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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Meeting the needs of diverse clients

Many of our services are targeted to the most disadvantaged people in our community.

The Legal Aid NSW Diversity Action Plan 2016–2017 is an inclusive plan that targets a broad range of people including people from multicultural backgrounds, people with disability, younger people, older people, women, people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, and people living in rural and regional areas. The Plan was developed against the four objectives of the Legal Aid NSW Plan.

A summary of key performance highlights from the Diversity Action Plan appears in Appendix 9.

Fact file
Proportion of case grants and in-house duty services to clients born in non-English speaking countries: 11.9%
Amount spent on interpreters and translators: $1,256,446
Amount contributed to the cost of interpreters in Community Legal Centres: $49,857
Number of culturally diverse family dispute resolution practitioners on our panels: 21
Proportion of staff in our Refugee Service from culturally diverse backgrounds: 100%

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Delivering services to refugees on the settlement journey

The State Government allocated funding to Legal Aid NSW to help refugees, especially additional arrivals from Syria, settle into Australian society.

We established the Refugee Service in February 2017 to assist refugees to learn about their rights and obligations under the law.

This service is based at the Bankstown office but operates advice clinics at SydWest Multicultural Services, Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre, CORE Multicultural Communities and Auburn Diversity Services. Bilingual lawyers and a community engagement officer provide invaluable assistance to engage Arabic, Assyrian and Spanish speaking communities. The service firstly aims to help refugees avoid legal problems through highly targeted legal education and information. If legal problems are encountered, then the service encourages early access to legal services to prevent them from escalating. Unresolved legal problems can also have an adverse impact on resettlement because they create stress, which can act as a roadblock to recovery for those suffering from trauma or torture. The kinds of legal problems the service has seen include tenancy, Centrelink, fines, employment, driving and immigration issues.

The service also identifies systemic legal problems affecting refugee communities and advocates on a policy level to address those problems.

The Refugee Service team with the NSW Coordinator-General of Refugee Resettlement, Professor Peter Shergold AC who launched the service in Fairfield.

Diverse education programs for diverse client groups

Many of our services are targeted to the most disadvantaged people in our community.

We delivered 413 face-to-face community legal education workshops for multicultural clients, 687 for young people aged 10-17 years, 159 for older people, and 851 for people in rural and regional areas of New South Wales. Sessions specifically tailored to the legal needs of diverse clients included education for:

  • elderly clients about cyber safety
  • migrant communities about obtaining Australian citizenship
  • young people who are recent arrivals about criminal law.

Legal Aid NSW publishes legal education resources in 25 languages. This year we published fresh translations of our Get Street Smart brochure for young people in Arabic, Hazaragi and Dari/Farsi.

We produced How can I bring my refugee family here? in Assyrian, Dari/Farsi and Arabic.

We established new outreach clinics for communities disproportionately affected by domestic and family violence.

We expanded our community legal education services on domestic and family violence. Additional target groups included asylum seekers and recently arrived migrants. We also delivered the community legal education package at a Settlement Services International (SSI) Community Hub and trialled evening sessions when delivering this content to SSI staff.

The rise in National Disability Insurance Scheme casework (See Casework increasing under NDIS) was accompanied by extensive legal education to lawyers, community workers and others about the Scheme.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

Through diversity planning we made changes that assist clients with specific needs. Examples from this year include:

  • revising 34 of our standard client letters into plainer language to improve our communication with people with disability or limited literacy or English skills
  • introducing more extensive user testing of new brochures with targeted community groups to determine the effectiveness and usefulness of our new resources
  • piloting data collection on people with disability on our online complaints form from 1 January 2017 to 30 May 2017. At the conclusion of the pilot we had received 14 complaints from and on behalf of people with disability, which is 10 per cent of the total complaints during that period.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

We collaborated with pro bono partners across New South Wales to provide community legal education and assistance with drafting wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianships for targeted disadvantaged clients.

Our new Refugee Service established new advice clinics at SydWest Multicultural Services, Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre, CORE Multicultural Communities and Auburn Diversity Services.

In partnership with the NSW Police Force and Settlement Services International, we delivered community legal education workshops to groups of Korean and Afghan women on family law, domestic violence and Legal Aid NSW services generally.

The year ahead

  • Expand the Refugee Service to establish advice clinics in Newcastle and Wollongong.
  • Develop an integrated approach to legal services for newly arrived refugees.
  • Respond to the legal needs of diverse new and emerging communities.