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Annual Report 2013 - 2014

Our history

New South Wales has a long history of providing legal aid for criminal, family and civil law problems.

"In less than 100 years, legal aid has developed from a charity to a very important part of the justice system."


The Poor Persons Legal Remedies Act 1918 was the first step towards a formal legal aid scheme.


The Public Defender’s Office was set up to represent disadvantaged people in serious criminal cases.


The Legal Assistance Act 1943 set up the Public Solicitor’s Office with salaried government lawyers providing aid in criminal matters—the first time in the western world that lawyers were employed to give legal aid to low income earners. Legal aid was now seen as a social right.


1974: Australian Legal Aid Office (ALAO) establishedThe Federal Government established the Australian Legal Aid Office (ALAO) for legal aid services that fell within federal law. These “shopfront lawyers” were easy to access and helped dispel the intimidating and confusing face of the law.


In 1980, the Sydney Morning Herald features the new Legal Services Commission of NSWThe NSW Government established the Legal Services Commission (now known as Legal Aid NSW), under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979, combining the Public Solicitor’s Office and the Law Society Legal Aid Scheme.


State and federal legal aid offices merged and after 1987 the Legal Aid Commission of NSW handled legal aid for both state and federal areas of law.


The Legal Aid Commission introduced alternate dispute resolution and a number of specialist services for children, women experiencing domestic violence, prisoners, and people with mental health problems.


In 2006, the Legal Aid Commission changed its name to Legal Aid NSW.


2014: An increase in Aboriginal staff, and more services for Aboriginal clientsNew services are introduced for older people, young people, homeless people and Aboriginal people.

There has been considerable growth in advice and minor assistance services and outreach services – taking advice clinics into communities.