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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Client diversity

Legal Aid NSW maintained its focus on meeting the needs of diverse clients.

This year saw further consolidation and action in relation to the Multicultural Action Plan and the Disability Action Plan. The plans are monitored by the Legal Aid NSW Access and Equity Committee (membership details are in Appendix 13) and are available on the Legal Aid NSW website. Both plans expire in 2010-2011.

Multicultural action plan

Fact file
13.5% of our case and inhouse duty clients are born in non-English speaking countries
$983,899 was spent on interpreters
69,136 translated brochures were distributed in 30 languages

A summary of key performance highlights from the Multicultural Action Plan appears in Appendix 12.

Major achievements

Priority 1: Social inclusion

We continued to make wide use of interpreters and translators when providing our core services, both face-to-face and over the telephone. Expenditure was $983,899, an increase of 14.27% from the previous year (of $861,029). We also contributed to the cost of interpreters in community legal centres by way of grants of $51,122.

Priority 2: Access to justice

As the result of a new initiative, families from culturally diverse backgrounds who are separating can now make decisions about their lives with the help of mediators who understand their particular culture, values and history.

Ten lawyers from Vietnamese, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Indian, African and Pakistani communities completed traineeships to work as mediators to improve their communities’ access to Australian family law processes. The lawyers graduated and are now accredited family mediators and part of our Family Dispute Resolution Service.

The initiative responds to a key recommendation in the KPMG report, Family dispute resolution services in legal aid: evaluation report – that all commissions could improve access to family dispute resolution programs by culturally and linguistically diverse groups, making sure services are appropriate and effective for people from diverse backgrounds.

We distributed 69,136 translated publications and delivered community legal education sessions on family law, domestic violence, the Australian legal system, mental health and Legal Aid NSW services, to a wide range of culturally and linguistically diverse groups, humanitarian communities and recent immigrants.

Disability Action Plan

Significant work was undertaken in the Disability Action Plan. A summary of key performance highlights appears in Appendix 11.

Major achievements

Priority 1: Social inclusion

We delivered disability confidence training to managers and trained our reception staff to assist clients, especially those who may experience difficulties in completing forms.

Priority 2: Access to justice

Key initiatives included:

  • a survey of clients to assist in developing social exclusion indicators;
  • Legal Aid NSW client satisfaction survey has disability specific content;
  • an e-text version of the legal aid application form on our website for people using assistive technology;
  • a publication explaining the qualifying criteria for a Disability Support Pension; and
  • office systems to improve case management for clients with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues.

Priority 3: Integrated services

We worked in partnership with the Intellectual Disability Rights Service on the Intellectual Disability Service Improvement Project to inform and train private lawyers in the use of s 32 orders for people with an intellectual disability or an acquired brain injury.

Priority 4: Organisational flexibility

We developed specifications for a new training centre in the Central Sydney office that will have better facilities for people with disabilities.

Ghena Krayem and Theresa SimonGhena Krayem (lecturer, University of Sydney Law School and an active member of the Muslim community in NSW) and Theresa Simon, member of the Arabic (Maronite) community at their graduation ceremony held at the Family Court in Sydney. Photo: Peter Ryan.

"Separation and the breakdown of a relationship or marriage is a difficult time in any family’s life. It is essential that we are aware of the families who may be unaccustomed with the way separation is dealt with by the law and make them feel comfortable as they negotiate their way."
Theresa Simon , Arabic (Maronite) community

Planning ahead

Year ahead

A new Multicultural Action Plan and Disability Action Plan will be developed for the next two years.

Key challenge

Identify and address barriers to access for people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities who need legal help by developing a comprehensive CALD Communication Strategy, that provides ethno-specific community information and practical resources for staff.