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How Legal Aid can help you

What legal problems can we help you with?

Legal Aid NSW can help you with:

Everyday legal problems   

  • Your rights about goods, services and contracts    
  • Fines, bills and debt    
  • Centrelink disputes    
  • Discrimination and harassment    
  • Your rights at work    
  • Eviction, repairs, rent or mortgage difficulties    
  • Immigration issues    
  • Elder abuse and older peoples’ rights    
  • Help after natural disasters      

What to do when your family relationship breaks down

  • Care and protection of children    
  • Child support    
  • Separation and divorce    
  • Parenting orders and grandparents’ rights    
  • Domestic and family violence    
  • Family dispute resolution conferences    
  • Separate representation for children    

What to do if you are in trouble with the law

  • Getting help at court    
  • If you’re under 18 and in trouble with the police    
  • Applying for bail    
  • Hearings in the Local Court to decide if there is enough evidence for your case to go to trial (Committals)    
  • Defended hearings where there is a possibility of gaol    
  • Court sentences and appealing decisions    

What kind of help can we give you?

We offer free legal advice

We offer free appointments of about 20 minutes to talk to a lawyer about your legal problem. If you need more help than this, then we may arrange for a lawyer to help with your case if you are eligible for a grant of legal aid.

We give ‘grants of legal aid’

If you need ongoing legal help from a lawyer, you must apply for a ‘grant of legal aid’. A grant of legal aid means that a lawyer who works for Legal Aid NSW, or a private lawyer who is paid by us, will represent you.

To apply for a grant of legal aid, you must fill out an application form. Forms are available from all our offices, from duty lawyers at local courts and on our website.

You can also apply for legal aid through a private lawyer who does legal aid work. A private lawyer can charge you for any work they do that is not covered by a grant of legal aid.

It is best to get legal advice before you apply for legal aid. You may able to get help with your legal problem without needing to go to court.

When deciding whether to give you a grant of legal aid, we look at:

  • what you want legal help for    
  • what you earn and what you own (this is called the means test), and    
  • other factors that show whether it is reasonable to grant legal aid, including how strong your case is (this is called the merit test)    

To see if you are likely to get a grant of legal aid under the means test, use the means test indicator on our website.

A grant of legal aid is not free. Most people will have to pay a contribution to the legal costs of their case

We have specialist legal services

Children’s Legal Service and Youth Hotline

We advise and represent children involved in criminal cases in the Children’s Courts and have duty lawyers at other courts. Call (02) 8688 3800.

If you are under 18 and need urgent advice, call the Youth Hotline on1800 10 18 10. Mon-Thurs 9am-midnight, Fri-Sun and public holidays, 24 hours.

Child Support Service

Call (02) 9633 9916 or 1800 451 784 (outside Sydney metropolitan area).

Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities

We can help with money worries, discrimination, problems with the police, housing and Centrelink problems. To find out more about the service and which communities we visit, call 02) 9219 5057 or freecall 1800 793 017.

Mental Health Advocacy Service

People with mental health problems and their families can call (02) 9745 4277.

Prisoners Legal Service

Prisoners can contact the Prisoners Legal Service on the common auto dial list (CADL) as a free call — just press 11# (Legal Aid NSW) and ask for Prisoners Legal Service.

Friends and family of prisoners can call (02) 9219 5000 and ask for the Prisoners Legal Service.

Veterans’ Advocacy Service

To find out about veteran’s rights and entitlements, call (02) 9219 5148 or veterans@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

You can get more information about all our specialist services on our website.

We have duty lawyers at court

If you have to go to a Local Court about a criminal matter, you can speak to a duty lawyer. Duty lawyers are available at most Local Courts in NSW.

If this is your first time in court and you want to see a duty lawyer, then you should be at court by 9am. The duty lawyer may not be able to help you finalise your case on the first day. You may need to adjourn your case, which means it will be postponed to another day.

We offer free workshops and webinars

We run free workshops and information sessions for the public, for schools and community groups.  We also run web-based seminars on legal issues for community workers and the public. See the workshops and webinars section under What we do on our website for dates, times and  registration information.

We have free publications and resources

We produce easy to understand factsheets, brochures, DVDs and resources to help people with their legal problem. A number of these are translated into different languages. All our publications can be viewed or ordered on our website: www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications

There are some things we don’t do

There are some things that Legal Aid does not do. For example, we don’t advise or represent people at court for personal injury, taxation or business matters.

We also don’t attend police stations or give you telephone advice if you are arrested. However, if you are under 18 you can call our Youth Hotline on 1800 10 18 10.

Where can you get more information?

The best place to start is to call the free telephone helpline—LawAccess NSW—who can help you straight away. They will give you free information and in some cases legal advice, about your legal problem. Or they may refer you to another service.

You can call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529. You can also visit their website at www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services

If you are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander you can get free help from all Legal Aid NSW offices or from the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS). Call the ALS on 1800 765 767. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children can also get help from Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal  Centre  on 1800 686 587 or the Indigenous Women’s Contact Line on 1800 639 784.

Interpreter Services

If you need someone who speaks your language to help make an appointment with Legal Aid, call the Translating and Interpreter Service (TIS) 131 450. If you need an interpreter in your language on the day of your advice session with Legal Aid, let us know at the time when you make an appointment. We  will  arrange an interpreter for free. If you are going to court and need an interpreter, ask you legal aid lawyer to arrange one.

Community Legal Centres (CLCs)

CLCs give free legal advice and help with all kinds of legal problems. Call 1300 888 529 or search for a centre in your area at www.clcnsw.org.au.

Private Lawyers

The Law Society of NSW can refer you to private lawyers in your area. It can also tell you about private lawyers who do legal aid work. Call the Law Society’s Solicitor Referral Service on (02) 9926 0300.

Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services

WDVCASs assist women and children experiencing domestic violence get legal protection from the court. Call 1300 888 529 or check our website for your closest service.

Community Justice Centres

A free mediation service for people in dispute with friends, family members or neighbours. To find a centre near you, call 1800 990 777 or visit www.cjc.justice.nsw.gov.au.

Public libraries

Legal information is available on the Find Legal Answers website at www.legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au and in local public libraries across New South Wales.

Best for Kids website

The Best for Kids website has legal information and resources for young people and families on a wide range of legal issues: www.bestforkids.org.au

Where can you find us?

We have offices across New South Wales. We also visit over 200 other locations in metropolitan and regional NSW where you can drop in or make an appointment to discuss your legal problem. You can find your nearest Legal Aid NSW office or other places we go by visiting our website www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/contact-us

The information in this brochure is correct when it is printed, but the information can change.

This brochure is available in Arabic, Bengali, Burmese, Sim Chinese, Croatian, English, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Khmer, Laotian, Macedonian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish, Urdu and Vietnamese.

Do you need an interpreter? Translating and interpreting Service (TIS) symbol If you need help to talk to us in your language, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 (9am-5pm).

If you need an interpreter on the day of your legal advice appointment, let us know when you make your appointment and we will arrange an interpreter.

Do you find it hard to hear or speak? National Relay Service (NRS) symbol If you find it hard to hear or speak:

  • call us through the National Relay Service on 133 677 or www.relayservice.gov.au or    
  • call LawAccess NSW on 1300 889 529.

    June 2016