Joining the dots: 2018 census of the Australian health justice landscape

Legal services Medical practitioners Health equity Australia

Health justice partnership (HJP) is a collaborative service model that embeds legal help in healthcare settings and teams. This practitioner-led innovation to address health-harming legal need has evolved into a movement attracting the interest of services, funders, researchers and policy makers across Australia. In 2016, Health Justice Australia (HJA) was established as a national centre of excellence for health justice partnership in response to this evolving movement.

In 2018, HJA published Mapping a new path: the health justice landscape in Australia, 2017, a first and foundational profile of the health justice landscape across Australia based on activity up to mid-2017 (Forell, 2018). Using that first survey as a pilot, we now report the findings of the 2018 census, covering services and activities on the health justice landscape in the 2017-2018 financial year.

This report is based on responses from legal partners involved in 73 services, and 25 health partners involved in 24 services. All services provided legal help in healthcare settings during the 2017-2018 financial year. Unless otherwise stated, data in this report relates to that timeframe.

We know of 10 outreach services (including four by one lawyer), one co-located health and legal service and one integrated service (with the lawyer employed by the health service) that did not respond to the survey but were providing health justice services during the 2017-2018 financial year. There may be other legal outreach services in healthcare settings that HJA is not aware of. The response rate from all relevant services known to HJA was 86%. To the best of our knowledge, all Australian services that identified as health justice partnerships, and which saw clients during the 2017- 2018 financial year, are included in the census.

Due to the more complete dataset provided by the legal services (73 compared to 25 health service responses) we have used this as the core dataset. We have, however, checked these responses against the health service responses and reported the latter where possible and meaningful. Because of the lower response rate by health partners and the fact that, inevitably, more engaged partners will respond, the health partner responses cannot be seen as representative of the views or experiences of all health partners. Questions which were unique to health partners are reported separately.

Our primary reliance on legal partner responses skews reporting towards a legal service perspective on the data and landscape, and is a limitation of the study. However, it is also a reflection of the way that health justice partnership has evolved in Australia. The movement has been led primarily by the legal sector seeking to engage with the health sector, with HJA supporting and strengthening these cross-sector partnerships. The movement is yet to reach a place of equal engagement of health and legal partners across the landscape and the results of this census reflect that reality.

Publication Details
Publication Year: