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Our history

In less than 100 years, Legal Aid NSW has developed from a small charity to a leading provider of legal services to disadvantaged people.

Poor Person’s Legal Remedies Act 1918

This was the first step towards a formal legal aid scheme but it was still treated as a charity or a privilege.

Public Defender’s Office

In 1941, the government set up the Public Defender’s Office to represent disadvantaged people in serious criminal cases.

Legal Assistance Act 1943

The Public Solicitor’s Office was set up in 1943, employing lawyers paid a salary by the Government to provide aid in criminal matters.

Legal aid was no longer a charity but a social right. It was the first time in the western world that lawyers were employed to give legal aid to low income earners.

Legal Practitioners (Legal Aid) Act

In 1971 the Law Society of NSW established a new scheme offering legal aid, concentrating on civil matters.

Australian Legal Aid Office (ALAO)

The Federal Government established the ALAO in 1974 for legal aid services that fell within federal law. “Shopfront lawyers” were easy to access and helped dispel the intimidating and confusing face of the law.

Legal Services Commission of NSW

In 1979, the NSW Government established the Legal Services Commission.

Legal Aid Commission of NSW

In 1987, State and Commonwealth legal aid offices merged to form the Legal Aid Commission of NSW.

Legal Aid NSW

In 2006, the Legal Aid Commission changed its name to Legal Aid NSW.