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Chief executive officer’s report 2018–19 annual report

Given the amount of political, societal and technological change in recent decades, it is worth reflecting on the longevity of Legal Aid Queensland as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. This feat of organisational endurance may be attributed to a lot of things, such as the quality and commitment of its staff, the support of the legal profession, and the common sense of pooling Queensland and Commonwealth Government legal aid funding into a single entity led by an independent board. Even more important, perhaps, is the recognition of the ongoing contribution that Legal Aid Queensland makes to a fair society.

One constant throughout the decades has been meeting the challenge of making justice more accessible to rural and regional Queenslanders. Last year, we reported on initiatives such as expanding our Farm and Rural Legal Service, and expanding the reach of our criminal law and domestic violence duty lawyer services to more locations.

In 2018–19, the push has continued, including:

  • establishing new Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Services in Cleveland, Redcliffe, Sandgate, Gladstone and Hervey Bay
  • establishing new Child Protection Duty Lawyer Services in Mackay, Cleveland and Gladstone
  • building a Child Protection Outreach Service to communities across Queensland
  • providing legal help to residents of Townsville and other flood affected areas of north Queensland
  • securing ongoing funding from the Commonwealth Government for the Rockhampton Domestic Violence unit, and to enhance the Family Advocacy and Support Services in Cairns and Townsville
  • convening Regional Legal Assistance Forums across Queensland
  • holding regional board meetings in Toowoomba and Caboolture.

Another constant of Legal Aid Queensland’s 40 year history has been a commitment to innovation as we endeavour to continuously improve our services to be high quality, client-focussed and cost effective. Important improvement initiatives undertaken during 2018–19 included:

  • launching our First Nations Strategic Plan to improve our service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • undertaking a client journey mapping project, which led to the establishment of a Client Assistance Service pilot
  • improving our means test by removing means test income contributions for clients whose income is below the Henderson Poverty Line, increasing income test thresholds to acknowledge cost of living increases, and improving the asset test to exempt the first $2000 of savings
  • developing a risk framework for assessing grants of aid.

These initiatives are guided by our Strategic Plan 2018–22 and its four objectives, along with the Queensland public service values—customers first, ideas into action, unleash potential, be courageous and empower people—which inform how we pursue our strategic objectives.

As this annual report highlights, demand for our services, particularly in criminal law and child protection matters, has continued to grow. This has resulted in the organisation’s first operating deficit ($2.673 million) in 10 years and demonstrates the continuing challenge of delivering legal services across a large, decentralised state.

While meeting this demand, we also invested in our service providers in the private legal profession by providing another CPI level fee increase for grants of aid, duty lawyer and advice services, as well as continuing to provide a range of free opportunities for continuing professional development.

We also invested in our staff and systems by improving office accommodation, enhancing digital mobility, replacing our intranet, providing training and professional development opportunities, and establishing a staff health and wellbeing program. The positive results of our 2018 Working for Queensland survey are evidence of the benefit of this investment.

Sitting in the CEO chair gives me the chance to see legal aid service delivery as a whole. Over the years I have formed a genuine belief that Legal Aid Queensland is not just an organisation, but is a ‘community of effort’ between our employees, board members, lawyers in private law firms and community legal centres, barristers at the private bar, government officers, members of parliament and ministers, judges and magistrates, report writers, social workers and many more.

As I did at our 40th anniversary celebration at the Banco Court in June 2019, I would like to send out a big thank you for your continuing support. The legal aid ‘community of effort’ has delivered great things for Queenslanders and is something that everyone involved can be proud of.

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Anthony Reilly
Chief executive officer

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