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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Justice 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.

Collecting data on supply, demand and unmet need

We collect and use a variety of data to help us plan and deliver our services and make sure our services are targeting the right people. Much of this data comes from research and surveys conducted in collaboration with partner agencies.

Major achievements

Priority: Excellence in legal services

A three-year strategic research alliance began this year between Legal Aid NSW and the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW. The alliance will build a strategic evidence base for the delivery of legal services to disadvantaged people in New South Wales. The Foundation undertakes research projects that are of mutual benefit to Legal Aid NSW and the Foundation.

In March 2012, the Foundation began an evaluation of the Duty Lawyer Scheme based in the Early Intervention Unit in the Family Law Division of Legal Aid NSW. The evaluation focuses on the duty services delivered at Parramatta and Sydney Family Court. A report will be completed by November 2012.

Researchers from the Foundation also delivered evaluation awareness training on 1 June to 30 Legal Aid NSW staff from across all practice areas.

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. NLA is supported by working groups and networks, each of which comprises representatives from each of the legal aid commissions.

Priority: Linking services

This year NLA met in July 2011, November 2011 and March 2012.

CEOs of Legal Aid Commissions discussed issues of national strategic significance and advised the Commonwealth Government on the impact of its laws and policies.

Major issues discussed during 2011- 2012 included:

  • Independent Children’s Lawyers
  • Impacts of Federal Court fees
  • Dispute resolution
  • The impact of people smuggling matters
  • Unmet needs in civil law particularly in immigration and employment
  • Civil and family law needs of Indigenous Australians
  • Launch of the Legal Australia-Wide Survey: Legal needs in Australia
  • Progress under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA)
  • Data standardisation efforts
  • Quality of legal services

NLA provides a unique opportunity for strategic engagement with the Commonwealth and other national organisations such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Close engagement with the Commonwealth Government is critical over the next 12 months as the review of the NPA by Allen Consulting Group progresses and reports are finalised.

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 an interagency forum that brings together key legal service providers across government, nongovernment and private sectors to facilitate access to justice for socially and economically disadvantaged people.

NLAF is chaired by Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW. Legal Aid NSW staff participate in or convene all NLAF working groups.

Priority: Linking services

Legal Aid NSW is a member of the working group on availability of lawyers in regional, rural and remote areas of New South Wales. The group developed a proposal to establish:

  • a program for public legal assistance lawyers working in Far West and North Western New South Wales that involves the coordinated delivery of professional development initiatives across all public legal assistance agencies; and
  • legal outreach services to remote locations using internet-based technology.

The working group on employment law mapped employment law services across New South Wales to demonstrate increasing demand and liaised with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations about the need for a funded specialist employment law service in New South Wales.

Other NLAF working groups focused on prisoners, fines and traffic law, and responding to disasters and emergencies.

Further information on their achievements is available at their website.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Work closely with the Law and Justice Foundation to provide substantive input to the Evaluation Framework being developed by the Allen Consulting Group commissioned by the Commonwealth to review legal assistance services across Australia.

Implement a program of professional development initiatives across all public legal assistance agencies in Far West and North West New South Wales – two of the most disadvantaged areas of the State in terms of recruitment and retention of lawyers.

Launch the Law and Justice Foundation National Legal Needs Survey.

Key challenge

Maintaining strategic engagement with the Commonwealth on the National Partnership Agreement review.