The Centre’s recent research, which builds on earlier research conducted in conjunction with DLA Piper, indicates that the number of volunteer practising certificates (VPC) issued across Australia continues to rise – for more information, see Research on the Number of VPC Issued (January 2017).
The Centre has long advocated for the introduction of free volunteer practising certificates, a position that was reflected in the recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s 2014 Access to Justice Arrangements Inquiry Report. The availability of free VPCs removes a significant cost barrier for career break and retired lawyers who wish to provide pro bono legal services.
In total there were 509 free VPCs issued across Australia in FY2016, up from 462 certificates in FY2015. This increase was assisted by the introduction of VPCs in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory in 2015.
As at 30 June 2016, 21 VPCs had been issued in New South Wales. Based on the Law Society of New South Wales’ quarterly data this number had increased to 35 by September 2016. In the first year in which VPCs were available in the ACT, eight certificates were issued. There was also an increase in Queensland, from 92 certificates in FY2015 to 126 certificates in FY2016.
There was a slight drop in the number of VPCs issued in Victoria and Western Australia. In Victoria, 319 VPCs were issued in FY2016, a decrease from 333 in FY2015. In Western Australia, 35 VPCs were issued in FY2016, a decrease from 37 in FY2015.
VPCs first became available in South Australia on 1 July 2016. As at November 2016, 15 VPCs had been issued. VPCs in South Australia attract a fee of $150.
The Centre congratulates the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and New South Wales on the introduction of VPCs, and thanks the local regulators in these jurisdictions for their assistance with this research. This positive step facilitates pro bono legal services and access to justice throughout Australia.