Our research plan

Our research plan outlines the actions we will take and the areas of law we will explore over the next three years.

Our current project

The Victoria Law Foundation is moving ahead with our Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) – ground-breaking research to help us better understand legal capability, attitudes and experience of the law in the Victorian community.

The PULS will be the first of its kind in the world, and represents a significant development in this kind of research. It will explore people's ability to navigate the complex array of rights and responsibilities we encounter each day; what they know about the justice system and its institutions; how they see it playing a part in their lives; and how they experience and respond to legal problems. The work is funded through the Public Purpose Fund of the Victorian Legal Services Board, with further support from Victoria Legal Aid.

Research Director Professor Nigel Balmer is leading the project, with Dr Hugh McDonald, our Principal Researcher. We are also working closely with internationally renowned expertise in Professors Pascoe Pleasence (UK) and Rebecca L. Sandefur (USA), particularly on the development of the questionnaire. It is anticipated the project will be completed in June 2022.

The governance structure includes a high-level steering group made up of sector organisations, an advisory group providing technical advice, and a working group with Victoria Legal Aid.

Understanding legal capability and how people experience law is an essential first step in ensuring that justice is accessible to all. It is critical in determining what kinds of legal information and services are needed and will be most effective for the community.

We have developed a research program comprised of four streams covering both ‘top-down’ (institutional) and ‘bottom-up’ (general public) perspectives.

Our four streams of work

Our research program is divided into four streams, which will each produce complementary outcomes.

Stream One – Mapping justice

We will map the availability and content of institutional data across a broad range of civil justice bodies, including courts, tribunals and the legal assistance sector, so that we can understand how legal matters progress, see possible issues with legal processes and identify barriers to access to justice.

Stream Two – Surveying legal literacy

We will conduct a Victoria-wide Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS) to discover what Victorians know about their justice system, its institutions and the role they see it play in their lives.

Stream Three – Researching programs and interventions

We will take a rigorous empirical approach to evaluate the need for different legal services, as well as their processes, impacts and outcomes, so that we can figure out 'what works.'

Stream Four – Coordinating and sharing research

We will build a network connecting the justice, community and academic sectors to enable knowledge sharing, encourage collaboration, extend the reach of our work and help us to learn from the experience of local and international experts.