Go to content

Annual Report 2010 - 2011

Regional partnerships

People living in rural and remote areas can have difficulty accessing legal services.

Legal Aid NSW played a leadership role in developing regional coalitions and outreach programs that keep finding new ways to improve service delivery to people disadvantaged by distance.

Fact file
Outreach clinics in 128 regional locations
93 clinics provided under the ROCP assisting 249 clients
70 projects and workshops across 9 CLSD regions

Regional coalition

The Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Program is a regionally-based approach to legal service delivery that aims to improve access to legal services in regional areas of New South Wales. It does this by building cooperative networks of public legal sector, pro bono and community service providers.

There are now nine CLSD partnerships across regional New South Wales. Participating agencies include Legal Aid NSW regional offices, Community Legal Centres, the Aboriginal Legal Service, Aboriginal programs including Aboriginal Community Justice Groups and Circle Sentencing, LawAccess NSW, Local Court, tenancy, domestic violence, disability and financial counselling services, local community and settlement services as well as pro bono legal services, Government departments and regional libraries.

CLSD partners work collaboratively on projects that respond to locally identified, emerging and unmet legal needs. Initiatives undertaken with CLSD typically include training, community legal education, workshops and outreach clinics. The work of CLSD partnerships is informed by strategic planning workshops which use empirical evidence of local disadvantage and legal needs to determine service priorities set out in action plans.

The Program is guided by a Steering Committee that provides advice to the Legal Aid NSW Executive on CLSD activities. See Appendix 13 for details.

Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program areas of operationThis map shows the regions where the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program operates. In August 2010, the Albury and Wagga Wagga CLSD region was divided into two discrete CLSD partnerships, bringing the total to 9 CLSD partnerships.

Major achievements

Nine regions – one voice

Priority 1: Social inclusion

The CLSD Program bases its work on the theory that local, place-based initiatives are one of the best ways to target people experiencing inter-related forms of disadvantage – and that these provide a platform for the delivery of integrated services and support. Projects pursued under the CLSD banner aim to draw upon the collective resources and knowledge of a range of services, both legal and non-legal to address locally-identified needs and gaps.

Projects in 2010-2011 that addressed the social inclusion priority included:

  • fines workshops in regional locations;
  • a carers’ forum conducted by CLSD partner firm Blake Dawson on legal issues for parents and carers of children with a disability in Newcastle;
  • Law for Non-Lawyers for workers in Nowra and Bega in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Clearing House; and
  • Law for Community Workers workshops – practical training and capacity building for community workers in the regional New South Wales towns of Bathurst, Lithgow, Dubbo, Nowra, Bega, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Tweed Heads and Lismore. A total of 37 workshops were held on topics that included care and protection, family law, mental health, fines, debt and mortgage stress, legal issues for older people and young people and the law.

Law for community workers in regional Australia

"Thank you Legal Aid for making such wonderful training available and accessible to regional community service workers and for making it available free to staff, volunteers and boards. I very much appreciate your willingness to respond to a great need we experience in regional areas for good, accessible and relevant training."
Shauna McIntyre, Lismore/Tweed Heads

Priority 2: Access to justice

Many of the achievements of CLSD Program partners have enhanced access to justice for marginalised communities – including migrant communities and remote or isolated Aboriginal communities. Projects undertaken under this priority included:

  • joint service community legal education workshop for international students on domestic violence, employment and credit and debt matters, on the Central Coast;
  • legal theatre workshops on employment law in the Northern Rivers targeting emerging Filipino and African communities;
  • community legal education workshops in Lismore on family/ humanitarian visa applications, family breakdown, visa cancellations and processing problems;
  • legal showcase in Narooma by the South Coast CLSD partners, including many South Coast- based Aboriginal support agencies;
  • workshops about discrimination law rolled out across New South Wales to communities with high Aboriginal populations;
  • joint service outreach to provide community legal education on wills and planning ahead issues to Aboriginal communities in North West New South Wales; and
  • Learn About the Law - one-day workshop with the Older Persons’ Legal and Education Program and CLSD partners in the Hunter for Aboriginal community workers and members.

Priority 3: Integrated services

The CLSD Program brings together private lawyers and workers from other public legal services to share information and provide services to people in regional New South Wales.

Key collaborations this year included:

  • funding a DVD on the Custody Notification Service for the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ ACT) (with subtitles for people who are hearing impaired) – distributed to CLSD partners including community legal centres and private lawyers across New South Wales;
  • support for free weekly advice clinics in Bathurst and Taree – provided by lawyers from community legal centres, Legal Aid NSW and private law firms; and
  • closer partnerships with the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ ACT), as well as Aboriginal programs from agencies including Aboriginal Affairs NSW, the Department of Attorney General and Justice, Fair Trading, and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
Planning ahead

Year ahead

Conduct an independent evaluation of the CLSD partnership and the role of the CLSD Program Unit in supporting the partnerships.

Roll out the CLSD Program to another region in New South Wales.

Key projects will include:

  • rolling out discrimination law workshops to more regional communities in New South Wales, commencing with the Hunter in September 2011; and holding ‘complaints’ clinics/ workshops to assist people to lodge complaints and seek remedies for identified discrimination matters;
  • supporting a pilot project with Lifeline Financial Counselling and Nowra Legal Aid office to provide legal and financial counselling support to prisoners in the new Nowra Correctional Centre; and
  • exploring early intervention pilot projects in criminal law in regional New South Wales, including assistance and advocacy for traffic and domestic violence offenders in conjunction with the Legal Aid NSW criminal law practice.

Key challenge

Enhancing collaboration between public and private sector lawyers and community agencies, and providing them with the support they need to provide legal services in areas of high need. We will address this by facilitating information-sharing, training and relationship-building events.

Rural and regional outreach programs

"We now provide regular monthly or fortnightly advice clinics in 13 of the most disadvantaged towns in New South Wales."

The civil and family law practices have expanded their regional outreach services.

Priority 1: Social inclusion

The civil law practice expanded its general and specialist outreach programs in regional areas, including Western New South Wales. Homeless outreach services expanded into the Richmond / Tweed and South East New South Wales areas.

There are now 68 civil law outreach clinics currently operating in regional New South Wales; 22 of these are homeless clinics and 8 service Aboriginal communities.

The aim of the outreach program is to provide legal services to people and communities who have been identified as experiencing high levels of social exclusion and unmet legal needs and who face barriers to accessing mainstream legal assistance. We use a combination of local knowledge, contacts and networks as well as research on locations of high disadvantage (such as that undertaken by Professor Tony Vinson, University of Sydney) to inform our choice of locations for outreach.

Twelve of the 19 new outreach locations in family law were in regional New South Wales, including Albion Park, Wyong, Forbes and Grafton where there are large populations at high risk of social exclusion.

Priority 2: Access to justice

Regional Outreach Clinic Program

We now provide fortnightly or monthly advice clinics in 13 of the most disadvantaged towns in New South Wales, many with high Aboriginal populations.

The Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP) was established in 2009 as a pilot with funding from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department under the Regional Innovations in Legal Services Program.

The aim of the Program is to provide public access to sustainable and effective advice and minor assistance legal services to people at risk of social exclusion living in particularly disadvantaged regional, rural and remote areas of New South Wales.

The Program funds private and community legal centre lawyers to provide legal advice and minor assistance services to communities with little or no access to public legal services, and where it would not be feasible or efficient for Legal Aid NSW to provide a regular outreach service. Participating lawyers are appointed after an Expression of Interest process.

In the first phase, seven clinics were established in Bowraville, Brewarrina, Dareton, Lithgow, Moree, Macksville and Wentworth. These locations were chosen on the basis of indicators of socio-economic disadvantage and relative lack of access to public legal services. In some cases clinics are in communities hundreds of kilometres away from their nearest Legal Aid NSW office.

Using National Partnership Agreement funding, another six clinics were established in 2010-2011. The new clinics are located in Bega, Boggabilla, Lightning Ridge, Nambucca Heads, Orange and Tenterfield.

Ninety three clinics were provided under the ROCP with 249 clients receiving services, 31% of whom were Aboriginal. Most clients were in receipt of Centrelink benefits. Clients have been returning to the clinics for further assistance, and eligible clients received ongoing assistance through a grant of legal aid or referral to a duty lawyer service. Assistance was most commonly sought in family law and child support; traffic offences and assault; debt, victim’s compensation, employment, and wills and estates.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Expand civil law outreach programs in North West New South Wales, North Eastern New South Wales and South Eastern New South Wales.

Expand family law outreach programs to the Hunter regional

Provide resourcing and support for ROCP lawyers through training and mentoring. A two day training course is scheduled for September 2011.

Key challenge

Making sure that new ROCP clinics are reaching their target communities and client groups and that clients needing followup assistance and ongoing casework services get help. This will be done by examining client data and working with relevant local services to make sure clinic services are accessible and that gaps in services are addressed.