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Head Note February 2014

Legal Aid Queensland supporting junior barristers

Legal Aid Queensland and the Bar Association of Queensland recently completed a successful pilot program aimed at giving junior counsel increased opportunities to appear in court.

The pilot ran from August to December 2013 and addressed concerns about the lack of briefing opportunities for junior counsel.

A selection panel comprising Peter Davis QC and Liz Wilson QC from the Bar Association and Howard Posner from Legal Aid Queensland selected 11 candidates from 31 applicants.

During the five months, each candidate was briefed in at least seven summary matters by Legal Aid Queensland and appeared in at least one appellate s 222 hearing and one criminal law summary hearing.

The pilot generated very positive feedback from participants and observers and will be run again this year, with a new pool of junior counsel given the opportunity to increase their experience.


 Regional civil lawyer network 

Legal Aid Queensland has expanded its reach of civil justice services across the state, employing a network of civil lawyers that specialise in employment and consumer law.

The lawyers will work in our Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Townsville and Brisbane offices and provide advice clinics in person and over the phone with priority given to clients who are most vulnerable and at risk of financial or social exclusion. They will also represent clients in the Fair Work Commission, relevant courts and Ombudsman schemes.

Our new employment law clinics will provide specialist legal advice, minor assistance and representation to people about employment matters, including:

  • unfair dismissal
  • general protections (adverse actions)
  • workplace bullying and harassment
  • discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.

We will also expand our consumer protection services to provide specialist legal advice, minor assistance and representation to Queenslanders who are experiencing problems with:

  • mortgage stress
  • housing repossession
  • debt
  • loans (including small amount loans and car loans)
  • telecommunications and unsolicited consumer agreements (including door to door selling).

The new network of civil lawyers has been funded from the extra $3 million provided by the federal government in last year’s budget for each of the next two years.

The new positions provide a great opportunity for us to expand federal government funded services to disadvantaged Queenslanders in a financially sustainable way.


 New ATSILS child protection DVD 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd. (ATSILS) recently launched a DVD about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child protection issues, made possible by a funding grant from Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund.

We provided ATSILS with a $10,000 grant through the fund to develop a child protection DVD and three short child protection radio messages which were user friendly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to be broadcast monthly on community radio.

ATSILS produced the DVD Knowing your rights to legal representation in child protection, which sought to strengthen the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, carers and communities to provide a safe and nurturing environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

The DVD will be used in the ATSILS’s “Stronger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families” community workshops, which promote healthy lifestyles, safe and supportive environments and emotional wellbeing for children and families. The DVD and workshops also highlight the support services available to struggling or at risk Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

ATSILS will also distribute the DVD to community legal centres across Queensland. It can also be viewed online.

Legal Aid Queensland created the CLE Collaboration fund so we could increase the geographic reach, scale and scope of CLE offered in Queensland by providing eligible organisations with grants of up to $20,000 to deliver a CLE project.

Applications for the fund's fourth funding round are now open and close on Friday, 4 April 2014.


Further child protection fee increases

Legal Aid Queensland is pleased to announce increases to fees paid to counsel in child protection matters.

Fees have now been increased by five percent for all grants of aid issued on or after 17 February 2014. The recent changes align the counsel fees in child protection matters with those in family law.

The new fees are as follows:

  • Contest hearing day 1 (prepare and appear) — increased from $815 to $1515
  • Additional days of contested hearing — increased from $630 to $1145
  • Appeal hearing day 1 (inc conference) — increased from $1031 to $1046
  • Additional days of appeal — increased from $756 to $861.

The latest changes follow fee increases introduced on 13 January 2014 that brought the solicitor hourly rate for child protection matters into alignment with the solicitor hourly rate in family law matters.

Previous changes included:

  • a five percent fee increase for grants of aid issued on or after 13 January 2014
  • the solicitor hourly rate increasing from $120 an hour to $126 an hour.

 


New criminal law duty lawyer accreditation resource – have your say! 

Legal Aid Queensland is producing a new criminal law duty lawyer accreditation resource and we welcome feedback from our preferred supplier law firms.

The current DVD, which instructs criminal lawyers on what is required when acting as a duty lawyer for Legal Aid Queensland, is being updated to reflect legislative and procedural changes made since the DVD was produced in 2004. The revised training resource will:

  • be available online  
  • be delivered in short modules, rather than a 50 minute DVD
  • feature a combination of video, voiceover and text, including helpful checklists.

Preferred supplier law firms can provide feedback about improvements or changes they’d like to see made to the DVD by emailing media@legalaid.qld.gov.au.


Case study: Stopping housing repossession 

Late on a Tuesday afternoon, Craig* contacted Legal Aid Queensland’s consumer protection lawyers for advice.

He had received a bailiff’s notice from the court stating he had to vacate his home by Friday. His home was being repossessed by his lender because he hadn’t been making his mortgage payments. His home loan was for $160,000 and his house was worth $355,000. 

Craig's wife had left him when he was away from home helping repair houses after the natural disasters of 2011. A downturn in the building industry and him being the sole carer of his school age son resulted in him becoming anxious and depressed and he soon fell behind in his mortgage payments.

Craig had applied for state government mortgage relief and his sister in the UK was also prepared to help him out. Craig did not have access to the internet at home and he had fairly basic literacy skills.

Our consumer protection lawyers helped Craig by quickly preparing the documents needed to make an urgent application for a hearing in the district court to stop his house from being repossessed. This included helping to prepare an affidavit that outlined Craig’s reasons for falling behind on his payments and his plan to get them back on track.

Craig received all of the relevant court documents from Legal Aid Queensland on Wednesday — less than a day after he contacted us.

Before his court hearing that Friday, Craig received a call from the lender’s solicitors conceding his application and stopping the repossession.

*not his real name


Publications update 

Since our last edition of Head Note in December 2013, we have updated the following publications:

Legal information guides

  • Are you going to lose your driver licence?
  • Consumer and trader disputes
  • Does someone owe you money?
  • You and family law – a short guide

Factsheets

Need help sorting out a dispute with a mining or gas company? factsheet

  • Need help sorting out a dispute with a mining or gas company?

Legal Aid Queensland publications can now be ordered online 

To order our free publications, go to the Publications section on our website.

The ‘Order publications’ link is on the right-hand side of the Publications page.

Please email publications@legalaid.qld.gov.au if you have any questions about ordering publications online.

 

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