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Head Note June 2017

News

Margaret McMurdo AC appointed new Legal Aid Queensland Board chair

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Justice Margaret McMurdo AC.

Legal Aid Queensland welcomes the appointment of retired Justice Margaret McMurdo AC as the new Legal Aid Queensland Board chair.

We are extremely fortunate to have someone of Justice McMurdo’s calibre lead our organisation following her highly influential and respected career in the legal profession in Queensland.

Justice McMurdo retired in March after 26 years as a judge. She has a long standing connection with legal assistance in the state, having first worked in the legal profession more than 40 years ago as a law student with the then newly formed Aboriginal Legal Service. She was the Public Defender’s Office’s first female paralegal and went on to become an Assistant Public Defender for 13 years.

She was the first woman and the youngest judge ever commissioned in Queensland’s District Court in 1991 and was appointed as President of the Court of Appeal in Queensland in 1998—the first woman in Australia to preside over an intermediate court of appeal. In 2015, she was Acting Chief Justice of Queensland.

Justice McMurdo will now work with the Legal Aid Queensland Board and management team in continuing to deliver quality, cost effective legal services to vulnerable Queenslanders.

We also thank former board chair Brian Stewart for his leadership and support during the past 3 years.  

Helping clients in the family law courts affected by family violence

As part of the Australian Government’s commitment to help clients affected by family violence, Legal Aid Queensland has established federal government-funded Family Advocacy and Support Services in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns.

The services, which began in March 2017, involve lawyers and social support workers helping people impacted by family violence who have a current family law issue. The services can help in 2 ways:

  • We can provide legal help for unrepresented people on their court date (complementing the Family Law Duty Lawyer Service). This service operates in the Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns Family Court and Federal Circuit Court (when the court is sitting).
  • We can also provide help for very urgent family law problems, (even without a matter in court). People can call 1300 65 11 88 or visit a legal aid office (link) in their area to find out if this service is available to them. This service is available at Legal Aid Queensland offices and the Brisbane family law courts Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.

As part of these services, a lawyer may be able to give people information and legal advice, help prepare simple court documents (in limited situations), represent them in court (in limited situations) and help complete legal aid applications. A support worker may be able to help people prepare a safety plan, connect them with other services that may be able to help them and help complete legal aid applications.

Legal representation for clients in the Mental Health Review Tribunal

Legal Aid Queensland is working with the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) to provide legal representation services to patients appearing before the tribunal under the new Mental Health Act 2016.

The tribunal sits in 72 locations across Queensland, and it's expected more than 2000 hearings each year will need legal representation services.

The Mental Health Review Tribunal 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 established an in-house Mental Health Review Tribunal 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 community legal centres).

Our in-house team, working together with the network of service providers, will give legal help to some of Queensland’s most vulnerable people appearing in the tribunal across the state.

New Workplace Advice Clinic

Legal Aid Queensland has joined with the Australian Government's Fair Work Commission to give free legal help to employees through a new Workplace Advice Clinic.

The clinic began in March 2017 and operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Fair Work Commission’s Brisbane office. The Fair Work Commission staff will schedule an appointment with a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer, who will give free legal advice to unrepresented applicants seeking to file, or who have already filed, unfair dismissal or general protections applications in Brisbane.

The clinic offers one-off free legal help and the lawyer can help clients complete an application, give them information about issues that may arise during a matter and give general advice about a person’s legal and employment rights and the options for addressing their issues.

People doing legal aid work

Protecting Queenslanders from discrimination, sexual harassment and public vilification

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Senior lawyer Matilda Alexander

Discrimination, sexual harassment and public vilification are just some of the many issues Legal Aid Queensland senior human rights and anti-discrimination lawyer Matilda Alexander helps clients with every day.

Matilda is one of the lawyers in our Civil Justice Services team that provides legal help to vulnerable people who have been treated unfairly in areas including work, education, accommodation, goods and services and the government administration. Unfair treatment includes complaints about discrimination based on attributes such as race, sex, sexuality, gender identity, impairment and age. Matilda provides advice and representation for complaints made to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Qld and Australian Human Rights Commission and representation in subsequent legal actions. In many of these cases, practical remedies can be achieved to ensure access to justice, including making respondents undergo training, change policies, reinstate workers or services, apologise or pay compensation.

Matilda is also focused on the emerging issue of the rights of transgender students at school. She has been delivering presentations to schools covering the law around gendered uniforms, change rooms, pronouns, names, school records, parental consent, excursions, gender specific activities and single-sex/religious schools. She has also been working with transgender young people and their parents to provide practical legal help in navigating these issues.

Matilda has extensive experience working with the LGBTI community and believes in building strong partnerships to create effective social change. She is also the president and principal lawyer at the LGBTI Legal Service.

If you have a client needing help with a civil law problem, please phone us on 1300 65 11 88 to see if we can help them progress or resolve their legal issue.

Community legal education and resources

Free webinars for community workers

Community workers across Queensland can learn about common legal issues affecting their clients and how to access our services thanks to our free webinar program.

Webinar: Diverse sexuality, gender identity and discrimination law in Queensland

Date: 23 June 2017
Time: 10am - 11am AEST
Register online

Subscribe to our webinar mailing list

The webinar will be delivered by Legal Aid Queensland's senior human rights and anti-discrimination lawyer Matilda Alexander and Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) Brisbane complaints manager Heather Corkhill, and will cover: 

  • an overview of discrimination law and how it relates to people identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex (LGBTI)
  • practical tips for case workers if your client is experiencing discrimination
  • getting help from ADCQ.

Attendees will have the opportunity to ask general questions that may help their clients. 

Please phone 07 3238 3431 or email community.legaled@legalaid.qld.gov.au for more information.

What’s new: publications and resources

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

The following publications are new Legal Aid Queensland resources:

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

The following publications have been updated recently:

Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund

Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund resources collaborative initiatives and partnerships to extend the reach of our CLE work, in line with our CLE Strategy.
The fund resources CLE initiatives that:

  • promote collaboration between legal assistance and community based services
  • help people identify legal problems early, understand their legal rights and responsibilities, and how to access legal help.

Collaboration fund project highlights from 2015–16 include:

For more information about the collaboration fund, visit our website.

Case study

Helping a young baby to be returned to her mother safely

Jane* is a mother of a young baby living in remote Queensland, and is separated from the baby's father.

Jane's baby was born with special medical needs requiring ongoing medical attention. At the father's request, Jane allowed him to take their child with him to his parents' house for 2 hours to meet its grandparents, after which the baby would be returned to the mother. Unfortunately, the father did not comply with the agreement and did not return the baby.

Jane was concerned for the baby’s welfare. There are domestic and family violence protection orders in place. With the help of a social worker, Jane contacted Legal Aid Queensland. One of our lawyers attempted to contact the father by telephone and emailed a letter requesting the father to return the child that day. The father offered to return the baby to the mother that evening, but then refused to comply.

The police were contacted and with their help, the paternal grandparents delivered the young baby safely back to the mother.

*Name changed for privacy reasons

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