By the early 1990s, women’s groups and organisations in Tasmania had long recognised the need within the community for women to have access to free and confidential, non-threatening legal advice, referral, education and information. In addition, there was a recognition for the necessity for reform in areas of law affecting women.
After extensive consultations between the Australian Law Reform Commission and representative groups throughout the country, the Commission produced it’s 1994 report entitled “Equality before the Law: Women’s Access to the Legal System”, identifying significant barriers women experience in accessing justice through the legal system. Statewide consultations enabled the Tasmanian Women’s Consultative Council to publish their own report in 1995, “Women and Justice: Tasmanian Women’s Access to the Legal System”.
Acknowledging the barriers women face accessing the legal system in Australia, in 1995 the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department issued the Access to Justice statement, expressing a commitment to removing these barriers. Through the subsequent National Women’s Justice Strategy, a steering committee was established by key stakeholders in the Tasmanian community to apply for funding and to develop a service structure and philosophy for a women’s legal service.
Women’s Legal Service Tasmania was incorporated on 30 April 1996, and was officially launched by the then Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Sue Walpole on 20 June 1996.
Originally employing two part-time solicitors, a part-time community education officer, and a part-time administrative assistant, the newly formed Women’s Legal Service Tasmania shared office space with two other community legal services in Macquarie Street in Hobart.
Moving to new premises in early 2009, the Service had grown to employ four full-time solicitors with the support of a part-time financial officer and a part-time administrative assistant.
Today, Women’s Legal Service Tasmania has an office in Hobart and an office in Burnie, and has increased in size to employ seven solicitors and four support staff statewide, allowing us to assist over 1000 Tasmanian women each year.