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Head Note May 2014

LAQ welcomes new board chair and board member

Legal Aid Queensland is delighted to welcome two new board members, with Brian Stewart taking on the role of Legal Aid Queensland Board chair, and Peter Nolan joining him as a new board member.

Brian has held a number of distinguished roles throughout his career, including crown prosecutor, assistant public defender, Department of Justice director, and director-general of the Department of Justice and Attorney-General. He has provided representation on government boards, tribunals and community groups, including the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (Queensland) and Logan House, and as a trustee of the Lady Bowen Trust which is dedicated to improving opportunities for the homeless. He is also a current board member of Brisbane Housing Company.

"As Legal Aid Queensland Board chair I hope to contribute my knowledge and experience towards guiding Legal Aid Queensland's future strategic direction so it can continue to provide essential legal services to vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders," Mr Stewart said.

Peter Nolan is a Brisbane barrister with many years experience in criminal law. Admitted as a barrister more than 35 years ago, he worked as a prosecutor and then crown prosecutor until he moved into private practice where he specialised in civil and criminal matters. He now focuses on criminal law and continues to serve as an officer in the Australian Army Legal Corps — a position he was commissioned to in 1985.

Brian and Peter were appointed to their roles on 28 February 2014.


Child protection early intervention pilot

Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is establishing a pilot project to provide legal services to young pregnant or parenting women with vulnerable children who have been identified to be at significant risk of harm.

In 2011, LAQ commissioned a research report to scope the development of a child protection early intervention program. Research conducted for the report affirmed there was a need for pre and post birth legal assistance for pregnant and new mothers at risk of having their babies removed. The report found there are vulnerable parents who may not understand they have a legal problem, and would not ordinarily be able to access legal services.

In response to the need for early intervention for vulnerable families, the report proposed a family support model and recommended it focus on families early in the child protection continuum, partner with the existing services supporting them, and provide collaborative legal support with the aim of achieving better outcomes for their children.

As part of the project, LAQ will work with Micah Projects, a non government organisation that supports vulnerable families, which has established referral pathways with health, housing, Indigenous, drug and alcohol, and domestic violence support services. Micah Projects has a strategic partner group that includes agencies such as the Mater Mothers Hospital, Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Department of Communities and Brisbane Youth Service. These important links to the client group will ensure an early intervention approach that benefits both mothers and children at risk during the crucial pre and post natal period. Operating within a family support model, the project will provide this vulnerable client group with access to legal advice, minor assistance and representation early in the child protection process.

We look forward to providing an update on this project as it progresses.


Independent children’s lawyers training

Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) staff helped facilitate a training day in February for independent children's lawyers and other family law practitioners.

The full day conference was organised by the Family Law Practitioners Association and was the first of its kind in Queensland, providing practical and interactive sessions for practitioners who in many cases had not participated in specific independent children's lawyer training since their initial training.

The conference was attended by about 140 people including solicitors, barristers and social scientists, with speakers and panellists from the Family Court of Australia, Federal Circuit Court of Australia, NSW Legal Aid, LAQ, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and private practice.

LAQ Family Law, Civil Justice and Advice Services director Nicky Davies presented on participation of children, family violence and dealing with complaints against independent children's lawyers.

The conference also drew on experience from a line up of notable facilitators including Justices Murphy, Forrest and Hogan, Judges Baumann, Cole and Cassidy, Senior QCAT Member Endicott and psychiatrist Dr Daniel Varghese, who discussed the complex issues independent children's lawyers face, including:

  • involving children in proceedings
  • the independent children's lawyer's role in 'screening' supervisors
  • family violence and its impact on children
  • identifying and dealing with parties' capacity issues
  • the role of independent children's lawyers in appeals.

The event received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and speakers, with all profits from ticket sales being donated to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Melanoma Project in memory of the Honourable Keith Slack.

We are committed to improving the skills of our in-house and external panel of independent children's lawyers through events such as this Family Law Practitioners Association conference and we look forward to participating in future training events.


Supporting community legal education 

Helping disadvantaged people understanding their legal rights and responsibilities and where to get legal help if they need it is the core focus of Legal Aid Queensland's (LAQ's) community legal education (CLE) program.

One of LAQ's key CLE initiatives is the CLE Collaboration Fund. Now in its fourth year of operation, the collaboration fund resources eligible community legal centres, Regional Legal Assistance Forums and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service to deliver CLE projects in response to community need.

Applications to the fund are assessed against eligibility criteria to ensure projects are collaborative, client focused and responsive to community need. LAQ recently called for applications to round four of the fund and will announce successful grant recipients in June 2014.

Sixteen collaboration fund projects have been completed to date. These projects have:

  • delivered 59 CLE sessions to 1928 people in metropolitan, regional and remote Queensland, including refugees and new arrivals, Indigenous communities, young parents and other young people, community workers, allied health professionals and other key audiences
  • produced 53 new CLE resources, including legal information publications, DVDs and training materials
  • updated 21 existing publications.

These projects delivered CLE on child protection, family law, Australia's legal system, domestic violence, elder abuse and Queensland's guardianship framework, consumer law, cyber bullying and sexting, human rights and anti-discrimination, personal injuries, youth justice and dealing with the police, and other common legal issues.

Seven round three collaboration fund projects are due for completion by 30 June 2014. We look forward to reporting on the resources developed by and CLE delivery undertaken by these projects. 

If you would like to find out more about our CLE activities, please subscribe to our CLE bulletin.


Youth Justice Act changes 

Legal professionals in the youth justice area will be greatly impacted by the recent passing of the Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 which details important changes to the Youth Justice Act.

The Bill came into effect on 31 March 2014 and includes the following changes:

  • the childrens' court to be open for repeat offenders
  • repeat offenders can now be publicly named
  • the sentencing principle that detention can only be considered as a last resort has been abolished
  • seventeen-year-olds who have six or more months remaining in detention will be transferred to an adult correctional facility
  • sentence reviews are no longer available although appeals under the Justices Act remain
  • mandatory bootcamp orders for second vehicle offenders in prescribed areas
  • a breach of bail offence has been created for those offenders who commit offences while subject to a bail undertaking.

To reflect these changes to the Act, we will be updating the following legal resources:

  • Juvenile justice — a legal practitioner's guide
  • Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Handbook (Youth Justice chapter)
  • relevant legal information pages on www.legalaid.qld.gov.au
  • criminal law duty lawyer accreditation resource.

Practitioners who have questions about changes to the Youth Justice Act can contact Youth Legal Aid principal lawyer David Law on 3238 3241.


A safer future for our children

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating how institutions such as schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

In its first 16 months of operation, the Royal Commission has travelled to every state and territory of Australia including many regional areas, to hear from more than 1,500 people in private sessions. The Royal Commission's call centre has received over 12,000 phone calls from the public and held 11 public hearings. 

Anyone who was sexually abused as a child while in the care of an institution in Australia can share their story with the Royal Commission. It doesn't matter how long ago the abuse occurred, every person's story is important in making the future safer for our children.

The Royal Commission has a range of free resources providing information on the Royal Commission and its work available to order online: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/resource-centre

For more information about the Royal Commission:

Call: 1800 099 340

Email: contact@childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au

Write: GPO Box 5283, Sydney, NSW 2001.

Discussing child sexual abuse can be difficult. The Royal Commission can refer survivors of child sexual abuse to counsellors or special support groups.

For more information visit www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au or call 1800 099 340.


Upcoming events 

Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is proud to be involved in the following upcoming events:

Homeless Connect

LAQ lawyers will attend Brisbane City Council's Homeless Connect event on 28 May at the RNA Showgrounds to provide legal advice and assistance to homeless people or those at risk of becoming homeless.

The event provides free food, medical/dental care, clothing/shoes and haircuts/hygiene services. Attendees can also receive information and direct access to essential and ongoing services such as housing, employment, government assistance and legal services.

Law Week

LAQ will be involved in Law Week (12–18 May), which aims to raise awareness and promote greater understanding of the law, the legal system and the legal profession in Queensland.

We will be participating in a Queen Street Mall (Brisbane) event on 16 May, where our services will form part of an interactive display. Our staff will also be presenting public information sessions on common legal problems and youth and the law, and participating in a mock trial.

In Mackay, we will be partnering with the Family Law Pathways Network to run the Pathways Through Family Separation Hypothetical, which will explore common issues faced by families experiencing separation and the support services available. The free event is for local service providers and will be held on 29 May at the Mackay Entertainment and Convention Centre.

Directly following the hypothetical, we will also be participating in the Mackay-Whitsundays Family Services Expo, which runs from 1–2pm for hypothetical attendees, and then from 2–4pm for the general public. The expo will showcase 25 local family support and family law services available to families and individuals who are experiencing family conflict, family breakdown/separation or family law issues.

CEO Sleepout

LAQ CEO Anthony Reilly will be braving the cold again this year when he participates in the 2014 Vinnies CEO Sleepout on 19 June.

Anthony will join more than 500 CEOs from around Queensland to experience what it's like to spend a night sleeping rough on the streets. The Brisbane event will be held at the Southbank Parklands with Anthony's bed for the night being a piece of cardboard on a concrete floor.

Each participant raises money to help fund support services for those Australians experiencing homelessness. To support Anthony, please donate via the Vinnies CEO Sleepout fundraising page.


Updated publications 

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

Legal information guides

  • Consent orders, parenting orders and parenting plans
  • Does someone owe you money?
  • Are you going to lose your driver licence?

Factsheets

  • How do I get a protection order?

Wallet cards

  • Protect yourself... Abuse is wrong (domestic violence)
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