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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Legal Aid NSW Board

A Board with 10 members determines our broad policies and strategic priorities.

The Board of Legal Aid NSW consists of nine part-time members including the Chair, and one full-time member, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid NSW.

Part-time Board members are appointed by the NSW Attorney General for a period of up to three years, other than the Chair who is appointed for a period up to five years. All are eligible for reappointment.

Board members

Board members l to r: Barbara Ramjan, Bill Grant, Phil Bickerstaff, Andrea Durbach, Peter Collins, Ian McClintock, Maria Girdler, Reverend Harry Herbert and John Bordon. Absent: Mary Macken.

Key activities of the Board

The Board welcomed Bill Grant as CEO in December 2011.

Monitoring progress of Legal Aid NSW against performance indicators set out in the National Partnership on Legal Assistance Services was a priority this year for the Board. To this end, the Board approved the establishment of new services and projects to increase advice and minor assistance to disadvantaged Australians.

The Board oversaw the establishment of the Standard Non-Parole Period Review Team at Legal Aid NSW to respond to the decision in Muldrock.

The Board continues to ensure the delivery of high quality services. It provided strategic input to the development of guidelines for the allocation of duty backup work in metropolitan courts. The Board also provided strategic advice in relation to the management of conflict of interest, in the establishment of a new service to assist victims to assert their privacy over counselling records, which may be subject to subpoena.

The Board was regularly briefed on efforts to improve staff mental health and wellbeing, which continues to be a high priority for the Board.

The Board approved a number of other policy amendments that are aligned with the priorities set out in the Legal Aid NSW Plan. These included:

  • Amendments to the civil law policy in relation to migration matters concerning visa cancellations under s501 of the Migration Act 1958;
  • Amendments to the family law policy to reinstate legal aid for the contravention of parenting orders;
  • Amendments to the criminal law policy to support a pilot project at Mt Druitt Local Court providing duty services to defendants in Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) matters;
  • Amendments to the family law policy in relation to care and protection;
  • Amendments to the criminal law policy to clarify that the CEO has not delegated the authority to make determinations under sections 33 or 34 of the Legal Aid Commission Act in relation to matters under Part 7 of the Crimes (Review and Appeal) Act 2007 (NSW); and
  • Amendments to the civil law policy to allow for legal aid to be granted to victims of sexual assault in sexual assault communications privilege matters where the victim seeks to assert the privilege to protect her records from being subpoenaed in criminal trials

There were no emergency decisions required during the year.

Meetings of the Board

Six meetings were held in 2011–2012.

Forty per cent of the Board’s time was spent on governance matters such as audit and risk, strategic reviews and organisational planning; finance and other budget matters took up approximately 30 per cent of the Board’s time; 30 per cent was spent on strategic operations and policies, and law reform issues.

Board members’ fees

Part-time Board members are entitled to be paid fees for attending meetings, reading background papers, sitting on committees and representing Legal Aid NSW at meetings with other organisations. The rates of remuneration are $3,370 per annum for members and $28,080 per annum for the Chair. The Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee is also paid an additional $2,527 per annum. No fees are paid to members who are salaried Government employees or who elect to forego payment.

Planning ahead

Year ahead

Manage the Board member nominations process, which occurs every three years and will occur in November 2012.

Key challenge

Ensuring that Legal Aid NSW meets its budget savings targets while continuing to maintain high quality legal services to clients.