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Annual Report 2014 - 2015

Past and present

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.

1918 - Poor Persons Legal Remedies Act 1918 - first formal legal aid scheme

1941 - The Public Defender's Office represents disadvantaged people in serious criminal cases.

1943 - The Legal Assistance Act 1943 set up the Public Solicitor's Office - the first time in the western world that lawyers were employed to give legal aid to low income earners.

1974 - "Shopfront lawyers" in the new Australian Legal Aid Office provide services under federal law.

1979 - The New South Wales Government establishes the Legal Services Commission (now known as Legal Aid NSW).

1987 - State and federal legal aid offices merge to form the Legal Aid Commission of NSW.

1990s - Expansion includes alternate dispute resolution and specialist services for children, women experiencing domestic violence, prisoners, and people with mental health problems.

2006 - The Legal Aid Commission changes its name to Legal Aid NSW.

2015 - New directions - we provide more flexible services such as taking advice clinics into communities to reach isolated residents and Aboriginal communities; joint service delivery reaching people earlier, and creative strategies for assisting our most vulnerable clients. We become key players in government reforms.

Legal Aid NSW in the Justice Sector

Chart showing Legal Aid NSW's position in the Justice Sector