We know that in Australia legal problems are widespread and if they are not resolved, there are health, social and economic consequences. This paper examines the experience of Indigenous Australians in relation to the resolution of legal problems in comparison with non-Indigenous people. Using the Legal AustraliaWide (LAW) Survey national dataset, the findings show that Indigenous respondents were significantly more likely than others to have unresolved crime problems. Indigenous respondents who were multiply disadvantaged had the highest probability of unresolved crime problems. Finer-grained analysis revealed that Indigenous respondents had significantly higher rates of unresolved crime problems that concerned being charged, arrested or questioned by police, while multiply disadvantaged Indigenous respondents also had significantly higher rates of unresolved crime problems concerning domestic violence allegations.
In general, Indigenous respondents were significantly more likely than others to finalise legal problems through court, tribunal or other formal dispute resolution processes, and significantly less likely to have problems finalised through another agency, such as a government body, insurance company or the police.
The findings signal that Indigenous Australians, particularly those who are multiply disadvantaged, experience barriers to legal problem resolution. The implications of the findings are discussed, including the need to better understand how the factors affecting the experience and resolution of crime problems, and the manner of finalisation of all types of legal problems, varies by Indigenous status. The findings make clear the need for accessible and responsive public legal assistance services that are appropriate to the legal needs and capability of Indigenous people, particularly those experiencing multiple disadvantage and facing crime offender problems.