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Annual Report 2018 - 2019

Year-on-year trends – a snapshot

We provided a range of services to help people in NSW to know, defend and assert their rights in 2018–19.

Information about the law and legal services

We provided 325,156 information services, a 37.5% decrease* on the previous year.

Our information services are free and available to people across NSW. Our staff can help with initial enquiries 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 understand what to do next, and the best place to go if they need more help.

Information is provided over the telephone by LawAccess NSW, a free legal information, advice and referral service. In 2018–19, LawAccess NSW was part of the NSW Department of Justice and received funding from a number of sources, including Legal Aid NSW. In May 2019, the NSW Attorney General agreed to a request by the Department Secretary and the CEO of Legal Aid NSW for LawAccess NSW to join Legal Aid NSW in 2019–20. Integrating LawAccess NSW and Legal Aid NSW will simplify access to legal assistance and ensure people receive the right level of service at the right time.

* In September 2018, we changed the way we define information services to align with the agreed national standard. This led to a reduction in the recorded number of information services.

Resources and community legal education

We distributed 588,536 factsheets, brochures and other publications, a 13.7% decrease on the previous year.

Resources were viewed online 784,787 times, a 7.8% decrease on the previous year.

We provided 2,722 community legal education sessions, a 39.2% increase on the previous year.

Legal advice and assistance

We provided 138,639 advice and minor assistance services, a 4.9% decrease on the previous year.

We offer free, targeted legal advice across many areas of law. Advice is given at our 25 offices, two satellite offices and 243 regular outreach locations around the state. Lawyers help clients to identify their problem, they inform them of their legal rights and obligations, and they help them understand what their options are. In some circumstances our lawyers will also provide minor assistance by writing a letter, or helping them fill out court documents.

We provided 847 extended legal assistance services, a 64.5% increase on the previous year.

Extended legal assistance is a new type of service that we introduced in 2017–18 with the aim of achieving early legal resolution for people with multiple legal problems, or vulnerable people who had legal problems in priority areas of law. Following a promising pilot in civil law matters, this service type was expanded across criminal and family law. Extended legal assistance includes legal help provided to a client over a longer period than a one-off legal advice or minor assistance service, but does not generally include appearing on behalf of a client in court or before a tribunal. This new service type allows us to more accurately capture the ongoing work we do for our clients. In the past, this work was often recorded as multiple, separate minor assistance services.

On-the-spot help in courts and tribunals

We provided 213,128 duty services, an 8.2% increase on the previous year.

Of these services, 133,177 were provided by Legal Aid NSW lawyers, and we funded private lawyers to provide the remaining 79,951 services.

Legal Aid NSW makes duty lawyers available in courts and tribunals throughout NSW to provide free legal help and representation to eligible clients.

Duty lawyers advise and represent disadvantaged people who have been charged with a crime and are appearing before the NSW Local Court and Children’s Court of NSW. A duty lawyer is made available to all people who are in custody and are applying for bail during a first appearance before the court.

Where a client receives a duty service, and is eligible, a duty lawyer can help them submit an application for a grant of legal aid to finalise their matter. In other cases, eligible clients may be assisted entirely on a duty basis, for example, where they are pleading guilty to a summary offence and the matter is adjourned.

Duty lawyers are available to help children and adults involved in care and protection matters at every specialist Children’s Court, and at many regional courts when they sit as Children’s Courts. Duty lawyers are also available to help:

  • children and young people appearing at Youth Koori Courts who are experiencing civil law problems
  • women and children who are experiencing domestic and family violence at some Local Courts
  • disadvantaged people who are involved in proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and child support legislation
  • people detained under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW)
  • tenants who are involved in appeals before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal
  • parties involved in adoption proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court, and
  • people involved in a range of civil law proceedings in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Legal representation

We provided representation in 37,079 matters, a 5.9% decrease on the previous year.

Legal Aid NSW lawyers acted in 11,413 matters, and we funded private lawyers to act in 25,666 matters.

Legal Aid NSW represents eligible clients in criminal law, family law and civil law matters.

Clients who require ongoing legal representation can apply for a grant of legal aid online, in person at one of our offices, or through a private lawyer who does legal aid work. In most cases, our legal representation services are means-tested, and most people who receive a grant of legal aid will be required to pay a contribution towards their grant of aid.

Family dispute resolution

We held 2,879 conferences, a 1.1% decrease on the previous year.

We helped parties reach an agreement in 78.6%* of conferences.

Legal Aid NSW is the largest provider of legally assisted dispute resolution mediations in Australia. We provide family dispute resolution services to help separating families resolve disputes early on in proceedings and without the need to go to court. Family dispute resolution conferences support parties to reach an agreement, which can then be formalised through the family law courts. Family dispute resolution is available even in cases that have been before the courts for some time.

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

* This includes family law conferences in both NSW and Commonwealth jurisdictions. The Commonwealth-only rate was 78.2%.

Hotline for young people

We answered 16,423 calls to our hotline for young people, a 2.74% decrease on the previous year.

Through the hotline, we provided a total of 10,359 advice and minor assistance services, which was consistent with the previous year.

This included 5,797 advice services and 4,562 minor assistance services.

The Legal Aid NSW Youth Hotline provides legal advice, minor assistance and information to young people aged under 18. Lawyers are available to answer calls until midnight on weekdays and through the night on weekends and public holidays.

The hotline plays an important role in giving effect to the Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW). The Act allows for young people, after receiving legal advice where appropriate, to make admissions to police and receive a caution or a warning, or be referred to a youth justice conference, rather than be charged with an offence and face court.

Specialist services

We operated 21 specialist services.

Our specialist services are staffed by lawyers, social workers, financial counsellors and other professionals with expertise in supporting clients in particular circumstances or areas of law.

In 2018–19, our specialist services included the:

  • Appeals and Complex Litigation Unit
  • Child Support Service
  • Children’s Civil Law Service
  • Children’s Legal Service
  • Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities
  • Client Assessment and Referral Service
  • Commonwealth Crime Unit
  • Coronial Inquest Unit
  • Domestic Violence Unit
  • Driver Reform Implementation Team
  • Drug Court Service
  • Early Intervention Unit
  • Homeless Outreach Program
  • Housing Appeals Service
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme Service
  • Prisoners Legal Service
  • Refugee Service
  • Sexual Assault Communications Privilege Service
  • Veterans’ Advocacy Service, and the
  • Work and Development Order Service.