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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Client diversity

Legal Aid NSW is committed to providing responsive, appropriate services to diverse people and communities in New South Wales.

A new Equity and Diversity Committee was established and the Multicultural Action Plan and Disability Action Plan for 2012–2013 finalised.

Fact file
Percentage of case and inhouse duty clients born in non-English speaking countries 13%
Amount spent on interpreters $1,198,950
Brochures translated into 13 languages

Multicultural Action Plan

A summary of key performance highlights from the Multicultural Action Plan appears in Appendix 10.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

We made wide use of interpreters and translators, both face-to-face and over the telephone, for client interviews, community legal education sessions and court hearings. Expenditure on these services for the year was $1,198,950, an increase of 22% from the previous year ($983,899). Legal Aid NSW also contributed to the cost of interpreters in community legal centres, by way of $49,206.

Three new brochures were published in up to 13 community languages. We also delivered community legal education sessions on a range of topics to culturally diverse communities and recently arrived migrants.

The new Legal Aid NSW website was updated to include general information about our services in 32 languages, with both written and audio versions. We also produced the Welcome to Legal Aid DVD in 14 languages for emerging communities.

Priority: Excellence in legal services

Our Commonwealth Crime Unit, established in 2011, provided expert legal services to Indonesian people charged with people smuggling offences. Despite the difficulties of managing multiple, high profile legal proceedings, the Unit demonstrated extraordinary skill and commitment in overcoming cultural, religious and linguistic barriers to work successfully with these vulnerable clients. See New challenges, more clients for our criminal lawyers.

Priority: Supporting our people

We developed culturally appropriate guidelines and training to assist staff implementing new requirements for witnessing statutory declarations and affidavits. Amendments to the Oaths Act 1900 (NSW), effective 30 April 2012, create the potential for a witness to ask a declarant/deponent to remove their facial covering in order to confirm identity.

Priority: Linking services

A train-the-trainer program, What’s the Law?, was delivered to community workers to build their capacity to assist newly arrived migrants and refugees with information about the Australian legal system. Topics include driving, car accidents, buying a car, interacting with police, renting a home, dealing with Centrelink, child protection, family law and family violence.

Disability Action Plan

A summary of key performance highlights from the Disability Action Plan appears in Appendix 10.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

We provided information in a range of accessible formats, including Braille, large print and audio. Our new Legal Aid NSW website, launched in 2011, was developed with a strong focus on accessibility. We also maintained this approach when producing innovative material, such as the Best for Kids multimedia resource, which included closed captioning for deaf and hearing impaired viewers.

Priority: Excellence in legal services

Through a partnership with the Intellectual Disability Rights Service, the Step by Step Guide to Making a Section 32 Application for a Person with Intellectual Disability was developed to assist lawyers representing clients with a disability, particularly in the Local Courts. The guide is being rolled out through a training program in a range of New South Wales locations.

The Mental Health Advocacy Service conducted a training day covering current and emerging issues in representing people with mental illness.

Priority: Supporting our people

A new Health and Wellbeing Steering Committee was established to implement recommendations regarding issues adversely affecting our staff in the workplace (see Health and wellbeing of our staff).

We launched our new training centre in the Central Sydney office, which includes improved facilities for people with a disability.

Priority: Linking services

The Client Assessment and Referral Service conducted a pilot to assist private lawyers in making case plans in s32 matters for clients with intellectual disability or acquired brain injury in the Shoalhaven area (see Case managing clients with intellectual disabilities).

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Identify and address barriers to legal help for people from culturally diverse communities by developing practical resources for staff assisting these communities.

Through a new partnership with Settlement Services International, deliver family and civil law outreach and advice services to people from newly arrived migrant communities and culturally diverse backgrounds.

Develop a plan for diversity that includes multicultural and disability action plans that meet the Principles of Multiculturalism and Guidelines for Disability Action Planning by NSW Government agencies.

Key challenge

Gaining a better understanding of clients who have special needs, particularly those from new and emerging migrant communities and people with a disability, and identifying opportunities to improve our services for those clients. Research, consultation and surveys will be used to help achieve our goals.