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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Regional partnerships

People living in regional, rural and remote areas can have difficulty accessing legal services.

Legal Aid NSW has played a leadership role in developing regional coalitions and outreach programs that find new ways to improve service delivery to people disadvantaged by distance.

Fact file
Two new weekly joint-service clinics
53 CLSD Program projects commenced or completed
19% of projects delivered in Aboriginal communities
60 education sessions in 28 locations

Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program

Legal Aid NSW has been managing the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program (CLSD) since it was piloted in two locations in 2005. Our CLSD Program Unit now manages 11 partnerships across regional and remote New South Wales, as shown in the map below.

The program is a regionally-based approach to legal service delivery that aims to improve access to legal services in regional areas. It does this by building local partnerships between legal and related non legal agencies. Participants include representatives from Legal Aid NSW regional offices, Community Legal Centres, the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), Local Courts, tenancy, domestic violence, youth, disability and financial counselling services, and local community and neighbourhood services. We also partner with pro bono legal services, government departments, health services, LawAccess NSW and regional Legal Information Access Centres through local libraries.

OBJECTIVE: Access to justice

Collective enterprise and local service know-how meet client needs

The CLSD Program projects draw upon the collective resources and knowhow of local services, both legal and non-legal, to address locally identified needs, and promote access to legal assistance and information about legal rights and services. We work closely with the New South Wales Legal Assistance Forum (NLAF) to identify and find solutions to systemic issues in regional and remote New South Wales.

In 2014-2015, CLSD Program partners engaged in 53 projects in regional, rural and remote New South Wales. The criteria for projects are that they are targeted, collaborative, directly respond to an identified unmet legal need and directly provide or enable access to legal assistance in regional communities.

Projects included:

  • traffic advice and representation clinics in Taree and Broken Hill;
  • wills clinics for Aboriginal people in Coffs Harbour, Kempsey; Taree, Dubbo, Bourke and Brewarrina with our pro bono law firm partners Ashurst and Gilbert + Tobin; and
  • two new joint-service legal and advocacy clinics in Cowra and Finley.

CLSD Program partners in western New South Wales again joined forces to offer joint-service outreach to the communities of Bourke and Brewarrina during Law Week in May 2015. Working closely with the Brewarrina and Bourke Aboriginal Community Working Parties, participating agencies included Legal Aid NSW, Western NSW Community Legal Centre, Bourke Aboriginal Legal Service, Thiyama-li Family Violence Legal Service, Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers, Western Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, State Debt Recovery, Office of Fair Trading, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Transport for New South Wales.

Map showing CLSD Program and Regional Outreach Clinic Program locations

The Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program operates in 11 regions. ROCP clinics are held in 12 locations.

Dispelling myths about the law and pointing people in the right direction

Mid North Coast CLSD partners collaborated to produce a "myth busters" publication for Law Week in which CLSD Program partners addressed common myths about the law and legal services. This resource joins a growing body of publications generated by the CLSD Program. The grassroots partnership links mean that the CLSD Program is ideally placed to identify critical information gaps and address them through a collaborative approach.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

CLSD Program partners continued to work together to respond to the legal and non-legal needs of clients in regional and remote New South Wales.

Highlights this year included:

  • Working with non-legal partners by using the Law Check-Up tool to assist our partners to identify the legal needs of their clients and refer them to the appropriate legal service.
  • Establishing the Financial Hardship Working Group with the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW to extend the reach and effectiveness of State and Commonwealth legal and related non-legal services to disadvantaged communities in financial hardship in regional and remote New South Wales. 

The year ahead

Roll out a new CLSD Program partnership in the Moree region after consulting with key agencies in Moree and the border communities of Toomelah and Boggabilla.

Collaborate on more partnership projects, including:

  • Mid North Coast Aboriginal cultural competency training for our justice sector partners;
  • Aboriginal Access project on the Central Coast to engage more local Aboriginal community members and referrals to legal services;
  • a program at the new specialist Kariong Correctional Centre with our Central Coast CLSD Program partners to provide legal education programs, advice on issues like fines, child support and family matters; and
  • a project to tackle exploitative employment practices in the Riverina, with multicultural workers and community members.
  • Work with the New South Wales Legal Assistance Forum on systemic justice issues, including compulsory schooling orders and prosecutions of parents and their children for truancy under the Education Act 2013 in regional New South Wales.
  • Implement best practice in the delivery of outreach services in regional, rural and remote New South Wales, and implement the findings of the review of the provision of legal services in remote areas of New South Wales.

Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP)

Under this program, Legal Aid NSW funds external lawyers and partners with them to deliver legal advice clinics in regional, rural and remote areas of high socio-economic disadvantage and where the provision of regular inhouse advice is not feasible.

Regional Outreach Clinic Program advice services are generally provided in community and neighbourhood centres, local courts or libraries. They complement inhouse Legal Aid NSW services, forming part of a flexible suite of Legal Aid NSW services in regional areas identified as high need.

The 2013-2014 review of the ROCP determined that the location and constituency of the ROCP clinics be realigned, as required, to complement our inhouse services. Accordingly there were some changes to the ROCP locations to take into account our increased outreach activity in regional New South Wales and the new Port Macquarie office.

OBJECTIVE: Access to justice

At the end of June 2015, ROCP clinics operated in 12 locations - Bathurst, Bega, Boggabilla, Brewarrina, Gloucester, South Kempsey, West Kempsey, Lightning Ridge, Lithgow, Moree, Tenterfield and Toomelah. Gloucester is a new location, replacing Taree which is now serviced by the new Legal Aid NSW office in Port Macquarie (see Port Macquarie and Regional offices increased their capacity to provide more services). The clinic previously held in Glenroi, Orange, is now also serviced inhouse by Legal Aid NSW. Clinics in Boggabilla and Toomelah changed from fortnightly to monthly.

In 2014-2015, 772 ROCP advice and minor assistance services were provided at ROCP clinics. Almost 20 per cent of these services were to Aboriginal people.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Legal Aid NSW ran a two-day professional development workshop for all ROCP lawyers in Sydney in February 2015, covering areas of law in which rural and remote clients are likely to need assistance. These included social security, amendments to the Bail Act, reforms in the care and protection jurisdiction, child support, employment law, and housing and consumer law issues in Aboriginal communities. A number of lawyers also attended an additional day of specialist care and protection training provided by the Legal Aid NSW family law practice.

The year ahead

Assist in an equitable spread of legal services in regional New South Wales, continuing to adjust and align the ROCP services and locations.

Ensure that regional and remote communities served by the partnership between inhouse and ROCP lawyers have access to sustainable services that appropriately meet their needs.