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Annual Report 2011 - 2012

Chair's report

Hon Peter CollinsOn behalf of the Board I am pleased to introduce the 2011– 2012 Annual Report.

I am privileged to chair a Board that comprises members with diverse skills from a variety of backgrounds. This only enhances the perspectives the Board brings to implementing its charter, set out in section 15 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979, to establish the broad policies and strategic plans of Legal Aid NSW.

Board members are appointed by the Attorney General and it is our role to ensure that policies that govern the provision of legal aid are appropriately targeted and accurately reflect the needs of disadvantaged people in New South Wales.

Responding to changing needs

This year the Board approved changes to policies to expand the provision of legal aid in certain migration matters, employment law matters, matters in relation to the sexual assault communication privilege and family law contravention matters. The Board approved amendments to criminal law fee scales and to Commonwealth fee scales allowing for a modest increase in fees paid to private lawyers in Commonwealth matters.

The Board was pleased to be involved in decisions about the most efficient and effective response to the decision in Muldrock v The Queen relating to standard non-parole periods, approving the creation of a small team of practitioners to review matters to which a standard non-parole period may apply.

The Board provided strategic input in relation to the establishment of a range of new services and projects funded under the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Legal Assistance Services. Overseeing progress of Legal Aid NSW against performance indicators in the NPA was also a regular item of Board discussion.

Quality services

An important role for the Board is to ensure the efficient delivery of high quality legal services. This year the Board oversaw the development of a new process to allocate duty backup work in the Sydney region. The Board is pleased that Legal Aid NSW will soon begin work to extend these guidelines to the allocation of duty work in regional areas.

The Board was also pleased to be briefed on other measures being considered by Legal Aid NSW to ensure efficient and effective delivery of services including improvements to professional development for solicitors and the advantages and challenges that may come with introducing activity-based costing.

"The Board steered Legal Aid NSW smoothly through a transition period."

Managing transition

The Board steered Legal Aid NSW smoothly through a transition period which ended with the appointment of Bill Grant as the Chief Executive Officer in December 2011. I am grateful to Richard Funston for the contributions he made as the Acting Chief Executive Officer.

The Board was also pleased to be regularly briefed on the progress of initiatives to improve staff health and wellbeing at Legal Aid NSW.

The year ahead

The term of the current Board ends on 8 November 2012. It has been a privilege to lead the Board over the last three years and I want to thank my fellow Board members for their commitment and dedication.

I would like to congratulate Ian McClintock SC, who has been appointed to the District Court and thank him for his service on the Board. I want to also acknowledge the dedication and commitment of Reverend Harry Herbert who will be retiring in October 2012. He has been an invaluable member of the Board of Legal Aid NSW for 19 years, advocating tirelessly for the needs of disadvantaged people across NSW. His passion and sense of justice, as well as his corporate history, will be sorely missed on the Board and we wish him well.

I would also like to extend my thanks and congratulations to John McCarthy QC, who has made an invaluable contribution to the Legal Aid Review Committees for the past 24 years. John has been appointed as the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See.

I am confident that, by working closely with the CEO and a talented team of Executive Directors, the budget challenges over the next few years will be met without diminishing the high quality services to clients for which Legal Aid NSW is known.

 

Hon Peter Collins AM QC
Chair, Legal Aid NSW