Go to content

Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Past and present, our history

Our History

New South Wales has a long history of providing legal aid for criminal, family and civil law problems.

In almost 100 years, legal aid has developed from a charity to a key element of the justice system.

Poor Persons Legal Remedies Act—first formal legal aid scheme

The Public Defender’s Office represents disadvantaged people in serious criminal cases

The Legal Assistance Act 1943 set up the Public Solicitor’s Office—the first time in the western world that lawyers were employed to give legal aid to low income earners

“Shopfront lawyers” in the new Australian Legal Aid Office provide services under Commonwealth law

The NSW Government establishes the Legal Services Commission (now known as Legal Aid NSW)

State and Commonwealth legal aid offices merge to form the Legal Aid Commission of NSW

Expansion includes alternate dispute resolution and specialist services for children, women experiencing domestic violence, prisoners, and people with mental health problems.

Increasingly, our lawyers go out to communities where they are needed. We work in partnership with other agencies so people can be linked to our services at an earlier stage. We address clients’ legal and non-legal needs through client-centred and holistic services.

Key legislation governing our work

Our organisation is established under the Legal Aid Commission Act 1979 (the Act). The Act establishes Legal Aid NSW as an independent statutory body with a mandate to provide effective, efficient and economical legal services that are available and accessible to disadvantaged people in New South Wales.

The Government Sector Employment Act 2013 (the GSE Act) provides a framework for employment and workforce management. We have complied with the GSE Act and introduced a new performance planning and staff development system.

The health and safety of people in our workplace is conducted in accordance with section 19 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Our financial statements are prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Public Finance and Audit Act 1983.