Go to content

Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Community programs

Community Legal Centres

Legal Aid NSW administers the State, Commonwealth and Public Purpose Fund funding for 36 Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in New South Wales, including Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW), the peak representative body.

Fact file
36 centres assisted 58,428 people
Provided 74,754 advices to clients
Opened 10,628 new cases and completed 10,254 cases
Of the completed cases, 1,593 were major cases (complex/lengthy matters)
Delivered 1,512 community legal education programs
Made 4,883 referrals to Legal Aid NSW
Received 2,820 referrals from Legal Aid NSW

CLCs provide free legal services to disadvantaged people. They are independent, non-profit organisations that are generally incorporated bodies managed by a board or management committee.

Legal Aid NSW also administers funding for Children's Court Assistance Schemes that operate at seven Children's Courts under the auspice of four CLCs.

Funding in 2014-2015

A total of $17,245,512 was paid to CLCs through the program comprising:

  • $9,002,244 in Commonwealth funding (52%)
  • $6,250,290 in State funding (36%)
  • $1,992,978 in Public Purpose Fund (PPF) funding (12%)

Note: The PPF also provides funding directly to some CLCs.

In January 2015, Legal Aid NSW provided funding of $883,500 to 22 CLCs to provide early intervention and alternative dispute resolution in partnership with Legal Aid NSW under the Safe Home for Life reforms.

Legal Aid NSW provided further funding of $24,876 for a series of training sessions held in relation to care and protection law and developing an online training resource.

More details about funding can be found in Appendix 5.

OBJECTIVE: Access to justice

"Twenty-two community legal centres signed up to provide legal services in partnership with Legal Aid NSW as part of Safe Home for Life reforms."

The Safe Home for Life reforms commenced on 29 October 2014, increasing the emphasis on permanent placement of children other than in the long-term parental responsibility of the Minister.

The reforms provide early intervention to support parents, build parental capacity and accountability, and provide permanency in care arrangements (see Safe Home for Life reforms).

Partnership projects target vulnerable clients

Central Coast CLC and the Legal Aid NSW Gosford office teamed up on a project that provided eight education workshops to over 80 mental health caseworkers about the legal system and the nature of civil law issues so that they can make better referrals.

Legal Health = Mental Health: Tackling the Unmet Civil Law Needs of People with Mental Illnesses, established co-located advice clinics at various mental health service providers across the Central Coast region, resulting in 17 legal advice sessions and eight referrals. The project was completed in June 2015.

Legal Aid NSW funded a new project between The Aged Rights Service and Legal Aid NSW in 2014-2015. Borrowers Beware uses community radio to educate Arabic, Croatian, Macedonian and Serbian-speaking elderly people across New South Wales on the dangers of risky borrowing. Radio broadcasts and webinars were delivered to community workers working within target communities.

Diana Bernard (left) from The Aged Rights Service and Dana Beiglari from Legal Aid NSW get the word out to multicultural communities about the dangers of risky borrowing

Above: Diana Bernard (left) from The Aged Rights Service and Dana Beiglari from Legal Aid NSW get the word out to multicultural communities about the dangers of risky borrowing.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

With funding from Legal Aid NSW, we worked with CLCNSW on a better process for CLC accreditation and service standard audits. The aim is to ensure that the most disadvantaged clients continue to receive high quality services that are accessible, responsive and appropriate to their needs. Over the past two years, the visited each of the 32 CLCs that are required to meet accreditation and audit standards, with all receiving tier 1 or 2 accreditation. Legal Aid NSW has completed audits of all of these CLCs in the past two years and all but one CLC has passed audit, with further documentation required from that centre.

A new service standard on Aboriginal cultural safety will be introduced in the CLC Service Agreements for 2015- 2016. The standard sets out procedures and policies to ensure cultural safety within CLCs for Aboriginal clients, staff and volunteers.

In 2014-2015, targets were introduced in CLC plans to increase service delivery to identified priority client groups in their catchment. The targets were set to ensure that the percentage of CLC clients from a range of priority groups were equal or higher to those demographics in the general population for the catchment. All CLCs are on track to meet their targets.

The year ahead

Implement the first year of the new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015-2020 for the CLC sector in New South Wales.

Develop and implement new service agreements and guidelines for the provision of community legal services in 2015-2016 in consultation with the CLC sector.

Introduce a new service standard on Aboriginal cultural safety.

Work with CLCs to ensure that service delivery planning is linked to legal needs analysis and responds to the needs of priority groups in the community.

Develop a plan for sustainable service delivery strategies for the Community Legal Centres sector anticipating that Commonwealth funding levels will decrease significantly in 2017-2018.

Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP)

Legal Aid NSW administers New South Wales Government funding for 28 Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) and their peak representative body, the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW Inc.

Fact file
Provided services at 114 Local Courts
Provided 102,127 services to 22,557 clients - a 3.5% increase on last year
Assisted clients to obtain 11,355 final Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders, a 2.8% increase on last year
Accepted referrals of 1,180 and 2,056 women respectively at Orange and Waverley Local Coordination Points
12.7% of WDVCAS and 8.2% Local Coordination Point clients identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
19.3% of WDVCAS and 5.8% Local Coordination Point clients were from culturally diverse backgrounds
8.5% of WDVCAS clients identified as having a disability

WDVCASs provide information, advocacy and referrals to women seeking legal protection from domestic violence through an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order at 114 Local Courts across the State.

WDVCASs also host a key component of the New South Wales Government It Stops Here: Safer Pathway domestic violence reforms - Local Coordination Points. Commencing in September 2014 in Orange and Waverley, Local Coordination Points are being established across New South Wales. Their task is to provide women experiencing domestic violence with threat assessment, safety planning, case coordination and referral to a safety action meeting if necessary. local coordination points also provide secretariat support for safety action meetings at which agencies discuss individual cases of women and children deemed at serious threat.

Funding in 2014-2015

In 2014-2015, $9,784,371 was paid in grants through the program to incorporated, not for profit, nongovernment service providers under a triennial service agreement.

This included $866,900 from the Department of Family and Community Services for Local Coordination Point implementation as part of the NSW Government It Stops Here: Safer Pathway domestic and family violence reforms.

Details of grant allocations are in Appendix 4.

OBJECTIVE: Access to justice

The positive outcomes achieved at the two Safer Pathway launch sites in Orange and Waverley demonstrated the value of an integrated approach to supporting women and children escaping domestic violence. Many more women from disadvantaged groups have accessed the support provided by the two Local Coordination Points and their host WDVCASs (see Improving safety for victims of domestic violence).

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research conducted a process evaluation of the Safer Pathway launch sites, Orange and Waverley in early 2015. While the final evaluation report has not yet been released, preliminary feedback is very positive. Stakeholders expressed strong support for Safer Pathway and its roll-out across New South Wales.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

In July 2014, the WDVCAP held its first biannual forum for the year. It was opened by the Hon Pru Goward MP, Minister for Women. The forum theme, Working together within the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Reforms, focused on the need for positive collaboration between agencies and service sectors to ensure the success of the Government's reforms. A panel of speakers from the NSW Police Force, Legal Aid NSW, Women NSW, TAFE NSW and the then Department of Police and Justice outlined how this collaboration would translate into effective client service delivery.

The sessions were attended by nearly 300 representatives from government, legal, academic and community organisations, including WDVCAS staff.

The second WDVCAP forum for the year took place in March 2015 and focused on cultural awareness training for WDVCAS staff, highlighting the experience of Aboriginal families dealing with inter-generational disadvantage.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

In 2014-2015, existing partnerships with the NSW Police Force and Local Courts were strengthened. Our already strong relationship with Victims Services NSW continued as we worked together on training WDVCAS workers on using a new electronic referral system as part of the domestic and family violence reforms.

The commencement of the Local Coordination Point launch sites at Orange and Waverley provided the catalyst for new collaborative relationships with NSW Health, Family and Community Services, Education, and Corrective Services. Working collaboratively with the NSW Police Force, Local Coordination Point staff and non-government representatives at safety action meetings, the various agencies demonstrated the effectiveness of a coordinated approach to supporting women and children experiencing domestic violence.

We also strengthened our working relationships with other units within Legal Aid NSW, as the agency as a whole focused its attention on how best to support domestic violence victims.

The year ahead

Monitor the responsibilities allocated by the Government to the 28 WDVCASs funded under the Program.

Accept all referrals of domestic violence incidents from the NSW Police Force from 1 July 2015 under the State's Domestic Violence Justice Strategy.

Provide support to four new Safer Pathway Local Coordination Points hosted by WDVCASs at Bankstown, Broken Hill, Parramatta and Tweed Heads, also commencing 1 July.

Ensure that WDVCAS staff are adequately trained and supported to implement their new responsibilities under the Domestic and Family Violence Reforms.