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Policy Bulletin 2021 / 3 (Criminal Law Policy – Aboriginal women in the Local Court)

11 Jun 2021

The Legal Aid NSW Board has approved a new Criminal Law guideline to ensure that Aboriginal women are represented in the Local Court.


The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) found that the number of women being imprisoned in NSW over the past six years has increased by 50%. Research shows this is mostly affecting Aboriginal women, whose imprisonment rate has increased by 74% compared with a 40% increase by non-Aboriginal women. These figures are not a consequence of Aboriginal women committing more serious offences. Rather, the high incarceration rates appear to be a consequence of over-policing.

Under the Legal Aid NSW Aboriginal Client Services Initiative 2018-19, one of the proposals was to include Aboriginal women as an exception to the risk of gaol eligibility requirement in the Local Court Criminal Law Policy. The purpose of the policy change is to ensure representation for Aboriginal women where they would otherwise not be eligible, for example, where there is no risk of gaol.

What has changed?

When applying Criminal Law Policy 4.3: Local Court criminal matters, Legal Aid NSW will be satisfied there are exceptional circumstances where the applicant for legal aid is an Aboriginal woman.

This will include:

  • Duty representation even where gaol is not an available penalty
  • Representation in defended hearings even where there is no risk of gaol (including traffic matters), and
  • Representation as defendants in AVO proceedings, and
  • Appeals from the Local Court to the District Court.

See Policy Online for details of the policy:

Commencement date

The change applies to applications determined on or after 15 June 2021.

Contact for further information

Please contact the Client Eligibility Unit for any questions about the change at aideen.mcgarrigle@legalaid.nsw.gov.au or 9219 5701.