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Protecting sexual assault counselling records service launched

Lynne Bricknell – Legal Aid Queensland, Anthony Reilly – Legal Aid Queensland, The Hon. Yvette D’Ath MP – Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Angela Lynch – Women’s Legal Service, Julie Sarkozy – Women’s Legal Service, Nicky Davies – Legal Aid Queensland, The Hon. Margaret McMurdo AC – Legal Aid Queensland Board chair and Women’s Legal Service patron.

Sexual assault victims can now access free legal help to protect their private counselling communications from becoming public in court proceedings.

Counselling Notes Protect is a new legal service to help sexual assault victims protect their counselling records.

The service is run by Legal Aid Queensland in partnership with the Women’s Legal Service and offers free legal advice and representation to support the Sexual Assault Counselling Privilege laws introduced by the Palaszczuk Government last year.

Legal Aid Queensland was delighted to have the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, The Hon. Yvette D’Ath MP, officially launch this new service at a special event in July 2018.

Sexual assault victims who want to protect their counselling notes—or counsellors who would like information about how the laws apply to them—can access Counselling Notes Protect by calling 1300 267 762 for Legal Aid Queensland or 1800 957 957 for the Women’s Legal Service.

The Protecting sexual assault counselling records factsheet has more information about the new service.

A new approach to delivering services to Indigenous clients

Legal Aid Queensland’s new First Nations Advisory Committee is guiding our renewed, multifaceted approach to delivering best practice, culturally appropriate legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Established in October 2017, the committee is led by chair Joshua Creamer—a barrister, Legal Aid Queensland Board member, and descendant of the Waanyi and Kalkadoon nations from North West Queensland. Other committee members include Legal Aid Queensland Board chair Margaret McMurdo AC, representatives from community organisations that provide services to Indigenous people, a Queensland Indigenous Lawyers Association representative, two Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) employees and other stakeholders on invitation.

The committee is leading the development of Legal Aid Queensland’s First Nations Strategy to build on our cultural capability in service delivery for Indigenous people, and our recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.

We have recently introduced a number of new initiatives to support our First Nations Strategy, including:

  • recruiting two new identified Indigenous positions, a policy officer and community legal education and engagement officer, to liaise with key stakeholders and raise awareness of our services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • delivering ongoing Indigenous cultural awareness training to staff
  • recruiting four new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate law students in our client contact centre to help Indigenous Queenslanders receive culturally appropriate services via our Indigenous Hotline (1300 65 01 43)
  • recruiting four new graduate lawyers as part of our Regional Law Graduate Program; with at least one of the four positions allocated to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person. The graduate lawyers are based in our Townsville and Maroochydore offices.

During Reconciliation Week in May 2018, the committee held a strategic planning workshop with a number of Legal Aid Queensland Board members and staff to further develop our First Nations Strategy. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Chris Sarra and generated new ideas, strategies and priorities, which will inform our service planning.

Expanded domestic and family violence services in Rockhampton

Legal Aid Queensland has expanded its domestic and family violence legal services in Rockhampton, helping ensure people in the region have access to legal help if they need it. Domestic and family violence lawyer Fionna Fairbrother said if someone is experiencing violence and wants to apply for a protection order, they can get help from our new specialist domestic and family violence team based in our Rockhampton office.

“The domestic violence lawyer will give the person free legal advice to help them better understand their legal rights and options for their personal circumstances,” Ms Fairbrother said.

“Our staff will help the client to access any support services they need such as counselling, women’s shelters, health services, financial counselling and other community support or government services as required.

“We will also help the client to plan for their personal and family safety, assist with protection order applications, explain the court process and provide crisis counselling and emotional support as needed.

“When it’s time to go to court, both parties can access our expanded Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Service at the Rockhampton Magistrates Court, which is now available Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.”

This free service is available to both parties in domestic violence matters and operates in 15 locations across Queensland.

Sharing our expertise in the child protection jurisdiction

Legal Aid Queensland’s Children and Young People team recently shared its knowledge and expertise in the child protection jurisdiction through a seven-part webinar series and annual child protection masterclass.

The webinar series was targeted at advice lawyers working in community legal centres, the ATSILS and the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Service who see clients at all stages in the child protection system. It was also attended by preferred supplier law firms and other Legal Aid Queensland lawyers.

The webinar series examined each stage of the child protection process including:

  • the Department of Child Safety’s investigation and assessment (voluntary intervention and court processes)
  • starting Childrens Court and Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) proceedings
  • key participants in proceedings (ie the separate representative, direct representative, recognised entities, non-parties and the Office of the Public Guardian)
  • family group meetings
  • contesting applications
  • appeals and QCAT applications.

The 2018 child protection masterclass featured presentations on:

  • Positive parenting practices in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Brisbane (Dr Featherstone, Kummara Association)
  • Upcoming reforms to child protection legislation (Child Safety’s Reform Implementation team)
  • How to run contested court assessment order hearings, both from a duty lawyer perspective and with a grant of aid (Legal Aid Queensland).

Preferred suppliers can access the child protection webinar videos and presentation materials through Legal Aid Queensland’s Grants portal.

People doing legal aid work

Penny Williams – Principal Lawyer, Drug and Alcohol Court team.

It’s a Thursday afternoon in Queensland’s Drug and Alcohol Court (QDAC) as a number of people currently on or potentially eligible for QDAC Treatment Orders are in the courtroom, waiting for their treatment progress to be reviewed.

The QDAC is a diversionary court which provides an intensive and targeted response to adult offenders with severe substance use disorders. Eligible adult offenders are sentenced to a QDAC Treatment Order, which includes a term of imprisonment of up to four years wholly suspended while they participate in intensive treatment and strict supervision for two years.

Severe substance misuse of methamphetamine, ice and other drugs have contributed to major upheavals in their lives and their subsequent criminal offending. A QDAC Treatment Order is, for many, a lifeline that will support them to end their addiction, find or maintain employment and stable accommodation, rebuild family and community connections, and break the cycle of reoffending.

Court proceedings begin and as each person is called forward, they take a seat at the table with the QDAC magistrate—Magistrate Hennessy—along with a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer, a Queensland Police Service prosecutor and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander court liaison officer to have a conversation about their progress.

In what feels like a supportive conversation with case workers rather than formal courtroom proceedings, Magistrate Hennessy talks with each person about their treatment order progress—congratulating them on achieving milestones with their drug and alcohol test results, and commending their progress towards securing stable accommodation, employment and spending time with their children and families.

When someone is seeking treatment for a severe substance use disorder, slip-ups are part of the process as clients experience life’s challenges. Magistrate Hennessy acknowledges these slip-ups and encourages each person to continue checking in with their case worker and follow their treatment program. There are swift consequences for QDAC Treatment Order breaches (including going to jail for short periods), but fortunately these aren’t needed today, as most people appearing before the QDAC have taken positive steps forward.

Legal Aid Queensland has been an active partner in the QDAC, which started operating in February 2018, and the previous Queensland Drug Court which operated from 2000 to 2013.

Penny Williams, principal lawyer of our Drug and Alcohol Court team, worked in the Queensland Drug Court jurisdiction for 10 years and was actively involved in reviewing, planning, implementing and now delivering the QDAC, which currently operates from the Brisbane Magistrates Court.

“When a client is sentenced to a QDAC Treatment Order, our role is to explain the treatment order requirements to them, prepare matters for sentence, look at accommodation and treatment options with them, but most importantly advocate for them and provide support to help them deal with the treatment and recovery process,” Ms Williams said.

“Legal Aid Queensland has made the commitment that once someone is officially on a QDAC Treatment Order, we will support them at each of their QDAC review hearings as they progress through the two-year term of their order.”

Legal Aid Queensland partners with a multidisciplinary team of professionals in the QDAC to support people as they progress through their QDAC Treatment Orders. The team includes Queensland Health clinicians who provide treatment, Queensland Police Service prosecutors, Corrective Services officers who supervise and monitor participants, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander court liaison officer and Department of Justice and Attorney-General court officers.

The QDAC is achieving good client retention results—of the 53 people referred to date, 60% have been retained in the program and are in varying stages of their two-year treatment program.

Visit the Queensland Courts website and the Legal Aid Queensland website to find out more about the QDAC.

Community legal education and resources

Margaret Hornagold (community legal education and engagement officer) and Vikki Moore (referral pathways officer) representing Legal Aid Queensland at the Musgrave Park Family Fun Day in NAIDOC Week.

CLE Collaboration Fund grant recipients announced

Legal Aid Queensland is delighted to announce the 2018 Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund grant recipients, which will deliver a range of projects and initiatives to help the community better understand their legal rights and responsibilities.

The recipients sharing in $94,695 in funding are:

Pine Rivers Community Legal Centre: to continue delivering CLE sessions to young people in collaboration with Worklinks in Caboolture, Strathpine, Mitchelton and Kippa Ring.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Service: to facilitate the ‘Resolving Community Conflicts’ project—in partnership with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General’s Dispute Resolution Branch and the South Community Hub Domestic and Family Violence project—to deliver workshops to leaders from East African countries and other emerging communities.

Queensland Advocacy Incorporated: to partner with TAFE Queensland to produce pamphlets, videos and a forum involving live theatre to increase awareness, education and support for people with a disability in residential settings who experience violence and abuse.

Caxton Legal Centre: to work with the multicultural sector to develop an Elder Abuse Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Engagement Strategy, including translating elder abuse prevention factsheets in ten languages and coordinating legal information sessions.

LawRight: to collaborate with the homelessness and community sectors to coordinate a free legal information training day for frontline non-legal caseworkers.

Bundaberg Regional Legal Assistance Forum: to deliver CLE information sessions for community members, and community, health and education workers in partnership with the Family Law Pathways network.

South West Queensland Legal Assistance Forum: to partner with key stakeholders to build on its ongoing school program in the region, presenting information sessions to school students on healthy relationships.

The collaboration fund is an initiative of Legal Aid Queensland and is funded by the Queensland Government’s Department of Justice and Attorney-General and Legal Aid Queensland.

Celebrating NAIDOC Week

NAIDOC Week is one of the highlights on Legal Aid Queensland’s community engagement calendar each year and is a great opportunity to get out into the community and raise awareness of Legal Aid Queensland and our services.

Under the coordination of our new community legal education and engagement officer, Margaret Hornagold, Legal Aid Queensland’s Brisbane, Rockhampton, Cairns, Ipswich, Caboolture, and Mt Isa offices all held information stalls at local NAIDOC Week community events in their regions. These events are also a great opportunity for our staff to connect with other local community services and agencies in the region.

Our stall at the Musgrave Park Family Fun Day in Brisbane was well attended with our ‘Your rights rule’ rulers and colouring-in stations proving popular with young children.

Attend free webinars and visit Legal Aid Queensland at events

Free live webinars

Community workers are encouraged to register for our upcoming webinars on employment law, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, mental health and more as they become available.

Register now

Subscribe to our webinar mailing list for more information about upcoming webinars.

Upcoming events

Our community legal education staff, lawyers and frontline staff visit community events throughout the year to promote our services and raise awareness about people’s legal rights and responsibilities. Come and say hi to us at these upcoming events:

Brisbane Mental Health Expo

Date: Friday, 12 October 2018
Time: 10am–1pm
Location: Reddacliff Place, 266 George Street, Brisbane

Anti-Poverty Week

Date: 14–20 October, 2018
Time: various events
Location: Several community events to be held in local libraries in Upper Coomera, Southport and Elanora.

What’s new: Legal Aid Queensland publications and resources

All our publications and education resources are free and can be viewed or ordered online.

Visit our Legal Aid Queensland YouTube channel to see captioned webinar videos on legal topics including:

  • credit and debt
  • anti-discrimination
  • child protection
  • preparing for court.

These videos are available via the Webinars for community, health and education playlist on our YouTube channel.

The following publications are new or recently updated:

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