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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Justice forums

Legal Aid NSW is a member of several state and national forums that work collectively to find better ways of dealing with key legal issues affecting people’s legal rights.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

National Legal Aid—advising the Commonwealth Government

National Legal Aid (NLA) provides a forum for Legal Aid Commissions to engage at a national level with governments, stakeholders and the community about best practice in legal aid and related issues.

NLA comprises the CEOs of the Legal Aid Commissions in each of the states and territories in Australia. NLA is supported by working groups with representatives from each of the legal aid commissions.

NLA met in November 2015 and March 2016. CEOs of the Legal Aid Commissions discussed issues of national strategic significance and advised the Commonwealth Government on the impact of its law and policies.

Initiatives undertaken during 2015–2016 included:

  • working with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department to develop the National Legal Assistance Data Standards Manual as required under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. This manual provides a common set of service definitions and counting rules for Legal Aid Commissions.
  • working with the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration and the University of Queensland School of Law to advise on developing the National Domestic and Family Violence Bench Book. NLA is represented on the advisory group for the Bench Book, which is a comprehensive online tool promoting best practice in judicial decision-making in cases involving family and domestic violence.
  • undertaking an analysis of legally aided family law cases which found that domestic violence is a factor in 79% of legally aided Commonwealth family law matters in Australia
  • updating and redeveloping the NLA website
  • liaising with the Law Council of Australia on the ‘Legal Aid Matters’ campaign.

NLA also provided submissions to the Australian Government on:

  • the National Disability Advocacy Program
  • the 2016–2017 Federal Budget
  • the Draft Parenting Orders Handbook
  • the Review of the 2007 Guidelines for Family Law Courts and Children’s Contact Services
  • Family Law Council reference on families with complex needs.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

Independent Children’s Lawyers—a quality agenda

The Legal Aid NSW family law practice led an NLA project to develop a national website to enhance the quality of practice and understanding of the role of Independent Children’s Lawyers (ICLs). The website www.icl.gov.au was launched in February 2016. Forty four per cent of ICLs across Australia are now registered on the website.

Legal Aid NSW is also responsible for the national ICL training program and is participating in research being undertaken by Southern Cross University about child participation in family law and other proceedings. We also participated in the development of an online survey for children who are appointed an ICL. The survey is taken on an iPad and aims to uncover what children find useful and what they would have preferred when participating in family law proceedings.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

Projects focus on better access to legal services for vulnerable clients

The NSW Legal Assistance Forum (NLAF) brings together key legal services across the government, non-government and private sectors in NSW. It aims to improve service delivery to socially and economically disadvantaged people through better planning, program design and service delivery by providers of legal assistance services.

NLAF members are:

  • Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd
  • Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW)
  • Department of Justice NSW
  • LawAccess NSW
  • Law and Justice Foundation of NSW
  • Law Society of NSW
  • Legal Aid NSW
  • Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC)
  • NSW Bar Association
  • Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
  • Justice Connect.

The Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department attends two NLAF meetings per year.

Bill Grant, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, was chair of NLAF until December 2015. The current chair is Nassim Arrage, Chair of CLCNSW. Legal Aid NSW staff participate in or convene all NLAF working groups.

NSW Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton MP, attended the June 2016 NLAF meeting and acknowledged its important role in facilitating collaborative relationships between New South Wales legal assistance services.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Working groups are advocates for change

NLAF had three working groups in 2015–2016—the Education Act Prosecutions Working Group, the Prisoners’ Forum and the Fines and Traffic Working Group.

Highlights included:

  • The Education Act Prosecutions Working Group addressed concerns about the availability of legal assistance for children and parents being prosecuted under the Education Act 1990. The group worked successfully with the Department of Education to improve the referral of listed matters to Legal Aid NSW to so that parents and children have access to legal representation.
  • The Fines and Traffic Working Group consulted with Births, Deaths and Marriages, Department of Justice and the Department of Premier and Cabinet about how to improve access to identity documents for Aboriginal people in New South Wales. As a result of these consultations, the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages are looking at this issue, and will attend NLAF working group meetings.
  • The Fines and Traffic Working Group has advocated for a review of the regulations relating to new bicycle laws and fines in order to differentiate between the prescribed penalties for adults and children.
  • The Prisoners’ Forum prepared an issues paper on post-release transport issues for prisoners. The issue raised in this paper will be looked at by Corrective Services NSW as part of a review of Pre-release Planning Procedures.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Contribute to developing strategic priorities for National Legal Aid for the next three years.
  • Work with the Department of Education to improve the referral of listed matters to Legal Aid NSW to ensure that parents and children have access to legal representation.
  • Widen representation on NLAF to include family violence legal prevention services.