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Annual Report 2021 - 2022

Meeting the needs of diverse clients

Many of our services are targeted to the most vulnerable people in our community.

Fact file
Proportion of grants delivered to clients born in non-English speaking countries: 8.9%
Amount spent on interpreters and translators: $1,730,623
Community legal education sessions presented to multicultural audiences:188

Our diverse clients cover a broad range of groups including people with disability, people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and people from LGBTQIA+ communities.

Targeted programs fill the gaps

In addition to initiatives delivered under our Strategic Plan and Diversity and Inclusion Plan, Legal Aid NSW delivers targeted programs to meet the specific legal needs of diverse communities.

1. Refugee Service

The Legal Aid NSW Refugee Service provides legal advice, assistance and representation, and a range of community legal education to refugees in NSW. The most recent external evaluation in 2019 found that the service is highly valued by both refugee clients and stakeholders, well implemented and promoted to refugees, fills a critical gap in legal support for refugees, and is regarded as a vital service in the sector. Clients reported feeling extremely comfortable using the service and are prepared to trust the service and recommend it to others.

2. Immigration Service

The Immigration Service provides legal advice, assistance and representation for people seeking asylum in Australia, victims of family violence, people who have had their visa cancelled or experienced a legal error in an earlier migration decision.

Legal Aid NSW has supported a significant number of clients affected by trauma, including those affected by family violence from their sponsoring former partner, and refugees with a reasonable fear of persecution in their home countries to attain a permanent visa.

3. Community legal education (CLE)

CLE is the way we educate the community to know their rights and get legal help. Each year Legal Aid NSW delivers a wide range of CLE to diverse communities, through face-to-face presentations and information sessions, workshops, attendance at community events across NSW, and online via podcasts, YouTube channels and webinars. Legal Aid NSW delivers CLE to community members, organisations and health workers.

Supporting women on temporary visas experiencing domestic violence

Our Domestic Violence Unit and Civil Law Immigration teams launched a partnership with the Australian Red Cross in July 2021 to provide integrated legal and support services to women on temporary visas escaping violent relationships.

The teams worked collaboratively to provide generalist and specialist legal advice and representation to vulnerable women who need help with migration, family violence and family law issues, as well as social work support and financial counselling. They have also provided community education for domestic and family violence groups.

Story iconRemoving barriers to social housing – negative classification of former social housing tenancy

We assisted a vulnerable 55-year-old woman to exit homelessness and secure stable social housing. She is a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) recipient and reliant on the disability support pension, suffering from several chronic health conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, vision impairment and osteomyelitis, and requiring use of a wheelchair. Her daughter is her full-time carer. She became homeless after a private landlord issued her with a ‘no grounds’ termination notice. She couldn’t secure another rental property despite applying for over 30 and having previously sustained a tenancy in regional NSW for 10 years. She was living week to week in temporary accommodation provided by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ).

Our client tried to apply for social housing but was told she was ineligible. In 2007, her social housing tenancy was terminated due to allegations of illegal use, and she was classified as an ineligible former tenant. We obtained our client’s housing file and successfully helped her appeal the classification on the basis that the illegal use charges had been withdrawn in 2007. She also met the special conditions for being put back on the social housing list under DCJ policy, because her circumstances had significantly worsened. Our client was given priority classification and housed in a property with her carer daughter.

Afghan crisis response

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in August 2021 and the ensuing evacuation of Afghan citizens to Australia created a sudden surge in demand for legal services in NSW.

By 31 October 2021, our Refugee Service and Immigration Law team had provided over 450 services to clients seeking advice connected to the Afghanistan crisis. That included answering a high number of calls and emails from people in Afghanistan seeking help with evacuation before Kabul airport closed and advice on visa options to enter Australia. Permanent residents of Afghan descent also sought assistance getting loved ones to Australia.

We developed fact sheets on visa options and delivered community legal education sessions to over 600 people. Service demand has continued, with evacuees seeking advice about their long-term visa status in Australia and sponsoring family in Afghanistan to join them in Australia.

Supporting interpreters to assist our clients

Our Community Legal Education team ran seven live webinars for interpreters in 2021–2022 about understanding legal words. Sessions supported them to interpret tricky concepts like ‘injunction,’ ‘arraignment’ or even ‘leave [of the court]’.

Story iconFee-free birth certificates for vulnerable people born in NSW

Having a birth certificate is critical for people like Damien* to access core government services and participate in society. Damien is a long-term rough sleeper and regular at Soul Café in Newcastle, which provides meals and support daily for people experiencing disadvantage.

This year, Damien attended a birth certificate clinic organised by the Legal Aid NSW Cooperative Legal Service Delivery (CLSD) program and Soul Café. The clinic was made possible thanks to a new partnership between the CLSD program and the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages that aims to make fee-free birth certificates available to vulnerable people born in NSW who live in regional and remote areas and face significant barriers to obtaining their birth certificate.

Outside of meals, this was the first event Damien had ever attended. After completing his application, Damien reported that the event had given him the confidence to renew other identification like his Medicare and pension cards. Damien also made an appointment with a bank and asked for support to open an account. Opening a bank account will allow Damien to access Centrelink benefits.

Damien said that the process of applying for a birth certificate and the respectful encouragement and support that he received from the lawyers led him to take steps to change his circumstances, that he may not have taken otherwise.

*name has been changed