Victorian Law Foundation survey reveals gap in legal knowledge among Victorians

Over 60% of respondents didn't recognise the legal dimensions in everyday problems

Victorian Law Foundation survey reveals gap in legal knowledge among Victorians

The recent Public Understanding of the Law Survey (PULS) conducted by the Victorian Law Foundation has revealed that many Victorians do not see the legal aspects of many everyday concerns.

The survey delved into how respondents tackled problems like housing, employment, family relations, debt and money, goods and services, fines and infringements, and disputes among neighbours. According to the survey findings, 66% of over 6,000 respondents “don’t recognise their circumstance as having a legal dimension, or identify the law as being relevant to their situation”, said Dr Hugh McDonald, acting research director of the Victoria Law Foundation.

The survey results indicated that younger and older Victorians, as well as those from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, were less knowledgeable about the law than carers, people with disabilities, and those living in regional and rural areas.

“Some people will just say, ‘Well, that’s bad luck and that happens to me all of the time.’ But legal problems can escalate if you don’t deal with them, and then they can cascade into other issues. One problem can lead to more problems. So, it’s good to take action early, and seek help”, McDonald said.

Victoria Law Foundation executive director Lynne Haultain pointed out that the study “shows our ability to respond to the sorts of legal problems we all have to deal with is so much stronger if we understand our rights and know where to go for help”.

The survey findings were publicised in line with the upcoming Victorian Law Week event scheduled for 20-26 May, which has been crafted to bolster understanding of the law among Victorians. Community legal centres, government bodies, law firms, and courts and tribunals have put together more than 120 free events taking place throughout metro and regional Victoria.

Topics to be covered over the week include AI, renting, family violence, mental health, neighbour disputes, technology and scams, emergencies and natural disasters, employment, family and relationships, fines and complaints, goods and services, legal assistance, discrimination and abuse, power of attorney, property, senior rights, wills and estate planning, and women’s rights.

"The law is for everyday life. Knowing that the law might offer practical solutions to people’s situations, helps to make the justice system accessible to everyone", McDonald said. 

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