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START OF 2016 -17 annual report
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The past year has been a time of growth for legal aid in Queensland with improved services in many areas.
We are guided by our Strategic Plan 2013-17 and its four objectives, along with the Queensland public service values-customers first, ideas into action, be courageous, unleash potential and empower people.
In pursuit of our strategic plan objectives of social inclusion and early resolution, we established the Family Advocacy and Support Services in family law courts in Brisbane, Cairns and Townsville; an employment law advice service at the Fair Work Commission; a child protection early intervention pilot service; and enhanced legal representation services in our Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Services at five locations.
We also expanded our legal representation services, including a new statewide Mental Health Review Tribunal legal representation service funded by Queensland Health. Our board approved new, more generous guidelines for child protection grants of aid from 1 July 2017 and a CPI fee increase for private lawyers for state law matters. In addition to these planned initiatives, we also responded to significant growth in demand for criminal law grants of aid.
As set out in our strategic plan, we aim to progress our vision through collaboration. The collaborative processes we support, such as the Queensland Legal Assistance Forum and Industry Reference Group, continue to provide a solid platform for achieving this goal. We have also invested significant effort in responding to government requests for contributions to law reform and service delivery policy processes, with an extensive list set out on page 48.
Service delivery value can only be achieved when underpinned by high quality business support services. Key human resource initiatives included introducing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy and a psychological wellbeing program for staff focused on addressing vicarious trauma. Significant improvements in our ICT systems included introducing Voice over Internet Protocol telephony and enhancements to our mobile digital platforms. We also relocated our Southport office and, in doing so, completed our regional office upgrade program. Our Grants division not only absorbed increased applications for legal aid, but also implemented a new compliance program and new processes for managing our expensive criminal law grants program.
I would like to express my appreciation to the state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Hon Yvette D'Ath MP, for her strong support for Legal Aid Queensland. The abovementioned growth in our state services were all supported by targeted additional funding from the Queensland Government. Ongoing general increases to our funding, implemented as part of the Queensland Government's commitment to increasing our per capita funding to national average levels, should also ensure we are able to meet the additional cost of criminal law service growth in the year ahead.
My appreciation is also extended to federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, for the additional funding for the new Family Advocacy and Support Services.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome our incoming chairperson, The Hon Margaret McMurdo AC,and farewell chairperson Brian Stewart and board member Peter Nolan.
Finally, and most importantly, I sincerely thank all of Legal Aid Queensland's employees and our partners in private law firms and community legal centres. Through your joint efforts we have moved a little bit closer this year to our vision of a fair justice system where people can understand and protect their legal rights.
Chief executive officer