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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Chair's report

"Legal Aid NSW is an innovative, efficient and productive organisation providing a broad range of services that now make up our legal aid system."

Hon Peter Collins AM QC (Chair)On behalf of the Board I am pleased to introduce the 2010-2011 Annual Report.

I have been delighted to chair a Board that comprises members who bring a diversity of skills and perspectives to their role. I particularly want to welcome Barbara Ramjan who joined the Board in October.

The Board, appointed by the Attorney General, oversees the long-term strategic direction of Legal Aid NSW. Under Section 15 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979, the Board is responsible for establishing the broad policies and strategic plans of Legal Aid NSW. As such, a key role for the Board is to ensure that policies that govern the provision of legal aid reflect the changing needs of disadvantaged people in NSW.

Responding to changing needs

This year the Board approved changes to policy in relation to criminal law fee scales, compulsory schooling order matters in the Children’s Court, extended supervision orders under the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006 and preventative detention and prohibited contact orders under Commonwealth and State terrorism legislation.

This year the Board focused on the establishment and expansion of services under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services such as the Family Law Early Intervention Service and the expansion of the Government Law Program.

The Board was also briefed on issues relating to reform of bail laws and provision of legal services by audio-visual link. The Board oversaw the expansion of State funded services such the pilot project with Bidura Children’s Court to use alternative dispute resolution procedures in care and protection matters and the establishment of a new Drug Court for the Hunter.

Quality services

The Board plays an important role to ensure that legal aid services are delivered efficiently and to a high standard. During 2010-2011 the Board considered outcomes of program and service reviews at Legal Aid NSW, including a review of the Advocates and Senior Advocates, a review of procedures for allocating criminal law duty and case work to private lawyers and a review of the Family Dispute Resolution Service. These reviews provided useful recommendations for improvements.

New government - new agenda

The Board was pleased to host the new Attorney General, the Hon Greg Smith SC, soon after being appointed to office. The meeting was valuable and productive, providing an opportunity to discuss the Government’s priorities and hear about the work of Legal Aid NSW. We are confident that the engagement with the Attorney will continue over the coming year.

The year ahead

The year ahead will provide an opportunity to consolidate the initiatives and reforms of this year.

The Board will oversee the implementation of the recommendations arising from the service and program reviews. In particular, the Board will be involved in discussions about revising procedures for the allocation of matters to private lawyers with a view to seeking to minimise the impact on service delivery and the workload for Legal Aid NSW staff.

We will also work hard to ensure the new services established over the past year deliver their expected outcomes.

The Board will continue to work closely with the CEO and Executive team to respond both to the new government’s reform agenda and the changing needs of disadvantaged people in NSW.

After three years as CEO, Alan Kirkland left Legal Aid NSW, and the Board acknowledges his service since joining us from the Australian Law Reform Commission. Richard Funston has been appointed Acting CEO until such time as a new permanent appointment has been made. The Board also recognises the long service of the two former Deputy CEOs, Steve O’Connor and Russell Cox.

It has been a privilege to lead the Board over the last year. Legal Aid NSW is an innovative, efficient and productive organisation providing a broad range of services that now make up our legal aid system. I look forward to continuing our engagement with the State government and building on the valuable work undertaken this year.

Hon Peter Collins AM QC
Chair, Legal Aid NSW