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As part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to addressing domestic and family violence in the community, Legal Aid Queensland has received an extra $1.10 million in funding to expand its domestic and family violence duty lawyer service statewide.
The establishment of a statewide court-based duty lawyer service for domestic and family violence matters was one of the recommendations of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, chaired by the Honourable Quentin Bryce AD, CVO, former Governor-General of Australia.
Legal Aid Queensland has been providing domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in Brisbane, Richlands, Beenleigh and Southport Magistrates Courts for some time.
From 1 October 2015, the service will be expanded to Caboolture, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Mount Isa, Townsville and Cairns.
"Duty lawyers provide free legal information and advice to applicants and respondents in domestic and family violence matters, 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," Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.
"Having lawyers available to provide advice to people about their domestic violence issues and related family law issues helps them to be properly informed before going into court and to feel more confident negotiating the legal process and more accepting of the outcomes."
The expanded service will be delivered by in-house Legal Aid Queensland lawyers, private law firms that do legal aid work and community legal centres. The service will operate one day a week in each location except Southport and Beenleigh, which sit more frequently.
Legal Aid Queensland is also expanding its child protection duty lawyer service, which has been piloted in Cairns and Townsville over the past year.
This court-based duty lawyer service operates one day a week and provides legal services to parents involved in child protection matters. Like the domestic and family violence duty lawyer service, child protection duty lawyers help unrepresented clients deal with their legal problems before they appear in court.
We are now planning on expanding the service to four new sites in south east Queensland — Brisbane, Southport, Maroochydore and Ipswich.
The services in these new locations will operate one day a week and will be delivered by in-house Legal Aid Queensland lawyers and local private law firms that do legal aid work.
Legal Aid Queensland recently launched new best practice guidelines for staff working with children and young people, and for lawyers working with respondents in domestic violence proceedings.
Officially launched by Deputy Chief Magistrate Leanne O'Shea on 28 May, the Best practice guidelines for working with children and young people and Best practice guidelines for lawyers working with respondents in domestic violence proceedings were developed through an extensive consultation process, which included the judiciary, community organisations, police, government agencies and the profession.
Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said the guidelines aim to ensure staff and lawyers are providing a consistent, high-level of service to clients.
Mr Reilly said the guidelines for respondents in domestic violence proceedings were all about maximising the safety of those involved in domestic violence proceedings, while the guidelines for working with children and young people recognised that those under 18 were especially vulnerable in their interactions with the legal system.
The new best practice guidelines are available on the Legal Aid Queensland website.
One of the recommendations of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland's Not Now, Not Ever report is that the Queensland Law Society develops best practice guidelines for lawyers working with people who have experienced domestic and family violence.
The report noted these guidelines should be developed in line with Legal Aid Queensland's model guidelines, and in consultation with Legal Aid Queensland, Women's Legal Service, the Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services and other relevant stakeholders.
We are now contributing to the development of these guidelines, which will help ensure lawyers are equipped with the appropriate knowledge and tools to provide appropriate legal help to people experiencing domestic or family violence.
Legal Aid Queensland has expanded its Farm and Rural Legal Service to ensure Queensland primary producers facing financial hardship as a result of natural disasters can access free legal help.
"The Farm and Rural Legal Service provides free legal advice and prepares for and represents land owners at mediations with their financial institutions," Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.
"Over the past two years we have seen significant growth in demand for the service across the state.
"To meet this growing demand we've recently contracted three regional law firms to deliver the service on Legal Aid Queensland's behalf. These three regional law firms will supplement the services currently being delivered by Legal Aid's specialist Farm and Rural Legal Service in-house lawyer."
"Increasing our service delivery capacity will help ensure primary producers located throughout Queensland have access to free legal help and debt mediation."
Primary producers in the Rockhampton, Mackay and Cairns regions facing financial hardship can now contact one of the following three law firms directly to access the free Farm and Rural Legal Service:
Grant & Simpson Lawyers
Contact: Ross McLellan Ph (07) 4999 2009
Contact: Paul Penridge Ph (07) 4963 0842 or 0401 274 099
Jim Brooks Lawyer
Contact: Jim Brooks Ph 0412 353 735
Primary producers can also contact Legal Aid Queensland directly on 1300 65 11 88 or visit www.legalaid.qld.gov.au to find out more information or to access the service.
Educating the general public about the law and its role in society was the focus of National Law Week, which was held from 11–15 May 2015.
Legal Aid Queensland once again partnered with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General and other legal sector agencies to hold the official Law Week expo in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall, Queensland's key Law Week community engagement event.
Some of the highlights from the Queen Street Mall expo included a cyber bullying, sexting and online safety Q&A session featuring Legal Aid principal lawyer David Law and event emcee Sophie Formica; and Legal Aid counsel Jakub Lodziak playing the role of the defence barrister in QUT's Alice in Wonderland mock trial.
A number of Legal Aid's regional offices took part in Law Week community events across the state including the Ipswich Courthouse open day.
Law Week also provided a great opportunity to promote the new Cyber bullying, sexting and Facebook booklet produced by The Advocacy and Support Centre in partnership with Legal Aid Queensland. This free booklet is targeted at young people and provides information on how to use social media safely to prevent cyber bullying and sexting, and where to get help if you need it.
This year, Legal Aid Queensland is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of its Family Law Duty Lawyer Service, a free frontline legal service available at numerous courthouses across Queensland.
Launched in 2005, the free court-based duty lawyer service helps people who don't have legal representation, but who need to appear in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court in Queensland about family law matters.
"Our family law duty lawyers provide basic legal help to people involved in a wide variety of family law matters such as children's matters, property, child support, and divorce," Family Law Services principal lawyer Suellan Walker-Munro said.
"Conflict between the parties involved in the matter, family violence, child protection concerns, financial disadvantage, low literacy, having a non-English speaking background or other special needs are some of the many complexities and challenges often faced by clients.
"Our family law duty lawyers are skilled at helping all clients, including those with special needs or other complexities, to better understand their legal options so they can progress their legal matter in court."
Duty lawyers provide information and legal advice to clients, assist client to negotiate and settle consent orders, refer clients to specialist services and in some instances represent clients in court. The duty lawyer service also provides advice on how to complete court forms and documents and also explains the other party's documents to the client.
If people need further legal assistance for their matter, the duty lawyer service will help clients to complete an application for legal aid.
Legal Aid Queensland's family law duty lawyer service is available in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court sittings in Brisbane. The service also operates in regional Queensland to coincide with Family Court and Federal Circuit Court sittings in Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Southport, Hervey Bay and Ipswich.
Legal Aid Queensland congratulates its Family Law Services team on their dedication and commitment in delivering this essential legal service to Queenslanders for the past 10 years and into the future.
Legal Aid Queensland's Commonwealth funding for 2015–16 is $1.5 million less than anticipated, which comes on top of the $3 million funding reduction made in 2014–15. Most of our Commonwealth funding is spent on family law grants of aid.
Following consultation with judicial officers, the Family Law Practitioners' Association, the Bar Association of Queensland and the Queensland Law Society, the Legal Aid Queensland board has approved a range of responses to the cuts.
The responses include tightening the criteria for family law grants of aid. The criteria for grants of aid for Legal Aid Queensland's lawyer assisted family dispute resolution services will be tightened, with appropriate clients being referred more often to non-lawyer assisted FDR services. Grants of aid for family law litigation will also be restricted, with eligibility for aid being limited to vulnerable clients (such as clients who have experienced domestic violence) and to disputes about a substantial issue concerning the protection of the child from abuse, neglect or family violence, or the denial of a meaningful relationship between a parent and the child.
Legal Aid Queensland has started communicating the changes to lawyers and judicial officers and will provide more information before implementation.
Helping community sector workers to identify when their clients are having legal problems and how to connect their clients with community lawyers, was the focus of Legal Aid Queensland's Legal help—who needs it? information forum in March 2015.
Vulnerable people often don't recognise issues like debt, outstanding fines, housing issues, Centrelink debts or relationship issues as legal problems. Left unchecked, these legal problems can negatively impact on a person's life.
To address these challenges the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) has developed a national Legal Health Check tool, which was showcased at the forum. The tool features a series of checklists community workers can use with clients to identify if their clients are experiencing legal problems.
QPILCH designed the tool recognising that community workers are often best placed to help their vulnerable clients connect effectively to legal services as support workers have an existing support relationship with their clients.
The information forum provided a useful opportunity to engage with community organisations and highlight the Legal Health Check as a useful resource to complement the organisations' intake processes.
Videos from the information forum will be uploaded to the Legal Aid Queensland YouTube channel in the following months.
Legal Aid Queensland is delighted to announce the grant recipients for our Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund’s fifth round. The fund resources community legal centres to deliver collaborative CLE projects and initiatives that help people understand their legal rights and responsibilities and where to get help if they need it.
Congratulations to the following six successful grant applicants who started their projects on 1 July 2015:
All legal information video resources and publications produced by these projects will be made available online for other organisations to use.
The following publications have been updated since our last edition of Head Note.