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New youth justice reforms

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Queensland's Youth Justice System is undergoing a series of changes designed to help support children and young people who have been charged with a criminal offence.

The Youth Justice and Other Legislation (Inclusion of a 17-year-old Persons) Amendment Act 2016 was introduced on 12 February 2018 and will see young offenders aged 17 being dealt with in the youth justice system. This legislation brings Queensland into line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the law in all other Australian states and territories.

Supporting the Act, the Youth Justice (Transitional) Regulation 2018 also came into effect from 12 February 2018. This ensures that 17 year olds currently in the adult justice system will be transitioned to Youth Justice Care. The regulation will be in effect for 2 years, and allows 17 year olds in adult prisons, on adult community-based orders, or involved in adult court proceedings, to be transferred to the youth justice system.

Find out more about the inclusion of 17 year olds in the youth justice system and youth justice reforms.

Legal Aid Queensland has also established the Youth Legal Advice Hotline—1800 LAQ LAQ (1800 527 527)—so young people in Queensland can talk to a lawyer and get free and confidential legal advice about bail, diversionary options, being charged with an offence, talking to police and youth justice issues.

The hotline, which is being trialled until 30 June 2018 operates from 8am to 9pm Monday to Friday, and Saturday 7am to 12 midday (except for public holidays).

Note: The trial has been extended to the 30 June 2019 and Saturdays operating hours have changed to 5pm.
Update dated: 12 July 2018

Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said it's very important young people understand their legal rights when talking to the police, or if they've been charged with a criminal offence.

"We would encourage young people with a legal problem to call the Youth Legal Advice Hotline on 1800 527 527, and talk to a lawyer" he said. "Legal Aid Queensland is committed to ensuring young people understand their legal rights. Our service promise to children and young people is that we will work with you to understand your situation, communicate with you in an appropriate way and help you get access to services and support that you need."

Legal practitioners are also welcome to call the Youth Legal Advice Hotline if they have any questions about the youth justice reforms.

New service to help sexual assault victims by protecting their counselling notes

Counselling Notes Protect (CNP) is a new free legal service being delivered by Legal Aid Queensland in partnership with the Women's Legal Service. The service provides legal advice, help and representation under a new Queensland law protecting the counselling records of victims of sexual assault or alleged sexual assault.

The CNP service can help if you're a victim or alleged victim of a sexual assault offence, and you have had counselling and there may be court proceedings about your sexual assault or alleged sexual assault.

The new law applies to criminal and civil court proceedings that started on, or after, 1 December 2017 even if the sexual assault offence happened before this date. It also applies to domestic violence court proceedings. If criminal or civil court proceedings were started before 1 December 2017, it's still important to get legal advice about any legal options you may have to protect your counselling notes from being used by the court. 

Protected counselling records may include oral or written records, notes or other types of documents. These records are made between a counsellor and either the counselled person or the counselled person's parent, carer or support person. The records can be about the counselling that you've had either before or after the sexual assault. The legal protection may cover notes and/or records made by sexual assault counsellors, domestic violence counsellors or support services, healthcare professionals, psychologists and doctors. 

Under the new laws, your counselling records are protected from being available during a court case, unless you or the court gives permission for your records to be produced. The court's permission is also needed before issuing a subpoena to get a copy of your counselling records.

To access Counselling Notes Protect you can call 1300 267 762 for Legal Aid Queensland or 1800 957 957 for the Women's Legal Service.  

Legal Aid Queensland increases fees for state and Commonwealth matters

Legal Aid Queensland has increased professional fees paid to all solicitors and barristers for state and Commonwealth matters, including duty lawyer and legal advice fees, fees to report writers, and other service providers.

The CPI increase, paid from 1 February 2018, excludes expensive criminal law counsel fees.

The Legal Aid Queensland Board approved the increase last year, thanks to increased funding provided by the Queensland Government, along with indexed funding from the Commonwealth Government under the National Partnership Agreement.

Board chairperson The Hon. Margaret McMurdo AC said the board would endeavour to approve CPI-based fee increases each year, subject to Legal Aid Queensland’s financial position.

“Legal Aid Queensland values the contribution of its preferred supplier lawyers who provide legal aid services to clients and ensure the accessibility of legal aid services throughout Queensland,” Ms McMurdo said.

“We will continue to look for ways to increase fees where we can, within the parameters of our budget”.

The board also approved:

  • a fee increase of 7 percent for veterans matters to realign them with the Commonwealth family law rate
  • an additional top-up grant of $455.80 for preparation in criminal law matters where a defendant is facing more than 100 charges
  • a structural review of child protection grants of aid and fee levels.

For more information about the fee increases, practitioners can contact their Legal Aid Queensland grants officer or visit the ‘For lawyers’ page on the website www.legalaid.qld.gov.au.

Legal Aid Queensland supports equitable briefing practices

Legal Aid Queensland is playing a leading role in supporting equitable briefing practices in Queensland by officially endorsing the Law Council of Australia's equitable briefing policy.

Strategies being implemented to support the policy, and help improve the briefing practices of all Legal Aid Queensland service providers in regard to female barristers include:

  • adopting briefing targets
  • monitoring briefing practices
  • amending our case management standards to reiterate the emphasis on briefing female barriers
  • reviewing preferred supplier agreements regarding briefing practices for external service providers
  • reporting briefing practices through our annual report.

"By endorsing the Law Council's equitable briefing policy and committing to improving the briefing practices of all service providers, Legal Aid Queensland is once again demonstrating its leadership role across the legal sector," said Margaret McMurdo, Legal Aid Queensland Board chair.

The Bar Association of Queensland (use the advanced search option to search by gender) or the Women's Lawyers Association of Queensland has full lists of female barristers and their areas of practice.

Legal Aid Queensland goes social!

Legal Aid Queensland is now on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn!

Follow us to find out more about what's happening at Legal Aid Queensland, including our latest news and events, and you'll get an insight into the work being done by our staff across the state. Please share with your colleagues, networks and stakeholders, and encourage them to follow us too!

People doing legal aid work

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Call centre employee Desley with Legal Aid Queensland Board chair Margaret McMurdo

In December 2017, the Legal Aid Queensland call centre celebrated 20 years of operation, having played a key role in ensuring Queenslanders have had equitable access to legal information to help resolve their legal problems.

The call centre was established to have an operationally reliable centre of expertise available for callers across the state. So, no matter their location, or who they were calling, callers would get the same standard of service. Callers would also be able to be referred to other agencies or service providers across the legal, welfare and government sectors.

Back in 1997, Legal Aid Queensland didn't have a dedicated call centre, rather just a switchboard operator and small room with 4 or 5 desks where customer service operators sat when not attending the front counter. Each of them had a ring-binder folder with information in them that they had to flick through to help them answer enquiries from people wanting legal help.

However, despite these humble beginnings, over the past 20 years the call centre has employed hundreds of staff and has answered more than 1.5 million inquiries. The call centre has grown to more than 40 staff and in 2016–17 answered 143,709 calls and provided 95,701 legal information and referral services to clients. They also responded to 441 legal information and referral services via email.

Legal Aid Queensland has recently upgraded its telephone infrastructure and our call centre is now using modern, web-based software technology. We've also renamed the call centre to the "Legal Aid Queensland Contact Centre" to recognise our clients' changing needs, and the multiple channels that we now use to help clients.

Since its inception, the call centre has recognised the unique skills and knowledge needed by its staff, with our call centre training program becoming the first accredited program in Australia of its kind. When completed, all call centre staff received a Certificate 3 in Legal Information Services. The program was so successful that in 1998 the call centre training program won the Queensland Public Service best training initiative of the year. Over the years, the call centre has also been recognised for its innovative and effective approach to helping people with legal problems, including winning the Australian Telemarketing and Call Centre Association's award (under 50 staff).

We have passionate and dedicated staff working in our contact centre and one of our current staff members, Desley is celebrating her 20 year anniversary. Since 1997, Desley has moved from being one of our original client information officers to a current contact centre team leader. Legal Aid Queensland is proud to congratulate Desley for reaching this milestone!

Over the coming years, our contact centre staff will be engaging with clients in new ways due to technological changes and clients' needs, however, it continues to be the frontline for people contacting Legal Aid Queensland. Congratulations to everyone involved with our call centre over the last 20 years, and thank you for your hard work and the high-quality service you've provided to the people of Queensland—and here's to another 20 fantastic years!

Community legal education and resources

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Attend free webinars and visit Legal Aid Queensland at events

Free live webinars

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

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

Upcoming events

Participating in a range of community events across Queensland gives our Community Legal Education (CLE) team, lawyers and frontline staff opportunities to talk to, and help people in their local community. At these events we can let you know about services we offer, and give you information about your legal rights and responsibilities. You can find out what events we'll be attending on our website, Facebook and Twitter. So, if you see us, come and say hello and ask us how we can help! 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.

Our CLE team can also 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. 

A first for Queensland — Community Legal Educators Masterclass

Legal Aid Queensland is pleased to support the first Community Legal Educators Masterclass to be held in Brisbane in March 2018.

The 2-day event is being coordinated by Community Legal Centres Queensland and funded through the Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund. The masterclass is open to community legal centre directors, lawyers, social workers, project managers, and community legal education workers in the legal assistance and community sectors, and provides an exciting professional development opportunity for people involved in the community legal sector to share skills and tools to help strengthen community legal education practices and to build networks with people doing similar work.

What’s new: 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:

  • Preparing for court — practical tips to help your clients
  • Diverse sexuality, gender identity and discrimination law in Queensland
  • Domestic and family violence — updates on the law: connecting your clients to LAQ’s services
  • Restorative justice practices in the criminal justice context — diversion and referral options
  • New service — Counselling Notes Protect
  • Reviewing National Disability Insurance Agency decisions in Qld — legal frameworks community workers can use to help participants.

The following publications have been updated recently and can be viewed and ordered online:

New Get legal help (Easy English) booklet

Legal Aid Queensland now has a new easy-to-read Get legal help (Easy English) booklet explaining our services and how we can help resolve your legal problem.
The booklet can help community workers with clients who have cognitive disabilities or low English literacy levels and clients from non-English-speaking backgrounds who need to contact Legal Aid Queensland for help.

View the Get legal help (Easy English) booklet online or order a hard copy.  

Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund

My Rights Qld guide—visit www.myrightsqld.com.au on a smartphone, computer or tablet device

Legal Aid Queensland is proud to help promote a new online resource developed by ADA Australia, funded through the CLE Collaboration Fund.

My Rights Qld is an online guide providing information for Queenslanders with disability.

My Rights Qld can help you:

  • understand your rights in relation to a wide range of topics, including the NDIS, decision-making, health, mental health, housing, discrimination and more
  • understand how to get help and how to make a complaint
  • to connect with organisations that can support you to protect your rights.

More information about the next round of applications for the CLE Collaboration Fund (2018–19) will be announced soon. Visit our website for more information about other projects and resources that have been funded through the CLE Collaboration Fund.

Case study: Child Protection Early Intervention Pilot Service

A woman was referred to the Child Protection Early Intervention Pilot Service by a support agency. She was pregnant and had an older child living at home subject to an intervention with parental agreement.

The early intervention lawyer gave the woman initial advice and attended a case planning meeting with her to discuss Child Safety’s expectations of her and what support services would be provided during the intervention with parental agreement.

An agreement was reached with Child Safety about support services and expectations about her unborn child. When the baby was born, Child Safety took both children into care, removing the infant from the client’s care at the hospital.

The lawyer helped the client to apply for a grant of legal aid in time for the lawyer to appear at the first mention of the court assessment order application by Child Safety. At court, the client agreed to the assessment order being made, but disagreed the children should be placed in care while Child Safety assessed their concerns. Based on the lawyer’s knowledge of the agreement previously reached at the case planning meeting, the lawyer successfully opposed custody being granted to Child Safety during the assessment order.

When the assessment was completed and the order expired, the Director of Child Protection Litigation applied for a protective supervision order, which meant the children remained living at home with the client, with Child Safety providing ongoing support to the family.

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