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Head Note March 2015

Free legal information and advice for Queensland flood and cyclone victims 

Legal Aid Queensland is coordinating a legal help response to ensure communities affected by Cyclone Marcia and subsequent flooding have access to free legal information and advice.

Residents from Yeppoon, Rockhampton, Gympie, Biloela, Byfield and other flood and cyclone-affected areas in central and southern Queensland can call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 650 143 (for the cost of a local call from a landline in Australia) to access free legal information and advice relevant to their circumstances.

"People affected by natural disasters often have a range of legal issues to deal with such as property or car damage, insurance, tenancy issues, debt, employment and access to electricity and other services damaged by floods and cyclones," Legal Aid Queensland chief executive officer Anthony Reilly said.

"This is why we have created a dedicated phone line (1300 650 143) to ensure people affected by the cyclone or floods have priority access to free legal information and advice."

Legal Aid Queensland's Rockhampton office will be a local coordination area for legal help and Legal Aid staff will visit community recovery hubs to ensure affected residents know how to contact Legal Aid for help.

We are also partnering with Caxton Legal Centre to provide employment law legal advice to people that need it.

Flood and cyclone victims can access a range of free factsheets and resources on the Flood and Cyclone Legal Help website www.floodlegalhelp.qld.gov.au, including a guide to assist people with their insurance claims. 


New Domestic Violence Duty Lawyer Service for Southport Magistrates Court 

 Gold Coast residents who are appearing in court for domestic violence matters can now get free legal help from a duty lawyer via Legal Aid Queensland’s Southport Domestic Violence Duty Lawyer Service.

“The Southport Domestic Violence Duty Lawyer Service helps ensure people affected by domestic violence, as well as those who are responding to an application for a domestic violence order, have access to free legal help before their court appearance,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

The duty lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help clients to fill out forms and documents needed for that day in court, discuss the clients’ eligibility for ongoing support from legal aid in the domestic violence matter and other related legal problems, and provide referrals to appropriate support services.

In limited circumstances, the duty lawyer may also appear in court on the client’s behalf for their domestic violence matter.

More than 250 people have accessed the service to date.

“Providing legal help and referrals early in the court process helps both applicants and respondents to better understand their options and the legal implications of these options. It also helps people to connect with support services early to help keep them and their children safe,” Mr Reilly said.

The Southport Domestic Violence Duty Lawyer Service is available from 10am each Monday and Tuesday at the Southport Magistrates Court, corner of Davenport and Hinze Streets, Southport. The service is delivered by private law firms in the region on Legal Aid Queensland’s behalf.


Public Defender appointed to Queens Counsel 

 Legal Aid Queensland Public Defender John Allen has been appointed to Queens Counsel (QC) in recognition of his extensive legal experience and outstanding advocacy skills.

John was appointed Public Defender at Legal Aid Queensland in 2011 where he oversees 15 other members of the organisation’s in-house Counsel.

He has been a barrister for almost 25 years in both private practice and for Legal Aid Queensland, working on many high profile cases.

He began his career with the Public Defender’s Office in 1985 and was admitted as a barrister in 1986. During 1989 to 1990 he worked for Gilshenan and Luton Solicitors where he was engaged specifically to assist in the firm’s representation of the police unions before the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

John began private practice in 1990, initially focusing on criminal law, mainly as defence counsel. He then developed a medico-legal practice, appearing on behalf of nurses in inquests and before professional disciplinary bodies and appeals. He was lead counsel for the Queensland Nurses’ Union in the Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry in 2005.

As Public Defender, John has appeared in the Supreme Court in trials of serious charges and in both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in matters of general importance to the administration of justice. 


Industry Reference Group established 

Legal Aid Queensland has established an Industry Reference Group as part of its focus on building strong business partnerships with preferred supplier law firms.

The Industry Reference Group provides a formal forum for regular consultation with the legal profession who provide services on Legal Aid Queensland’s behalf.

The industry reference group comprises nominated representatives from the Queensland Law Society and Bar Association of Queensland — Debbie Kilroy, Julie Harrington, Fiona Graham, Don MacKenzie, Frank Martin, Anthony Collins and Jacoba Brasch QC.

The reference group is chaired by Legal Aid Queensland’s chief executive officer Anthony Reilly and Legal Aid Queensland’s Board chair Brian Stewart attends as an ex-officio member. The deputy chief executive officer, Paul Davey, also attends as a member, together with other Legal Aid Queensland staff as needed.

The first industry reference group meeting was held on 12 June 2014, with the group meeting at least three times each year on an ongoing basis.

The industry reference group recently provided input into Legal Aid Queensland’s annual fee review for grants of aid and other outsourced services, such as duty lawyer services, at its February 2015 meeting. The outcome of the fee review will flow into Legal Aid Queensland’s operational planning and budget development process for 2015–16. 


Senior staff appointments 

Legal Aid CEO Anthony Reilly reappointed

Legal Aid Queensland chief executive officer Anthony Reilly has been reappointed for a further three year term.

Mr Reilly was first appointed to the role in 2009, bringing extensive legal and public administration experience from his time working in the Queensland Government and community sectors.

Mr Reilly said he was delighted to be reappointed and was looking forward to continuing working with the Legal Aid Queensland Board and staff to deliver legal services to Queenslanders.

“As chief executive officer one of my key priorities for the organisation is to engage and partner with the private profession, community legal centres and other agencies to ensure vulnerable people can access legal services across the state, no matter where they are located,” Mr Reilly said.

“I also look forward to continuing to work with our board and staff to deliver innovative and sustainable legal services to financially disadvantaged people.”

Information and Advice Services director appointed

Lawyer Amber Buckland has been appointed as Legal Aid Queensland’s Information and Advice Services director.

Amber will oversee the organisation’s legal information, referral and advice services, which are provided to vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders over the phone through the call centre, face-to-face, at regional offices, correctional centres or through videoconferencing.

A key focus of the role will be leading business process and system improvement changes to streamline information and advice service delivery to our clients.

Since joining Legal Aid Queensland in 2005, Amber has undertaken a variety of senior legal and management roles within our Family Law, Domestic Violence, Regional Legal Services, Strategic Policy and Independent Children’s Lawyer teams, including most recently as Family Law Services assistant director. 


Innovative projects helping Queenslanders access justice 

 Legal Aid Queensland’s innovative Community Legal Education (CLE) Collaboration Fund will be calling for applications for its fifth funding round in March 2014.

The fund is helping vulnerable people better understand and protect their legal rights by resourcing community legal centres for CLE projects that meet specific community needs.

To date, the fund has resourced a number of projects that have delivered community legal education to rural, regional and remote Queensland communities, helping improve access to justice for people living outside south east Queensland.

The projects have focused on legal issues including child protection, domestic violence, elder abuse and older people's legal rights, family law and relationship separation, cyber bullying and sexting, consumer law, youth rights and responsibilities, and dealing with the police.

Collaboration fund projects have focused on legal issues including child protection, domestic violence, elder abuse and older peoples’ legal rights, family law and relationship separation, cyber bullying and sexting, consumer law, youth rights and responsibilities, and dealing with the police.

Recently completed project highlights include:

  • an online interactive Personal Injury Self Help Kit for self-represented litigants (Suncoast Community Legal Service)
  • CLE sessions for support workers on changes to the family violence provisions in the Migration Regulations 1994 (Refugee and Immigration Legal Service)
  • CLE sessions for high school students, parents and teachers on cyber bullying, sexting, youth rights and responsibilities, and dealing with the police (South West Queensland Legal Assistance Forum).

For more information about applying to the CLE Collaboration Fund, contact Katherine Gorter or Linda Richards on (07) 3238 3301 or email communitylegaled@legalaid.qld.gov.au.


Bundaberg office moves up 

 Legal Aid Queensland’s Bundaberg office has moved up in the world—literally—from the second floor to the third floor of the WIN Tower, corner of Quay and Barolin Streets, Bundaberg.

Staff started operating from their new offices on Monday December 15, 2014.

Bundaberg principal lawyer Jan Kingston said the move had allowed for additional offices and workstations, more space for meeting and interviewing clients, and improved facilities.

“We now have more space for staff and clients and importantly, better facilities to meet the needs of clients with a disability,” Ms Kingston said.

Ms Kingston said if people could not physically make it into the Legal Aid office for face-to-face legal help they could call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 for the cost of a local call.

“One thing I want to stress to people in Bundaberg and the surrounding districts is if you can’t make it into our offices you can always give us a call to access free legal information and advice,” she said.


New family law property decisions database now available 

Preferred supplier firms who do legal aid work can now access a new Family Law Property Decisions Database designed to simplify the process of identifying relevant case law. The database lists relevant property decisions from the Family Court, the Full Court and the Federal Circuit Court from 1 January 2014 and provides links to the full text of the decisions.

 You can search the database by bibliographic information (eg court, judge, parties, decision date), by keywords and issues and by relationship criteria including length of relationship, number of children, size of asset pool and more.

We've also improved our library database search screens to make them simpler and more user friendly.


Case study: Helping vulnerable people access justice 

Every day, Legal Aid Queensland helps people experiencing domestic and family violence to better understand their legal rights, apply for domestic violence protection orders and connect with support services.

Here’s a case study about how we helped a vulnerable woman escape verbal abuse and harassment from an ex-partner:

Case study

Jodie* and Nathan* were in a defacto relationship for nine months and lived together in a rental property. Nathan had a history of drug use and had been abusive to Jodie and even damaged their rental property.

Although Nathan was evicted from the rental property by the property manager, he continued to be abusive towards Jodie by stalking her and yelling and screaming at her in front of other people such as when he saw her at a shopping centre. He would also get other people, such as his friends, to yell abuse at her.  

Jodie has a mild intellectual disability, which made her particularly vulnerable in relationships.

As Jodie's legal affairs were managed by the Public Guardian, Legal Aid Queensland's domestic violence support workers and lawyers worked closely with the Public Guardian to file an application for a domestic violence protection order, advocate for Jodie in court and connect her with support services to provide safe accommodation.

She was successful in getting a protection order for two years.

*Not their real names.


Publications update 

The following publications have been updated since our last edition of Head Note:

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