Main Content Anchor

To subscribe to Head Note — click on the subscribe button below, add your details to get your copy of Head Note straight to your inbox.

News

Free legal help for flood-affected north Queensland residents

flooded-house-300px.jpg
(Photo from iStock Photos)

Residents in flood-affected areas across north Queensland can access free legal information and advice from Legal Aid Queensland.

Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said people affected by natural disasters often experienced a range of legal issues, like disputes over insurance claims, problems paying the bills if they can’t work, or even access to essential services that have been damaged like electricity.

“In our experience we see people coming to us for help during and after natural disasters with a range of issues including property or car damage, insurance, tenancy issues, debt, employment and access to electricity and other services damaged by floods,” Mr Reilly said.

“People can contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 004 924 (for the cost of a local call from a landline in Australia) to get free legal information and advice, or to be referred to another organisation who can help with their problem.

“We can help people to understand their rights and outline the next steps they need to take to sort out their problem.”

Flood-affected residents can also access 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.

To access Legal Aid Queensland’s flood legal information and advice services call 1300 004 924 or visit www.legalaid.qld.gov.au

Public Defender appointed District Court judge

John Allen_portrait.jpg
His Honour Judge Allen QC

Congratulations to Legal Aid Queensland’s former Public Defender, John Allen QC, on his recent appointment as a District Court judge.

His Honour Judge Allen QC was appointed as Public Defender in 2011, bringing his extensive experience as a distinguished barrister to the organisation.

Throughout his time with Legal Aid Queensland, Judge Allen appeared in numerous challenging trials and appeals, ensuring his Legal Aid clients were represented to the highest professional standard in their legal proceedings.

As Public Defender, Judge Allen also led and nurtured a strong culture of mentoring within Legal Aid Queensland’s in-house Counsel, making a major contribution to the professional development of our up-and-coming barristers.

Judge Allen will spend the first three years of his appointment as Deputy President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. We wish him every success in his new appointment.

Youth Justice Practitioners Guide launched

YouthJ.jpg
His Honour Justice Michael Shanahan AM at the Youth Justice Practitioners Guide launch

Legal Aid Queensland has produced a new guide for lawyers who appear in the Childrens Court, to provide key information about the specific provisions of the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) and its principles and procedures.

The Youth Justice Practitioners Guide was officially launched by His Honour Justice Michael Shanahan AM, then President of the Childrens Court of Queensland, at a special event in the Supreme Court Library in late 2018.

The guide was developed for use by both defence and prosecution lawyers and outlines the different stages of Queensland’s youth justice process—from the initial police investigation through to the appeal and sentence review stages.  

The guide provides a range of useful information to help lawyers in achieving the best possible outcome for their clients, including some of the considerations lawyers need to be aware of when appearing for young people, rather than adults, in court.

Lawyers appearing in the Childrens Court should also refer to Legal Aid Queensland’s Best practice guidelines for working with children and young people, which complements this new guide.

New Board member Lucia Taylor

lucia-taylor.jpg
Lucia Taylor

Legal Aid Queensland was pleased to welcome Lucia Taylor to the Legal Aid Queensland Board, following her appointment in August 2018.

Lucia Taylor was admitted as a solicitor in 1991 and is an experienced family law practitioner based in Townsville who practices primarily in the North Queensland region. She brings extensive experience to the board, having undertaken administrative decisions for the Child Support Agency for 17 years.

Lucia was appointed a Queensland Law Society Senior Counsellor in 2016 and in 2017 became a member of the James Cook University Human Research Ethics Committee. She has held key positions on community groups including the Townsville Community Legal Service, Zonta, Headspace Townsville and more recently the Queensland Community Foundation, North Queensland Sub-Committee. 

Legal Aid Queensland looks forward to working with Lucia and all our current board members to continue to improve access to justice for disadvantaged Queenslanders.  

Legal Aid Queensland’s Annual Report tabled in parliament

Annual-Report-2018-250px.jpg

Legal Aid Queensland’s 2017–18 Annual Report was tabled in the Queensland Parliament in late 2018 and highlights the many new and expanded service delivery initiatives and special projects undertaken last financial year, including:

  • establishing Counselling Notes Protect, a partnership with Women’s Legal Service to protect the counselling communications of victims of sexual assault from being used in courts
  • establishing the Youth Legal Advice Hotline, through which young people and their families can talk to a lawyer and get legal help
  • increasing our legal representation of young people in bail applications through the Remand Reduction Strategy
  • representing participants in the new Drug and Alcohol Court
  • providing duty lawyer services to the Townsville Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court and associated Mount Isa and Palm Island circuit courts
  • enhancing domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in Caboolture, Pine Rivers, Brisbane and Beenleigh
  • establishing a specialist Domestic Violence Unit in Rockhampton
  • representing applicants who want an external merits review of National Disability Insurance Agency decisions
  • improving the availability of grants of aid for legal representation in child protection matters
  • expanding our Farm and Rural Legal Service
  • promoting our services’ availability through targeted use of social media
  • extending our Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Services to Magistrates Courts in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait regions in collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service.

We will continue our focus on delivering quality legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable Queenslanders in the year ahead.

Legal Aid Queensland a ‘Centre of Excellence’ in child protection practice

Legal Aid Queensland’s expertise in the child protection jurisdiction continues to be sought through the newly created Child Protection Community of Practice and a recent masterclass.

In November 2018, lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland, the Office of the Public Guardian, the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor, and the Director of Child Protection Litigation attended a Government Lawyers Child Protection Community of Practice Training and Discussion Day.

This training and discussion event was the first time lawyers from these key stakeholders in Queensland’s child protection system came together, providing attendees with an excellent opportunity to meet and network with fellow practitioners and colleagues across the child protection system, while facilitating shared learning opportunities.

The training focused on recent legislative changes to the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) and the legal concepts of ‘unacceptable risk’ and ‘harm’, with discussions exploring what is required to ensure quality advocacy in the child protection jurisdiction. Attendees from all agencies committed to promoting a culture of best practice and excellence within the sector.

In December 2018, child protection lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland’s Children and Young People team also partnered with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service to deliver a children’s law masterclass for the Queensland Law Society.

This advanced level masterclass focused on:

  • reviewing key child protection measures recently introduced in Queensland, with a focus on new permanency orders
  • providing practical guidance on issues where clients were likely to seek advice and the instructions required to respond to such applications
  • discussing the implications of the recent case planning amendments at family group meetings, and the effect of the safe care and connection principles on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Legal Aid Queensland looks forward to continued opportunities to share its knowledge and expertise with the child protection sector, and contribute to the sector’s culture of best practice and excellence.

Changes to Legal Aid grants of aid, professional fees and means test

Legal Aid Queensland has recently implemented a number of changes to its grants of aid, professional fees for legal aid work, and its means test.

Child protection grants of aid changes

We have redesigned grants of aid for child protection matters to better align to court processes, and incorporate increased flexibility to adapt to the variability of court processes. These changes were implemented from 1 October 2018.

Grants Online checklists have been created to support applications and extension requests. There has been no change to the current Grants Guidelines for child protection matters. Please refer to the Grants Handbook for more information and a full fees overview. 

Fee increases

We applied a 1.7% increase to all solicitor and professional fees (with the exception of counsel fees in some matters where the rate is already $192 an hour), effective from 1 October 2018. This increase applies to all new grants and extensions of existing grants issued on or after 1 October 2018.

Following our annual fee review process, the following fee increases have been applied from 1 February 2019:

  • The standard counsel preparation fee for pre-trial hearings in the District Court will increase from $192 to $270.
  • The valuers fee for property arbitration matters will increase from $300 to $400.
  • Prisoners who are facing committal on charges where the penalty on conviction is 14 years or less (non-specified matters) will have increased access to representation.

Means test

Legal Aid Queensland introduced the following changes to the income test section of the means test to improve access to justice for disadvantaged Queenslanders:

  • Where clients’ disclosed income is below the Henderson Poverty Line, clients are no longer required to make a contribution (based on income) to the cost of their legal services. 
  • We introduced a 3% increase to the income thresholds within the means test, which took effect for all requests for aid processed from 1 November 2018. 

For more information about these changes, practitioners can contact their Legal Aid Queensland grants officer or visit the ‘For lawyers’ page on the website.

Graduate Lawyer Program welcomes bright, young legal minds

grads.jpg
LAQ Board member Joshua Creamer, graduate lawyers Codie Dalley, Anne Nguyen, Davina Lucus, and LAQ CEO Anthony Reilly

Legal Aid Queensland is delighted to train and mentor the next generation of lawyers as part of its Graduate Lawyer Program.

“Our Graduate Lawyer Program gives law students or newly admitted lawyers an exciting opportunity to start their career in a statewide legal service delivery organisation with a strong social justice focus,” chief executive officer Anthony Reilly said.

Relaunched in 2018, the program offers successful applicants a two year temporary graduate position at Legal Aid Queensland with rotations in our family law and criminal law in-house practices, as well as our Brisbane and regional offices.

“The opportunity to work in Queensland’s largest criminal law practice with some of the state’s most experienced specialist lawyers is a huge drawcard to new graduates.

“In previous years our Graduate Lawyer Program has attracted some of the state’s brightest young legal minds, many of whom have gone on to be experts and leaders in their chosen area of legal practice.”

In 2018 Legal Aid Queensland offered 4 graduate placements, 3 of which were identified positions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students or newly admitted lawyers. These graduates are currently based in our Maroochydore, Townsville and Ipswich offices and are moving into the second year of their program.

We have just completed our intake for the 2019–21 program and look forward to welcoming 4 new graduates to the organisation in February 2019.

Legal Aid Queensland sponsors Equitable Briefing Award

WLAQ1.jpg
LAQ chief executive officer Anthony Reilly, Fisher Dore partner Nick Dore, Fisher Dore partner Lauren Phelps and LAQ Board chair Margaret McMurdo

As a strong supporter of women in the legal profession, Legal Aid Queensland was delighted to sponsor the Equitable Briefing Award at the 2018 Women Lawyers Association Queensland Inc Awards on 27 October.

The award recognises the law firm that has briefed the most women barristers—or has demonstrated significant improvement in its briefing practices—for legally-aided matters during the year. Legal Aid Queensland is committed to the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy which aims to see women barristers briefed in at least 30% of all matters and receiving 30%  of the value of all brief fees by 2020.

Legal Aid Queensland Board chair The Hon. Margaret McMurdo AC and chief executive officer Anthony Reilly attended the event and presented the award to law firm Fisher Dore.

“Although women have been graduating in law in equal or greater numbers to men for many decades, it is concerning that they are still seriously under-represented at the Queensland Bar,” said Margaret McMurdo.

“I am delighted that Legal Aid Queensland is a signatory to the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy.

“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.”

Drug and Alcohol Court team recognised at the Magistrate Court Service Awards

QDACaward.jpg
LAQ’s Criminal Law Services director Peter Delibaltas (back row second, from right) with other QDAC service delivery agency representatives

Congratulations to Legal Aid Queensland’s Drug and Alcohol Court team who were recognised as part of a multi-agency service delivery collaboration at the Magistrates Court Service Awards in late 2018.

The multidisciplinary team of Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court (QDAC) service delivery agencies received a Highly Commended Award in the Developing Partnerships and Engagement award category, in recognition of their collaborative approach to supporting people as they progress through their QDAC Treatment Orders.

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 4 years wholly suspended while they participate in intensive treatment and strict supervision for two years.

The multidisciplinary team of professionals recognised with this award includes Legal Aid Queensland lawyers, Queensland Police Service prosecutors, Queensland Health clinicians, Corrective Services officers, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander court liaison officer and Department of Justice and Attorney-General court officers.

Legal Aid Queensland is a proud service delivery agency in Specialist Courts Programs across Queensland and congratulates all the award recipients.

People doing Legal Aid work

HeadNote-02-2019-300px-2.jpg

Helping vulnerable people experiencing domestic and family violence to protect their rights

Mara* arrived in Australia 12 months ago on a partner visa with limited English language skills.

After suffering serious physical violence by her partner and receiving threats of deportation, a domestic violence support service referred Mara to Legal Aid Queensland via our Legal Advice Referral Pathway Program for urgent help.

“Our Referral Pathway Program is a legal lifeline for highly vulnerable women experiencing domestic and family violence who face a number of barriers to accessing our services,” domestic violence principal lawyer Linda Debenham said.

“Through the program, Legal Aid Queensland has established referral partnerships with more than 60 community agencies across Queensland to ensure these highly vulnerable clients do not fall through the cracks, but instead are referred to Legal Aid Queensland for urgent legal help."

As Mara had limited English skills, we arranged an interpreter for her face-to-face legal advice appointment with one of our lawyers, to explain her legal rights and options. In cases such as Mara’s, we would also refer her for advice about her partner visa options if she wishes to remain in Australia.

Given Mara was due to appear in court for a contested Domestic and Family Violence Protection Order application hearing, we organised an urgent grant of aid application to have a lawyer represent her in court. We also coordinated subpoenas and sourced witness statements to be used in court.

At court, our domestic violence prevention workers met with Mara to screen for risk to her personal safety, undertake safety planning, explain the court process, offer support in the courtroom and provide warm referrals to relevant community service providers.

“Research has shown some of the high risk indicators for intimate-partner homicides include a history of domestic and family violence, actual or pending separation, sexual jealousy, excessive drug and/or alcohol use by the perpetrator, non-lethal strangulation, and stalking/monitoring and surveillance,” Linda Debenham said.

“If a client has any of these high risk indicators we will help the client plan for their safety in the home, in their community, at work, and when using technology and transport.

“We will also support the client to connect with ongoing support as we know levels of risk can change quickly and safety strategies will need to be updated over time.

“If a woman is at imminent risk, our domestic violence prevention workers are fortunate to be able to refer to the Brisbane High Risk Team for a coordinated community response to the risk the perpetrator poses.”

Through the coordinated efforts of our referral partners and our in-house lawyers, domestic violence prevention workers and support staff, Mara was ultimately successful in obtaining a 5 year protection order in court.

*Name changed for privacy reasons.

Community legal education and resources

Yarning circles as a CLE tool

child p.jpg
Kate Grant from ATSILS, Legal Aid staff Jessica Dean, Margaret Hornagold and Tamaryn Townshend with Deputy Chief Magistrate O’Shea at the Child Protection Early Intervention Program yarning circle

Yarning circles provide Legal Aid Queensland staff with the opportunity to engage, share stories and experiences that break down cultural barriers and stereotypes within a workplace.

The objectives of Legal Aid’s yarning circles are to:

  • build links and relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff
  • improve service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people using Legal Aid services
  • enhance our cultural competency, which is a strategic objective of our First Nations Advisory Committee.

Legal Aid’s Children and Young People (Child Protection) legal team was the focus of our first yarning circle, which was held in December 2018. 

Members from the team talked about Legal Aid Queensland's new Child Protection Early Intervention Program with attendees. We were pleased Deputy Chief Magistrate O’Shea and other members of the Queensland legal profession were able to attend this session. Deputy Chief Magistrate O’Shea acknowledged the importance of this program for the legal sector and the broader community. Thank you to all those who attended and participated.

Attend free webinars and visit Legal Aid Queensland at events

Free live webinars

Community workers are encouraged to register for our upcoming webinars on legal topics like credit and debt, child protection services, police powers and public space, young people and the law, consumer protection and more.

Our next webinar is:

After the Financial Services Royal Commission: Helping your clients with credit and debt, by consumer protection lawyer Paul Holmes on Thursday, 21 February 2019, 10am AEST. More information and register now.

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

Great feedback received on our growing webinar program

Our CLE webinar program continues to grow with 1692 people attending our 11 webinars in 2018. There was a 10.4% increase in webinar attendance from 2017, with 153 workers, on average, attending each webinar.

We are also pleased to see an increase in the number of regional community workers joining our webinars in 2018. Forty-nine percent of our webinar audience were located outside of south east Queensland, helping to increase awareness of the law and our services within more hard-to-reach communities across regional Queensland.

Thank you to everyone who attended a webinar in 2018 and we look forward to seeing you at the next one.

It was great to receive the following positive feedback from some of our webinar attendees:

“The information provided during the webinar regarding clients and gambling addiction made it very clear what information I need to ensure my client who have accrued debts as a result of gambling and are considering bankruptcy need to know when deciding what action to take.” – Uniting Care Community worker.
"All of it [was useful] - especially dealing with the police and appearing before court." –  Anglicare worker.
“LAQ staff are doing an excellent job with their webinars for which I am grateful.” – anonymous community worker.
“Enabled me to be more CONFIDENT in my referrals and recommendations.” – Salvation Army worker.
“Gave me a better insight into the basic legal rights of our young people.” – Employment First Aid worker.
“All the information was excellent and useful for worker and those they work alongside. Excellently articulated and presented. I thought it excellent, only suggestion I have is that I could have listened for longer.” – anonymous community worker.

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.

This year you’ll find us at community events such as NAIDOC week, finance fairs, Homeless Connect in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and Anti-Poverty week events around Queensland. You can find out what events we’ll be attending this year on our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts as the year progresses.

Our CLE team can arrange for a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer or staff member to visit your organisation and speak with community workers and their clients about legal issues and how we can help. Email us to request a visit and presentation.

What’s new: Legal Aid Queensland publications and resources

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

The following captioned webinar videos are now available on our YouTube channel:

Visit our Legal Aid Queensland YouTube channel to see other 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:

Back to top