Pro Bono Centre Applauds Pro Bono Lawyers

In the face of attacks from Minister Peter Dutton on private law firms acting pro bono for asylum seekers and refugees, the Australian Pro Bono Centre has defended the commitment of lawyers who undertake pro bono legal work in Australia. The Centre rejects the Minister’s suggestion that the lawyers concerned are “playing a game with these people” when acting pro bono for asylum seekers and refugees.

Lawyers undertake pro bono work out of a professional duty and dedication to the provision of access to justice for the disadvantaged.  This work affirms the highest tradition of the legal profession. Those helped include asylum seekers, homeless persons, unemployed persons, tenants in low-income housing, victims of domestic violence, victims of discrimination and many others, as well as the many organisations and charities that support these people to seek justice in our community.

Major law firms (those with more than 50 lawyers) undertook a total of over 370,000 hours of pro bono legal work last financial year, averaging 35 hours per lawyer.  This is without charge to the public or the taxpayer.  The Federal Government has actively supported this voluntary effort for many years and formally encourages major law firms to undertake pro bono work through its legal purchasing arrangements.  Major corporations are following this lead, expecting their panel law firms to show a commitment to pro bono. Defending human rights and the rule of law is a key part of the pro bono work undertaken by these firms. This context makes Minister Dutton’s comment attacking the pro bono work of these firms all the more regrettable.

Lawyers do pro bono work selflessly because they believe in the rule of law and the importance of access to justice for all in a democratic society, not to play games.

For further information or comment, please contact:

John Corker
Chief Executive Officer
Australian Pro Bono Centre
(02) 9385 7371 or 0402 474 628