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Annual Report 2013 - 2014

Our people

We value our people and understand that, to support them, we need to promote their health and wellbeing and offer professional development and career opportunities.

Fact file
994 staff, 453 in regional offices and 541 in our Central Sydney office
509 lawyers and 485 administrative and corporate services staff
45 Aboriginal staff
263 men and 731 women
76 lawyers with specialist accreditation

Staff numbers 5-year trend


FTE* figures**
Financial year end

Actual staff no.
Financial year end
2013–2014 903.91 994
2012–2013 871.25 959
2011–2012 882.72 965
2010–2011 880.28 972
2009–2010 827.80 909

*FTE: full-time equivalent
** See Appendix 2 for more details

Staff movements 5-year trend

Staff movements 2009–2010 2010–2011 2011–2012 2012–2013 2013–2014
New ongoing staff* 29 15 12 18 15
Staff departures 41 52 44 52 57
Promotions 26 26 21 21 32

*Under the new Government Sector Employment Act 2013, permanent staff are referred to as ‘ongoing’.

Staff health and wellbeing initiatives

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

New program supports staff health and wellbeing

Building on the successful 2012–2013 strategy ‘Manage Self’, we developed in 2013-2014 managerial capability under the banner ‘Manage Others’, using the Management Development Program as our cornerstone. The program – a suite of online learning modules – gives managers the practical tools to develop a culture of dignity and respect in their teams. For more detail, see Learning and development.

Legal Aid NSW was an inaugural signatory to the new Psychological Wellbeing Guidelines developed by the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation. The guidelines offer practical strategies to improve workplace psychological health in areas such as organisational culture, leadership, respect, recognition and reward, and work-life balance.

We collected data through the University of NSW mental health and wellbeing surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of mental health and wellbeing initiatives.

New health and safety committee appointed

We established a Health and Safety Committee in accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Its main objectives are to:

  • facilitate cooperation between Legal Aid NSW and its staff in instigating, developing and carrying out measures designed to ensure staff wellbeing, health and safety at work; and
  • assist in developing standards, guidelines and initiatives in relation to staff wellbeing, health and safety in the workplace.

Workgroups throughout Legal Aid NSW inquired into possible risks to workplace health and safety and investigated complaints.

Workers compensation

Of the 11 workers compensation claims lodged in 2013–2014, one injury was sustained in the previous year. Figures and costs incurred by this claim have been included in the 2013–2014 figures.

Of the 11 claims lodged, nine were accepted, one was declined and one remains under investigation. The cost to 30 June 2014 of new claims reported in 2013–2014 was $53,593. This compares to $133,656 in 2012–2013, a decrease of $80,063 or 59.90%.

The number of accepted claims (including claims accepted under provisional liability), decreased from 10 in 2012–2013 to nine in this reporting period. Of the nine accepted claims, there were five fall/slip and three body stress (for example, repetitive strain injury) claims amounting to $50,217, or 93.70% of the total cost of claims.

There was a decrease in psychological injuries (for example, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and depression) from five in 2012–2013 to two in 2013–2014. Of the two 2013–2014 claims, one was declined while the other remains under investigation. Costs incurred by these psychological claims amounted to $2,904 or 5.42% of the total cost of claims for 2013–2014.

The number of full time equivalent (FTE) (on average staff) for this financial year was 903.91, an increase of 32.66 from 871.25 in 2012–2013. This equates to an average claim cost of $59.29 per staff member compared to $153.41 per staff member in 2012–2013.

The number of reported ‘Incident Only’ notifications of injury increased to 17 from 16 in the previous reporting period. Although ‘Journey’ claims are no longer compensable, we continue to collect statistics as shown in the following tables.

Record of workers compensation claims

Type of claim No. of claims 2012–2013 No. of claims 2013–2014
Workplace 11 6
On duty (eg court) - 1
Journey - -
Recesses (authorised breaks) 3 4
Total claims lodged 14 11
Total claims accepted 10 9
Claims under investigation 1 1
Claims declined 3 1

Chart showing the 5 year trend for workers compensation claims

The significant decrease in workers compensation claims may be attributed to a number of factors. These include: changes to workers compensation legislation in June 2012, our organisation’s focus on health and wellbeing initiatives (including Wellchecks), and supporting managers to develop their people management skills.

Record of work related incidents

Type of injury/incident No. of reports 2012–2013 No. of reports 2013–2014
Workplace 7 9
On duty (eg court) 3 1
Journey 3 2
Recesses 3 5
Total injuries/incidents 16 17

Chart showing the 5 year trend for work-related incidents

Workforce diversity

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

Legal Aid NSW welcomes diversity among our staff. Of 994 staff, 157 people disclosed they are from a multicultural background and 35 people disclosed disability.

Legal Aid NSW outperformed the NSW Government benchmark of 2.6% for employing Aboriginal staff. We increased the number of Aboriginal staff from 5.0% in 2012–2013 to 5.7% this year through a combination of targeted and mainstream recruitment. Aboriginal Services also established a careers profile on Jobs NSW to advertise our Aboriginal employment programs.

Under the Bob Bellear program, we hired three new cadets, two new lawyers under the Aboriginal Professional Legal Placement Program and two new graduate lawyers (seven new temporary staff in total).

Nine Legal Aid NSW staff from various offices participated in the PACE (Positive Action toward Career Engagement) mentoring program, sharing their time and experience with students and young people to help them build confidence and skills in job seeking.

Guidelines were developed for the placement of people with disability in work training arrangements.

In becoming a more inclusive organisation, we developed a statement that welcomes people from multicultural backgrounds, people with disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for use in all Legal Aid NSW job advertisements.

The Equity and Diversity Committee, chaired by the CEO, met quarterly.

More detailed information appears in Appendix 3 while Appendix 10 has a summary of key performance highlights from the Diversity Action Plan.

The Reconciliation Champions Network was established to raise the profile of the reconciliation movement generally and assist in driving implementation of the Legal Aid NSW Reconciliation Action Plan. Network members come from diverse practice areas and office locations.

Reconciliation Champions ready for action, pictured here with the Director of Aboriginal Services, Scott Hawkins and Co-Chair of the Champions network, Richard Funston, Acting Executive Director, Criminal Law.

Reconciliation Champions ready for action, pictured here with the Director of Aboriginal Services, Scott Hawkins and Co-Chair of the Champions network, Richard Funston, Acting Executive Director, Criminal Law. Photographer: Penny Clay

Learning and development

Fact file
5,400 external people undertook online learning and attended our conferences and training courses
Attendance at conferences and courses increased by almost 2,000 from last year (staff & external people)
A 33% increase in participation in our professional development seminars

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Professional development for criminal lawyers

The Legal Aid NSW Criminal Law conference 2013 – The experts’ conference, was held from 31 July to 2 August 2013. The focus was on difficulties with expert evidence/ testimony and promoting expertise in the criminal law arena. More than 430 delegates attended, among them 160 private lawyers.

Highlights included Saul Holt SC inviting delegates to seize the chance for real change with the new Bail Act 2013, Terry Buddin SC delivering an interactive session on advocacy and Dina Yehia SC identifying and dissecting problematic expert evidence.

Our Lismore office coordinated successful mandatory continuing legal education for inhouse and private lawyers in April 2014. More than 50 attendees learned about mental health, ethics, credibility, police powers, and the new Bail Act 2013.

Learning system improved to make it easier to use

Six years after its introduction, the Legal Aid NSW Learning Management System (LMS) was improved to make it more user-friendly for staff and external users, ready for launching in 2014–2015.

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

Online management development

Our most significant online learning initiative was the launch of a suite of management development modules in January 2014. It covers eight topics including Team Meetings, Leading a Culture of Respect, Constructive Feedback and Tough Talks. Each has multimedia resources, tips and suggested activities in the workplace. Managers access the modules via a quiz based on the public sector people management capabilities. To date the program has received 178 visits.

Managers’ conference provides guidance with work challenges

The 2014 Legal Aid Managers’ Conference targeted the widest group of managers and supervisors in the history of the event, with 197 people attending from offices across New South Wales. Under the theme Lead Well, Manage Well, Live Well, the program included addresses from CEO Bill Grant and Department of Justice Secretary Andrew Cappie-Wood. A series of workshops covered such issues as responding to challenges, resolving workplace conflict and managing performance. Evaluations reflected how highly Legal Aid NSW managers value this annual opportunity to learn and interact.

Animating the Legal Aid NSW career journey

Launched at the 2014 Managers’ Conference, The Career Compass – a short animation presents complex information about the Government Service Employment Act 2013 recruitment and selection reforms, and performance. We will use the video as part of inducting new employees and in other learning contexts.

New approach to learning

Legal Aid NSW has a history of developing effective online learning resources and offering innovative courses. In 2013–2014, we took the next step by adopting the Experience/ Exposure/Education (EEE) model, which recognises that adults learn best through a mix of experiential, work-based learning and professional relationships with occasional classroom-based activities. Combining structured on-the-job experiences, case studies and self-paced learning activities, EEE will underpin all our future learning initiatives, including the performance planning education currently in development.

Evidence Act explained

The criminal law practice developed a training series called Evidence Act Master Classes involving one hour sessions by different speakers on different parts of the Evidence Act 1995. Each session was filmed and made available on the intranet. The classes will continue over 2014 and be displayed on the LMS as a bookshelf from which lawyers can pull down and view a segment on the Evidence Act as needed.

Aboriginal cultural awareness training

In 2013–2014, we moved from a two-day cultural awareness training program to an intensive one-day model in recognition of the time pressures on frontline staff and the success of the one-day private lawyer training. Three one-day workshops were held at the Central Sydney Learning and Development Centre and one at the Parramatta Justice Precinct. Since 2008, almost 500 Legal Aid NSW staff and partner agency staff have completed this training.

Support for external study

More than 20 Legal Aid NSW staff received assistance for tertiary studies in law, communications, mediation, indigenous legal advocacy, business and human resources management.

We supported 15 of our staff to undertake the Diploma of Management along with 13 employees from Community Legal Centres, five from the Aboriginal Legal Service and four from Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services.

Paul Hayes (Deputy Executive Director, Criminal Law), Jane Pritchard (Manager, Review and Strategy) and Pam King (Manager, Planning and Business Reporting) graduated with an Executive Master of Public Administration, a qualification that prepares emerging public sector leaders for the challenges ahead.

Graduates Paul Hayes, Pam King and Jane Pritchard display their new qualifications

Graduates Paul Hayes, Pam King and Jane Pritchard display their new qualifications. Photographer: Alex Craig

Advocacy training

The civil law practice developed specialised advocacy training for Legal Aid NSW lawyers in recognition of the unique brand of advocacy required of them. The training was developed with input from senior staff and delivered using our inhouse advocates plus Paul Batley, a former Legal Aid NSW lawyer with special accreditation in advocacy.

The family law practice, with the Australian Advocacy Institute, trained 96 lawyers (many on our private lawyer panels) in three New South Wales sessions.

In another professional development initiative, we established communities of practice in a number of key areas of civil law. These are proving effective in supporting and developing staff, as well as sharing information and networking with our service delivery partners.

Professional development for Aboriginal staff

A number of major initiatives were launched during National Reconciliation Action Week in May 2014.

Fulfilling a key commitment in our Reconciliation Action Plan, we developed Stand Together: Legal Aid NSW Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy 2014– 2015.

The Chairperson’s Scholarship gives a staff member financial support to undertake further studies to enhance their career opportunities. The inaugural scholarship was awarded to Katrina Ellevson, Office Manager of Tamworth Legal Aid NSW office, to undertake a law degree.

Katrina Ellevsen – inaugural winner of the Chairperson’s Scholarship with CEO Bill Grant and Aboriginal Services Director, Scott Hawkins.

Katrina Ellevsen – inaugural winner of the Chairperson’s Scholarship with CEO Bill Grant and Aboriginal Services Director, Scott Hawkins. Photographer: Penny Clay

Professional and personal achievements

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Lawyers strengthen their expertise

The Law Society of NSW awarded specialist accreditation to nine of our criminal lawyers and three family lawyers.

Nine of the most experienced criminal lawyers in the state are newly accredited specialists from left to right: Rob Hoyle, Hayley Dean, Michael Fokkes, Amy Barker, Alexander Reetov, Melissa Chu, Kasey Pearce, Will Tuckey and Ron Frankham. Photographer: Alex Craig

Nine of the most experienced criminal lawyers in the state are newly accredited specialists from left to right: Rob Hoyle, Hayley Dean, Michael Fokkes, Amy Barker, Alexander Reetov, Melissa Chu, Kasey Pearce, Will Tuckey and Ron Frankham. Photographer: Alex Craig

There are currently 76 lawyers working for Legal Aid NSW who are accredited specialists: one in civil law, 22 in family law and 53 in criminal law.

Awarded specialist accreditation in family law were l-r: Christine Soliman, Sharda Ramjas and Lynda Maitland. Photographer: Alex Craig

Awarded specialist accreditation in family law were l-r: Christine Soliman, Sharda Ramjas and Lynda Maitland. Photographer: Alex Craig

The professional expertise and dedication of Legal Aid NSW staff were recognised through various appointments and awards. In a standout year for staff achievement the highlights were:

  • Kylie Beckhouse, Executive Director Legal Services, Family Law was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate child legal representation in overseas jurisdictions;
  • Michelle Crowther of the Strategic Policy and Planning Division was presented a Public Service Medal; and
  • the Early Intervention Unit was highly commended in the Government Lawyer Excellence in Legal Services Awards in recognition of its outreach and duty scheme work across New South Wales.

The Family Law Early Intervention Unit was made permanent and was highly commended for its excellence

The Family Law Early Intervention Unit was made permanent and was highly commended for its excellence.

Workforce management

OBJECTIVE: Supporting our people

Taking part in public sector reform

Work began to ensure a smooth transition to the new Government Sector Employment Act 2013, which commenced in February 2014. It replaces the Public Sector Employment and Management Act 2002 and introduces reforms to the structure and management of the New South Wales public sector.

The main projects which Legal Aid NSW undertook to ensure compliance with the Act included:

  • role descriptions based on capabilities that employees need to demonstrate to perform their role;
  • new comparative recruitment processes;
  • induction so that new employees start their career in a positive and supportive environment;
  • performance management for all employees; and
  • on the job learning aligned to the New South Wales Public Sector Capability Framework.

Legal Aid NSW staff had the opportunity to attend metropolitan and regional face-to-face briefings on the Act.

The year ahead

Introduce Individual Planning as the Legal Aid NSW performance management system.

Develop new modules and learning activities for our Management Development Program.

Offer training in best practice principles to outreach/mobile lawyers across the legal assistance sector.

Train managers and recruiters to meet the new interview requirements of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013.

Implement the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 including:

  • a compliant recruitment process;
  • the individual planning cycle; and
  • proactive workforce management principles.

Examine our current workforce demographics in preparation for the full effects of the Government Sector Employment Act 2013 and the initiatives of the Public Service Commission.

Develop a new Reconciliation Action Plan for 2015–2017 and a new Aboriginal Employment and Career Development Strategy for the same period.

Key challenge

Implementing new work practices and processes to improve workforce planning.