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START OF 2017–18 annual report
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The Australian Government and the states and territories entered into a new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA) in July 2015. The NPA governs the manner in which Commonwealth legal aid services funding to the states and territories is to be used, as well as the broader goals and objectives of legal assistance services.
The NPA emphasises the early resolution of legal problems through community legal education (CLE) and discrete assistance (ie information, referral, legal advice and legal task services).
The service delivery categories used in the NPA have been adopted throughout this annual report.
The categories are:
Community legal education
Information and referral
Legal advice and legal task services
Facilitated resolution processes
Family dispute resolution conferences
Civil dispute resolution
Duty lawyer services
Criminal law duty lawyer
Family law duty lawyer
Domestic and family violence duty lawyer
Child protection duty lawyer
Administrative Appeals Tribunal duty lawyer
The NPA includes a national performance framework for legal assistance for Commonwealth funded services. The sole performance benchmark relating to Legal Aid commissions is for 95 percent or more of representation services to be delivered to people experiencing financial disadvantage.
In 2017–18, we achieved 100 percent compliance compared to a 95 percent target.
Percentage of administrative decisions referred to external review that are overturned
Percentage of accounts processed by Grants division within 14 days
Average cost per client for criminal law duty lawyer service
Average cost for calls received through the contact centre
CLE activities are an integral part of the services offered by Legal Aid Queensland. Our CLE activities are coordinated through a strategy that responds to priority client groups and legal problems and aims to:
Our CLE Strategy is delivered through:
The NPA’s focus on prevention, early intervention legal services and collaboration has been a key driver for the strategy and coordinating our CLE work.
During the year we:
Legal Aid Queensland provides comprehensive, statewide, free legal information and referral services to disadvantaged Queenslanders. Our free legal information and referral services can be accessed online via the Legal Aid Queensland website (www.legalaid.qld.gov.au), by phone through our client contact centre or in person at one of our 14 offices throughout metropolitan and regional Queensland.
The Legal Aid Queensland website complements our information and referral services by providing comprehensive legal information and a statewide network of referral agencies. Clients can also access information in person by visiting one of our offices or community access points.
Our website allows all Queenslanders to access accurate legal information and service provider referrals. The website includes features such as:
Legal Aid Queensland first established a statewide call centre in 1997 to provide telephone information services to the general public. In December 2017, we acknowledged 20 years of continuous call centre operations. During the year, we replaced the software system that underpins call centre operations. The new software was deployed in November 2017 and is a cloud-based solution that manages incoming calls and staff rosters.
Over the next few years our staff will be engaging with clients in new ways as technology continues to change and develop. To acknowledge this change, we renamed the call centre the ‘Client Contact Centre’ in 2017. This new name recognises our staff are at the frontline for people contacting Legal Aid Queensland.
Our client contact centre answered 142,145 calls in 2017–18 and provided 98,087 legal information and referral services to clients. The team also provided 622 legal information and referral services via email.
We continued to give prisoners in correctional centres priority access to our client contact centre to reduce their waiting time. Prisoners are considered highly vulnerable clients as they have extremely limited access to legal services and support, and are at a high risk of social exclusion and financial disadvantage. Prisoners’ call times are restricted and time waiting in a queue counts towards their call limit and impacts their capacity to deal with their legal issues.
In 2017–18, we continued our partnership with the Queensland Police Service as a community service provider for the Police Referrals Management Service. The service helps people who come into contact with police and other community agencies and organisations and who require support for legal issues. During the year, we handled 3070 referrals from this program.
We also worked to improve our business processes and systems to further streamline the delivery of information and advice to clients. The changes included:
These actions, together with ongoing improvements to our website, which encourages self-help and provides relevant legal information, have resulted in:
In 2017–18, the client contact centre provided specialist services to support Legal Aid Queensland initiatives including:
In May 2018, we welcomed four new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law undergraduates to the client contact centre. This new initiative is helping Indigenous Queenslanders to receive culturally appropriate services via our Indigenous Hotline (1300 65 01 43) and provides the Indigenous law undergraduates with exposure to a diverse range of legal issues at the start of their careers.
Financially disadvantaged Queenslanders can access our free legal advice and legal task services by telephone, including via the National Relay Service, by videoconference and face-to-face at Legal Aid Queensland offices and at designated outreach services. The legal advice service is primarily provided by our Brisbane-based First Advice Contact Team (FACT), specialist teams and regional offices. The FACT provides face-to-face advice to eligible clients at our Brisbane office and statewide telephone advice services. They also help as domestic and family violence duty lawyers as needed.
The FACT also provides legal task services for people who might need help with preparing letters and other documents following initial legal advice.
The FACT continued to provide a client contact centre lawyer service, where an advice lawyer helps our client contact centre staff to identify and manage clients with complex legal issues. The client contact centre lawyer program also provides advice to clients who are particularly vulnerable and who have time sensitive legal issues.
We provide free legal advice to eligible clients in:
We provide a Prison Advice Service, which primarily uses videoconferencing to provide legal advice services to people in Queensland’s prisons. Videoconferencing reduces travel time and provides cost savings. The Prison Advice Service and some regional advice lawyers also provide face-to-face advice services at designated prisons.
We provide specialist legal advice and minor assistance to victims of crime about applications for financial help to Victim Assist Queensland. We provide a weekly Victim Assist telephone advice clinic.
During 2017–18, we continued to provide telephone advice clinics five days a week, and face-to-face consumer advice clinics at our Inala, Woodridge and Ipswich offices.
During the year, we continued to provide specialist telephone advice clinics about state and federal anti-discrimination laws three days a week. We also provide a specialist advice clinic one afternoon a week at the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ).
We provide a specialist legal advice and task assistance clinic about federal employment law matters under the Fair Work Act 2009. We provide telephone advice clinics four days a week. We also provide a specialist advice clinic two days a week at the Fair Work Commission’s Brisbane registry.
We continued to provide our Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program, which helps vulnerable clients, particularly women who have experienced domestic and family violence, to receive priority legal advice. The program operates in 12 locations around the state—Brisbane, Caboolture, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Richlands, Woodridge, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Mackay, Rockhampton and Townsville. We saw an increase in the number of referrals and partner organisations during the year. This year saw the Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program celebrate its 10th year of operation.
During the year, we provided legal advice, support and information to women dealing with domestic and family violence matters and related child protection and family law matters, including through the Application Assistance Program and the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service.
The Application Assistance Program helps women applying for domestic and family violence protection orders in the Brisbane Magistrates Court by:
The Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service provides free and confidential help to all women who attend the Brisbane Magistrates Court for domestic and family violence matters. The service is available to all women applying for or responding to a domestic and family violence protection order, and helps them:
The Brisbane-based Child Protection Early Intervention Pilot Service continued to focus on providing legal advice and advocacy for vulnerable parents early in child protection intervention. The team’s early intervention lawyers work collaboratively with community-based support agencies to make sure the pilot reaches vulnerable parents involved, or at risk of becoming involved, with the child protection system. Early intervention legal support involves advocating for parents to receive support and guidance to keep their children safe so that statutory child protection intervention occurs only as a last resort. This support may involve legal advice and help before the start of court proceedings. The pilot service was independently reviewed with an overall recommendation that it should continue to operate.
In November 2017, we established the Youth Legal Advice Hotline with funding from the Queensland Government’s Transitioning 17 year olds to Youth Justice reforms. The hotline provides young people, youth justice stakeholders and Queensland Police with information, support and legal advice. The hotline aims to provide young people with improved access to early legal advice, increasing the likelihood of their issues reaching an early resolution, and promoting diversionary options or bail release for young people suspected by police of having committed an offence. During the year, the hotline received 658 calls and staff provided early legal advice and assistance in 242 matters.
Our Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service operates in 76 Queensland Magistrates and Childrens Courts and plays a crucial role in our youth and adult justice systems. The service offers free initial legal advice and representation to people charged with criminal and serious traffic offences who are on bail or in custody in Queensland. Duty lawyers can enter guilty pleas, make bail applications and request remands for clients.
Duty lawyer services are provided by our in-house lawyers, authorised private lawyers and the ATSILS who deliver services under roster or tender arrangements.
We are committed to case conferencing and mediating matters with the prosecution to ensure our clients have their legal issues resolved as soon as possible. This can have significant sentencing benefits for clients and can also result in savings to the criminal justice system by avoiding court time being wasted. It also means witnesses and victims do not have to go through the stress of attending court.
Our Family Law Duty Lawyer Service provides help to self-represented litigants in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court throughout Queensland for family law matters. We provide services in Brisbane, Southport, Ipswich, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.
The duty lawyer service provides information, legal advice, referrals and in some cases, representation to clients with matters in court that day. We also help people complete their own forms and documents, negotiate and settle consent orders, and seek adjournments. We help people complete applications for legal aid or access our review process if they have previously been unsuccessful with applications for aid.
In March 2017, we established the Family Advocacy and Support Services in the Commonwealth law courts in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns. This is a federal government funded service focusing on giving more and earlier help to clients who have been impacted by family violence.
The service recognises people coming to the family law courts need more than just legal help—it involves lawyers and social support workers who can work together to address the client’s legal and non-legal needs.
The service provides legal advice and help for unrepresented people on their court date, complementing the Family Law Duty Lawyer Service. Legal help is also provided for clients who are not in court but have a very urgent family law issue, such as seeking recovery or airport watch list orders for children.
Lawyers give people information and legal advice, negotiate with other parties, prepare simple court documents and represent people in court (in some situations). Support workers can help clients with safety planning and referrals for their social support needs.
The service continues to provide a wrap-around legal and social support service to clients who need urgent help.
During the year, we were a key partner involved in implementing the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts at Southport, Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa and Palm Island operating duty lawyer services to support clients and the court. The service gives people access to free legal help before their court appearance. The service’s clients include those affected by domestic and family violence and those who are responding to an application for a domestic and family violence order. In Southport, the service also provides legal help to defendants charged with breaching domestic and family violence orders and related criminal cases. The duty lawyers provide legal advice, representation and referrals to other legal and support services for people appearing before the specialist courts.
This year, the duty lawyers in the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts have helped 10,456 people appearing before the court for civil domestic and family violence matters.
We also operated domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in 12 other courts around Queensland. The duty lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help clients to fill out forms and documents needed for that day in court, discuss the clients’ eligibility for ongoing support from Legal Aid Queensland in the domestic violence matter and other related legal problems, and provide referrals to appropriate support services. In some circumstances, the duty lawyer may also appear in court on the client’s behalf for their domestic violence matter.
The duty lawyer services are provided in the 17 courts by in-house lawyers and lawyers from preferred supplier law firms and CLCs. Providing legal help and referrals early in the court process helps applicants and respondents to better understand their options and the legal implications of these options. It also helps people to connect with support services early to help keep them and their children safe.
We operated the Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service in Brisbane, Ipswich, Southport, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Caboolture, Pine Rivers, Townsville and Cairns Childrens Courts. The service provides free legal help to parents and young people before they appear in court for their child protection matter.
The service is a court-based advice model where lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help people fill out forms and documents needed for that day in court and also talk to the clients about their eligibility for ongoing legal representation from Legal Aid Queensland. In some circumstances, the duty lawyer may also appear in court on the client’s behalf for their child protection matter.
The Child Protection Duty Lawyer Services are provided by in-house lawyers and lawyers from preferred supplier law firms and CLCs.
Lawyers being available to provide advice to people about their child protection issues help the clients to be properly informed before going into court, to feel more confident negotiating the legal process and more accepting of the outcomes.
We continued to work with the ADCQ to provide a weekly advice clinic at their offices. The clinic is available to clients whose complaints have been accepted by the commission. Clients receive legal advice face-to-face or via phone about their complaint’s prospects of success, the conciliation process, how to proceed to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) and, if appropriate, help with applying for legal aid.
We continued to provide social security appeal advice clinics in collaboration with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and Basic Rights Queensland. We provide clinics at the AAT’s Social Services and Child Support Division and General Division on Tuesdays and Wednesdays each week.
Clinics focus on providing advice and assistance to clients about disability support pensions, debts, compensation preclusion cases, social security benefits cases where there is a dispute about whether a person is in a couple relationship, other complex cases and matters involving vulnerable clients. The service provides advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence and, if appropriate, helps them apply for legal aid.
We continued to provide a Workplace Advice Clinic at the Fair Work Commission’s Brisbane office on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. The clinic provides people with legal advice about unfair dismissal and general protections applications. Lawyers provide advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence and, if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.
Legal Aid Queensland is a national leader in providing lawyer-assisted family law dispute resolution. We provide a statewide lawyer-assisted family dispute resolution program. We aim to resolve family law disputes before matters go to court or before a final hearing if court proceedings have started. The program achieved an outstanding result in 2017–18, with 80.4 percent of matters achieving an early resolution.
We have dispute resolution conference organisers in Brisbane and regional centres around the state to help families. Family law dispute resolution conferences are held at our Brisbane and regional offices. An important part of our dispute resolution program is our property arbitration program.
Our Farm and Rural Legal Service provides free legal help to Queensland farmers and primary producers experiencing financial hardship related to their business, including those with severe debt problems or those in dispute with their lenders.
We provide legal advice and represent clients in mediations with their banks and finance providers. The service is provided by our in-house lawyers.
Our in-house practice, together with hundreds of private law firms (preferred suppliers) and barristers, provide representation services to legally-aided clients in serious crime, general crime, juvenile justice, family law, child protection, domestic violence and other civil law matters. We use grants of aid to purchase these services from private lawyers.
About 80 percent of our legal representation is provided by private lawyers, and barristers who are briefed by them and our in-house practice, with the remainder provided by our in-house practice.
Our Grants division is responsible for processing applications for grants of legal assistance and managing these grants following approval. We assessed 41,638 new applications in 2017–18 (see Figure 8 for more information) and saw an increase in the number of applications for criminal and civil law matters compared with 2016–17. Applications are processed by staff in our Brisbane and regional offices.
Demand for our services is high so we use strict criteria when granting aid for legal representation. In determining whether to approve a grant of aid, grants officers assess requests in line with our guidelines, which are set by the Legal Aid Queensland Board, and apply the means and merits tests. This process looks at the financial means of the person applying and the case’s merit. If an application is refused, internal and external review processes are available to applicants.
We provide legal representation in the Magistrates Court for pleas of guilty, summary trials, committals and other Magistrates Court matters.
Our lawyers are involved in the Magistrates Court callover process in Brisbane and provide case conferencing services for summary and committal matters. During the year, we expanded our in-house duty lawyer services in Brisbane to help unrepresented defendants in the Court Link criminal callover in the Brisbane Magistrates Court. Court Link is a new program based on individual case management and monitoring by the Magistrates Court to address the underlying causes of offending. We also began providing in-house duty lawyer services to the dedicated Domestic and Family Violence callover court in Brisbane. These services have been well received by the Magistrates Court and provide legal help and representation to a previously unrepresented group of defendants.
In the past year, following the state government’s election commitment to reintroduce diversionary processes and programs, we actively participated in re-establishing diversionary courts in Queensland. The Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court (QDAC) started operating in February 2018. Our extensive knowledge and experience of previous drug court programs has allowed us to positively contribute to the launch and successful operation of this important specialist court program.
Our lawyers specialise in the defence of complex and general criminal law cases, in Commonwealth and state jurisdictions. We also provide legal assistance in Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (DPSOA) matters.
Representation is often delivered in serious criminal matters such as murder, major fraud and complicated drug prosecutions. The defence of these matters is challenging and demanding, requiring extensive research, investigation and preparation.
In DPSOA matters, we act for people responding to dangerous prisoner applications brought by the Attorney-General, at periodic reviews of continuing detention orders, and in contravention proceedings for breaches of supervision orders.
Lawyers also provided help to clients who must appear before hearings conducted by the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland or the Australian Crime Commission.
Our General Crime team has helped absorb some of the growing demand in criminal law work, particularly in south east Queensland’s District and Supreme Court jurisdictions.
Our experienced lawyers continued to contribute to criminal justice system consultation to help increase efficiencies in the superior courts, particularly in relation to complex trial case management.
Legal Aid Queensland represents people on appeal in the District Court appellate jurisdiction, Queensland Court of Appeal and the High Court of Australia. Appellate jurisdictions are the safety net for the criminal justice system and our lawyers appear in many appeals alongside in-house counsel.
Our lawyers work with stakeholders in the appellate jurisdictions to improve representation and the justice system generally. Our Appeals team helped to coordinate and deliver representation in a number of appeals before the Court of Appeal in Townsville during mid-2018. Our Appeals team has also been actively engaged with the Court of Appeal to ensure we provide efficient and effective defence representation in legally-aided appeals.
Our Mental Health Unit provides advice and representation for people charged with criminal offences who have been referred to the Mental Health Court. The team is also committed to helping Queenslanders affected by mental illness or significant impairment and strives to provide them with a voice in the justice system. The team works closely with our in-house counsel to conduct matters, representing the vast majority of non-privately represented clients appearing in the Mental Health Court.
Our criminal lawyers represent young people primarily in casework matters and duty lawyer services throughout Queensland. We also provide legal advice services at regular sessions to young people in detention. Our Youth Legal Aid team provides specialist legal assistance to children and young people in the youth justice system, particularly in south east Queensland. The team is a significant stakeholder in the youth justice sector and advocates strongly on behalf of vulnerable children.
We continued working with the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) to provide legal representation services to patients appearing before the tribunal under the Mental Health Act 2016.
The tribunal sits in 72 locations across Queensland, and during the year we provided more than 2500 legal representation services to clients.
The MHRT is an independent statutory body protecting the rights of people receiving involuntary treatment for mental illness. It provides an independent review process and makes decisions about whether treatment should occur either in hospital or in the community.
To help service clients statewide, we have an in-house MHRT team based in Brisbane along with a network of more than 25 external legal service providers (private law firms that do legal aid work and CLCs). Our in-house team, working together with the network of service providers, gives legal help to some of Queensland’s most vulnerable people appearing in the tribunal across the state.
During 2017–18, the Queensland Government implemented reforms to transition 17 year olds into the youth justice system. Prior to these reforms, we made several policy submissions to government sharing our knowledge, experience and expertise in this jurisdiction. We also provided statewide legal training programs for youth justice stakeholders to coincide with the reforms being implemented.
In support of the youth justice system reforms, the government has funded Legal Aid Queensland to deliver two new initiatives—the Youth Legal Advice Hotline and a Remand Reduction Strategy. The hotline enables young people and youth justice stakeholders to access legal information and advice about a criminal law matter by telephone, while providing Queensland Police investigating officers with an available lawyer to help promote early resolution and diversionary options. For more information, see Youth Legal Advice Hotline.
The Remand Reduction Strategy provides an important legal advice and representation service for young people detained in custody, helping them to pursue bail applications where the individual’s case has merit. During the year, two lawyers and a paralegal, working with the principal lawyer, considered 684 referrals and completed 79 bail applications before the Childrens Court of Queensland.
Our in-house Youth Legal Aid team has also expanded its duty lawyer service to cover 11 court locations in south east Queensland to accommodate the increased numbers of young people before the Childrens Court.
Our social workers and psychologists play an integral role in delivering our legal services to vulnerable clients. They support people through legal processes, chair family dispute resolution conferences, complete social assessment and family reports, psychological and pre sentence reports and provide counselling services. We provide social work services from our Brisbane and Townsville offices.
During the year, our social workers and psychologists completed forensic assessment reports and psychological reports for independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives involved in family law and child protection matters, and provided testimony before the courts. Our psychologists help our criminal lawyers by preparing pre sentence reports. They helped our lawyers by providing clients with information and referrals to appropriate external organisations for help with non-legal matters such as mental health problems, substance dependencies and accommodation difficulties.
We represent people in domestic and family violence matters through grants of aid to private law firms and to our in-house legal practice.
Our specialist multi-disciplined Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy team helps clients experiencing domestic and family violence. The team comprises specialist lawyers and social workers who provide services to people and practical advice about service delivery in domestic and family violence cases.
In February 2018, we established a Commonwealth funded Domestic Violence Service in Rockhampton to provide a wrap-around service to clients impacted by domestic violence.
The service is designed to support the client’s legal and non-legal needs by involving lawyers and support workers working together to address the client’s needs. The service provides advice and assistance for clients in the domestic and family violence and family law jurisdictions in Rockhampton.
In November 2017, we established Counselling Notes Protect in partnership with Women’s Legal Service. This new service provides advice, assistance and representation to clients about a new Queensland law that protects the counselling records of victims of sexual assault or alleged sexual assault from being used in some courts.
We provide information, referral, legal advice and representation services to clients in some child support areas. We can explain how the child support formula works, how the Family Tax Benefit is affected and how to prove paternity.
Helping children, their families and the courts to assess the best interests of children involved in legal proceedings is a key focus of the work conducted by our family and child protection lawyers. We continued to provide legal services for children and young people involved in family law and child protection matters in 2017–18.
Courts exercising family law and child protection jurisdiction make a significant number of independent children’s lawyer and separate representative appointments, where judicial officers order a child’s interests be separately represented. Independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives provide best interests representation for children, playing a unique and difficult role within the family law and child protection systems. They gather and assess independent evidence, help children and young people to participate in legal processes that affect them, and provide measured guidance and recommendations to the courts about the best interests of children and young people. The cases they work on are complex and demanding. Many of these matters are dealt with by specialist in-house lawyers. Our in-house independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives have significant experience and knowledge about parenting and child protection cases.
In addition to appearing in complex child protection and family law matters, our in-house lawyers also perform considerable work in the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan list— a case management list devoted to cases where there are allegations of serious physical abuse or sexual abuse of children.
We facilitated independent children’s lawyer and separate representative panel meetings to help ensure knowledge is shared and issues are discussed between the private practitioners on the panel and in-house specialist lawyers. This ensures a consistent, quality approach to representing children and young people.
We are the largest legal service provider to individuals in Queensland, providing information and advice, representation of parents, direct representation of young people, separate representation of children and young people in the Childrens Court of Queensland, and limited representation in the QCAT in respect of reviewable decisions.
In 2018, we delivered child protection masterclass training for in-house lawyers and preferred supplier child protection practitioners. The training included a keynote address by Dr Gerald Featherstone from Kummara Indigenous Family Care about positive parenting practices in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Brisbane.
We provide specialist legal advice, assistance and representation in matters involving anti-discrimination, sexual harassment and vilification. We provide representation in the Australian Human Rights Commission, ADCQ, QCAT, Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, Queensland Court of Appeal and Federal Court of Australia.
We represented a young Indigenous woman who was employed. At her place of employment comments were made by co-workers in the lunch room about Aboriginal people. The comments made were about Aboriginal people sitting on the side of the road drinking alcohol, drinking too much, not washing (although the one’s in the city may wash), and being smelly in shopping centres. When the young woman identified as Aboriginal, the response from her co-workers was that “she didn’t look Aboriginal” and she was asked which tribe she came from. The young woman reported the incidents and the employer failed to act. She subsequently resigned.
The young woman lodged a complaint in the ADCQ joining the co-workers who made the comments and the employer. The matter was resolved at conciliation with the co-workers and employer agreeing to do a statement of regret and complete cultural awareness training. The employer also agreed to provide a statement of employment and pay $15,000 compensation for hurt and humiliation. The agreement between the parties also preserved the young woman’s right to pursue a WorkCover claim.
We provide specialist legal advice, assistance and representation about federal employment law matters under the Fair Work Act 2009 in relation to unfair dismissal and general protections. We provide representation in the Fair Work Commission, Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court of Australia.
The Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme is an outlays only scheme that helps financially disadvantaged people who have a civil law claim for which no grant of legal aid is available. Funded by the Public Trustee of Queensland and administered by Legal Aid Queensland, the scheme covers outlays required to prepare civil law claims for settlement negotiations and/or court proceedings. The scheme does not fund legal professional fees and lawyers accessing the scheme must agree to speculate their fees. The scheme operates under guidelines independent of Legal Aid Queensland’s grants of legal aid.
The scheme will consider providing funding for outlays where:
Applications are subject to means testing and merit assessment, and assistance will only be approved if it is considered the claim has reasonable prospects of success.
We receive federal funding under the War Veterans’ Legal Aid Scheme to provide help to veterans and their dependants in relation to appeals of Veterans Review Board decisions about:
In 2017–18, we helped 37 veterans and their dependents to file appeals.
We provide specialist advice, assistance and representation in consumer law matters. We provide advice to clients as well as lawyers and financial counsellors throughout Queensland.
During the year, we helped people with:
The Farm and Rural Legal Service provides advice and representation at farm debt mediation to Queensland farmers and primary producers facing financial hardship related to their business, including severe debt problems or those who are in dispute with their lenders. In 2017–18, we expanded the service by employing a senior lawyer in our Townsville office.
We provide specialist legal advice, assistance and representation for clients considering appealing Centrelink decisions. We also provide legal representation for social security appeals in the AAT, the Federal Circuit Court and the Federal Court of Australia.
During 2017–18, we continued to provide legal representation to people who have applied for an external review to the AAT of a decision by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). The NDIS allows eligible participants to access government funding for reasonable and necessary supports to the person with a disability to enable social and economic participation.
Decisions about access to the scheme, eligibility for funding—and the extent of that funding—are made by the NDIA. If a person is unhappy with the NDIA’s decision, they can ask for an internal review of the decision by the agency, and if they remain dissatisfied with the NDIA’s decision they can apply to the AAT for an external review of the decision.
We provide legal services through arrangements with the Commonwealth Department of Social Services where a case raises complex or novel legal issues. Applications for legal assistance are made directly to the Department of Social Services.
In 2017–18, we provided legal representation to nine NDIA participants seeking reviews in the AAT.
In 2017–18, our in-house team of barristers, led by Public Defender John Allen QC, again showed their commitment to providing quality specialist legal advocacy services efficiently and effectively.
Counsel continued to undertake complex trials and sentences in the Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts, and also appeared in all Mental Health Court sittings and in the Supreme Court’s civil jurisdiction for respondents in applications brought under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act. Counsel also provided advice and representation in family, child protection and civil law matters.
Our Townsville and Brisbane-based barristers also appeared in circuit sittings of the Supreme and District Courts in regional locations.
Senior barristers provided advice on the merit of appeals to help the appeals section in assessing applications for legal aid. They also appeared in appeals against sentences and/or convictions before the Queensland Court of Appeal, including matters in which the Attorney-General had appealed against the sentence.
Members of in-house counsel shared their legal expertise by contributing to Legal Aid Queensland’s continuing professional development program and that of the Bar Association of Queensland, including helping with training Bar Practice Centre students.
The increased volume, complexity and diversity of the work undertaken by counsel has provided opportunities for in-house counsel to develop the skills and experience that ensure legally-aided clients continue to have access to high quality representation and advice.
Legal Aid Queensland aims to provide quality legal services to financially disadvantaged people and we continue to improve the quality of our work and the outcomes for our clients.
We continued to use our Quality Legal Services Framework for Legal Aid Queensland employed lawyers. The document lists the measures we have in place to ensure we maintain a high standard of service delivery to our clients.
Our preferred supplier law firms are required under their agreement with Legal Aid Queensland to meet our policies, guidelines, and file management, practice and case management standards.
As part of our commitment to ensuring funding is used in line with the terms and conditions of approved grants, we implement a rolling program of compliance checks. These compliance checks focus on particular aspects of compliance across a large number of grants of aid and suppliers.
In 2017–18, we focused on the following areas of compliance:
We communicate all compliance activity outcomes to the participants and use these to continuously improve our grant funding processes.
We require the work performed by preferred supplier firms to be at a high professional and ethical standard and the preferred supplier firms comply with the terms of the preferred supplier agreement. We respond to complaints received from clients and other stakeholders about preferred suppliers in line with our complaints policy and procedures. We assess complaints to identify any concerns about the preferred supplier’s compliance with the agreement. If we identify concerns, the complaint is investigated by seeking a response from the preferred supplier and gathering any other material relevant to the complaint. We consider all available information and decide whether the complaint is substantiated or not substantiated. We then notify the complainant and the preferred supplier once the investigation is finalised.
We record all complaints and these can be used to identify a pattern of non-compliance. Substantiated non-compliances can be dealt with under the clauses of the preferred supplier agreement including a notice of breach or by terminating the preferred supplier agreement. Complaints of a serious nature can also be referred to the Legal Services Commissioner.
In November 2017, we endorsed the Law Council of Australia’s equitable briefing policy which aims to create a level playing field for all members of the Australian legal profession. The Law Council of Australia’s goal is for women barristers to be briefed in at least 30 percent of all matters and to be paid 30 percent of the value of all brief fees by 2020. Legal Aid Queensland is committed to implementing strategies to support this policy to improve the briefing practices of all Legal Aid Queensland service providers, including our in-house practice and private law firms who do legal aid work on our behalf.
In 2017–18, we implemented strategies to improve the numbers of women barristers being briefed by Legal Aid Queensland service providers including:
Since November 2017, these strategies have seen the number of women barristers being briefed for matters increase from 22 percent to 26 percent. The largest increase was achieved by our in-house legal practice, where the number of women barristers briefed increased from 31 percent to 39 percent, placing us above the Law Council of Australia’s 30 percent briefing target. Unfortunately, the increase by private law firms who do legal aid work was only 1.4 percent. In 2018–19, we will be implementing measures to ensure these figures continue to grow towards the 30 percent briefing target outlined by the Law Council of Australia.
During the year, we continued our commitment to clients from culturally diverse backgrounds. We promoted our services within these communities to increase people’s awareness of Legal Aid Queensland and improve their access to justice by:
We are committed to providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. During the year, we:
We continued to value our important partnership with the ATSILS. During the year, our board chairperson, First Nations Advisory Committee chair and CEO met with the ATSILS chair and CEO to discuss how Legal Aid Queensland can work with the ATSILS to improve service delivery.
We recognise many people with disabilities experience legal problems and require services that are responsive to their individual needs and circumstances. Our website is accessible to users, including people with disabilities, as required by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines endorsed by the Australian Government.
Web accessibility focuses on providing equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities. For example, websites should be compatible with screen readers used by people with vision impairment and with devices used by people who cannot use a mouse because of a physical impairment. It also benefits people with literacy issues, older users and mobile device users.
When people with a disability make contact with our client contact centre or in person at one of our offices, we have processes in place for identifying their vulnerabilities and giving them priority and supported access to our services.
People who are deaf, or who have a hearing or speech impairment, can contact us through the National Relay Service.
During the year, we developed an information booklet about our services for people with an intellectual disability using Easy English.
Legal Aid Queensland is committed to providing frontline legal services to rural, regional and remote areas of Queensland. We have 13 regional offices providing services throughout regional Queensland, and a statewide network of regional preferred supplier private law firms that contribute to supporting Queensland’s justice system.
We also work closely with 38 CLCs across the state. Many CLCs help Legal Aid Queensland deliver domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in regional courts.
We provide direct legal services such as grants of aid for court representation, legal information and advice, and duty lawyer services to people in rural, regional and remote Queensland (see Figures 9 and 10). About 40 percent of our legal advice and representation services are delivered to clients in non metropolitan areas.
Other frontline legal aid services available to regional Queenslanders include:
We treat women, especially women experiencing domestic and family violence, as a priority client group. We support the Queensland Government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence by delivering legal information, advice and representation to disadvantaged Queenslanders experiencing domestic and family violence. We support and acknowledge Queensland’s domestic violence laws’ objective—to maximise or increase the safety, protection and wellbeing of people who fear or experience domestic violence, including their children.
Our specialist Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy team works with clients who experience domestic and family violence. Their mission is to increase women’s access to our services and improve our responsiveness to meet women’s legal needs. They work to develop and maintain effective working relationships with service providers and identify, review and respond to issues impacting on women’s access to justice.
The team acts for women with complex legal issues in the areas of family law, child protection, discrimination, domestic violence and crime. They also provide services to women from culturally diverse backgrounds and women with intellectual disabilities. We have a network of family lawyers in our 13 regional offices who deliver legal services to local communities in response to issues arising from family relationships, including domestic and family violence, and child protection.
Our Violence Against Women Strategy is an integrated, collaborative and consistent response to clients who have been affected by domestic violence. Under the strategy, we have developed and implemented practical tools for our practitioners including:
We have legal information resources to help clients affected by domestic and family violence, which can be found on our website.
Key disadvantaged group
Criminal law %
Family law %
Civil law %
Regional and remote
The Queensland Legal Assistance Forum (QLAF) helps member organisations address legal assistance issues by facilitating cooperative working relationships with other legal service providers in rural and regional areas. Legal Aid Queensland provides secretariat support to the forum. There are three specialist forums under the QLAF:
There are 12 RLAFs around the state. During 2017–18, we continued to coordinate the work of those forums. The RLAFs aim to encourage collaborative and cooperative working relationships between legal aid service providers in each region. By working together service providers have been able to identify emerging legal needs in their communities and help determine which legal service is best placed to meet legal needs and ultimately reduce service delivery gaps.
One RLAF network successfully applied for funding from the CLE Collaboration Fund’s seventh round to continue to provide CLE in partnership with other local legal service agencies. The RLAFs’ work aligns with the NPA with its focus on increased collaboration and cooperation between legal assistance providers. It also allows legal assistance services to target people who experience or are at risk of experiencing social exclusion.
The CLE Legal Assistance Forum (CLELAF) is a specialist forum of the QLAF. The CLE LAF operates as a network and helps Legal Aid Queensland and the community legal sector to work collaboratively on CLE projects and share CLE information and resources to avoid duplication.
The network includes representatives from legal assistance service providers that deliver CLE services and fosters good CLE practice. During the year, the CLELAF met four times. The forum’s activities are reported to the QLAF each quarter.
During the year, forum members also participated in a CLE masterclass professional development event coordinated by CLCs Queensland and funded through the CLE Collaboration Fund. The masterclass’ objectives were to:
The Children and Family Legal Assistance Forum (CAFLAF) is a sub-committee of the QLAF. The forum aims to encourage cooperation and collaboration between legal assistance service providers working with families and children and to promote good practice across legal assistance services in delivering legal and related services to families and children.
A steering committee guides the forum’s work and in 2017–18 was responsible for overseeing three working groups:
In September 2017, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) received terms of reference from the Commonwealth Government to conduct a review of the family law system. In March 2018, the ALRC released an issues paper calling for submissions to the review. We have coordinated meetings by the CAFLAF with the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner conducting the review.
At the request of the CAFLAF, we designed and delivered a series of webinar training sessions to lawyers from CLCs, the ATSILS, Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service and preferred supplier law firms about the conduct of child protection matters.
We act as state program manager for CLCs, monitoring their financial reporting and ensuring service delivery targets are met. During 2017–18, we administered funding on behalf of state and federal governments to 38 CLCs throughout Queensland (see Table 6 for more information).
This year, Queensland centres received $20,099,124 in Community Legal Services Program funding.
The state government also provided $335,000 through its project funding account to two centres for the following projects:
Additional funding was provided to five centres for the following projects:
Community legal centre
Federal government funding $
State government funding $
Total recurrent funding $
Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia Ltd
ATSI Women's Legal Service NQ Inc.
Basic Rights Queensland Inc.
Bayside Community Legal Service Inc.
Cairns Community Legal Centre Inc.
Care Goondiwindi Association Inc.
Carers Queensland Inc.
Caxton Legal Centre Inc.
Central Qld Community Legal Centre Inc.
Community Legal Centres Queensland
Court Network Inc.
EDO of Northern Queensland
Gladstone Community Legal Advice Program
Gold Coast Community Legal Centre & Advice Bureau Inc.
LGBTI Legal Service Inc.
Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre Inc.
Moreton Bay Regional Community Legal Service Inc.
North Queensland Women's Legal Service Inc.
Nundah Community Legal Service
Pine Rivers Community Legal Service
Prisoners Legal Service Inc.
Queensland Advocacy Inc.
Refugee & Immigration Legal Service Inc.
South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre Inc.
Suncoast Community Legal Service Inc.
Taylor Street Community Legal Service
Tenants Queensland Inc.
TASC National Ltd
Townsville Community Legal Service Inc.
Western Queensland Justice Network
Women's Legal Service Inc.
Youth Advocacy Centre Inc.
This year, we continued to respond to government policy and legislation development processes drawing on our extensive legal practice expertise to inform our policy contributions.
We provided submissions on the:
We supported government policy development and the justice system’s efficient management by collaborating with our colleagues in government and the courts.
This involved participating in the:
We worked with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General and the Department of Communities and other agencies in implementing the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and the recommendations of the Queensland Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence’s Not Now, Not Ever report. We also participated in the Queensland Law Society’s Children’s Committee and Family Law Committee, contributing to family law, child protection, and domestic and family violence policy.
The Industry Reference Group provides a regular forum for consultation with the legal profession and for discussing and managing stakeholder concerns. The group comprises nominated representatives from the Queensland Law Society and Bar Association of Queensland and is chaired by Legal Aid Queensland’s CEO.
The group met twice during the year. During these meetings members were consulted on and provided feedback about:
In consultation with our stakeholders, we conducted our annual fee review and increased fees payable in legal aid matters for most state civil and criminal and Commonwealth family law matters by 1.5 percent. We also increased fees for veterans matters and child protection cases by 5.5 percent to be aligned with the Commonwealth family law rate.
We expanded the guidelines for child protection cases from 1 July 2017 to increase access to funding for representation of vulnerable children, parents and other parties in child protection court and tribunal proceedings. We provided initial grants of legal aid to an extra 57 applicants in 2017–18 and more applicants had access to representation at later stages of proceedings.
We also developed a grants response for the following new programs:
Following judicial comment in the decision of R v Pham  QCA 43 the Legal Aid Queensland Board adopted a ‘one client per law practice’ principle so that a law firm can act for only one of two or more co-accused who are receiving legal aid unless:
Our In-house Lawyers Briefing Counsel Policy ensures probity and accountability in decisions by our in-house lawyers when briefing counsel.
Our briefing policy sets out general briefing guidelines and provides specific procedures for briefing counsel in expensive or extraordinary cases. The general briefing guidelines include requirements to:
Our workforce plan outlines strategies and initiatives relating to attracting, motivating, developing and retaining employees and their safety. It also includes responses to the Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey results and considers relevant government policies (eg Code of Conduct, union encouragement and flexible work practices). These focus areas have been identified as important to achieving desired workforce outcomes and we are continually building on our existing strengths and addressing identified opportunities. During the year, we made progress in implementing initiatives from our workforce plan.
We continued to provide our in-house CPD program during 2017–18. Most sessions are open to all staff, as well as law firms that provide legal aid services, CLCs and the ATSILS. Sessions are available face-to-face or via videoconferencing or webinar, and are recorded so they can be accessed at a later time. Our program aims to ensure our lawyers are up to date with the latest legislation changes and have the opportunity to develop their professional skills and legal knowledge. The program allows legal staff to earn CPD points, which are needed to renew practising certificates each year.
Other development opportunities for staff included:
taff have access to the Study and Research Assistance Scheme and the Enterprise Bargaining training initiatives which provide funds for higher educational requirements. Staff can also access external training for individual development needs.
We also provided staff with face-to-face and online e-learning opportunities to familiarise them with our policies and procedures, and to develop their skills and knowledge. Most in-house training is regularly reviewed by staff evaluations and improvements are made where appropriate and in conjunction with the facilitator.
We want our staff to be able to find an appropriate work-life balance. During the year, we continued to offer and promote flexible working options, including accessing accrued time leave, working part time, job sharing, telecommuting and purchased leave arrangements. We also continued to provide remote computer access to many staff.
We have also implemented strategies to help our staff effectively manage the possible impact of their work on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. We are particularly aware our lawyers and support staff are routinely involved in work that is confronting and stressful, which puts them at risk of suffering vicarious trauma. These risks were addressed by arranging workshops on managing the psychological impacts of practising law and managing aggressive client behaviour. We also provided staff with information about support networks and self-help strategies, and access to confidential counselling services (see Figure 11 for staff absenteeism and turnover rates).
We made significant progress in implementing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment strategy. The strategy aims to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment opportunities and retention rates through targeted recruitment and selection processes, inclusive work practices and employee development. We have increased our percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to 3.8 percent compared with 2.7 percent in 2016–17.
During the year, we re-established our graduate recruitment program to attract the best candidates early in their career and develop their skills on the job. This helps ensure there is an adequate supply of appropriately trained and skilled lawyers for the future. We employed three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates to work in our Townsville and Maroochydore offices, contributing to the increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the organisation.
At 30 June 2018, Legal Aid Queensland had 529.61 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees working in 14 offices throughout the state (see Figures 12 and 13 for more information).
We are committed to equal employment opportunity (EEO) principles and have successfully implemented these principles across the organisation. Our EEO statistics highlight our commitment to equitable recruitment, selection and promotion policies (see Figure 14 for more information).
We continue to participate in the whole-of-government Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey. Our results in 2017–18 were very positive compared with the wider Queensland public sector. 61.3 percent of staff completed the survey, with 75 percent of those who responded reporting high levels of satisfaction with Legal Aid Queensland. Additionally, 83 percent of respondents also reported having levels of satisfaction with their work groups and 80 percent of employees indicated they were satisfied with their managers. The feedback we received from the survey was invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and we will continue to implement changes in response to the survey feedback. The next survey will be conducted in September 2018 and we expect a similar result in 2018–19.
Legal Aid Queensland is covered by a whole-of-government Code of Conduct. The single Code of Conduct reflects ethical values contained in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 and covers the following principles:
The code guides us in managing issues like:
Our Workplace Behaviours Policy also provides standards relating to appropriate workplace behaviour, and an employee’s Achievement and Development Plan outlines obligations relating to the Code of Conduct. We manage Code of Conduct breaches in line with the Public Service Commission’s Discipline Guide.
We provide staff with Code of Conduct and workplace behaviours training when they start work and then annually.
Under the Public Records Act 2002, we are required to make and keep full and accurate records of our activities, and to comply with records and information management policies, standards and guidelines issued by the State Archivist. We use the Micro Focus Records Manager 8 (RM8) electronic document and records management system and have integrated RM8 with several of our core business systems to streamline the capturing of business records.
In 2017–18, we continued records and information management reforms to improve and support good corporate governance by:
We progressed the transition from paper to digital records by:
We improved our records and information management system’s reliability and security by further developing the integration between RM8 and other core transactional systems.
We continued to implement appropriate disposal activities by:
Collaboration with other government agencies to share knowledge about best practice records and information management has been facilitated by:
Our library provides comprehensive reference, research and research-training services to staff and preferred supplier law firms. It supports legal service delivery, planning and management through its modern collection, knowledge management databases and experienced staff.
During the year, we:
Key in-house legal information resources are freely available to preferred supplier law firms, CLCs and the ATSILS to help them provide high quality legal services to clients.
During 2017–18, we continued work to improve energy and conservation efficiencies to help reduce our environmental impact.
Efforts to achieve savings have continued through:
We continued to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our environmental footprint in other ways including:
During 2017–18, the Accommodation Committee and the Legal Aid Queensland Board maintained the position that our Brisbane office would remain at 44 Herschel Street and we would refurbish the remainder of the building to meet future accommodation needs. We continued to investigate whether it is feasible for the office to be expanded to allow for some of our leased CBD tenancies to relocate back to the Herschel Street office to reduce future rental expenditure.
We also leased new office space at 30 Herschel Street, Brisbane, in the building adjoining our 44 Herschel Street headquarters, to accommodate two of our Criminal Law Services teams.
During the year, we upgraded our videoconferencing facilities in our Brisbane head office to improve communication with our regional offices and external stakeholders, and to help reduce our carbon footprint.
We also completed minor renovations in our Townsville and Maroochydore offices to improve facilities and allow the office to expand.
In 2017, we updated our ICT Strategic Plan to include the service delivery and strategic direction IT Services will undertake to support the organisation for the next three years.
The ICT Strategic Plan outlines the key areas in which IT Services will focus planning, investment and delivery through four strategic objectives:
We completed the Data Centre Outsourcing Project in April 2018, with the final milestone being a successful test of its capability to recover from disaster.
The project has allowed us to:
The following datasets are available on the Queensland Government Open Data portal:
To access more information, government data and the Annual Report 2017–18 Open Data, visit www.data.qld.gov.au