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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Training and networking achieve better community outcomes

We support our partners to stay well informed about our policies and to have a sound working knowledge of legislation. Their expertise is a key element in providing high quality services to our clients.

This year, we offered a number of training opportunities and developed online resources.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Making sure our partners understand their role in government reforms

With major Government reforms changing the way we do business, it is imperative to train partners and staff in new models of service delivery.

Staff from the 22 Community Legal Centres who signed up as "care partners" to provide early intervention and alternative dispute resolution in partnership with Legal Aid NSW, attended a series of training days. Online training modules and webinars were also scheduled. Safe Home For Life and Community Legal Centres have more information about this initiative.

With the launch of the first two Local Coordination Points at Orange and Waverley, and a further four Local Coordination Points to become active from 1 July 2015 as part of Safer Pathway reforms, the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program:

  • supported Victims Services in delivering seven Central Referral Point training sessions to 72 WDVCAS workers;
  • delivered eight training sessions to new workers and safety action meeting members in six locations across New South Wales;
  • delivered Safer Pathway information sessions in six sites across New South Wales to government and non-government stakeholders; and
  • delivered five Local Coordination Point training sessions to 139 WDVCAS workers.

Improving safety for victims of domestic violence and Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program have more information about this initiative.

Training delivered through the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) Program included:

  • sixty education workshops for lawyers, the public and community workers in 28 locations;
  • a two-day training and networking workshop for CLSD Coordinators; and
  • four planning days in Kempsey, Taree, Wagga Wagga and Albury to ensure that the legal services and activities delivered through the CLSD Program framework are evidence-based and target areas of high unmet legal need.

Health justice partnerships: an emerging model of collaboration

In order to harness the growing interest in health justice partnerships, Legal Aid NSW, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Clayton Utz held a forum in September 2014. The aim was to draw out the lessons learned from health justice projects in Victoria around issues of engagement, ethical challenges, models of collaboration and evaluation.

As a result, Legal Aid NSW established a Community of Practice to develop expertise and build health justice partnerships in New South Wales. Legal Aid NSW provides project management and secretariat support to the Community of Practice. In February 2015, the Community of Practice hosted a seminar to develop the capacity of the sector to evaluate the impact of health justice projects on client outcomes. The Community of Practice has also developed a website with useful resources and a mapping facility to identify health justice partnership projects in New South Wales. Visit healthjusticecop.wordpress.com

Leading a national project for independent children's lawyers

The family law practice led a National Legal Aid project to develop a national website for use by Independent Children's Lawyers. The website, to be launched next year, will:

  • provide information, news and resources to the public about the role of the ICL in the family law system;
  • provide exclusive ICL member only access to national and state/territory resources, forums, news, events, training and a mentoring program for all Legal Aid NSW ICL panel lawyers across Australia via secure login; and
  • ensure the availability of the most current and reliable social science research as a result of a partnership with the Child Family Community Australia information exchange from the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

As a result of our collaboration with the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, a literature review was undertaken to help inform the development of 'good practice' guidelines for child representatives.

Making sure private lawyers have a good grounding in our policies

We conducted training sessions on legal aid policies, use of Grants Online and grants processes for private lawyers in six locations, including four in regional areas. The Sydney session was webcast enabling lawyers from a wide geographic area to participate. One lawyer from western New South Wales wrote:

"Thank you so much for noting my concerns regarding travel and making this happen. I'm looking forward to future courses offered via webinar."

We launched a set of resources aimed at Independent Children's Lawyers, which includes precedent court documents and letters as well as brochures and forms. Panel lawyers can access the resources online. The resources will be expanded over time to cover other jurisdictions.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Strategic research alliance with the Law and Justice Foundation

Legal Aid NSW and the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW entered into a two-year strategic research alliance from July 2014 until July 2016.

Under the alliance, the Foundation published an evaluation of the partnership between Legal Aid NSW and Settlement Services International to deliver legal outreach in migrant resource centres. The report was launched in December 2014.

The current focus of the research work under the alliance is to evaluate community legal education (CLE) at Legal Aid NSW (see Community legal education). The evaluation is in three stages. The first stage is an audit of CLE, including publications and resources. The next two stages will look at developing and testing an agency-wide strategic framework for CLE.

The first stage has been completed.

In addition, the Foundation participated in the Health Justice Partnerships Community of Practice ' a cross sector working group that aims to explore opportunities for collaboration to improve the health, wellbeing and legal outcomes of disadvantaged communities.

Multi-agency networks reach right into communities

Legal Aid NSW took part in a number of multi-agency initiatives to improve access to justice.

OBJECTIVE: Access to justice

Supporting a unified response to forced marriage

Legal Aid NSW linked with other services to improve our response to forced marriage including:

  • working with NGO and government partners to establish the New South Wales Forced Marriage Network which developed a referral guide for clients exposed to forced marriage;
  • joining the Immigrant Women's Speak Out Steering Committee to oversee the development of two audio CDs in community languages concerning forced marriage;
  • establishing a new outreach at Guildford, in partnership with Immigrant Women's Health Service, to provide services for people at risk of forced marriage; and
  • developing three presentations on forced marriage for Family and Community Services case workers, in partnership with the Salvation Army Trafficking and Slavery Safe House.

Improving the child support system

The family law practice convened the Child Support Liaison Group with membership from Women's Legal Services NSW, Community Legal Centres, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Law Society of NSW, and the Department of Human Services. Its purpose is to increase specialised child support knowledge within the sector, strengthen relationships and identify systemic issues and experiences in the child support system.

OBJECTIVE: Excellence in legal services

Joint protocol to reduce criminalisation of young people

A key issue identified by Legal Aid NSW has been the use of police by residential care providers as a behaviour management tool. This has led to unnecessary and frequent interaction with the criminal justice system for a group of vulnerable young people.

To address this issue, Legal Aid NSW has been working in partnership with the Western Sydney Residential Providers Forum (the interagency in Western Sydney for residential care service providers, made up of police representatives as well as NGO representatives) to develop a set of guidelines around the use of police for young people living in residential care services. This was identified as a needed resource given the lack of consistent practice across residential care services and NSW Police.

The growing awareness of this issue led to a collaboration with the NSW Ombudsman's Office, who supported the development of a state-wide protocol around the decriminalisation of young people in residential out of home care. The NSW Ombudsman's Office took the lead role in developing the Protocol, with the content of the Protocol being informed by the Working Party's work (see Civil law – a state-wide protocol to reduce the criminalisation of young people).

The year ahead

Expand and strengthen partnerships with non-legal services.

Establish a framework for regional service delivery plans for Legal Aid NSW offices to jointly plan services with our partners.

Take part in the NSW Ombudsman's Roundtable to finalise the protocol to reduce the criminalisation of young people in residential out of home care within the criminal justice system.