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Policy Bulletin 2020 / 10 Civil and Family Law Polices (Aboriginal Client Services Strategy policy review)

21 Sep 2020

The Legal Aid NSW Board approved changes to Family and Civil law policies to ensure Aboriginal people can access our legal services.


In 2019/20 Legal Aid NSW conducted a review of eligibility policies as part of the Aboriginal Client Services Strategy 2019-2023. The purpose of the review was to identify gaps in policies that prevented Aboriginal clients from accessing legal assistance. The review identified the following areas where our policies could be improved to better meet the legal needs of Aboriginal clients in NSW:

Family Law matters where a parent is in custody

Incarcerated parents often have difficulty satisfying eligibility criteria because of a perceived lack of merit because, for example, they are not able to ‘live with’ or ‘spend time with’ children. To address this issue, the Board has approved a new Guideline to assist the decision-maker when assessing applications from parents in custody. The Guideline is specifically intended to target Aboriginal applicants who experience incarceration at a rate far higher than anyone else in our community. The change will ensure Aboriginal children can have cultural engagement with their parents.

Coronial Inquest matters for Aboriginal deaths in custody

Legal aid is available for Coronial Inquest matters relating to the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in custody. The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved the removal of the Means Test for applicants seeking representation at an Inquest into an Aboriginal death in custody to ensure family members are represented in these matters of important public interest.

ELA for School Exclusion and Stolen Generations Reparation Scheme review matters

In July 2018, the Legal Aid NSW Board approved the implementation of a new Service Type, Extended Legal Assistance (ELA). ELA is an extended legal service which includes taking carriage of a matter (or multiple matters) in an ongoing, representative capacity, but due to the nature of the matter/s it does not proceed to a court or tribunal, or the lawyer is not required to appear before a court or tribunal. ELA is provided only on an inhouse basis.

The Board has approved extending ELA for School Exclusion matters that disproportionally impact on Aboriginal children, and Stolen Generations Reparation Scheme review matters.

What has changed?

To ensure our policies meet the legal needs of Aboriginal people the following changes have been made:

  • A new Family Law Guideline to assist determining officers when considering applications for family law matters where the parent is in custody.
  • The Means Test is no longer applied to Coronial Inquest matters relating to the death of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person in custody.
  • Extended Legal Assistance is now available for School Exclusion matters and Stolen Generation Reparation Scheme review matters.

Where do I find the changes?

Details of the changes are on Policy Online:

Commencement date

The change applies to applications for legal aid or ELA determined on or after 21 September 2020.

Contact for further information

Please contact Aideen McGarrigle on 9219 5701 or the Client Eligibility Unit at T-CEU@legalaid.nsw.gov.au for any questions about the policy change.