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Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Forums and committees

Inter-agency committees

Legal Aid NSW staff were members of over 130 inter agency statewide committees working towards making the justice system more efficient, fair and accessible. Staff in regional offices also participate in local committees.

A full list of committees appears in Appendix 14.

Major achievements

Priority 3: Integrated services

The Compulsory Drug Treatment Correctional Centre at Parklea Corrections Facility is an interagency approach to the treatment and rehabilitation of repeat offenders with long-term drug dependencies.

Civil lawyers contributed to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Insurance Advisory Committee, which will oversee insurance issues concerning consumers.

The Legal Aid NSW Human Rights Group commenced partnerships with Kingsford Legal Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House, providing services to prisoners in visa cancellation matters.

We participated in the Working Group for Positive Life, which broadly deals with ensuring human rights for persons with HIV, and with issues surrounding the provision of health care to them.

One of our civil lawyers, David Coorey, was appointed a member of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) Board, which comprises consumer and financial services industry representatives. FOS aims to fairly and independently resolve disputes between consumers and member financial service providers.

Forums

Legal Aid NSW is a member of several state and national forums that work collectively to find better ways of dealing with key legal issues affecting people’s legal rights.

NSW Legal Assistance Forum

Legal Aid NSW continues to play a significant role in the activities of the NSW Legal Assistance Forum (NLAF).

NLAF is chaired by Alan Kirkland, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, and Legal Aid NSW staff participate in or convene NLAF Working Groups.

The work of NLAF this year has focused on improving access to legal services for prisoners, culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and rural regional and remote communities.

NLAF has also focused on improving coordination in delivery of legal services in the area of employment law and delivery of legal and non-legal services to people experiencing domestic violence.

Major achievements

Priority 3: Integrated services

Key initiatives included:

  • launching a legal information portal, an intranet site about the law, legal systems and legal programs for use by prisoners on the new network of computers being rolled out in New South Wales gaols. The initiative was jointly funded by Corrective Services NSW and Legal Aid NSW;
  • organising training for settlement grants program workers about legal issues affecting newly arrived migrants and refugees in partnership with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship;
  • mapping the demand for and provision of employment law services to build an evidence base to discuss ways to increase employment law services across the legal assistance sector;
  • hosting a roundtable discussion with the Commonwealth Government, Law Council of Australia and the legal profession to discuss strategies for recruiting and retaining lawyers in rural, regional and remote areas;
  • securing funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department to continue to undertake research to monitor issues of lawyer availability, recruitment and retention in rural, regional and remote areas of New South Wales;
  • convening a roundtable discussion with service providers and peak organisations to improve effective referral pathways between legal and non-legal services for people experiencing domestic violence; and
  • developing a ‘map’ of the domestic violence sector to outline services, agencies and government departments involved in the provision of services to people experiencing domestic violence.

More information is available on the NLAF website.

National Legal Aid

National Legal Aid (NLA) is comprised of the Directors of the eight independent legal aid commissions in each of the States and Territories. Together NLA provides services to more than 750,000 Australians each year.

NLA is supported by working groups and networks, each of which comprises representatives from each of the legal aid commissions. Alan Kirkland, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, chaired NLA until February 2011.

Priority 3: Integrated services

This year NLA focused on implementing the new National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Legal Assistance Services. Under the Agreement, States and Territories will receive funding from the Commonwealth to deliver Commonwealth funded legal aid services. The Agreement is over four years until June 2014 and provides an additional $10 million in funding. Funding for Legal Aid NSW over four years is $248 million. For 2010-2011, the NPA funding was $60.2 million.

Key features of the Agreement include increased focus on early intervention and prevention services; greater access to Commonwealth funding for matters falling under a State jurisdiction in areas of early intervention and child protection and family violence where there is a related family law matter; and encouraging greater collaboration among legal and other service providers.

Legal Aid NSW has established and commenced delivery of several innovative projects to increase preventative, early intervention and dispute resolution services including:

  • early intervention services in family law;
  • more legal advice clinics in rural and remote communities
  • increasing legal assistance in social security matters at an earlier stage in proceedings;
  • more civil law outreach services in Western Sydney and regional areas; and
  • improving the availability of civil law assistance to prisoners, focussing on issues such as fines, debt and tenancy.

The first six monthly performance report under the NPA was submitted to the Commonwealth. A comprehensive annual report for 2010-2011 will be provided in September 2011.

NLA continued to work with the Law and Justice Foundation on its Legal Needs Survey which is due in September 2011. NLA Directors provided advice to the Commonwealth about the impact across Australia of prosecuting alleged people smugglers, discussed practices for the work of Independent Children’s Lawyers and responded to the changes to new fees in federal courts.

Through NLA’s Community Legal Education Working Group, Directors collaborated on innovative community legal education campaigns. In particular NLA led the development of a community legal education package for newly arrived migrants with funding from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

The NLA Grants and Statistics Working Group focused on data development, consistency of definitions for reporting under the National Partnership Agreement and developing national legal aid statistics for reporting on the NLA website.

Directors reviewed international, national and state and territory best practice models for responding to the legal needs of disadvantaged people in order to provide advice to Government on further opportunities to assist disadvantaged Australians.

NLA also developed a two-year strategic plan with three priority groups: children, people with mental health issues, and low income consumers. The plan will guide the work for NLA working groups from 2011 to 2013.

NLA made submissions on legal issues affecting disadvantaged people including submissions in relation to Federal Court filing fees and the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2011 and other measures.

Australian Legal Assistance Forum

The CEO represents Legal Aid NSW and the other legal aid commissions on the Australian Legal Assistance Forum (ALAF) which also includes the Law Council of Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

ALAF works to address national legal assistance issues in a cooperative and coordinated way.

Justice Executive

The CEO of Legal Aid NSW, Alan Kirkland, attended quarterly meetings of the Justice Executive Group along with Laurie Glanfield, Director General of the Department of Attorney General and Justice, Nicholas Cowdery, Director of Public Prosecutions (until he retired in March 2011), and Ron Woodham, Corrective Services Commissioner. These meetings facilitate effective coordination of justice issues, allow Department wide priorities and strategies to be identified and provide an opportunity for strategic thinking and advice on critical justice issues. Other justice agencies, such as NSW Police, the Judicial Commission and Juvenile Justice participate in the meetings from time to time.

Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness

The CEO, Alan Kirkland, was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Council on Homelessness in August 2009. The Council advises the Prime Minister and Australian Government on progress towards the targets for reducing homelessness set out in the White Paper on Homelessness, The Road Home, and in the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.

National Australian Legal Assistance Advisory Board

The National Legal Assistance Advisory Board (NLAAB) was established by the Federal Attorney-General in May 2011. The NLAAB meets biannually to facilitate strategic decision-making across the legal assistance system. It provides advice to the Attorney-General on issues affecting the provision of legal assistance services, including the coordination and integration of services, improved access to and availability of services, and early intervention. The Advisory Body consults with service providers, alternative dispute resolution organisations, courts and tribunals, the legal profession and other educational, business, industry, consumer and community organisations. Alan Kirkland, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, chairs the NLAAB.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Participate in NLA and its working groups to implement the actions set out in the Strategic Plan including actions arising from the results of the Law and Justice Foundation’s National Survey of Legal Needs.

Focus on early intervention services to advise the Federal Government on what more could be done to assist disadvantaged Australians to resolve their legal problems before they escalate.

Continue the implementation of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.