Position Paper – HELP debt relief for RRR legal practitioners
In June 2023, the Regional Australia Institute reported that cost-of-living pressures are driving job dissatisfaction in all major capital cities and that two in five urban workers would be convinced to move to a rural, regional and remote (RRR) area if a financial incentive was involved. The Law Council therefore supports a Commonwealth policy to incentivise appropriately qualified legal practitioners to live and work in RRR locations.
The Law Council recommends that a Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) debt reduction and indexation relief initiative be introduced for qualified individuals who work in an eligible RRR area for a specific period of time. This scheme would be administered by the Commonwealth Department of Education, as the agency with responsibility for higher education policy, regulation and programmes.
This Position Paper:
- examines several models that have been introduced by the Commonwealth to increase the numbers of heath care workers and teachers living and working in RRR areas;
- recommends a suitable incentivisation model for legal practitioners—a HELP debt and indexation relief program; and
- undertakes a financial impact analysis of the preferred model.
There is a clear need for a multifaceted approach and holistic support from all levels of government, as well as the legal profession, to address the chronic shortages of legal practitioners in certain RRR areas and the resulting barriers experienced by residents of these communities in accessing justice. While this policy cannot, on its own, address all unmet legal need in RRR areas, the Law Council is of the strong view that a HELP debt reduction and indexation relief scheme will assist in incentivising the recruitment, retention and succession of legal practitioners in these areas.
Read the full position paper below.