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Annual Report 2017 - 2018

Contributing to law reform

Our experience working with vulnerable and disadvantaged clients across NSW means that we are able to engage in a wide range of law reform processes to advocate for legal, policy and operational changes that will benefit our clients.

In late 2017, we established the Strategic Law Reform Unit. In 2017–2018 we made 41 public submissions and provided confidential comments on a range of draft Bills and other government proposals.

OBJECTIVE Access to justice

We have contributed to inquiries investigating the availability of vital programs for clients in the criminal justice system, including:

  • a NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiry into youth diversionary programs in NSW, and
  • a NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the provision of drug rehabilitation programs in regional, rural and remote NSW.

We made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s inquiry into the Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

We scrutinised and provided feedback on a range of Commonwealth and State legislative proposals to amend the criminal law.

We engaged extensively with the NSW Department of Justice regarding the NSW Government’s proposals for Strengthening Child Sexual Abuse Law in NSW. This reform package, based on the Criminal Justice Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, also contains some additional reforms that we advocated for:

  • a new similar age defence for young people who engage in consensual underage sex.
  • an exception and defence to the sexting offences for young people under the age of 18 years, to address particular situations that do not merit a criminal justice response.

Advocating for vulnerable clients

Legal Aid NSW made a number of submissions to different bodies on financial hardship and consumer issues, and contributed to the NSW Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW).

We also made submissions on visa simplification and immigration detention facilities.

We made a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs Inquiry regarding local adoption, and contributed to a joint submission from National Legal Aid to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of the family law system.

We also contributed to the Independent Review into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People in Out of Home Care in NSW, and made a submission to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services on the Shaping a Better Child Protection System Discussion Paper.

The impact of the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) on our vulnerable clients

Legal Aid NSW assists a significant number of vulnerable clients across all our practice areas who are NDIS participants, or likely to be eligible for the scheme. We have identified a number of areas where the transition to the NDIS is disadvantaging those clients. Legal Aid NSW is focusing broadly on the impact of the transition to the NDIS on vulnerable clients and working with a number of agencies to identify gaps and develop solutions.

We made a submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into NDIS costs. We also made a submission to the Inquiry of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme into market readiness for the provision of services under the NDIS.

Our submission highlighted the experiences of Legal Aid NSW clients who are at increased risk of homelessness, contact with the criminal justice system and incarceration because of the transition from state-based disability services to the NDIS.

We made a submission to the NSW Department of Family and Community Services regarding proposed legislative protections for residents in long term supported accommodation, many of whom would be NDIS participants.

We participate in the NDIS Justice Cluster Working Group and a local National Disability Insurance Agency and Justice Working Group looking at the implementation of the NDIS in Sydney.

calendar iconThe year ahead

  • Identify improvements needed in legal and justice systems, develop and progress over the next two years a strategic agenda for law, policy and operational reforms.
  • Continue to contribute to significant policy and law reform processes for vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
  • Review impact of the transition to the NDIS.
  • Review family law systems and family court structures in relation to vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
  • Review NSW Law Reform Commission's work relating to sexual assault offences.
  • Review sentencing by NSW Sentencing Council of vulnerable or disadvantaged recidivist traffic offenders.