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Our history

The provision of legal aid for people experiencing criminal, family and civil law problems in our state enjoys a long history. Over the past century, legal aid has evolved. What was once charity is now a pillar of our justice system.

1918 The Poor Persons Legal Remedies Act 1918 (NSW) is the first step towards a formal legal aid scheme, and exists for the benefit of any person who can satisfy a judge “that he is not worth fifty pounds”

1941 The Public Defenders Office is established to represent disadvantaged people in serious criminal cases

1943 The Legal Assistance Act 1943 (NSW) establishes the office of the Public Solicitor and for the first time, lawyers are employed to provide legal aid to low-income earners

1974 ‘Shopfront lawyers’ in the new Australian Legal Aid Office provide services under Commonwealth law

1979 The NSW Government establishes the Legal Services Commission, the forerunner of today’s Legal Aid NSW

1987 State and Commonwealth legal aid offices merge to form the Legal Aid Commission of NSW

2006 The Legal Aid Commission of NSW becomes known as Legal Aid NSW

2019 Today, Legal Aid NSW is the largest legal aid commission in Australia, providing hundreds of thousands of legal services each year to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community and guided by a five-year plan that clearly sets our direction and priorities in the face of increasing demand for our services