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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Aboriginal community partnerships

The Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) (NSW/ACT) Ltd is our key partner in delivering legal services to Aboriginal people in New South Wales.

Legal Aid NSW shares a close and positive working relationship with the ALS.

The Aboriginal Services Branch is responsible for managing the relationship between Legal Aid NSW and the ALS.

The ALS withdrew services from 12 Local and two District Courts and the State Parole Authority. The courts affected are Parramatta and Gosford District Court, Liverpool, Burwood, Parramatta, Newtown, Gosford, Wyong and Woy Woy (except for the Children’s Court) Local Court and five courts of the Wagga Wagga circuit (Tumbarumba, Holbrook, Finley, Corowa, Gundagai).

Hundreds of clients are likely to be affected by these changes to Local And District Courts. In addition, about 700 inmates a year are expected to be affected by the ALS ceasing to represent clients at the State Parole Authority —a number expected to grow further under changes to parole processes in New South Wales.

Legal Aid NSW expects many of the ALS clients to apply to Legal Aid NSW, imposing an additional and unexpected demand for our criminal law services from 1 July 2017.

Legal Aid NSW and the ALS began work on the transfer of clients who are eligible for legal aid

Legal Aid NSW took steps to mitigate the impact of this decision locally, determining how to deal with the additional work in the criminal law practice as well as assessing the full cost of the ALS service cuts.

About 11.4 per cent of criminal law clients of Legal Aid NSW identified as Aboriginal last financial year. This is expected to rise significantly as a result of these changes.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

The Legal Aid NSW Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-2018 has a number of strategies to address the changing legal needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities across New South Wales

Our two in-house Aboriginal Field Officers in Dubbo and Port Macquarie, and four ALS care and protection lawyers funded by Legal Aid NSW, assisted local communities through a combination of community legal education, outreach programs and legal representation.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in legal services

The Reconciliation Action Plan also committed us to maintaining our close working relationship with the ALS. We signed a new joint Statement of Commitment, outlining our respective roles in delivering coordinated best practice legal representation services to Aboriginal communities across New South Wales.

Aboriginal cultural competency programs were delivered to private lawyers in Dubbo, Gosford, Kiama and Sydney to ensure they have the skills, expertise and knowledge to provide culturally sensitive legal representation services.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

Legal Aid NSW has 13 Reconciliation Champions who attend Aboriginal community events to raise awareness of Legal Aid NSW services. Reconciliation Champions took part in major events this year, including Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout in Dubbo and Sydney, Yabun Survival Day Festival in Sydney and a number of NAIDOC Week events.

The year ahead

  • Maintain Aboriginal Field Officers at Dubbo and Port Macquarie Legal Aid NSW offices.
  • Maintain care lawyer positions with the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd.
  • Maintain flexible service delivery to Aboriginal communities through outreach programs and community legal education.