Social change lawyering seeks to address the systemic causes of the problems faced by the most economically and socially disadvantaged people in our society. Social change lawyering has not been the focus of public interest law activities in Australia. Instead, public interest law has been concerned with assisting individuals and groups to vindicate their existing or new legal rights. This article argues the prevailing ‘access to justice’ orientation in public interest law results, in part, from the liberal understandings of the law and lawyer which are a feature of our legal system. These notions create strong resistance to the goals and methods required for social change lawyering.