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Annual Report 2018 - 2019

Aboriginal community partnerships

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

We have a close working relationship with the ALS as our key partner in delivering high-quality, culturally competent services to Aboriginal people and communities across the state, in accordance with our joint Statement of Commitment, which sets out our roles and responsibilities.

This year, we increased our regular communication with the ALS through the establishment of quarterly liaison meetings between practice executives.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

Turning young Aboriginal lives around

In February 2019, a second Youth Koori Court opened at Surry Hills Children’s Court. The success of this innovative court depends on wider collaboration between all parts of the legal and justice fraternity and respected Elders in the Aboriginal community.

Since the opening of the first Youth Koori Court in Parramatta, Legal Aid NSW has partnered with the ALS to provide legal and social support to young Aboriginal people who come before the court. Typically, these young people have complex needs and multiple civil law issues which, if left unresolved, could affect their path to rehabilitation and contribute to further offending.

Cultural competency sessions help lawyers deliver culturally safe services

Our Aboriginal Cultural Competency Program is designed to equip practitioners with the skills and knowledge they need to better represent Aboriginal clients. We partnered with the ALS to develop and implement the sessions, including training programs for civil, family and criminal lawyers on trauma-informed practice, cultural dispossession, advocating for Aboriginal clients in sentencing proceedings and guardianship issues. This year we continued implementing our locally-oriented Aboriginal cultural awareness program in regional areas including Coffs Harbour and Wagga Wagga.

We also provided comprehensive training on legal issues affecting the representation of Aboriginal people to colleagues from across the legal profession at the 2018 Legal Aid NSW Criminal Law Conference. This training helps ensure that Legal Aid NSW and our partners are delivering high-quality and culturally responsive legal representation services to Aboriginal people across the state.

Funding to deliver justice reforms to Aboriginal people

Legal Aid NSW provided funding for the ALS to employ six additional lawyers and three administrative support staff to support the delivery of high-quality, culturally appropriate legal services to Aboriginal people in matters under the 2018 early appropriate guilty pleas reform. This reform was designed to encourage more criminal cases to be resolved earlier in proceedings, and to reduce court time for those matters that do proceed to trial. Legal Aid NSW also provided funding to ALS to brief barristers to appear in serious criminal matters pursuant to the reform.

Legal Aid NSW provided funding to the ALS to employ a dedicated lawyer to deliver legal services to Aboriginal people in applications made under the Driver Disqualification Scheme. Under recent amendments to the Road Transport Act 2013 (NSW), disqualified drivers may apply to the local court for an order removing current driver disqualifications. Aboriginal people have been shown to be disproportionately affected by driver disqualification.

Marking a decade of mutual commitment with the ALS

Legal Aid NSW and the ALS first entered into a Statement of Cooperation in 2008. Under a memorandum of understanding between our organisations, we strive to work together in true partnership to deliver high-quality, culturally appropriate and coordinated services to Aboriginal people and communities in NSW. The memorandum outlines our responsibilities in achieving this and acknowledges the unique position of the ALS as an Aboriginal community-managed organisation.

OBJECTIVE: A fairer justice system

Diverting young people from our criminal justice system

We worked with the ALS and the NSW Police Force to identify reasons for the low use of youth diversionary measures, which aim to steer young offenders away from our criminal courts and reduce the risk of re-offending, and set targets to increase diversion from the criminal justice system. Our youth diversion project has an initial focus on diversion rates and the outcomes of matters that do go to court in Mount Druitt, in western Sydney.

Aboriginal community partners

Paulette Whitton from Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation and Legal Aid NSW Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities lawyer Merinda Dutton at the 2018 Civil Law Conference


Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will continue to deliver Aboriginal cultural competency and service delivery training at practicespecific conferences and in regional NSW.
  • We will maintain and establish strategic partnerships with Aboriginal community non-government organisations to ensure we meet the legal representation needs of Aboriginal communities across the state.