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Annual Report 2015 - 2016

Legal Aid NSW Board

A Board with 10 members determines our broad policies and strategic priorities.

The Board of Legal Aid NSW consists of nine part-time members including the Chair, and one full-time member, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid NSW.

Part-time Board members are appointed by the NSW Attorney General for up to three years, other than the Chair who is appointed for up to five years. All are eligible for reappointment.

In June 2016, the NSW Attorney General appointed a new Board for a term of three years to June 2019. A number of members were reappointed, including Craig Smith who is continuing in the role as Chair, Dr Peggy Dwyer as the representative of the NSW Bar Association and Ainslie van Onselen as a representative for Consumer and Community Interests.

New members of the Board include Michael Coleman (appointed by the NSW Attorney General), Emeritus Professor Richard Henry (appointed by the NSW Attorney General), Sue Gilchrist (appointed by the NSW Attorney General), Rachel Francois (Unions NSW), Professor Anna Cody (Community Legal Services) and Darryl Browne (Law Society of NSW).

Outgoing members of the Board are John McKenzie, John Bordon, Annette Bain, Andrea Durbach, Philip Bickerstaff and Mary Macken.

In June 2016, the NSW Attorney General appointed a new Board for a term of three years.

Key activities of the Board this year

In accordance with its statutory role to establish the broad policies and strategic plans for Legal Aid NSW, the Board approved the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017. The Board was regularly updated on the progress of the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2015–2016.

The Crime and Grants Sub-Committee of the Board, established under section 68 of the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979, covers matters dealing with grants of aid, training and development of private lawyers and crime-related funding and policy issues. The Committee met once and considered a range of issues including the District Court backlog, the expansion of the inhouse committals service, protected admissions and the District Koori Court.

The Community Partnerships Sub-Committee of the Board covers civil and family law policies and services, the Community Legal Centre (CLC) Program and other Legal Aid NSW partnerships such as the Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program and the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd. The Committee advises the Board on funding issues affecting legal assistance services, gaps in services, and legal assistance services to Aboriginal clients and clients in rural, regional and remote New South Wales. The Committee met twice and discussed a range of issues including community legal centre funding, the new National Partnership Agreement, jurisdictional planning and the Care Partner initiative.

The Board approved establishing a new Legal Aid NSW satellite office in Albury, which was opened in June 2016. This office, together with the Wagga Wagga office, make up the new Riverina Murray Legal Aid NSW office. See Regional offices increased their capacity.

Michael Coleman was appointed as Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee in June 2016. As part of the audit and risk strategy, the Board approved six internal audits for 2015–2016.

The Board was kept informed about the progress of the new funding agreement with the Commonwealth Government, and a new five-year National Partnership Agreement (NPA) between the Commonwealth and State was signed in June 2015. The Board also endorsed Legal Aid NSW to continue to undertake the role of funding body and state program manager for the CLC Program, with an expanded role to act as the funding body on behalf of the Commonwealth under the NPA.

The delivery of high quality services is a priority for the Board, and members were briefed on a number of evaluations, including reviews of the partnership with Settlement Services International and a review of legal service provision in South West, Far West, North West and Northern New South Wales. The Board will oversee the implementation of recommendations arising from these evaluations.

The Board approved a number of policy and fee scale changes, including a revised contributions policy, a simplified civil law fee scale, changes in fee scales and policies for some care and protection matters, and extension of the current client eligibility policy relating to the Crimes (High Risk Offenders) Act 2006.

There were no emergency decisions required during the year.

Meetings of the Board

Four meetings were held in 2015–2016. Thirty five per cent of the Board’s time was spent on governance matters such as audit and risk, strategic reviews and organisational planning; finance and other budget matters took up approximately 35% of the board’s time; and strategic operations, policies and law reform issues took up the remaining 30% of the Board’s time.

Board members’ fees

Part-time Board members are entitled to be paid fees for attending meetings, reading background papers, sitting on committees and representing Legal Aid NSW at meetings with other organisations. No fees are paid to members who are salaried Government employees or who choose not to be paid.

Active on committees

The Board is advised on specific matters by a number of committees. These include the Crime and Grants Sub-Committee, Community Partnerships Sub-Committee and Audit and Risk Committee which advises on budgetary and internal audit matters.

Icon for The year aheadThe year ahead

  • Oversee the implementation of the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.