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Our performance 2018–19 annual report

Overview of services

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
  • discrete assistance—information, referral, legal advice and legal task services
  • facilitated resolution processes
  • duty lawyer services
  • representation services
  • law and legal service reform
  • stakeholder engagement.

Services

Community legal education

6103

Discrete assistance
Information and referral
Legal advice and legal task services

280 431
38 340

Facilitated resolution processes
Family dispute resolution conferences
Civil dispute resolution

2866
11

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

92 152
2785
26 199
742
502

Representation services
Applications received
Applications approved
Applications refused


44 483
35 215
9268

Table 3. Overview of Legal Aid Queensland services 2018–19

National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services target

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 2018–19, we achieved 99.9 percent compliance compared to a 95 percent target.

Queensland Government service delivery statement measures

Performance targets

Notes

2018–19 target

2018–19 actual

Percentage of administrative decisions referred to external review that are overturned

1

6%

6.3%

Percentage of accounts processed by Grants division within 14 days

2

90%

97.39%

Average cost per client for criminal law duty lawyer service

3, 4

$65

$45.58

Average cost for calls received through the contact centre

5

$5.12

$4.27

Notes:

  1. This measure demonstrates the effectiveness of the decision-making process for approval of grants of aid to clients.
  2. This measure demonstrates the effectiveness of the grants processing area, as it is expected that all accounts should be processed by the Grants division within a 14-day period, which allows for the appropriate administrative process for the checking and approval of invoices. This measure also represents the importance to local suppliers of receiving payments on a timely basis, as well as Legal Aid Queensland meeting requirements under Legal Aid Queensland Preferred Supplier Agreements. All accounts processed by the Grants division are for legal representation that is performed by preferred suppliers.
  3. This measure reflects the unique Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service and the efficiency of this service as it calculates the average time spent with a client and converts this into a dollar figure based on the hourly rate. The 2019–20 target/estimate of $66 reflects the cost of an average crime duty lawyer session (ie 30 minutes) as provided by preferred suppliers. The Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service is provided by both in-house lawyers and lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland’s preferred suppliers.
  4. The 2018–19 estimated actual Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service rate of $45.58 is lower than the 2018–19 target/estimate of $65 primarily due to the greater cost efficiency from using a combination of both in-house/employed lawyers and preferred supplier lawyers.
  5. This measure demonstrates the efficiency of the contact centre services, as it calculates the average time spent on a call through the contact centre and converts this into a dollar figure based on the hourly salary rate of contact centre staff excluding overheads.

Table 4. Queensland Government service standards 2018–19

 

Objective 1. Support early resolution of legal problems and social inclusion

Objective 2. Provide quality and cost effective legal services statewide to our clients

Community legal education

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:

  • improve community understanding of the law
  • reduce litigation and costs to the justice system
  • help community members to understand their legal rights and responsibilities and how to access legal help if they need it
  • help stakeholders to understand our services and how to access them.

Our CLE Strategy is delivered through:

  • CLE activities and engagement with priority groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
  • legal information sessions and webinars for community members and community, health and education workers
  • collaborative projects that focus on increasing awareness of the law and our services within more hard-to-reach communities
  • connecting with existing networks and establishing new networks through strong relationships
  • participation in community events such as Homeless Connect
  • web-based legal information and multimedia resources
  • written materials including factsheets and legal information guides.

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:

  • worked with Indigenous service providers and networks to improve access to our specialist services, like child protection, and facilitate CLE through relationship building and yarning circles
  • distributed editions of our e-newsletter Head Note to stakeholders
  • participated in community events across Queensland including Homeless Connect, Finance Fairs, Musgrave Park Family Fun Day and other NAIDOC Week events, Mosaic Multicultural Festival and the Palm Island Yarnin’ Money Day event
  • coordinated our CLE webinar program for community, health and education workers; we delivered 10 webinars and YouTube videos on topics like young people and the law, findings of the Financial Services Royal Commission, supporting someone who is appearing before the Mental Health Review Tribunal, child protection and how our early intervention program can help, practical tips for caseworkers supporting clients living with domestic and family violence, and Legal Aid Queensland’s services
  • delivered 132 CLE activities to 6103 people and produced 48 resources in response to community agency requests and identified need; topics included Legal Aid Queensland’s services with a focus on new services like the Child Protection Early Intervention Program, Youth Legal Advice Hotline, young people and the law, cyber bullying and sexting, domestic violence, dealing with clients with impaired capacity, consumer law, mortgage stress, discrimination, credit and debt, consumer leases and contracts
  • coordinated and administered the CLE Collaboration Fund’s ninth round to resource collaborative initiatives and partnerships to extend the reach of our CLE work. The fund allows us to draw on community legal centres (CLCs), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) and Regional Legal Assistance Forums’ (RLAF) existing community relationships and professional networks to educate priority communities across Queensland. The seven funded projects will deliver CLE activities and resources to help prisoners in regional and remote areas, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people who are deaf or hearing impaired, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and young parents.

Case study

Bundaberg: CLE hits the road

During the year, we delivered a number of CLE events coordinated through the Bundaberg Regional Legal Assistance Forum. We travelled to Kingaroy, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in April 2019 to deliver ‘Families and the law’ CLE workshops in partnership with the Family Law Pathways network.

More than 130 people attended the three sessions developed specifically for community, health and education workers with the popular topics for discussion being consumer credit and debt, as well as the Counselling Notes Protect service. The initiative was funded through the CLE Collaboration Fund as part of our CLE Strategy.

Feedback from attendees included:

“Excellent speakers – all relevant information.”

“The sessions are relevant to clients I see every day.”

“I am very appreciative of everyone’s time. This professional development is so badly needed. So many regional workers missed out by not attending.”

“I feel more confident about local referral pathways to legal help — and such a great networking opportunity.”

Discrete assistance

Information and referral

Legal Aid Queensland provides comprehensive, statewide, free legal information and referral services to disadvantaged Queenslanders. Our 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.

Website

Our website allows all Queenslanders to access accurate legal information and service provider referrals.

The website includes features such as:

  • mobile accessibility, making the site easy to read on smart phones and tablets
  • efficient search functionality, where users can simply type in what they are searching for without the need to understand where the information is located on the site
  • a quick exit button on the right of each page, which allows users who are viewing sensitive information to quickly exit the site and redirects them to another website
  • a built-in screen reader and translation tool called ‘Browsealoud’, which will read out our content to users (especially useful for people with vision impairments or low literacy levels)
  • a ‘For lawyers’ section, which includes announcements, key policies and procedures (like the Grants Handbook, best practice guidelines and case management standards) for our preferred supplier lawyers
  • a ‘Find a lawyer’ search feature, which allows users to locate a preferred supplier law firm or CLC near them
  • legal information written in plain language to make it easier to use and understand.
During the year, our website was accessed 1,388,277 times with 2,787,478 pages being viewed.

Client contact centre

Our client contact centre answered 152,541 calls in 2018–19 and provided 93,924 legal information and referral services to clients.

The team also provided 882 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 2018–19, 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 3042 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:

  • continuing to improve our intake process and referral pathways
  • delivering a training program focussed on customer service and communication skills
  • training our regional front counter staff and support staff on more efficient ways to provide information and advice including appropriate referrals
  • introducing streamlined call management by adopting a client focused call path
  • improving specialist reporting to allow greater analysis of incoming calls and service delivery trends.

These actions, together with ongoing improvements to our website, which encourages self-help and provides relevant legal information, have resulted in:

  • continued stability in call wait times
  • a reduced average call length
  • increased service levels.

In 2018–19, the client contact centre provided specialist services to support Legal Aid Queensland initiatives including:

  • answering incoming calls on the Youth Legal Advice Hotline during business hours
  • answering incoming calls on the Counselling Notes Protect line
  • improved service on our Indigenous Hotline by engaging Indigenous staff to answer incoming calls on this line.

Client Assistance Service

In March 2019, we began piloting a Client Assistance Service in the contact centre to help some of our particularly vulnerable clients, especially those with multiple legal issues, who need extra help to access our services. Through the Client Assistance Service we triage clients’ legal problems and provide the support needed to ensure they can access timely and appropriate legal services. Since its establishment, the service provided support to 113 clients. The pilot will continue in 2019–20.

Indigenous law undergraduates in the client contact centre

During the year, we continued to employ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law undergraduates in the client contact centre. This 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.

Case study

Far North Queensland: Helping Tom sort out his maintenance debt

Tom* is a Far North Queensland Indigenous man who struggles with literacy. He approached Legal Aid Queensland for help as he was $18,000 in arrears with a decades-old spousal maintenance order requiring him to pay $50 each week. Tom is employed, but is on a low income and the weekly payments were causing him severe financial hardship—he couldn’t afford fuel for his car and during quiet work periods he couldn’t afford to buy food. In contrast, Tom’s ex-wife had re-partnered into a wealthy family and no longer relied on the extra $50 each week. Our Client Assistance Service worked with Tom over several months advising him and helping him make an application for legal aid. His application was successful and he now has a law firm representing him for his case.

*Not his real name.

Case study

Far North Queensland: Helping John get his life back together

John* is a young Far North Queensland man who experiences homelessness, schizophrenia and depression, and often sleeps in his car. He contacted Legal Aid Queensland for help to have his impounded car returned to him. Unfortunately, his impoundment paperwork detailing his traffic offences had been washed away in the floods. While our Client Assistance Service worked with John, he also said he hadn’t seen his daughter for some time and asked for help with parenting arrangements to allow him to see her. Ultimately, our work with John included contacting services to help him replace his lost documents, providing him with advice and helping him receive grants of aid for his parenting and criminal matters.

*Not his real name.

Legal advice and legal task services

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 legal teams and regional offices.

In 2018–19, we provided legal advice and legal task services to 38,340 people.

The FACT provides face-to-face advice to eligible clients at our Brisbane office and via statewide telephone advice services. They also help as domestic and family violence duty lawyers as needed.

The FACT team also provides legal task services for people who might need help with preparing letters and other documents following initial legal advice.

The FACT team 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.

figure-7-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 7. Legal advice and legal tasks services 2018–19

We provide free legal advice to eligible clients in:

Criminal law

  • Criminal charges in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts
  • Youth justice
  • Traffic matters

Family law

  • Parenting issues (eg arrangements about children)
  • Relationship issues (eg divorce, property settlement)
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Child support and maintenance
  • Child protection
  • Family dispute resolution

Civil law

  • Anti-discrimination
  • Farm and rural debt issues
  • Social security appeals
  • Peace and good behaviour
  • Victim Assist
  • Motor vehicle property damage
  • Consumer and debt disputes
  • Employment
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Prison Advice Service

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.

During the year, we provided legal advice and legal task services to 1692 prisoners around the state.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Service advice clinic

We worked with the Brisbane-based Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS) to provide a fortnightly legal advice clinic for clients who have family law, domestic violence and/or child protection issues. The lawyers in the clinic help clients apply for legal aid (if appropriate).

Victim Assist advice clinic

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.

Consumer advice clinic

During 2018–19, 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.

Anti-Discrimination advice clinic

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).

Case study

Townsville: Working with flood-affected Far North Queensland residents

In February this year, Townsville experienced major flooding leaving many people without homes or with substantial losses. We collaborated with Townsville CLC to provide free information and legal advice to those affected by the flooding. We also attended two community forums in Townsville organised by the Insurance Council of Australia.

People sought help during and after the disaster for a range of issues including property or car damage, insurance, tenancy issues, debt, employment, and access to electricity and other services damaged by the floods. We provided free legal advice by phone and in person to people who continued to have consumer and insurance issues since the floods. Flood-affected residents were also able to access our free factsheets and resources on the Legal Aid Queensland website, including the publication When disaster strikes: cyclones, storms and floods—a guide to getting your insurance claim paid. We value the opportunity to collaborate with Townsville CLC in response to this natural disaster.

Employment law advice clinic

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 three days a week at the Fair Work Commission’s Brisbane registry.

Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program

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.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service and Application Assistance Program

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:

  • helping women prepare and lodge applications for domestic and family violence protection orders
  • providing support for women in court
  • helping women with risk assessments and safety planning
  • referring women to legal and support services.

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:

  • access the court’s safety facilities
  • understand what protection orders are, including their conditions and what to do if an order is breached
  • understand the court process, including support and information
  • talk to the police prosecutor and court staff
  • make a safety plan
  • access relevant legal and community services with crisis counselling and emotional support
  • complete applications for legal aid.

Child Protection Early Intervention Program

The Brisbane-based Child Protection Early Intervention Program 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 program 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 program was independently reviewed with an overall recommendation that it should continue to operate.

Child Protection Outreach Service

During the year, we established the Child Protection Outreach Service, which provides legal advice services to Mount Isa, Mackay, Longreach, Emerald, Biloela, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Cherbourg, Murgon, Cleveland, Roma, Charleville and Cunnamulla. The service also provides regular Child Protection Duty Lawyer Services in Gladstone, Mackay and Cleveland.
The service is provided by Brisbane-based lawyers who regularly fly in and out of each region.

We have established referral pathway partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including the Director of Child Protection Litigation, the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor and the Office of the Public Guardian to help clients in these areas to get legal advice.

Child support advice clinic

We continued to provide child support advice on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. The clinic provides people with legal advice about reviewing child support decisions, child support agreements, paternity and enforcing outstanding child support payments. Lawyers provide advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence, and if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.

Case study

Central Queensland: Providing a face-to-face child protection service

First Nations grandmother Jenny* had been caring for her young grandchildren under a family arrangement when the Department of Child Safety applied for a court assessment order and removed them from her. Child Safety refused to discuss the case or court processes with her as she was not recognised as a ‘parent’ under the Child Protection Act 1999.

Jenny was distressed and sought help from our Child Protection Outreach Service as she considered herself their parent and was worried Child Safety had acted in a culturally-inappropriate way.
We represented Jenny to ensure she could participate in the court proceedings and was provided with court documents and legal advice about Child Safety’s application. While Jenny was unsuccessful contesting custody, she was happy with our help, which allowed her to participate and respond to Child Safety’s concerns. It is important to note Jenny had spoken to one of our Child Protection Outreach Service lawyers by phone, but after becoming upset she was asked to attend the courthouse the next day to speak to our Child Protection Outreach Service lawyer in person. This was important to her as she could speak with a lawyer face-to-face and have her interests represented in court—something that would not have happened before our Child Protection Outreach Service was established.

*Not her real name.

Family law advice clinic

We continued to provide advice each week to people experiencing complex family law issues. Lawyers provide advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence, and if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.

Domestic and family violence advice

During the year, we continued to provide specialist domestic and family violence advice services five days a week to help those affected by domestic and family violence and those who are responding to an application for a domestic and family violence order.

Youth Legal Advice Hotline

Our Youth Legal Advice Hotline continued to provide young people, youth justice stakeholders and Queensland Police with information, support and legal advice. The hotline was established in November 2017 to help young people with improved access to early legal advice with the aim of 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, staff provided early legal advice and help for 331 matters.

Duty lawyer services

Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service

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.

Family Law Duty Lawyer Service

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 for 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.

Family Advocacy and Support Services

The Family Advocacy and Support Services operate 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 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.

Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Service

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 17 other court locations around Queensland— this includes new services in Cleveland, Gladstone and Hervey Bay, and existing services in Richlands, Caboolture, Holland Park, Pine Rivers, Redcliffe, Sandgate, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Mackay and Cairns.

The duty lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help clients 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 22 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 keep them and their children safe.

Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service

We operated the Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service in Brisbane, Ipswich, Southport, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Caboolture, Pine Rivers, Rockhampton, 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.

Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland advice clinic

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.

Social security advice services

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 Mondays and Tuesdays 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.

Case study

Brisbane: Helping a mother with a child protection matter and a violent partner

Our Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service helped Sally* appear in court for the first mention of a court assessment order application alleging her partner had sexually abused her child from a previous relationship. Other allegations were also made about the child being exposed to domestic violence between Sally and her partner. Sally had separated from her partner after being alerted to the sexual abuse allegations.

We provided advice about the application and domestic violence orders, represented Sally at the mention and made submissions on her behalf outlining the protective steps she had taken. The Department of Child Safety and the court acknowledged these steps and the magistrate took them into consideration, including submissions Sally would seek an urgent domestic violence order on the same day. The magistrate made the court assessment order, but did not make the orders restricting Sally’s contact with the child, based on the submissions we made about her protective capacity.
We then helped Sally apply for an urgent temporary domestic violence order, which was granted the same day. It is unlikely Sally would have successfully resisted the court assessment order’s contact directions or made the application for the domestic violence order without our advice and help.

*Not her real name.

Workplace advice clinic

We continued to provide a Workplace Advice Clinic at the Fair Work Commission’s Brisbane office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays 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.

Facilitated resolution processes

Resolving family law problems through dispute resolution processes

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 2018–19, with 80 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.

Providing services to the farming community

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.

Representation services

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 75 percent of our legal representation is provided by private lawyers, with the remainder provided by our in-house practice.

In 2018–19, our expenditure to private lawyers for representing clients was $65.797 million.

Processing applications for grants of aid

Our Grants division is responsible for processing applications for grants of legal assistance and managing these grants following approval.

We assessed 44,483 new applications for legal aid and approved 35,215 applications in 2018–19.

We saw an increase in the number of applications for criminal law and child protection matters compared with 2017–18. 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 also allocate independent children’s lawyers in family law proceedings and separate representatives in child protection proceedings from the specialist panels we maintain.

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Figure 8. Applications for grants of aid received and approved 2018–19

Managing grants of aid

In addition to processing initial applications for legal aid, during the year we managed nearly 38,000 ongoing cases—this involved assessing and issuing 72,553 extensions to the initial grants as matters progress, paying 77,607 accounts, and recovering financial contributions from clients and external agencies.

Improving grants of aid

In consultation with our stakeholders, we conducted our annual fee review and increased fees payable for legal advice, duty lawyer services and grants of aid by CPI of 1.7 percent.

We developed a response to the new Commonwealth Family Violence and Cross Examination of Parties Scheme enabling representation in matters where there is a ban on personal cross examination in family law hearings. The scheme will begin on 10 September 2019.

During the year, we implemented a new grants risk management framework. When deciding an applicant’s financial eligibility, we may require less detailed verification for low risk matters, whereas higher risk matters will require applicants to provide extra supporting material.

We also:

  • expanded access for non-specified committals for applicants in custody
  • changed the income test so applicants for grants of aid, whose weekly income is below the Henderson Poverty Line, no longer have to pay a contribution to the cost of their grant of aid under the income test
  • changed the assets test component of the means test to allow applicants to have the first $2000 of their cash savings excluded from the means test calculation
  • implemented a new grant of aid response for child protection matters from 1 October 2018.

In-house legal practices

Criminal law services

Magistrates Court

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 continued our in-house duty lawyer services in Brisbane to help unrepresented defendants in the criminal jurisdiction of the Brisbane Magistrates Court and the Holland Park Magistrates Court. These services are well received by theMagistrates Court and provide legal help and representation to a significant number of defendants.

Following the state government’s commitment to reintroduce diversionary court programs, we have actively participated in supporting diversionary courts in Queensland. The Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court continued to operate this year, and our extensive knowledge and experience of previous drug court programs has allowed us to positively contribute to the successful operation of this important specialist court program. We also continued to provide duty lawyer services to help unrepresented defendants in the Court Link criminal callover in Brisbane. Court Link is a bail-based case management program monitored by the Magistrates Court and aims to address the underlying causes of offending such as homelessness.

In the past year, we also participated in the Early Resolution Committal Pilot, which focused on identifying measures that can be used to encourage the early resolution and case management of indictable criminal matters. The pilot aimed to reduce the time matters are before the Magistrates Court and reduce the overall time it takes to dispose of matters in the higher courts. The pilot is being evaluated to determine the effectiveness of early intervention measures and the associated resourcing implications.

Serious and general crime

Our lawyers specialise in the defence of complex and general criminal law cases in Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.

We provide legal assistance in Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (DPSOA) matters and expanded representation to cover prisoners who may fall within the parameters of No Body, No Parole (NBNP) hearings before the Parole Board of Queensland.

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. Where NBNP provisions apply, a prisoner will be detained, without release, for the rest of their sentence without a regular review mechanism. In cases involving a life sentence, this would result in a prisoner never being released into the community on parole.

Representation in our criminal litigation teams 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.

Lawyers also provided help to clients who must appear before hearings conducted by the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland or the Australian Crime Commission.

The General Crime team has helped in absorbing the growing demand in criminal law work across all jurisdictions, 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 streamlining criminal justice processes.

Appeals

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 Cairns during 2019. 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.

Mental Health Court

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 and Mental Health Review Tribunal team to conduct matters, representing the vast majority of non-privately represented clients appearing in the Mental Health Court.

Helping young people in the criminal justice system

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 are a key service provider in delivering outcomes as part of the Queensland Government’s Youth Justice Strategy 2019–23. This strategy provides a framework to strengthen the prevention, intervention, restoration and rehabilitation responses to youth crime in Queensland.

During the year, we continued to provide advice and policy submissions to government on issues relating to youth justice. Our youth justice lawyers also used their knowledge, experience and expertise to provide statewide legal training programs for youth justice stakeholders to improve justice outcomes for young people.

The state government continued to fund us to deliver the Youth Legal Advice Hotline and our 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 page 32.

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 case has merit. During the year, our Remand Reduction team considered 1213 referrals and completed 107 bail applications before the Childrens Court of Queensland.

Our in-house Youth Legal Aid team represents young people in casework matters and also provides legal advice services at regular sessions to young people in detention. The team has also continued to deliver duty lawyer services to court locations in south east Queensland to accommodate the increased numbers of young people before the Childrens Court. The state government also funded us to deliver expanded Childrens Court representation in the Townsville, Burdekin, Herbert River and Mount Isa areas.

In 2018–19, we developed and launched the Youth Justice Practitioners Guide for defence and prosecution lawyers who appear in the Childrens Court so they can be aware of the specific provisions of the Youth Justice Act, its principles and procedures. We also began developing a Youth Practitioner Certification Program for all youth justice lawyers who do legal aid work, which will include a training and education package to improve the quality and effectiveness of legal representation for young people. As part of developing this program, we consulted communities in Cherbourg and Rockhampton.

Legal representation in the Mental Health Review Tribunal

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 2058 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.

Family law services

Social science work

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.

Case study

Rockhampton: Delivering the ‘Love Bites’ domestic violence program

During the year, we worked with the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women on a joint domestic violence initiative using the Love Bites Program. This Australian-produced interactive educational program focuses on relationship violence, sexual violence and domestic violence.

High school students learn about what makes a healthy relationship and how to identify the various forms of abuse, particularly those less visible. This program is designed to boost students’ self-awareness and ability to identify and seek support for violence in any future relationships.

It challenges gender inequality and stereotypical gender roles and also aims to help young people support their friends who may be experiencing relationship issues. It also helps spread the message of what a healthy, respectful relationship is among young people and works towards preventing domestic violence in our community. The Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, the Hon. Di Farmer MP, has made it a priority to have this program delivered in all schools in the Rockhampton, Gladstone and surrounding areas.

Helping those affected by domestic and family violence

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.

Rockhampton Domestic Violence unit

The Commonwealth funded Domestic Violence Service in Rockhampton provides 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 and surrounding areas.

Counselling Notes Protect

We work to deliver the Counselling Notes Protect service in partnership with Women’s Legal Service. The service provides advice, assistance and representation to clients about Queensland law that protects the counselling records of victims of sexual assault or alleged sexual assault from being used in some courts.

Helping people with child support issues

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.

Children and young people

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 2018–19.

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.

Child protection

We are the largest child protection 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.

Civil justice services

Anti-discrimination services

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.

Employment law

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.

Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme

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:

  • there are reasonable prospects of the scheme recovering outlays
  • the action can be dealt with in the Queensland legal jurisdiction
  • an approved firm is willing to act on a speculative basis for their professional fees.

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.

Legal help for war veterans and their dependants

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:\

  • war caused disability pension entitlements or assessment claims under Part II of the Veterans Entitlement Act 1986
  • claims under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 about warlike or non-warlike service.

In 2018–19, we helped 13 veterans and their dependents to file appeals.

Case study

South East Queensland: Working to free a refugee from a hefty loan

Sarah* is a mother and a refugee who works full time as a cleaner. In 2015, she received a phone call from a car yard asking for her signature as a witness for her sister in-law, which she agreed to do on her way home from work. When Sarah arrived at the dealership she was asked to provide her identification and proof of employment. Six months later, when she received a registration notice in the mail, she discovered she actually owned the car and had unknowingly signed a loan for $30,000.

She tried to sort the debt out with the lender for three years before coming to Legal Aid Queensland exhausted, worried and needing our help. By this stage the car had been repossessed and the lender wanted her to repay another $27,000. There was now the real risk she would lose her house.

Sarah and her husband were paying off a house and some of their children were still living at home. She had made a huge effort to learn English, but her level of understanding was still very basic.

We complained to the lender, who insisted Sarah owed the money, but agreed to reduce the debt to $20,000. We then complained to the Credit and Investment Ombudsman and during a conference it became clear Sarah had difficulty understanding simple information the ombudsman was trying to convey. Most of the questions being asked had to be simplified and on some occasions, we needed an interpreter for extra help. As a result, the ombudsman recommended the lender release Sarah from the contract to which the lender agreed. Sarah was very grateful and said her community was generally unaware we could help people like her and said she would recommend Legal Aid Queensland if they needed help.

*Not her real name.

Consumer protection

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:

  • mortgage stress
  • housing repossession
  • debt
  • loans (including small amount loans and car loans)
  • telecommunications and unsolicited consumer agreements (including door-to-door selling)
  • insurance.

Farm and Rural Legal Service

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.

Social security appeals

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.

National Disability Insurance Scheme appeals

During 2018–19, 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.

Counsel

In 2018–19, our team of in-house barristers continued to demonstrate their commitment to providing quality specialist legal advocacy services to disadvantaged Queenslanders.

In December 2018, Public Defender John Allen QC was appointed as a judge of the District Court of Queensland. The Deputy Public Defenders, Robert East and Catherine Morgan, have been leading the team until a new Public Defender is appointed.

Counsel continued to undertake complex trials and sentences in the Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts, and also appeared at all Mental Health Court sittings throughout the year. Counsel also appeared for respondents to applications brought under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 before the Supreme Court in its civil jurisdiction.

Senior barristers regularly provided advice on the merit of applications for grants of aid for appeals against conviction and sentence. They also appeared in appeals against conviction and sentence before the Queensland Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

Members of the in-house Counsel team shared their legal expertise by contributing to Legal Aid Queensland’s continuing professional development (CPD) program, and by assisting in training programs for expert witnesses in the area of mental health. In-house barristers have also regularly assisted with the training of Bar Practice students, as ‘judges’ for mock trials, and as presenters in advocacy training sessions. This year, more temporary opportunities in Counsel have been provided, to help junior legal practitioners within Legal Aid Queensland to develop their advocacy skills under the guidance of more senior practitioners.

During the year, in-house counsel have also contributed to the Bar Association of Queensland’s Indigenous students’ mentoring program.

Case study

Regional Queensland: Helping a farming family minimise its loss

The Farm and Rural Legal Service worked closely with a rural financial counsellor this year to help a family treated unfairly by their bank. The Smiths* had a grazing property and business, and were long term bank customers with an overdraft, a housing loan (used as security for the farm loan), credit card and farm loan. Over the years they suffered several major disruptions to their business (including weather extremes of floods and drought) which affected their ability to earn an income. Mr Smith also suffered a health issue, leaving him unable to work or operate heavy equipment for close to a year.

The bank repossessed their farm after repeated defaults on their loan and tried unsuccessfully to auction it before listing it for sale. As their financial situation improved, the Smiths approached a finance broker about refinancing their bank loans. The Smiths were referred to a local rural financial counsellor as the broker recognised the bank should have offered farm debt mediation before repossessing the property. Despite the rural financial counsellor contacting the bank several times on the client’s behalf to raise the issue of the bank’s failure to offer mediation, the bank signed a contract to sell the property without appropriately responding to the issues raised by the counsellor.

The sale price accepted by the bank was well below both the auction valuation and the original purchase price of the property and was not sufficient to pay out the farm loan, leaving the family with outstanding debts and no property.

We worked with the rural financial counsellor to lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service (now known as the Australian Financial Complaints Authority). The ombudsman found the bank should have offered farm debt mediation but acknowledged it was unable to penalise or punish the bank. The ombudsman made a determination that the bank pay $4000 in compensation, which the Smiths declined. We prepared a submission to the bank’s customer advocate about the bank’s treatment of Mr and Mrs Smith. The customer advocate reviewed the matter and found the bank should have offered debt mediation, issued an unreserved apology for the bank’s behaviour and offered to write off all outstanding debts including the amounts still owing on the farm loan, the house loan and the credit card debt. While the Smiths were prepared to accept this offer and were relieved to have an outcome to allow them to move on with their lives, they would have preferred an opportunity to mediate and negotiate with the bank and be able to have kept their farm.

Forced mortgagee sales result not only in a loss of livelihood for the rural producer but also, for the farmer, a perceived loss of respect within the community. In small rural towns and farming communities, forced mortgagee sales can be an embarrassing and humiliating experience. It is important rural producers are given the opportunity, in line with the law, to mediate with their banks and where possible avoid forced sales of their properties.

*Not their real name.

Ensuring quality legal services

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.

In-house lawyers

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.

This includes:

  • recruiting and selecting lawyers through open, merit based selection processes
  • providing an induction program for new lawyers to ensure they are familiar with standards of conduct, professional requirements and administrative processes
  • developing and delivering a continuing professional development (CPD) program for lawyers
  • compliance with legal profession standards
  • compliance with legal service standards, case management standards and practice management standards
  • providing legal professional supervision to lawyers
  • regularly reviewing files and auditing lawyers
  • responding to client feedback and complaints
  • conducting a client satisfaction survey every two years to guide improvements to service delivery.

Preferred supplier law firms

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 2018–19, we continued to focus on the following areas of compliance:

  • the client’s financial eligibility and supporting documentation used in assessing eligibility
  • receiving and retaining signed legal aid application forms
  • confirming a conference with counsel and the client happened before the client signed instructions to proceed to trial
  • holding signed instructions for trial before requesting a grant of aid for trial.

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.

During 2019, we introduced monthly e-newsletters to inform all preferred suppliers of updates to our policies and procedures, and current issues of interest.

Working to improve equitable briefing of barristers

We are a signatory to the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy and are committed to a level playing field for all members of the legal profession. The policy includes targets with the ultimate aim of briefing women in at least 30 percent of all matters and paying 30 percent of the value of all brief fees to women barristers by 2020. The policy aims to influence cultural change within the legal profession and progress and retain women barristers. The policy was adopted by the Law Council of Australia in June 2016 and endorsed by Legal Aid Queensland in 2017–18.

To give effect to the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy, our In-house Lawyers Briefing Counsel Policy requires in-house lawyers, when choosing private counsel, to genuinely consider briefing female counsel. Consequently, our in-house legal practice has had no difficulty in more than meeting the Law Council of Australia’s target, with 34.05 percent of fees paid to female barristers in 2016–17, 35.63 percent in 2017–18 and 39.92 percent in 2018–19. In addition, 45 percent of our in-house counsel are women.

We are also implementing strategies to encourage private law firms that do legal aid work (preferred suppliers) to adopt the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy. Since 1 August 2018, all of our preferred supplier firms have been required under their preferred supplier service agreements, when selecting counsel, to make all reasonable endeavours to comply with the Equitable Briefing Policy, and if required, provide information about the efforts made to identify and consider briefing female counsel.

Criminal law matters represent the majority of legally-aided briefs to counsel. Table 5 shows the compliance rates of those Brisbane-based criminal law preferred supplier firms that receive 20 or more legal aid briefs each year and the percentage of fees paid to female barristers. We have focused on Brisbane-based firms as the number of female counsel in regional areas varies.
We are pleased to note many firms have reached or exceeded the 30 percent target, and other firms have improved their female briefing rate since 2016–17 and are on their way to achieving the target.

However, disappointingly, some firms performing our work still have some way to go in achieving this important objective. With women comprising nearly 30 percent of the Queensland Bar and being among the state’s brightest and most capable advocates, we encourage all our preferred suppliers to comply with the Equitable Briefing Policy and expand their range of high quality counsel available to represent legally-aided clients.

As a strong supporter of women in the legal profession, we were delighted to present the Equitable Briefing Award at the 2018 Women Lawyers Association Queensland Awards. Congratulations to law firm Fisher Dore on receiving the inaugural Legal Aid Queensland Equitable Briefing Award. We hope this award encourages law firms to reflect on their briefing policies so that they brief women barristers more frequently and more women are encouraged to join and remain at the Queensland Bar, enriching the legal profession and the community it serves.We will continue to implement strategies to pursue the Equitable Briefing Policy goals in the years ahead.

Briefing counsel policy and committee

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. In the past year, we updated the policy with the aim of developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander barristers through mentoring, access to junior briefs, training and access to circuit opportunities.

The general briefing guidelines include requirements to:

  • consider the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy which aims to promote diversity, equality and respect to improve the retention of women barristers within the profession
  • genuinely consider briefing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander barristers where it is possible
  • consider briefing in-house counsel to ensure cost effectiveness
  • briefing regional barristers wherever a barrister of sufficient experience and expertise is available
  • briefing in a way that develops a wide and diverse pool of barristers who can do legal aid work
  • ensuring a balanced distribution of work to barristers who have appropriate experience and expertise
  • being objective, independent, apolitical and impartial.

A Briefing Monitoring Committee is chaired by the CEO to monitor in-house lawyers’ briefing practices and ensure the In-house Lawyers Briefing Counsel Policy’s goals are supported.

Fees paid %

Firm name

2017

2018

2019

Youth Advocacy Centre

90.25

73.98

88.43

Kilroy & Callaghan Lawyers

32.27

27.48

81.85

Anderson Fredericks Turner (Brisbane)

8.65

14.47

51.06

Atsils Qld Ltd Brisbane

47.42

45.32

39.92

Wallace O'Hagan Lawyers

26.72

25.30

37.51

Fisher Dore Brisbane

22.42

22.73

34.46

Burchill & Horsey Lawyers

40.39

51.85

21.11

Aitken Whyte Lawyers

26.77

20.60

21.04

Ashkan Tai Lawyers (Brisbane)

0

20.55

Quinn & Scattini (Brisbane)

4.84

0

18.70

Guest Lawyers Pty Ltd

1.19

3.51

17.82

Rostron Carlyle Rojas Solicitors

1.94

7.85

16.84

Klm Solicitors (Cleveland)

0

8.14

16.48

Mulcahy Ryan Lawyers

75.60

12.41

14.38

A W Bale & Son Solicitors

5.58

3.40

14.31

Grasso Searles Romano (Brisbane)

0.71

0

11.17

Macdonald Law (Qld) Pty Ltd Brisbane

0

10.26

Fuller & White Solicitors (Cleveland)

5.46

3.26

8.55

Howden Saggers (Brisbane)

27.18

6.51

7.01

Cridland & Hua Lawyers (Brisbane)*

14.65

1.20

5.19

Karsas Lawyers (Brisbane)

0

0

4.20

Russo Lawyers

54.46

21.90

3.87

Colville Johnstone Lawyers

0

8.36

0

Hannay Law Pty Ltd Brisbane

0

0

0

Klm Solicitors (Nundah)

0

0

0

* The percentage of fees paid to female barristers increases to 11.79% if Cridland & Hua Lawyers’ Inala office is taken into account.

Table 5. Percentage of fees paid to female barristers by Brisbane criminal law preferred supplier firms (20 or more briefs each year)

Access by disadvantaged groups

Assisting culturally and linguistically diverse clients

During the year, we continued our commitment to clients from culturally and linguistically 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:

  • delivering CLE sessions on common legal topics to people from migrant and refugee backgrounds in a TAFE and settlement support setting
  • distributing translated legal information to people from migrant and refugee backgrounds
  • using free interpreter services for clients in line with the state government’s Language Services Policy
  • providing a fortnightly family law advice clinic at the RAILS in Brisbane
  • promoting our website, which includes a built-in screen reader and translation tool called ‘Browsealoud’, that can translate content into 90 languages.

Improving services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients

We are committed to providing services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. During the year, we:

  • launched our First Nations Strategic Plan 2018–22, which aims to:
    • increase awareness and accessibility of our services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    • position the organisation as a centre of excellence for culturally capable legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    • position us as a significant employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the legal profession
    • contribute to developing a more equitable justice system that addresses the disparity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the broader legal profession
  • continued the Remand Reduction Strategy which provides a legal advice and representation service for young people detained in custody, helping to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on remand
  • continued the Child Protection Early Intervention Program which provides legal advice and advocacy for vulnerable parents early in child protection intervention, helping to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the child protection system
  • established partnerships with key Indigenous child protection service providers
  • delivered a presentation about cultural diversity to the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity
  • facilitated the delivery of ongoing cross cultural awareness training to staff to help ensure staff delivering services are culturally competent
  • continued to promote our Indigenous Hotline, which gives priority to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander callers so they can access legal information and advice for the cost of a local call from a landline anywhere in Queensland
  • provided an information stall at NAIDOC Week events in Brisbane, Caboolture, Ipswich, Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa
  • attended the Palm Island Yarnin’ Money Day event to raise awareness about our services
  • maintained best practice guidelines for in-house and private lawyers performing legal aid work to ensure legal services are provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients in a culturally appropriate way
  • rebranded our legal information brochures, factsheets, wallet cards and posters that specifically target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • participated in legal assistance forums and the Queensland Legal Assistance Forum (QLAF) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategic Working Group which aim to promote cooperation and
  • collaboration between legal assistance service providers and non-legal services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • continued to implement our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan and increased the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, which improves service delivery to clients
  • employed an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law graduate as part of our graduate recruitment program, increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates to four.

Helping people with a disability

We recognise many people with disabilities experience legal problems and require services that respond 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 began piloting a Client Assistance Service within the contact centre to help some of our particularly vulnerable clients, especially those with multiple legal issues, who need extra help to access our services.

Case study

Palm Island: Yarnin’ Money Day event

We were proud to be involved in Palm Island’s Yarnin’ Money Day financial literacy event in April 2019 as part of the Palm Island Settlement Working Group. We provided basic consumer and debt advice to about 150 community members, many of them families, as they travelled along a ‘snake’ of community support providers’ tables in the Palm Island Community Hall.

The free BBQ and information event was an informal opportunity and a safe space for community members to attend a ‘one-stop-shop’ where they could access legal information, referrals and networking opportunities about banking, Centrelink, wills assistance, and low interest finance for household items. The Yarnin’ Money Financial Literacy program, organised by the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network, is designed to link the more remote First Nations People with service providers.

Legal services for regional, rural and remote Queenslanders

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 37 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:

  • criminal law duty lawyer services in Magistrates and Childrens Courts in regional towns across Queensland
  • family law duty lawyer services in Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Southport, Hervey Bay and Ipswich
  • domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in Richlands, Beenleigh, Southport, Caboolture, Holland Park, Cleveland, Pine Rivers, Redcliffe, Sandgate, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Maroochydore, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Mount Isa and Palm Island
  • child protection duty lawyer services in Ipswich, Pine Rivers, Caboolture, Cleveland, Southport, Maroochydore, Gladstone, Mackay, Cairns and Townsville
  • child protection legal advice services in Mount Isa, Mackay, Longreach, Emerald, Biloela, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Cherbourg, Murgon, Cleveland, Roma, Charleville and Cunnamulla
  • a Domestic Violence Service in Rockhampton, which meets clients’ legal and non-legal needs
  • a Farm and Rural Legal Service, which 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
  • providing legal help to residents of Townsville and other flood affected areas of north Queensland
  • in-house counsel appearing in regional and remote courts including circuits to Mount Isa, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Thursday Island, Cape York Peninsula, Bowen, Charters Towers, Hervey Bay, Gympie, Bundaberg, Kingaroy and Maryborough legal outreach clinics, where lawyers travel to surrounding regions or link in by videoconference to provide legal advice services, to Cooktown and Tully (Cairns office), Bribie Island (Caboolture office in conjunction with local CLCs), and Dirranbandi, Goondiwindi and Tara (Toowoomba office).

We also:

  • help the ATSILS and the courts on circuit to the remote areas of Normanton, Burketown, Mornington Island and Doomadgee (from our Mount Isa office), and Thursday Island and other Torres Strait Islands (from our Cairns office)
  • provide a statewide telephone legal information line and an Indigenous Hotline where people can call from
  • a landline from anywhere in Queensland for the cost of a local call
  • work with 42 community access points across Queensland that provide information about our services, access to some of our publications, and help people access free telephone legal advice.

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Figure 9. Legal advices provided by location 2018–19

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Figure 10. Applications for grants of aid received by location 2018–19

Women as a priority client group

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:

  • Best practice guidelines for working with people who have experienced domestic violence
  • Best practice guidelines for lawyers working with respondents in domestic violence proceedings
  • Best practice guidelines for working with sexual assault victims
  • a domestic violence risk assessment tool
  • an internal policy for responding to staff experiencing domestic violence.

Key disadvantaged group

Criminal law %

Family law %

Civil law %

Total %

Legal advice

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

26.24
10.55
13.83
10.01

66.63
6.09
14.46
12.14

52.09
7.11
13.29
13.37

50.87
7.66
13.93
11.90

Applications received

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

23.22
17.07
14.88
6.36

63.40
9.55
16.13
9.64

63.87
11.80
14.35
11.22

35.60
15.03
15.05
7.55

Applications approved

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

22.70
18.03
14.30
6.19

61.35
10.22
15.44
8.51

68.75
14.00
14.65
10.21

31.54
16.72
14.47
6.83

Table 6. Access by key disadvantaged groups 2018–19

We have legal information resources to help clients affected by domestic and family violence, which can be found on our website.

Objective 3. Progress our vision through collaboration and policy leadership

Queensland Legal Assistance Forum

The 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 five specialist forums under the QLAF:

  • Best Practice and Evidence Based Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal and non-legal service providers to improve the quality and effectiveness of services and client outcomes through improved practice, efficient systems and professional, well-trained staff.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service Planning Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal assistance service providers and non-legal services, including social, community and health services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Mental Health Service Planning Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal and non-legal service providers, including social, community and health services working with people with mental health issues, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.
  • Children and Families Legal Assistance Forum—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 the delivery of legal and related services to families and children. The forum comprises a Steering Committee and three associated working groups:
    • a Domestic and Family Violence Services Advisory Committee
    • a Training Committee
    • a Child Protection Service Delivery Committee.
  • Community Legal Education Legal Assistance Forum—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal service providers who are delivering and initiating CLE activities. This allows service providers to share CLE information and resources to avoid duplication and fosters good CLE practice.

Regional Legal Assistance Forums

There are 12 RLAFs around the state. During 2018–19, 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.

Supporting community legal centres

We act as state program manager for CLCs, monitoring their financial reporting and ensuring service delivery targets are met. During 2018–19, we administered funding on behalf of state and federal governments to 37 organisations throughout Queensland (see Table 7 for more information).

This year, Queensland centres received $21,015,874 in funding for legal assistance services.

The state government also provided $338,750 through its project funding account to three organisations for the following projects:

  • Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia – Mental Health Act 2016 Collaboration Project ($100,000)
  • Community Legal Centres Queensland – Regionalised Collaborative Service Planning Project ($70,000)
  • LawRight – Indigenous Legal Health Check Project ($150,000) and Best Practice Guide to Legal Outreach Project ($18,750)

Extra funding was provided to eight centres for the following projects:

  • Caxton Legal Centre – Coronial Assistance Service ($100,000)
  • Gold Coast Community Legal Centre – Establishment of new Kirra outreach service ($16,500)
  • Refugee and Immigration Legal Service – Unassisted Asylum Seekers Service ($92,500)
  • Tenants Queensland – Delivery of services in response to 2019 floods ($20,000)
  • Townsville Community Legal Centre – Delivery of specialist legal assistance services in response to 2019 floods ($50,000)
  • Court Network – QCAT Services ($50,000)
  • South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre – Queensland Foster and Kinship Care Legal Support ($25,000)
  • Women’s Legal Service – Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre Service ($12,000).

Community legal centre

Federal government funding $

State government funding $

Total recurrent funding $

Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia Ltd

66 472

95 031

161 503

ATSI Women's Legal Service NQ Inc.

364 584

162 694

527 278

Basic Rights Queensland Inc.

369 949

525 734

895 683

Bayside Community Legal Service Inc.

49 059

83 975

133 034

Cairns Community Legal Centre Inc.

264 715

442 975

707 690

Care Goondiwindi Association Inc.

50 590

84 632

135 222

Carers Queensland Inc.

112 319

157 521

269 840

Caxton Legal Centre Inc.

821 792

1 038 666

1 860 458

Centacare

71 250

100 287

171 537

Central Qld Community Legal Centre Inc.

211 574

362 146

573 720

Community Legal Centres Queensland

443 343

443 343

Court Network Incorporated

190 307

265 691

455 998

DVConnect Ltd.

57 553

81 520

139 073

EDO Queensland

235 617

235 617

EDO of Northern Queensland

102 617

102 617

Gladstone Community Legal Advice Program

49 828

83 133

132 961

Gold Coast Community Legal Centre & Advice Bureau Inc.

426 592

532 723

959 315

LawRight

663 759

767 182

1 430 941

LGBTI Legal Service Inc.

140 115

140 115

Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre Inc.

211 956

211 908

423 864

Moreton Bay Regional Community Legal Service Inc.

49 059

83 975

133 034

North Queensland Women's Legal Service Inc.

636 394

523 110

1 159 504

Nundah Community Legal Service

164 099

84 632

248 731

Pine Rivers Community Legal Service

365 180

302 180

667 360

Prisoners Legal Service Inc.

210 053

299 698

509 751

Queensland Advocacy Inc.

203 287

288 661

491 948

Refugee & Immigration Legal Service Inc.

315 730

452 346

768 076

South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre Inc.

441 203

471 797

913 000

Suncoast Community Legal Service Inc.

156 763

268 720

425 483

Taylor Street Community Legal Service

171 379

286 699

458 078

Tenants Queensland Inc.

135 047

187 064

322 111

TASC National Ltd

665 882

945 923

1 611 805

Townsville Community Legal Service Inc.

185 510

317 534

503 044

Western Queensland Justice Network

107 320

179 056

286 376

Women's Legal Service Inc.

770 761

885 958

1 656 719

Youth Advocacy Centre Inc.

144 966

205 830

350 796

YFS Legal

252 542

357 707

610 249

Total

8 957 474

12 058 400

21 015 874

Table 7. Recurrent funding for CLCs from state and federal governments 2018–19

Law and legal service reform

In 2018–19, we continued to respond to policy and legislative reform proposals from state and federal governments, commissions of inquiry and industry bodies.

We provided submissions on:

Criminal law and youth justice

  • Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council (QSAC) child homicide sentencing review
  • Department of Justice and Attorney-General proposal for reforms arising from the QSAC child homicide sentencing review
  • Atkinson report on Youth Justice
  • Queensland Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee inquiry into the Criminal Code and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
  • Ombudsman investigation into accommodation of young people in watch houses
  • Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
  • QSAC review of community based orders, imprisonment and parole

Consumer and credit law

  • Australian Financial Complaints Authority Rules
  • Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) consultation paper Credit cards: responsible lending assessments
  • Australian Government Treasury consultation about extending unfair contract terms protections to insurance contracts
  • Australian Government Treasury Laws Amendment (Consumer Data Right) Bill 2018
  • Proposed amendments to Motor Dealers and Chattel Auctioneers Act 2014
  • Senate inquiry into credit and financial services targeted at Australians at risk of financial hardship
  • Financial Service Council consultation draft Life Insurance Code of Practice
  • Australian Government Treasury consultation on review of early release of superannuation benefits
  • Australian Retail Credit Association consultation on Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code variation
  • Australian Government Treasury consultation about disclosure in general insurance – improving consumer understanding
  • Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee inquiry into resolution of disputes with financial services providers within the justice system
  • ASIC review of Northern Australia – interim report
  • Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) legacy rules changes consultation
  • AFCA comparative tables changes consultation
  • Australian Banking Association better banking for vulnerable customers consultation
  • ASIC consultation about credit licensing: responsible lending conduct
  • Rural Financial Counselling Service review
  • AFCA Rules Consultation – publishing financial firms names in determinations
  • Australian Retail Credit Association consultation – Privacy (Credit Reporting) Code variation
  • Following our March 2018 submission to the Royal Commission into Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services (Banking Royal Commission), we were invited to provide further submissions to the commission, or policy and legislative reviews arising out of the commission’s findings, as follows:
    • Banking Royal Commission – policy questions arising from the interim report
    • Banking Royal Commission – policy questions arising from the insurance round
    • Australian Government Treasury consultation paper about enforceability of financial services industry codes arising from recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission
    • Australian Government Treasury consultation paper about insurance claims handling arising out of recommendations of the Banking Royal Commission

Other submissions

  • Statutory review of Tribunals Amalgamation Act 2015 (Cwlth)
  • Queensland Parliamentary Transport and Public
  • Works Committee inquiry into operation of toll roads in Queensland
  • Queensland Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee review of Human Rights Bill 2018
  • Department of Justice and Attorney-General review of Births, Deaths and Marriages Act 2003

Family law

We also contributed to the following submissions made by National Legal Aid:

  • Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties) Bill 2018
  • Australian Law Reform Commission’s Review of the Family Law System: discussion paper
  • Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia Bill 2018, and Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2018.

Stakeholder engagement

Working with government and justice system stakeholders

We supported government policy development and the justice system’s efficient management by collaborating with our colleagues in government and the wider justice system.

This involved participating in the:

  • Queensland Courts Safety and Risk Committee
  • Queensland Courts Users Stakeholder Group
  • Streamlining Criminal Justice Committee
  • Mental Health Act Implementation Group
  • Drug and Specialist Courts Review
  • Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Court Working Group
  • Brisbane Domestic Violence Court Stakeholder Group
  • Brisbane Child Protection Court Stakeholder Group
  • Language Services Reference Group
  • Department of Social Services NDIS Stakeholder Advisory Group
  • ASIC Consumer Regulator Forum (Queensland)
  • Childrens Court Committee
  • Watch House Support Group
  • Bar Association of Queensland’s Access to Justice Committee.

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, Domestic and Family Violence Committee and Family Law Committee, contributing to family law, child protection, and domestic and family violence policy.

Industry Reference Group

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:

  • expanded child protection guidelines and the new grants of aid
  • the annual fees review and CPI increase
  • new grants processing arrangements
  • increased access to committal grants of aid for prisoners
  • changes to how firms are set up to receive criminal law referrals.

Objective 4. Build on our business capability and sustainability

Our people

Workforce plan

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.

Learning and development

We continued to provide our in-house CPD program during 2018–19. 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 usually recorded so they can be accessed at a later time. Our program aims to ensure our lawyers and those that provide legal aid services 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:

  • Civil, family and child protection law intensives
  • Criminal law duty lawyer Intensive
  • Dispute resolution conference organisers conference
  • Family law litigation support conference
  • Criminal law litigation support conference
  • Public defenders conference
  • Regional principal lawyer conference
  • Early career lawyers conference
  • Grants operations and ombudsman training
  • Computer systems training including in-house systems, Employee Self Service, Visualfiles, Records Management, Windows 7, Microsoft Outlook, Word and Excel
  • Recruitment and selection training
  • First time supervisor training
  • Work, health and safety incident reporting training
  • Applying for jobs training
  • Train the trainer workshops
  • Change management training
  • Effective planning and time management training
  • Supervision and feedback training
  • New managers course
  • Presentation skills training
  • Achievement and development plan training
  • Psychological wellness and vicarious trauma related training
  • Responding to threats of harm training
  • Cultural awareness training
  • Project management training
  • Induction training for all new staff.

Staff have access to the Study and Research Assistance Scheme and the Certified Agreement training initiatives, which provide funds for higher educational requirements. Staff can also access external training and conferences 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.

Attracting and retaining staff

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 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).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan

We made significant progress in implementing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan.

The plan 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 4.08 percent compared with 3.08 percent in 2017–18.

Graduate recruitment program

During the year, we extended 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 an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduate, increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates to four.

Workplace composition (full-time equivalents)

At 30 June 2019, Legal Aid Queensland had 583.06 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees working in 14 offices throughout the state (see Figures 12 and 13 for more information).

Equal employment opportunity

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).

figure-11-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 11. Staff absenteeism and turnover

figure-12-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 12. Actual staff by employment type (by FTE) 2018–19

figure-13-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 13. Staff age profile (by headcount) 2018–19

figure-14-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 14. Equal employment opportunity target group membership 2018–19

Measuring staff satisfaction

We continue to participate in the whole-of-government Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey. Our results in 2018–19 were very positive compared with the wider Queensland public sector. Sixty-four percent of staff completed the survey, with 86 percent of those who responded reporting high levels of satisfaction with Legal Aid Queensland. Additionally, 100 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff said they would recommend Legal Aid Queensland as a place to work and 80 percent of employees surveyed indicated they engage in flexible work.

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 2019.

Code of conduct

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:

  • integrity and impartiality
  • promoting the public good
  • commitment to the system of government
  • accountability and transparency.

The code guides us in managing issues like:

  • conflicts of interest
  • personal conduct
  • commitment to service delivery
  • information sharing and relationship building across agencies
  • adherence to organisational values and policies
  • continuous performance improvement
  • appropriate use of official information and resources.

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.

Our systems and processes

Records and information management

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 capturing business records.

In 2018–19, we continued records and information management reforms to improve and support good corporate governance by:

  • consulting with our customers to provide guidance on corporate recordkeeping requirements in relation to the Records Governance Policy
  • refining digitisation processes to continue expanding Legal Aid Queensland’s corporate memory
  • identifying and rectifying gaps in our permanent electronic records.

We progressed the transition from paper to digital records by:

  • digitising processes that can be completed using our statewide fleet of multifunction devices
  • digitising physical documents for the:
    • Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Service
    • Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service
    • Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service.

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:

  • implementing the Queensland State Archives Disposal of Source Records guideline
  • reviewing our disposal procedures and implementing appropriate changes in line with best practice.

Collaboration with other government agencies to share knowledge about best practice records and information management has been facilitated by:

  • participating in focus group discussions with agencies such as Queensland State Archives
  • participating in professional development opportunities delivered by the Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia —the core industry professional body for records and information management.

Library services

Our library provides comprehensive reference, research and research-training services to our staff. It supports legal service delivery, planning and management through its modern collection, knowledge management databases and experienced staff.

During the year, we:

  • maintained our specialty collections of criminal law, family law and civil law judgments to provide our lawyers with case law tools designed for their needs
  • trained staff to effectively use legal information resources for legal research
  • upgraded the comparable sentences databases to provide new search options for finding relevant cases
  • completed projects to modernise our catalogue and collections and manage our electronic resources.

Key in-house legal information resources are available to preferred supplier law firms, CLCs and the ATSILS to help them provide high quality legal services to clients.

Reducing environmental impact

During 2018–19, we continued work to improve energy and conservation efficiencies to help reduce our environmental impact.

Efforts to achieve savings have continued through:

  • expanding the new lighting system installed as part of our main Brisbane office’s refurbishment
  • using multifunctional devices for printing, copying, faxing and scanning, reducing our energy use and carbon footprint
  • using rain water collected in our three 16,000 litre water tanks to flush our toilets and irrigate our gardens at our 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane office building
  • reusing water (condensation) from our air-conditioning systems to flush our toilets
  • closely measuring, monitoring and publicising our energy and water use figures to inform and encourage staff
  • implementing an electronic electricity use and reporting tool, which is monitored daily
  • monitoring our daily water use to check for potential water leaks in our systems and reporting on water loss
  • reducing our air-conditioning use during the cooler months
  • using a high efficiency water chiller for our air-conditioning system, which effectively shuts down during low cooling demand periods
  • modifying our air-conditioning water pumps so they shut down when the chiller cycles off
  • increasing sensor lighting to reduce energy use
  • introducing timer technology to reduce use of water boilers, hot water systems and water pumps
  • venting our 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane office building early in the morning in hotter months to expel hot air accumulated overnight and therefore reducing the load on the air-conditioning system
  • educating staff about ways they can help save water and energy
  • managing our cleaning contract and service hours to reduce after-hours lighting use
  • participating in a long term whole-of-government energy supply contract to increase purchasing power and improve supply conditions, while also reducing energy pricing and costs
  • using videoconferencing facilities to reduce
  • transport-related carbon emissions, energy use and associated costs
  • choosing more energy efficient cars when replacing vehicles in our fleet
  • recycling paper, cardboard, cans, glass and printer toner cartridges
  • participating in events like Earth Hour
  • constantly looking for opportunities to further reduce our water and energy use.

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Figure 15. Herschel St, Brisbane office water consumption

figure-16-annual-report-2018-19.png

Figure 16. Herschel St, Brisbane office energy consumption

Accommodation

During 2018–19, we refurbished the 4th floor of our headquarters at 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane, which accommodates our Criminal Law Services division. Three of the five floors of the 44 Herschel Street building have now been refurbished over recent years.

We also leased three floors of office accommodation at 420 George Street, Brisbane where our Grants division is now located across two floors. The remaining floor will be used by some of our Legal Practice teams as an increase in staffing has seen us outgrow our Herschel Street building.

ICT program

In 2018, we completed scheduled work within the ICT 2017–20 Strategic Plan. The plan includes the service delivery and strategic direction IT Services are undertaking to support the organisation over 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:

  • supporting the effective and efficient operation of the organisation and its business through ICT
  • advancing the organisation’s business with better use of ICT on a modern mobile digital platform
  • engaging more easily with the public, preferred suppliers, government departments and non-governmental organisations
  • building a capable, trusted and more forward-looking ICT provider.

During the year, we:

  • implemented a Bring Your Own Device service, which allows staff to access their corporate email, contacts and calendar on a personal device
  • upgraded and redeveloped our staff intranet to ensure our legal advice diaries are on a supported platform.

Open data

Data about the Queensland Language Services Policy is available on the Queensland Government Open Data portal. To access more information, government data and the Annual Report 2018–19 Open Data, visit www.data.qld.gov.au

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