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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Regional partnerships

People living in regional, rural and remote areas can have difficulty accessing legal services.

Legal Aid NSW played a leadership role in supporting regional coalitions and outreach programs to improve service delivery to people disadvantaged by distance.

Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program

Fact file
40 CLSD Program projects commenced or completed
32% of projects delivered with Aboriginal communities
6 wills clinics with 6 Aboriginal communities
6 joint service clinics operating across regional and remote New South Wales
32 education sessions in 17 locations
Weekly traffic law advice and representation clinics in Broken Hill, Wyong and Toronto Local Courts

The Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Program (CLSD) supports regional partnerships between legal and related non-legal services to improve access to legal services for disadvantaged people. CLSD partnerships aim to target the needs of disadvantaged people, improve coordination of legal services and extend regional capacity through cooperation.

There are currently 12 CLSD Program partnerships across regional and remote New South Wales, each with a funded CLSD Program Regional Coordinator based at a local organisation. Each CLSD Program partnership meets face to face four times a year, and works collaboratively on projects to meet identified and emerging legal and related non-legal needs. The CLSD Program Unit based in Sydney provides administrative and strategic support to the CLSD Program regional justice partnerships across New South Wales.

CLSD Program partnerships include representatives from Legal Aid NSW regional offices, Community Legal Centres, the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, Local Courts, tenancy, domestic violence, youth, disability and financial counselling agencies, local community, neighbourhood and settlement services as well as private and pro bono legal services, government departments, health services and local libraries.

CLSD Program and Regional Outreach Clinic Program locations as at 30 June 2017.

Case study

Early guidance can improve legal outcomes for families

The Northern Rivers CLSD Program partnership implemented an early intervention referral project to improve legal outcomes for families that have contact with NSW Family and Community Services (FACS) about their children. The project, led by the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre with the Lismore Legal Aid NSW office, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the local Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, has produced a referral card of Northern Rivers free legal assistance services for child protection issues, domestic violence, family violence support and advocacy support and a referral map to identify when and why it is important for families to get legal advice.

The project grew out of a concern by CLSD partners that service providers and families were not aware that a FACS intervention or notification was a legal issue, and did not know where families could get legal help. The project also aims to address the underuse of FACS early intervention opportunities such as parent responsibility contracts.

Since February 2017 the project has focussed on sector development, with workshops held to date in Lismore and Tabulam.

"Northern Rivers—bringing legal information to families early enough can make a difference."

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

Projects aim to remove barriers to justice

CLSD partners work together to develop projects and strategies to assist disadvantaged people with complex legal and related needs and low legal capability.

Each of the 12 CLSD Program partnerships determines service priorities by drawing on local empirical data and demographics to help identify local legal needs and gaps in legal and related non-legal services.

The CLSD Program also funds collaborative, needs-based projects. In 2016-17, there were 48 CLSD Program partnership meetings across New South Wales, including two strategic planning days.

In 2016–2017, CLSD Program partners took part in 40 projects in regional, rural and remote New South Wales. The CLSD Program supported projects and initiatives including:

  • joint service advice and minor assistance clinics in various regional locations
  • joint legal and non-legal service outreach days in Warren, Coonamble, Mungindi, Bourke and Brewarrina
  • community legal education initiatives
  • advice and representation in traffic matters for which legal aid is not available in various Local Courts
  • a cross-border forum in the Northern Rivers with the Cross Border Commissioner
  • pro bono legal advice for tribunal representation for Aboriginal tenants in Walgett and Moree and wills/planning ahead clinics for Aboriginal people in Bourke, Brewarrina, Taree, Wilcannia, Central Coast and Bathurst.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in service delivery

The CLSD Program Unit brought the CLSD Regional Coordinators together for workshops in December 2016 and June 2017 to develop their capacity to strengthen the regional justice partnerships.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

CLSD Program projects draw upon the collective resources and know-how of local services, both legal and non-legal, to address locally identified needs, and promote access to legal assistance and information about legal rights and services.

The annual Bourke and Brewarrina Law Week project each May is an example of how strong partnerships develop and mature over time through joint action to respond to the particular needs of a community. Through the Central West CLSD Program partnership, around 20 services collaborated on outreach to provide legal and related non-legal services in these communities. As well as providing legal advice and free wills, services assisted with birth certificates, fines, tenancy and consumer issues.

The CLSD Program hosts speakers and consultations on state-wide initiatives. In 2016–2017, CLSD Program partnerships hosted representatives from the Department of Justice’s Civil Justice Strategy and MERIT re-design team, LawAccess NSW, Liquor and Gaming, the Cross-Border Commissioner and Fair Trading NSW.

The CLSD Program participated in various cross-sector committees including the NSW Legal Assistance Forum (NLAF) and NLAF working groups to address systemic justice and policy issues identified through the CLSD Program partnerships.

The year ahead

  • Convene collaborative service planning in Moree, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Kempsey and the Riverina.
  • Advocate to address some of the systemic issues arising through the CLSD Program regional justice partnerships.
  • Identify and develop initiatives to assist disadvantaged young people, for example in relation to school attendance and for court support.

Regional Outreach Clinic Program

Fact file
456 advice services
62 advice services (13.6%) delivered to Aboriginal clients

Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP) services are part of a flexible suite of Legal Aid NSW services provided by in-house and external lawyers.

Under the ROCP, Legal Aid NSW funds private and community legal centre legal lawyers to provide legal advice and minor assistance services to communities that have little, or no, access to public legal services. They are located in areas identified as high need where it may not be feasible or efficient to provide a regular in-house outreach service.

The Program also aims to increase the uptake of grants of legal aid for representation in regional New South Wales. ROCP clinics operate from host agencies including local neighbourhood centres, Local Courts, public libraries and family support services.

The work of the ROCP Program is guided by a Steering Committee that scopes and determines ROCP locations.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

ROCP services are reviewed regularly and realigned to complement in-house outreach activity. In 2016– 2017, we re-established the ROCP clinics in Toomelah and Boggabilla and continued clinics in Bega and Gloucester. ROCP clinics at Moree, Tenterfield, Kempsey and Bathurst were discontinued as the capacity of Legal Aid NSW regional offices to undertake clinics in those locations increased. New ROCP clinics were established in Goulburn, Tweed Heads, Laurieton, and South West Rocks.

OBJECTIVE Excellence in service delivery

ROCP lawyers are expected to provide high quality legal advice in areas of law usually delivered by in-house lawyers. ROCP lawyers attended an annual in-house training course on new and emerging areas of law provided by our in-house experts, and were briefed on new policy and practice developments. ROCP lawyers were invited to attend all Legal Aid NSW conferences.

OBJECTIVE Strong partnerships

The ROCP is a good example of Legal Aid NSW working in partnership with the private profession and community legal centres to deliver legal assistance services in some of the more remote areas of New South Wales.

The year ahead

  • Explore locations for more ROCP clinics and establish three new clinics in Cowra, Griffith and Taree.
  • Make sure communities find out about ROCP clinics along with other free legal assistance services in each location.