions and provide insights into what people need and how services might respond.

PULS is a groundbreaking legal capability survey. It has a legal need survey at its core but represents the revolution in thinking around how to explore legal needs – ideas that Hugh McDonald and I (as well Profs Pascoe Pleasence and Rebecca Sandefur who are working with us) have been developing for many years. Understanding legal capability is critical to furthering our thinking, and as Steve Brooker of the Legal Services Board in England and Wales put it at a conference recently, it’s the key to unlocking unmet legal need.

Victorian CLC Workforce survey

Dr Jozica Kutin is putting the finishing touches to the first two papers from our survey of the Victorian CLC Workforce, funded by the Federation of CLCs. They describe the project and set out the demographic landscape of the sector.

The research team has also been working on papers which set out findings on the experience of COVID-19 in Victorian CLCs, and the extent to which legal education is preparation for community lawyering.

Research Network news

Our next Research Network event will focus on a project conducted by Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS) and Deakin University about understanding elder abuse as a civil law problem and the broader civil law needs of older people. It will be the first to involve one of the Foundation’s Knowledge Grant recipients. Hugh McDonald and I met with Alexandria Jones of BCLS, Ian Warren of Deakin University and the student research interns involved in the project a little while ago, and were struck by their fascinating project, and their positive and innovative collaboration. We are delighted they will be able to present their work on 23 November 2021. Please save the date and keep an eye out for our invitation in the next few weeks!

Data mapping update

Led by Dr Hugh McDonald, the second part of the data mapping project, focusing on use and utility of administrative data is being finalised.

We will be publishing the report very soon – watch this space.


Professor Nigel J. Balmer

Research Director