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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Expanding our policies

"We expanded our policies so more people can access legal aid."

To ensure our services reach the people most in need, Legal Aid NSW applies policies for granting and administering grants of legal aid.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

In 2011–2012, Legal Aid NSW expanded six policies in the areas of criminal, civil and family law, making legal aid even more accessible to those most in need of legal assistance and protecting fundamental human rights.

Criminal law policies relating to continuing detention orders and extended supervision orders were amended. Legal aid is now available to people wishing to vary or revoke an order made under s22 of the Crimes (Serious Sex Offenders) Act 2006 where they may be held in prison or supervised in the community for up to five years after the sentence had expired.

Amendments were also made to family law policy to make legal aid available for contravention matters. We also removed the merit test for care and protection proceedings in the Children’s Court where the legal aid applicant has parental responsibility for a child or young person or has had an aspect of parental responsibility removed by a court order.

Amendments to the civil law policies made legal aid available for:

  • sexual assault communications privilege. The aim is to provide legal assistance to sexual assault complainants opposing the disclosure of protected confidences made in counselling sessions;
  • electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) administration inquiries before the Mental Health Review Tribunal. This policy protects the fundamental rights of people who have not had an initial inquiry and who may be subjected to ECT treatment against their wishes;
  • employment related matters under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) for applicants who are at special disadvantage; and
  • migration matters regarding visa cancellation. Legal aid is available for representation at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to applicants who have had their visas cancelled on character grounds, where it raises a significant human rights issue.

Further information on these policies can be found on our website under >For Lawyers >Policy Online.

We completed an extensive survey of social exclusion factors experienced by legal aid clients. Data is now being analysed to inform policy development.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Improve our means test and contributions policy to enhance our capacity to deliver quality legal services to those at greatest risk of social exclusion.

Key challenge

Ensuring our policies target those most in need while meeting budget savings targets.