Innovative solutions for fairer justice

Vulnerable groups seeking legal assistance will be better supported thanks to a NSW Government investment in artificial intelligence technology to help diagnose legal problems.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said this is one of two groundbreaking projects to share in $250,000 in funding under the NSW Government’s Access to Justice Innovation Fund (AJIF).

“Everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and the system must be fair to all those who come into contact with it,” Mr Speakman said.

“These cutting edge projects will help people with a disability, seniors, Aboriginal people and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds understand and exercise their legal rights.”

The AJIF has awarded $174,000 to support not-for-profit organisation Justice Connect to build a language processing model to help an estimated 50,000 people across NSW who lack the legal literacy they may need when searching for legal resources and services online.

The University of Sydney has been awarded $76,000 to develop a fairer assessment model for parents with a cognitive disability involved in care proceedings before the Children’s Court.

The assessments are a vital part of these proceedings and this investment will ensure NSW aligns with best practice for assessing parents with intellectual disabilities.

Justice Connect’s AI model will be free to other not-for-profit organisations in NSW and the University of Sydney’s resources will be available to parents, Children’s Court clinicians, the court and statutory caseworkers across the State at no cost.

Justice Connect CEO Chris Povey said his team will collect thousands of language samples from diverse groups in NSW to incorporate into the AI model’s training, with the help of hundreds of pro bono lawyers.

“We hope our project can serve as an example of AI for good, and can ultimately be used by legal organisations across the justice sector,” Mr Povey said.

Dr Susan Collings from The University of Sydney’s Research Centre for Children and Families said parents with an intellectual disability are much more likely to lose their child to statutory care.

“These families have a right to equal access to justice. Shifting professional beliefs and practices is the black box that this project seeks to unlock,” Dr Collings said.

The Government has pledged $1 million over four years to the AJIF, with applications for the next round of funding to open in the second half of 2021.

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