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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Aboriginal community partnerships

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) NSW/ACT is our key partner in delivering legal services to Aboriginal people in New South Wales.

The Aboriginal Services Unit of Legal Aid NSW is responsible for managing the relationship between Legal Aid NSW and the ALS.

A new two-year Statement of Commitment, replacing the previous Statement of Cooperation, will ensure that both agencies work together to address the legal needs of Aboriginal people in New South Wales and recognises the role that each has to play in achieving this.

Major achievements

Priority 1: Social inclusion

We provided skills and resources to Aboriginal people working in the justice system. Consultation with the Aboriginal Services Division at the Department of Attorney General and Justice led to rolling out community legal education to Aboriginal Client Service Specialists, Aboriginal Community Justice Group Coordinators and Circle Sentencing Project Officers.

Aboriginal Community Justice Groups served as local reference bodies for Legal Aid NSW offices in 20 locations around the State.

Priority 2: Access to justice

We employed our first Aboriginal Field Officer based at Campbelltown who is working in the areas of family and civil law. The purpose of this position is to reduce the barriers between Legal Aid NSW and Aboriginal communities through a combination of outreach, community legal education and case matter assistance (see Priority client groups - Aboriginal people).

Priority 3: Integrated services

We informed our partners and Aboriginal communities about our services at key events and forums, including the NSW Land Council State Conference (5-7 April 2011) and Greater Western Sydney Information and Referral Days in Emerton (24 November 2010) and Campbelltown (1 December 2010).

The CEO and Principal Solicitor of the Aboriginal Legal Service are members of our Aboriginal Justice Committee which met quarterly (see Appendix 13 for membership details).

The criminal law practice and the ALS negotiated a new protocol for the transfer of criminal law work from each agency in a way that promotes efficiency and effective representation for clients.

Civil lawyers established an outreach clinic in collaboration with the Aboriginal Medical Service of Western Sydney at Mt Druitt. They also conducted advice clinics at some ALS offices and in other key Aboriginal organisations.

Legal Aid NSW continued to fund the ALS to employ three care and protection lawyers in regional New South Wales.

Five workshops were provided to Northern Rivers Aboriginal communities about discrimination law, training a total of 53 Aboriginal community workers.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Aboriginal Field Officers will work closely with Aboriginal communities in Campbelltown, Coffs Harbour and Walgett.

Evaluate the Aboriginal Field Officer Pilot Project.

Training on civil law issues will be provided to administrative staff working in Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) offices to help them identify civil law issues and make referrals.

Key challenge

Managing the Aboriginal Field Officer Pilot in three diverse communities with high legal needs, and meeting those needs effectively.