To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • Enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client.
  • Enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest.
  • Enquire as to compliance with the Means Test.
  • Consider the merit of the client’s matter.

The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Office Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    • An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $65,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

As of 1st May 2024, VALS will increase its Means Test threshold to ensure that we are able to provide legal assistance to more people. We will continue to increase our Means Test threshold by a set amount over the next three years provided that we receive adequate and equitable funding from the Government to deliver the services that our Aboriginal people in Victoria require. In January 2027 our Means Test will reflect the income rate of the top tier for the Medicare levy surcharge. This means that after 2027 our Means Test threshold will increase in line with the Medicare levy surcharge each year.

The VALS Means Test threshold will be:

  • Before 1st May 2024: a gross household income of $52,000 or less per annum,
  • After 1st May 2024: a gross household income of $65,000 or less per annum,
  • After 1st January 2025: a gross household income of $75,000 or less per annum,
  • After 1st January 2026: a gross household income of $85,000 or less per annum,
  • After 1st January 2027: top rate of the base tier for the Medicare levy surcharge. As of 2024 this rate is $93,000 per annum.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.


273 High St, Preston VIC 3072

1800 064 865

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