The Federation Press

Law and Poverty in Australia

40 Years after the Poverty Commission


The publication of the Poverty Commission’s Law and Poverty in Australia Report (the Sackville Report) in 1975 was a landmark event in the history of Australian law reform. Since that time, and as Australia has become a more unequal society, there has been no systematic overview of the inter-relation between law and poverty in Australia. This book attempts to fill the gap by bringing together a range of experts from civil society, the legal profession and academe, including the disciplines of law, social science and criminology.

The book provides an inventory of progress made over the past four decades with regard to the many proposals contained in the original Law and Poverty Report. The overall conclusion is that the scorecard is uneven. Substantial implementation of the reforms has occurred in many areas, such as consumer and tenancy law. Despite initial progress in other areas, such as tax law, legal aid and social security, there has been deterioration. 

It also highlights some important aspects of poverty and law not contained in the original Report: the intersection of the experiences of LGBTI people, poverty and law; the international dimension of law and poverty in light of globalisation; and the critical importance of tax rules in relation to poverty. 

The book concludes by identifying critical areas for reform to address the legal problems that poor people confront. They include: cuts to legal aid and community legal centre funding; security of tenure for residential tenants; redistribution of the tax burden; regulation of the power of government agencies, such as social security and the police; and greater security in the sphere of employment law.

Table of Contents

About the Contributors

1.   Law and Poverty in Australia Today: A Reassessment
           Andrea Durbach, Brendan Edgeworth and Vicki Sentas

2.  The Law and Poverty Report 40 Years On
           Ronald Sackville

3.  The Henderson Legacy: Four Decades of Australian Poverty Research
           Peter Saunders

4.  Poverty and Law: A Comparative Perspective
           Malcolm Langford

5.  Law, Poverty and Inequality in Contemporary Australia
           Cassandra Goldie and Brendan Edgeworth

6.  Indigenous Australia and Social Justice, 40 Years On
           Larissa Behrendt

7.  Expanding the Gaze: LGBTI People, Discrimination and Disadvantage in Australia
           Jed Horner

8.  People with Multiple and Complex Support Needs, Disadvantage and Criminal Justice Systems: 40 Years After the Sackville Report
           Eileen Baldry

9.  Australian Residential Tenancy Law 40 Years After the Sackville Report: A Multi-Level Snapshot
           Brendan Edgeworth

10. Consumer Credit, Debt and Disadvantage: How Far Have We Come in 40 Years?
           Carolyn Bond

11. Labour Law and Poverty in Australia: The Transformation of a Wage-Earners’ Welfare State
           Anthony O’Donnell

12. In Search of Tax Reform
           Julian Disney

13. Social (In)Security and Inequality in Australia: The Limited Role of Human Rights in the Policy Debate
           Beth Goldblatt

14. Social Security Administration: Producing Poverty and Punishment
           Scarlet Wilcock

15. ‘Between the Idea and the Reality’: Securing Access to Justice in an Environment of Declining Points of Entry
           Andrea Durbach

16. The Civil and Family Law Needs of Indigenous People 40 Years After Sackville: Findings of the Indigenous Legal Needs Project
           Fiona Allison, Chris Cunneen, Melanie Schwartz

17. The Poverty of Criminal Law: Criminalisation and the Limits of Access to Justice
           Vicki Sentas

18. A ‘Law and Development’ Perspective on Law, Poverty and Human Rights
           Wouter Vandenhole

19. How the International Monetary Fund Has Contributed to Global Poverty
           Ross P Buckley


Of interest...