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Head Note July 2014

New Ipswich office opens 

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie officially opened Legal Aid Queensland’s new Ipswich office on Tuesday, 13 May 2014.

The new office is centrally located on level seven of the Icon Ipswich Tower at 117 Brisbane Street, close to the centre of the Ipswich CBD, courthouse and other facilities.

The new, larger premises provide improved conditions for clients and staff, including a larger client waiting area, a dedicated videoconferencing room and five client interview rooms.

The Ipswich Legal Aid Queensland office provides services to an area covering more than 9500 square kilometres: from beyond Toogoolawah in the north, down past Boonah in the south and west to Helidon and Grantham. The region comprises the Ipswich, Gatton, Esk, Laidley and Boonah areas.

The official event was also attended by Mr Ian Berry MP, Member for Ipswich; Mr Sean Choat MP, Member for Ipswich West; Legal Aid Queensland Board chair Brian Stewart, CEO Anthony Reilly, and Ipswich principal lawyer Alexis Oxley; and representatives from the Ipswich legal and justice sector.

Increased fees for private criminal lawyers 

Legal Aid Queensland will increase standard fees paid to criminal lawyers appearing in the magistrates, district and childrens courts by

The increase follows the organisation’s review of criminal law fees in 2013 which aimed to address the fees paid to lawyers for standard criminal law matters.

Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said the fee increase recognised the essential role performed by criminal lawyers in Queensland’s courts.

“These lawyers really are at the coal face of our justice system, delivering services to hundreds of Queenslanders in our magistrates, district and childrens courts each week,” Mr Reilly said.

“Lawyers in private practice deliver around 80 percent of legal aid services to the community and we certainly couldn’t meet these legal needs without their ongoing support.

“These fee increases represent an additional $500,000 of expenditure by Legal Aid Queensland to purchase services from private law firms undertaking criminal law legal aid work.”

The new fees are:

Magistrates court (court time for committal)

  • solicitor instructing — a six percent increase
    up to three hours — increase from $230 to $243
    full day — increase from $460 to $486
  • counsel court time — a 12 percent increase to match the solicitor advocate rate
    up to three hours — increase from $281 to $316
    full day — increase from $562 to $632

District court/Childrens Court of Queensland (court time at plea and trial)

  • solicitor advocate court time — a 12 percent increase
    up to three hours — increase from $353 to $396
    full day — increase from $706 to $792
  • solicitor instructing — a 12 percent increase
    up to three hours — increase from $299 to $336
    full day — increase from $598 to $672
  • counsel court time — a 12 percent increase
    up to three hours — increase from $353 to $396
    full day — increase from $706 to $792.

Mr Reilly said the increase followed last year’s criminal law standard preparation fee increase, as well as increases in family law fees, and increases in 2012 for lawyers undertaking domestic violence matters, and sessional criminal law duty lawyer matters.

“We are committed to delivering fee increases for private lawyers where possible,” Mr Reilly said.

“We will continue to monitor fees and identify financially sustainable opportunities for increases where appropriate.”

If lawyers have questions about the fee increase they can contact their firm’s grants officer for further information.

CLE Collaboration Fund grant recipients announced

Nine community legal organisations will share in $110,000 worth of funding to help vulnerable people resolve their legal problems as part of Legal Aid Queensland’s Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund program.

The fund resources community legal centres and Regional Legal Assistance Forums to deliver community legal education projects that help people identify legal problems early, understand their legal rights and responsibilities and how to access legal help.

The following organisations received more than $110,000 in grants from the 2014 funding round:

  • Carers Queensland
  • Nundah Community Legal Service
  • Queensland Aged and Disability Advocacy
  • Refugee and Immigrant Legal Service
  • Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre
  • South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre
  • Welfare Rights Centre
  • Bundaberg Regional Legal Assistance Forum
  • South West Queensland Regional Legal Assistance Forum.

Since 2011, the collaboration fund has distributed more than $370,000 in grants to fund 34 community legal education projects and initiatives across Queensland. Visit the Legal Aid Queensland website to find out more about the fund and to see examples of the projects and initiatives delivered by grant recipients. 

Impact of $3M Commonwealth funding reduction on new legal aid services

Legal Aid Queensland has made the difficult decision not to proceed with plans to offer additional civil law services, which were introduced in our last edition of Head Note, because of changes to Commonwealth funding.

Last year, Legal Aid Queensland began expanding civil law services across the state in employment, consumer protection, social security and discrimination law, thanks to additional funding of $6 million over two years from the Commonwealth Government.

After the recent federal budget, the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department advised that Legal Aid Queensland would not be receiving the second half of the funding — $3 million — previously earmarked for 2014–15.

Along with the new civil law services, Legal Aid Queensland has made the decision not to proceed with several other initiatives that were to be funded by the additional Commonwealth money, and which were introduced in our last edition of Head Note. These include:

  • employment law grants of aid
  • a statewide child protection duty lawyer service
  • allocation of additional funding for Mental Health Review Tribunal representation
  • extra debt mediation help for drought affected farmers.

Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly thanked everyone for their interest in and support for the programs.

New Social Security Appeals Tribunal legal advice clinic pilot

Unrepresented applicants appearing before the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) will now have access to legal advice and assistance about their applications for review thanks to a pilot legal advice clinic being run by Legal Aid Queensland.

Established after consultation with the Welfare Rights Centre and the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, the clinic focuses on providing advice and assistance to clients about disability support pensions, debts, compensation preclusion cases, member of a couple cases, other complex cases and matters involving vulnerable clients.

Located at the SSAT, the weekly clinic is held each Tuesday from 9am–1pm with all bookings coordinated through the SSAT Registry. Legal Aid Queensland Civil Justice Services lawyer Jim Gibney attends the clinic and provides advice to clients in person and by phone.

The SSAT legal advice clinic is an extension of Legal Aid Queensland’s existing weekly advice clinic in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), which is located at the AAT each Wednesday from 9am–1pm.

Legal Aid Queensland is currently developing a referral system between these two clinics, the Welfare Rights Centre and other community legal centres to ensure clients receive early access to legal advice for their individual circumstances.

The pilot program will be run for 12 months before being evaluated.

QPILCH Queensland Legal Walk 

Legal Aid Queensland staff took to the streets of Brisbane, Townsville and Mackay on Tuesday, 13 May 2014 for the annual Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH) Queensland Legal Walk. The Queensland Legal Walk is QPILCH's main fundraising event, and is a celebration of the legal profession’s joint efforts to advance access to justice for the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society.

The QPILCH walk was one of many Law Week activities that Legal Aid Queensland participated in this year including an information booth, mock trial and legal information presentations at the official Law Week event in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall. 

Mackay hypothetical and family services expo showcases local services 

Legal Aid Queensland joined forces with the Mackay-Whitsunday Family Law Pathways Network in May to present a hypothetical about family separation issues for local services providers as part of domestic violence prevention month.

The hypothetical, “Pathways Through Family Separation”, explored the fictional scenario of a couple experiencing a relationship breakdown and followed their journey through separation, highlighting common issues faced by families experiencing separation and the range of support services available.

The event was attended by local support services and showcased a range of service providers in the Mackay and Whitsunday region that provide advice, support and programs for families considering or going through a separation or breakdown.

The hypothetical was followed by the Mackay-Whitsundays Family Services Expo which was open to the general public. The expo featured information displays from 25 local agencies that provide services to families experiencing conflict and/or separation, with representatives available to talk to attendees about their services and how to access them. 

Updated publications 

We have updated the following publications since our May 2014 Headnote edition:

Legal information guides


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