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Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme

Support for small businesses and primary producers affected by the 2019/2020 bushfires

Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme

The Commonwealth Government has provided funding for legal assistance to NSW primary producers and small businesses dealing with legal issues relating to the 2019/2020 bushfires. Under the Scheme, private solicitors will have access to legal aid funding to provide legal services.

The Scheme

An Early Resolution Assistance (ERA) approval of $2000 in professional fees is available for legal services and up to an additional $5000 is available for disbursements. Funding extensions are available in reasonable circumstances. An eligible business or primary producer with more than one bushfire related legal matter may receive more than one approval for legal services and related expenses.

The funding is available for legal issues including, but not limited to:

  • Insurance disputes
  • Commercial leases
  • Contract disputes
  • Planning and building law
  • Local Government disputes
  • Entitlements to government grants and schemes
  • Credit and debt
  • Banking
  • Fencing issues
  • Property law
  • Employment law issues for employers

Eligibility

To be eligible for funding under the Scheme, the applicant must be:

  • A primary producer or small business owner.
  • With a farm or business located in a designated LGA (see below).
  • With a legal issue arising from the 2019/2020 bushfire season in one of the designated LGAs.

A primary producer is defined as an individual, trust or company carrying on a primary production business alone, or in partnership. It includes:

  • plant or animal cultivation
  • fishing or pearling
  • tree farming or felling

A small business owner is defined as a person who runs a business with 19 or fewer employees.

The matter must have merit.

In assessing an application for an ERA, Legal Aid NSW must be satisfied that:

  • It is likely that ERA will resolve the dispute, and
  • The applicant is committed to the early resolution of their dispute.

No means test will be applied.

Eligible LGAs

The LGAs activated by Category C of the Disaster Recovery Arrangements for the 2019/2020 bushfires are:

Armidale, Ballina, Bega Valley, Bellingen, Blue Mountains, Byron, Central Coast, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Eurobodalla, Glenn Innes Severn, Hawkesbury, Inverell, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Lithgow, Mid-Coast, Mid-Western, Nambucca, Port Macquarie Hastings, Queanbeyan Palerang, Richmond Valley, Shoalhaven, Singleton, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys, Tenterfield, Tweed, Walcha, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly.

Early Resolution Assistance (ERA)

ERA funding approval covers the provision of:

  • legal advice and assistance.
  • legal representation to a client participating in an established, independent dispute resolution process.

It is not available for litigation.

Applying for ERA funding

Private practitioners need to be registered for Legal Aid NSW’s Grants Online website in order to make an application. To apply for funding through the portal, select “Civil Law” and then “Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme for Primary Producers and Small Business Owners.” More information on how to apply is available through Grants Online.

For more information on how to apply, see our how to apply video.

Extensions on ERA funding

Requests for extensions will be considered on a case by case basis and will be approved where it is reasonable to do so, considering the work completed, work outstanding and whether there is still merit and reasonable prospects of success. The hourly rate is the Legal Aid NSW fee scale rate.

What if the matter cannot be resolved under an ERA?

If a matter does not resolve under an ERA, for example, where litigation is required, a grant of legal aid may be available if Legal Aid NSW eligibility criteria are met.

Other access points for legal assistance

Where a matter cannot be resolved under an ERA, and the client is not eligible for a grant of legal aid, the matter can be referred to Justice Connect for potential pro bono placement. Consideration will also be given for appropriate referrals to the Financial Rights Legal Centre.

Support for firms providing pro bono assistance

Firms acting on a pro bono basis for clients who qualify for this Scheme can also apply for disbursements of up to $5000 through Grants Online.

Contact

To apply for funding under the scheme, visit Legal Aid NSW’s Grants Online portal.

For more information:

You can register your firm for pro bono contributions by visiting the Justice Connect website.

You can call the Financial Rights Legal Centre on 1300 663 464.