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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Our services, a snapshot

We provide a wide range of services to our clients

The information below shows a snapshot of our client services for 2016–2017. Three-year comparison tables can be viewed in Appendix 6.

Information about the law and legal services

Provided 517,888 information services

A 2.1% decrease on last year*

Our information services are free and can be accessed by the general community. Our staff can help with initial inquiries about a legal problem and legal processes, and provide printed information to help clients understand their situation and the availability of legal aid. Our staff help clients work out what to do next, and the best place to go if they need more help.

Information over the phone is available through LawAccess NSW, a free legal information, referral and limited advice service administered by the NSW Department of Justice, and partly funded by Legal Aid NSW.

* The decrease is largely due to new protocols that streamlined phone calls from prisoners, reducing the number of calls from prisoners.

Publications and community legal education

Distributed 752,270 publications

A 3.2% increase on last year

Resources were viewed online 980,729 times

Provided 2,173 community legal education sessions

A decrease of 3.1% on last year*

We provide free publications and legal education kits to help people in New South Wales understand their legal rights and responsibilities.

Our resources are available on our website under Factsheets and Resources and can be ordered online at Publications > Order a publication.

We conduct community legal education sessions at venues across the state for the public and community workers. These are tailored to suit the needs of particular groups.

* The review of community legal education at Legal Aid NSW by the Law and Justice Foundation resulted in a restructure of the way CLE is done at Legal Aid NSW. The transition period necessitated a reduction in the number CLE workshops that could be run this year.

Legal advice and minor assistance

Provided 141,000 advice and minor assistance services

A decrease of 4.4% on last year*

Free legal advice and minor assistance services are not means tested.

These services are available to everyone in New South Wales in 221 outreach locations around the state, as well as at our 24 offices.

During a short interview, our lawyers help clients to identify their problem, inform them of their legal rights and obligations and help them to understand what course of action they can take.

In some circumstances lawyers might also draft letters or other documents for clients and make telephone calls on their behalf to help resolve their problem. We refer to this as minor assistance.

Often this is all that is needed to help people resolve their legal issues. Clients who need further assistance such as attending a court or tribunal, may apply for a grant of aid for legal representation.

* A change in counting methodology contributed to this decrease.

Duty lawyer services

Provided 191,501 duty services

A 2.3% decrease on last year

117,598 provided in-house and 73,903 by private lawyers

Legal Aid NSW provides lawyers in a number of courts and tribunals throughout New South Wales. We refer to these as duty lawyers. The duty lawyer service is free.

Duty lawyers advise and/or represent disadvantaged people appearing before the Local and Children’s Courts on criminal charges. A duty lawyer is provided to all people in custody for a first appearance bail application.

Duty lawyer services are available for children and adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court in New South Wales, and at many regional courts when they sit as Children’s Courts.

Duty lawyers are also available at Local Courts for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

We provide duty lawyer services for disadvantaged people involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and child support legislation. These services are provided in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts. In some cases, lawyers can assist in preparing urgent applications for court, where a child is at risk of harm.

Legal Aid NSW also provides duty lawyer services for people detained under the Mental Health Act 2007. Our Mental Health Advocacy Service and regional civil lawyers provide duty services at the Mental Health Review Tribunal and at hospitals.

Duty advice services are available at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in Penrith and Sydney, where our lawyers help people understand their claims and how the tribunal can help them. We also offer a duty advice service for tenants who have cases in the Appeal Division of NCAT.

Details about our achievements in client service delivery are summarised in the Legal Aid NSW Plan 2016–2017 (See Achievements) and expanded upon in Section 1 of this report.

Legal representation

Provided representation in 37,874 matters

A 2.0% increase on last year

12,610 provided in-house and 25,264 by private lawyers

Legal Aid NSW provides legal representation in criminal law, family law and civil law matters to people who meet eligibility tests. Our policies can be viewed on our website: www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au at For lawyers > Policy Online.

Clients can apply for a grant of legal aid through one of our offices or a private lawyer or by completing a form. We have a means test for most grants of legal aid for legal representation so that services are targeted towards those who need them most. Most people granted legal aid are required to pay a contribution towards the costs of their legal representation.

For more information visit Get legal help > Apply for legal aid on our website.

Hotline for young people

Received 15,449 calls

A 2.0% increase on last year


5,933 legal advice services

A 2.5% increase on last year

4,012 minor assistance services

A 6.9% increase on last year

3,280 legal information services

A decrease of 13.1% on last year*

Our telephone hotline for young people provides legal advice, minor assistance and information to young people under 18. It operates from 9am to midnight weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday 9am to Sunday midnight and public holidays. Many of these calls facilitate the operation of the Young Offenders Act 1997 where, after legal advice, young people may make admissions to police and may be given a caution or warning or referred to a youth justice conference by police, rather than being charged with offences and brought before a court.

* We improved the screening/referral processes to ensure that the service meets the current needs of children.This includes referring Hotline callers who may have previously been provided with information services in the first place, to Hotline lawyers for preliminary legal advice.

Family dispute resolution

Held 2,801 conferences

A 0.2% increase on last year

We reached full or partial settlement in 80.7% * (full table in Appendix 6).

We provide family dispute resolution (FDR) conferences in family law matters to help resolve disputes at an early stage. Parties are given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement without the need to go to court. If they can agree, consent orders may be drafted and filed in the Family or Federal Circuit Court.

FDR is also available for matters late in litigation. If it is appropriate, the Court or Legal Aid NSW refers parties to FDR before legal aid is granted for representation at a final hearing.

We also provide mediation services for children and adults in care and protection matters, including contact disputes and adoption.

At least one of the parties must have a grant of legal aid before an FDR conference is organised.

* This includes family law conferences in both the State and Commonwealth jurisdictions. The Commonwealth only rate was 80.5%.

Specialist services

We ran 17 specialist units and established the Refugee Service to provide legal services and advice to refugee clients.

Our specialist units provide services for particular client groups or in particular areas of law. They are staffed by experts in their field.

Specialist services include:

  • Adult Drug Court Service
  • Appeals and Complex Litigation Unit (family and care matters)
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Civil Law Service
  • Children’s Legal Service (criminal matters)
  • Client Assessment and Referral Unit
  • Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities
  • Commonwealth Crime Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Domestic Violence Unit (includes South West Sydney Domestic Violence Unit)
  • Early Intervention Unit (family law)
  • Housing and Homeless Legal Support Program
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • Prisoners’ Legal Service
  • Refugee Service
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service
  • Work and Development Order Service