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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Regional partnerships

People living in regional, 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 find new ways to improve service delivery to people disadvantaged by distance.

Fact file
Outreach clinics in 153 regional locations
127 ROCP clinics in 14 locations
674 advice and minor assistance services under the ROCP (21.7% to Aboriginal people)
26% of projects across 11 CLSD regions are for Aboriginal communities

Regional coalition

The regionally-based Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Program aims to improve access to legal services in regional New South Wales. It does this by building cooperative partnerships of public legal sector, pro bono and community and human service providers who assist disadvantaged client groups in their regions.

In 2011–2012, the Program expanded to a further two regions on the Mid North Coast, taking the total number of CLSD partnerships to 11.

With the support of local regional coordinators, CLSD partners worked on projects that respond to locally identified, emerging and unmet legal needs. Initiatives undertaken under their auspices typically include community legal education, workshops, training and outreach advice clinics.

Legal service delivery program map

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

Highlight projects included:

  • A joint project with South Coast Lifeline Financial Counselling services, Legal Aid NSW Nowra and the South Coast Correctional Centre to provide legal and financial counselling to prisoners in the new Nowra Correctional Centre. A total of 166 services were provided to 106 prisoners under the project. Clients were mainly assisted with debt, bankruptcy, immigration and tenancy. Correctional centre staff gave the project invaluable support.
  • Workshops for Aboriginal people in regional, rural and remote New South Wales and for parents and carers of people with impaired capacity on wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianship. Ashurst lawyers (a CLSD pro bono partner) ran the workshops with other CLSD partners.
  • A series of workshops were run for Shoalhaven and South Coast lawyers and community and health workers by local Aboriginal elders on how to work effectively with Aboriginal clients. The well-received workshops included demonstrating how language and cultural barriers can inhibit successful outcomes for Aboriginal clients and assisted services to develop practical strategies to break down these barriers.
  • Roll out of the Discrimination Toolkit Workshops in Albury, Broken Hill, Menindee, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Wilcannia. The workshops are designed to assist Aboriginal community members to identify discrimination and seek legal remedies.

"Twenty-six percent of CLSD projects in progress or completed during 2011–2012 addressed the needs of Aboriginal communities. 2 Collaborating with our partners"

CLSD community members

CLSD community members gather to mark the appointment of new CLSD Regional Coordinator, Kymberlei Goodacre (centre), for Kempsey/Nambucca CLSD at the South Kempsey Family Community Centre.

Priority: Excellence in legal services

The CLSD Program Unit hosted a two-day training workshop for (then) nine CLSD regional coordinators across New South Wales which gave them the opportunity to network and learn from each other. The CLSD Program Unit was able to use the workshop to consider how it could better support regional coordinators and enhance statewide collaboration in delivering legal services.

Legal Aid NSW commenced an independent evaluation of the CLSD Program as part of our commitment to continuous improvement. At the time of writing, the consultations were complete and the final report was being prepared.

Priority: Linking services

CLSD partnerships work to build awareness of the connection between legal and non-legal issues and link clients to the most accessible and appropriate services. The Program also supports partnerships between local community agencies and lawyers in providing outreach services in locations where there are no publicly funded legal services. Currently the Program supports weekly joint-service clinics in Taree, Lithgow and Bathurst where services are provided by Legal Aid NSW, Community Legal Centres and private lawyers (in some cases, on a pro bono basis).

Highlight projects included:

  • A domestic violence referral forum in Lithgow. The forum facilitated cross-sector agency discussion by health, police, legal, community, youth, family and local neighbourhood services to better understand how services should work together to best meet the needs of victims of violence.
  • The Northern Rivers CLSD partnership identified concerning, persistent issues regarding domestic violence in Murwillumbah. The Regional Coordinator organised a meeting in Murwillumbah so that local lawyers, domestic violence advocates, community workers and police could discuss the issues in an open forum. After full and frank discussion, the Murwillumbah Police accepted an invitation to attend the upcoming DV AVERT training with local agencies and committed to continuing engagement.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Implement the approved recommendations of the independent evaluation of the CLSD Program.

Publish information for client groups prioritised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan, including:

  • a resource for victims of domestic violence on spouse visas in 13 community languages;
  • a pocket book for young people on Children’s Court matters (working with the Children’s Legal Servce); and
  • plain English fact sheets on care and protection for parents navigating the complex maze of the New South Wales care system.
  • Work with the South Coast CLSD partnership on a legal needs analysis of the area.

Key challenges

Assisting the 11 CLSD partnerships to enhance their engagement with Aboriginal communities across regional New South Wales and address identified and emerging client needs.

Gaining better buy-in from regional private and publicly funded lawyers unable to participate in CLSD meetings or projects.

Working in partnership with pro bono firms

Ashurst (previously Blake Dawson Lawyers) has been involved with the CLSD Program since its inception. Active in all CLSD partnerships, especially those in the Central West and Far West NSW, Ashurst prioritises pro bono work with Aboriginal people, people in regional, rural and remote New South Wales and people with disability and their carers.

They focus on practical solutions. For example, with their wills and planning ahead work in Aboriginal communities, Ashurst will hold a workshop in conjunction with a local community agency, take instructions from clients immediately following the workshop and, where possible, draw up the relevant documents overnight for signature the following day.

Regional Outreach Clinic Program

The Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP) Program aims to provide regular access to advice and minor assistance legal services to people at risk of social exclusion living in regional, rural and remote areas of New South Wales. It achieves this by funding private and community legal centre lawyers to deliver services in 14 locations where it would not be feasible for Legal Aid NSW to offer outreach services.

Major achievements

Priority: Access to justice

In 2011–2012, ROCP clinics operated in Bathurst, Bega, Boggabilla, Bowraville, Brewarrina, Dareton, Lightning Ridge, Lithgow, Macksville, Moree, Nambucca Heads, Orange, Tenterfield and Wentworth.

All locations were chosen on the basis of their socio-economic disadvantage and relative lack of access to public legal services.

In 2011-2012, 674 advice and minor assistance services were provided through 127 clinics in the 14 ROCP locations (21.7% to Aboriginal people). Most clinic clients were in receipt of Centrelink benefits. Clients have been returning to the clinics for further assistance, and some eligible clients have been provided with ongoing assistance through a grant of legal aid or through a referral to a more appropriate service.

The areas of law in which assistance was most commonly sought were family law, domestic violence, debt, traffic matters, consumer issues/ scams and neighbour issues.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Review the ROCP, making sure it complements our other regional and outreach services, so that clients have more regular access to legal services.

Deliver another three-day training program in the areas in which clients most commonly seek assistance.

Explore the use of telephone or audiovisual technology as a backup when bad weather threatens clinic cancellation or access.

Key challenge

Finding ways to make sure we reach people in remote communities who may still be slipping through the cracks. The best way to achieve this is by working closely with local agencies, building stronger referral networks and ensuring ongoing training for ROCP lawyers.