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Annual Report 2018 - 2019


Community legal centres

Legal Aid NSW administers the Community Legal Centre Program for 32 community legal centres in NSW and the state peak body, Community Legal Centres NSW.

Community legal centres provide free legal services to disadvantaged people. They are independent, non-profit organisations that are generally incorporated bodies managed by a board or management committee. Legal Aid NSW also administers funding for Children’s Court Assistance Schemes that operate at seven NSW Children’s Court registries under the auspice of four community legal centres.

In 2018–19, the Community Legal Centre Program Unit at Legal Aid NSW continued to work closely with community legal centres to improve access to justice for disadvantaged and vulnerable people across NSW. Community legal centres funded through the program delivered legal services to more than 35,000 people.

Fact file
Thirty-two community legal centres funded through the Community Legal Centre Program:
- assisted 35,887 people
- provided 42,537 advice services to clients
- opened 4,829 representation services and closed 4,051 representation services, including 994 services provided for court and tribunal proceedings
- delivered 699 community legal education activities and created 173 resources, and
- made 51,063 referrals.
In all, 97.5% of representation services were directed to financially disadvantaged clients, exceeding the benchmark of 90% set out under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015–2020.

Funding in 2018–19

A total of $24,440,163 was paid to community legal centres and Community Legal Centres NSW through the program. This included:

Funding sources

The Public Purpose Fund also provides funding directly to community legal centres. More details about funding can be found in Appendix 5.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

Acting on the review of NSW community legal centre services

Legal Aid NSW implemented a new application-based process for allocating NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund funding to community legal centres following the NSW Attorney General’s record NSW Government funding announcement of more than $40 million for the sector from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2022. This included an additional $5.2 million each year to support community legal centres.

"Community legal centres will benefit from a record investment in community justice."

The new process was informed by key recommendations of a review of NSW community legal centre services led by Alan Cameron AO, which aimed to ensure that legal assistance is directed to people most in need, and to improve service delivery by community legal centres. The Attorney General appointed an independent panel to assess applications from 41 organisations and make recommendations about funding allocations. The Attorney General accepted most of the panel’s recommendations, but granted some community legal centres additional funding to ensure that from 2019– 20, no community legal centre that provided services to vulnerable clients would receive less in combined NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund funding than in 2016–17.

Legal Aid NSW provided secretariat support to the panel and supported the community legal centre sector to participate in the new application-based process. We also worked closely with the peak body, Community Legal Centres NSW, and the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, to provide information and support to community legal centres through the application process, including information sessions, a guide to applications developed by Community Legal Centres NSW, and a legal needs analysis developed by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW.

Improving financial certainty for the sector

Community legal centres are key partners in helping us achieve our goal of improving access to justice. The new three-year funding cycle provides greater financial certainty for the sector and improves community legal centres’ ability to plan ahead. This will help thousands of vulnerable people to solve complex legal problems and support critical gaps in services, including to people in remote and rural areas, women experiencing domestic and family violence, seniors, disadvantaged people with health-related legal issues, and migrant workers experiencing exploitation.

A clearer reporting framework

Legal Aid NSW consulted with the sector in developing a new, streamlined framework for community legal centre reporting under their service agreements. The new reporting framework has been adopted and will be subject to continuous review.

Exceeding a key performance benchmark

Community legal centres continued to exceed the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015– 2020 benchmark for provision of representation services to clients who are defined as financially disadvantaged. In 2018–19, 97.5 percent of representation services delivered by community legal centres were provided to clients experiencing financial disadvantage, exceeding the benchmark of 90 percent.

Higher-quality data about the work of community legal centres

To address ongoing challenges with community legal centre data consistency and reliability, Legal Aid NSW provided funding to the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) for a project to improve data consistency. NACLC prepared a National Data Consistency Guide and supported community legal centres by providing training, webinars and other resources. This will help to ensure that community legal centres adopt a consistent approach to recording data in the Community Legal Assistance Services System.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will support the community legal centre sector in preparing for the next National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.
  • Service visits to community legal centres will support them in their work.
  • We intend to finalise a new service agreement with community legal centres.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program

Legal Aid NSW administers NSW Government funding for 29 Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services and their peak body, the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW Inc*, through the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCASs) cover 117 NSW Local Courts and every police area across NSW. They provide information, advocacy, safety planning and referrals to women experiencing domestic violence and their children. The services also play a key role in the Safer Pathway program, including by providing support for Safety Action Meetings across the state. Safety Action Meetings are interagency meetings in local areas that aim to assist victims at serious threat of injury or death due to domestic and family violence.

"The number of women supported annually by Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services has more than doubled in five years."

The Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP) is responsible for coordinating the social support services component of the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS) that operates in four family law court registries. WDVCASs in Sydney, Parramatta, Wollongong and Newcastle provide social support for women through the FASS, while Relationships Australia provides social support for men through the FASS.

* In August 2019, the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service NSW Inc became Women’s Safety NSW. In this report, we refer to it as it was known during the reporting year.

Fact file
- A 9.0% increase in the number of clients supported compared with the previous year
- A 20.5% increase in the number of service events provided from the previous year
- 12.8% of WDVCAS clients identified as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
- 18.5% of WDVCAS clients identified as being from culturally diverse backgrounds
- 8% of WDVCAS clients identified as having a disability

Funding in 2018–19

In 2018–19, $28,262,777 was paid in grants through the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program (WDVCAP) to incorporated, not-for-profit, non-government service providers under a funding agreement with Legal Aid NSW. These services host WDVCASs in 29 locations across the state.

This amount included $15,407,768 to support a statewide network of 48 Local Coordination Points. Local Coordination Points are hosted by WDVCASs as part of Safer Pathway, a NSW Government initiative to reduce domestic and family violence and provide support to victims.

For further details regarding WDVCAP funding, see Appendix 4. Number of women supported by WDVCASs

Women supported by WDVASs

OBJECTIVE: Meeting clients' needs

Supporting consistent, quality services for women in NSW

An independent evaluation of the WDVCAP, finalised in July 2018, found that the program’s management model was achieving excellent results. The evaluation found that the Legal Aid NSW approach to reporting, training, mentoring, communication and resources was central to the program’s success, and also to the consistent, quality service delivery provided by WDVCASs across NSW.

More than 90 percent of the 47 clients who participated in the evaluation stated that they felt safer after engaging with a WDVCAS.

More support for people affected by domestic and family violence

In 2018–19, WDVCASs supported 47,902 clients across the state, a 9.0 percent increase from the previous year. Referrals were made to services for family support and counselling, accommodation and health services, case management, legal advice on apprehended domestic violence orders and other legal issues ranging from family law, debt, immigration, victims’ compensation and tenancy.

Safety Action Meetings held at 48 Safer Pathway sites provided a targeted, multi-agency response to those affected by domestic and family violence who are assessed as being at serious risk of injury or death. In 2018–19 there were 1,194 Safety Action Meetings held. Of the referrals to Safety Action Meetings in 2018–19, 90.7 percent were for women and 9.3 percent for men.

OBJECTIVE: Strong partnerships

Putting NSW on a Safer Pathway

This year, the WDVCAP, in cooperation with our partners including the NSW Police Force, Victims Services NSW and WDVCASs around the state, finalised the rollout of the NSW Government’s Safer Pathway initiative.

Safer Pathway represents a fundamental shift in the way government agencies and non-government organisations support victims’ safety in NSW. Through Safer Pathway, the right services are provided to victims when they need them, in a coordinated way. Local Coordination Points, which are hosted by WDVCASs, receive referrals from police, government agencies and non-government sources about people experiencing domestic and family violence in their local area. They then conduct risk assessments and provide victims with case coordination and support.

"We worked alongside our partners to finalise the Safer Pathway rollout across NSW."

The final five Safer Pathway sites came into operation in November 2018, bringing the total number of Safer Pathway sites across the state to 48. The most recent sites are Central Sydney, Fairfield, North Sydney, Parkes, and an expansion of the Parramatta site to include Auburn.

An independent evaluation of Safer Pathway released in February 2019 found that a comprehensive training program implemented by the WDVCAP Unit had been positively received by Local Coordination Point workers and Safety Action Meeting members, who have requested ongoing annual training.

Culturally safe services for Aboriginal clients

In April 2019, the WDVCAP Unit began providing Aboriginal cultural competency training to WDVCAS workers and their service providers. The highly-evaluated training program addresses differing social and world views, how these differences may affect Aboriginal people in education, justice and other systems, the impact of forced assimilation and separation of families on individuals and communities, and how to identify trauma-related behaviours.

The training supports WDVCAS workers and service providers to provide trauma-informed and culturally safe services to Aboriginal clients and their communities.

Year ahead iconThe year ahead

  • We will progress the recommendations of the independent evaluation of the WDVCAP.
  • We will provide ongoing support for Safer Pathway sites in partnership with the NSW Police Force and Victims Services.