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Head Note October 2011

Federal Attorney-General launches our Community Legal Education Strategy

Educating people about their rights and responsibilities under the law is the focus of Legal Aid Queensland’s new Community Legal Education Strategy.

Community Legal Education (CLE) seeks to improve community understanding of the legal system, individual legal rights and responsibilities, legal assistance services available, and how to access these services when a problem arises.

CLE is already an integral part of Legal Aid’s core business of providing access to justice for disadvantaged Queenslanders. Having a CLE strategy enables Legal Aid Queensland to identify priority client groups and legal problems, and then target our community legal education activities and resources appropriately.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland officially launched our CLE strategy on Wednesday 27 July, at a special launch event attended by over 120 representatives from partner agencies and the legal sector.

Legal Aid’s CLE activities educate the community about common legal issues related to consumer protection, debt, family law, criminal law, child protection, domestic violence and youth justice, and are managed by our Community Legal Education coordinator, Linda Richards.

“Legal Aid Queensland’s community legal education activities are focused on prevention and early intervention,” Ms Richards said.

“By educating the community about legal issues, we can help people find out how to identify a legal problem and where to access legal assistance when they need it. This education can reduce some of the barriers preventing vulnerable people from accessing legal help.

“One of our key CLE messages to the community is the benefits associated with resolving your legal issues early. Resolving legal issues early can prevent legal problems from escalating, and can also help people avoid the expensive financial and emotional costs of litigation.”

Legal Aid Queensland’s community legal education activities include delivering legal information sessions to community members, community groups and government service providers; developing DVDs, factsheets, information kits and guides on a range of legal issues most common in the community; and attending and supporting community initiatives like Domestic Violence Prevention Month.

One of Legal Aid Queensland’s new community legal education initiatives is the family law DVD ‘Life after separation: putting the pieces back together’, which can be viewed online on Legal Aid Queensland's website and YouTube channel.

This video helps people understand their options when considering family separation.

Legal Aid Queensland’s new Community Legal Education Strategy supports the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, a partnership between the federal, state and territory governments to improve access to justice for disadvantaged Australians.


 

 Legal Aid launches CLE Collaboration Fund

Regional Legal Assistance Forums and community legal centres are invited to submit proposals for grants of up to $5000 or $10,000 under the Legal Aid Queensland collaboration fund, which opened for applications on Monday 12 September 2011.

The  collaboration fund has been established as part of Legal Aid Queensland’s  commitment to community legal education. The funding will resource collaborative initiatives and partnerships to extend the reach of Legal Aid’s community legal education work.

For further information or to obtain the guidelines and application form please email communitylegaled@legalaid.qld.gov.au or phone (07) 3247 0380. The deadline for submitting applications to the fund is Monday, 10 October 2011.


Legal Aid’s 2010-11 Annual Report now available

Legal Aid’s 2010-11 Annual Report is now available for download from our website. The report highlights our major achievements for 2010-11 which included:

  • leading the collaborative Queensland Flood and Cyclone Legal Help response
  • embedding the Moynihan criminal justice reforms through new criminal law grants and training
  • establishing the Queensland Legal Assistance Forum website as a one-stop-shop for legal information resources.

A number of our 2010-11 achievements are also highlighted in this edition of Head Note such as the 2011 Law Week Hypothetical and the launch of an Application Assistance Program at the Brisbane Magistrates Court for women who have experienced domestic violence.


Guidelines for grants of legal aid expanded

Anyone facing the real likelihood of being sentenced to their first term of imprisonment in a correctional centre will be able to apply for a grant of legal aid under expanded guidelines being introduced by Legal Aid Queensland from 1 October 2011.

Legal Aid Queensland chief executive officer Anthony Reilly said aid guidelines for summary pleas in the magistrates court were tightened in January 2010 due to financial pressure from the global financial crisis.

“Due to sound financial management and a focus on financial sustainability, we are now able to relax the guidelines to include grants of aid for people at risk of facing jail for the first time,” Mr Reilly said.

“The Legal Aid Queensland Board and I will continue to monitor our finances closely to ensure we target our finite resources as effectively as possible to help financially disadvantaged Queenslanders.”

Under the new guidelines, people facing imprisonment for the first time will be able to apply for a grant of aid for legal representation when pleading guilty in the magistrates court.

This is in addition to the current guidelines where people can apply for a grant of aid because:

  • the defendant faces a high risk of being sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment, which usually means six months actual imprisonment
  • a duty lawyer cannot deal with the matter because additional information or evidence needs to be gathered
  • the defendant has limited ability to give instructions to a duty lawyer because of a disability or disadvantage.

Preferred suppliers can refer to Grants Online for further information about these changes.


Legal Aid lawyer named Regional Woman Lawyer of the Year

Congratulations to Di Turner from Legal Aid’s Townsville office who was named Queensland’s 2011 Regional Woman Lawyer of the Year at the recent Women Lawyers Association of Queensland Awards Dinner in September.

Di has been a Family Lawyer with Legal Aid Queensland since 2003. During that time, she has represented thousands of women in rural and regional Queensland in all areas of law. Her integrity and ability to show empathy with women from all walks of life are demonstrated by the success she has achieved in this field.

In addition to her role at Legal Aid, Di was recently appointed as a Sessional Member of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, an appointment which recognises her significant experience and expertise.

Di also contributes to the legal profession by presenting Family Law Workshops to law students at James Cook University, introducing prospective legal practitioners to this specialised area of law.


Legal Aid holds Separate Representative training

Legal Aid Queensland’s Child Protection Unit held a successful two-day training course in April 2011 for lawyers wanting to act as Separate Representatives for children and young people in child protection matters, in both the Childrens Court of Queensland and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

More than 45 lawyers from Legal Aid and private law firms attended the training, as well as Crown Law officers. 

The training program included sessions on:

  • the requirements of Separate Representatives under the relevant legislation, and how this role differs from the private family law jurisdiction
  • child protection practice and frameworks
  • practical skills to assist Separate Representatives in conducting litigation.

Legal Aid collaborated with Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) staff to deliver a session on the ‘structure and role of the Department’ along with Mr Paul Malone, Office of Child Protection Conferencing manager from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, who presented on the role of a Separate Representative in court ordered conferences. 

The highlight of the training was a session delivered by youth consultants (young people either in care or with a history of being in care) called ‘Children and Young People in Care’. In addition to the course participants, a number of key stakeholders in the child protection system, including Specialist Childrens Court Magistrate Dowse, also attended this session. The youth advocates, supported by the CREATE Foundation were given a rare opportunity to speak to the legal profession about their experiences of child protection and the law. Feedback received demonstrated the session touched and inspired those present, and influenced the future practice of the course participants.

The Separate Representative training course has also led to the development of a working group consisting of Magistrate Dowse, the Department of Communities, Legal Aid and the CREATE Foundation to investigate how young peoples’ participation could be improved in child protection proceedings in the Brisbane Childrens Court.


Child Protection Unit recognised with major award

Congratulations to Nigel Miller, Melissa Britton, Jen Glover and Belinda Wilkie from our Child Protection Unit, and our Youth Advocate Catherine Moynihan who were recently awarded a 2011 Child Protection Week Award, as part of Queensland Child Protection Week.

The team won the Youth Participation award category which recognises the involvement of young people in a local activity to enhance the wellbeing of children and young people.

This award recognises the team’s ongoing work providing specialist legal services to vulnerable parents, children and young people to assist them with child protection and related matters. The award also recognised their tireless work to increase awareness of the protection of children and young people.

When acting as separate representatives, the Child Protection Unit acts in the best interests of the child or young person they are representing, and as far possible, ensure the views and wishes of the child or young person are presented to the Court or Tribunal so they can be taken into consideration. In this way, the Child Protection Unit is contributing to engaging children and young people in the legal process for child protection matters.


Legal Aid receives Disability Action Week Award

Legal Aid Queensland has been awarded a 2011 Disability Action Week Award, which recognises individual and organisational contributions towards improving the quality of life of people with a disability in Queensland.

Legal Aid won the Government award category for our focus on responding to the needs of people with an intellectual disability in the criminal justice system.

Through our training seminars and our duty lawyer guidelines (in development) we have enhanced practitioner knowledge in the appropriate representation of clients with a mental illness, intellectual or cognitive disability. We have also sought to increase community awareness of the challenges faced by people with intellectual disabilities in the criminal justice system through our 2011 Law Week Hypothetical.

Legal Aid accepted the award at the Queensland Disability Conference held in Cairns during September.


Legal Aid Board update

Townsville lawyer Terry Browne has been appointed to the board of Legal Aid Queensland.

Terry is a partner in the law firm Arthur Browne and Associates in Townsville, where he is an accredited specialist in criminal law. Terry has served as a member of the Queensland Law Society’s Criminal Law section as well as the Access to Justice and Pro-Bono section. He is also a casual lecturer at James Cook University.

Terry replaces outgoing board member Peter Callaghan SC, who did not seek reappointment when his term expired in March, after taking on the role of counsel assisting the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry.

Legal Aid Queensland board members Iyla Davies and Allan Welsh have also both been reappointed to the board for another three-year term.


 

 Legal Aid senior officer appointments

Legal Aid Queensland has recently made appointments to four new assistant director positions in our Criminal and Family Law Services teams.

Kerry Bichel – Serious Crime Assistant Director
Over the past 11 years Kerry has worked in Legal Aid’s barristers chambers and criminal practice. She has also coordinated our Youth Legal Aid team where she was responsible for managing the specialist legal assistance the team provides to children and young people in the juvenile justice system. Prior to joining Legal Aid Kerry worked in private practice, focusing mainly on criminal law defence work.

David Holliday – Specialist Courts Assistant Director
David has worked in Legal Aid Queensland’s Criminal Law Services team for 20 years in a number of senior legal and management roles, most recently as Principal Legal Officer where he contributed to the division’s operational management. Prior to joining Legal Aid, David held a range of senior legal positions in the Public Defender’s Office and in what is now the Office of the Public Trustee.

Amber Buckland – Family Law Services Assistant Director
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. With extensive experience in representing clients in family law, child protection, domestic and family violence and child support, Amber has made significant contributions to Legal Aid’s policy, procedure, law reform and legal service delivery initiatives of state and national significance in relation to family law issues.

Howard Posner – Magistrates Court Assistant Director
Howard’s career in the Queensland Public Service spans 23 years working in specialist legal and management capacities within Legal Aid Queensland, the Queensland Public Defenders Office and the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Since joining Legal Aid Queensland in 1990, Howard has undertaken a range of senior legal roles within our Criminal Law Services team, most recently as Principal Solicitor.


Flood and Cyclone Legal Help update

More than six months after Queensland’s devastating floods and cyclones, Legal Aid Queensland continues to ensure people affected by the natural disasters have access to legal information and advice, as well as legal assistance with contesting their insurer’s decision to refuse their claims.

In 2011 a large proportion of our civil law services division has been devoted to helping people recover from Queensland’s floods and cyclones. Our Consumer Protection Unit currently has 485 clients with claims for flood and cyclone damage. The Unit has taken 437 statements from clients and helped make 310 internal dispute resolution submissions to insurers.  There are already more than 60 clients who have been successful in having their insurer’s decision not to pay their claim overturned after seeking assistance from Legal Aid Queensland.

Legal Aid has lodged 142 complaints with the Financial Services Ombudsman on behalf of clients not satisfied with their insurers' response to their claim and continue to assist these clients to seek the payment of their insurance claims.

Legal Aid continues to work with our Flood and Cyclone Legal Help partners to provide legal information and advice to affected Queenslanders at community meetings and flood insurance forums across Queensland. Our Consumer Protection Unit staff have attended over 30 different community meetings to assist affected consumers.

As well as helping people directly affected by the floods and cyclones, Legal Aid Queensland also made submissions to the Natural Disaster Insurance Review, the House of Representatives Inquiry into the Operation of the Insurance Industry during Disasters and the Flood Commission of Inquiry.

People needing assistance with their insurance claims for flood and cyclone damage can contact our call centre on 1300 65 11 88 or visit the Flood Legal Help website which includes links to legal information resources, relevant information and websites, upcoming community meetings, factsheets and an insurance claim guide.

 


New postcard reminds people to check their insurance policy

Legal Aid Queensland is reminding people to check their insurance policy before the summer wet season to make sure they’ve got the protection they need.

We’ve produced a postcard which contains a few simple questions people should ask themselves about their insurance policy such as “do I know where my policy is?” and “have I read my policy recently and am I sure it covers what I think it covers?”.

We recently distributed these postcards at the Ekka and we have sent them to state and federal MPs, local councils, community legal centres and community access points to hand out to the community.

 


Legal Aid Queensland now on YouTube

Accessing information about your legal rights and responsibilities is now even easier courtesy of our new official Legal Aid Queensland YouTube channel.

As part of our Community Legal Education program, Legal Aid produces a range of educational factsheets, information guides and DVDs on topical legal issues to enhance community awareness and understanding of the law.

“Many people in the community use the internet to search for information. In line with this trend we’ve uploaded our educational videos to both our website and our new YouTube channel where they can be easily accessed by the community,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

Our new family law video “Life after separation: putting the pieces back together” is one of the videos now available online. This video is targeted at couples who are considering family separation. The video provides a range of information to help guide couples through the legal process of separation, and to make arrangements that are in the best interest of their children. 

A video of the 2011 Law Week Hypothetical has also been added to our YouTube channel. This year the Hypothetical explored challenges faced by people with intellectual disabilities in Queensland’s criminal justice system.

Radio and television personality Meshel Laurie was the event emcee and guided a panel of experts through a lively yet informative discussion about issues such as identifying intellectual disabilities, the role of a duty lawyer, what to expect when you go to court, support services available to people with intellectual disabilities, and how current legislation deals with the issue of intellectual disability.

We encourage you to check our YouTube channel  and website regularly as new video resources will be added in coming months.

 


Collaboration improves bail application process for youth in custody

Our Youth Legal Aid team has initiated a collaborative process with the Department of Communities, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and our preferred suppliers to better identify youth in custody who may need representation for a bail application.

A key goal of this collaboration is to reduce the number of Indigenous young people on remand in custody in rural and remote Queensland, when the eventual court outcome for these youths would not involve detention.

To help address this issue Youth Legal Aid provided training to select departmental staff in Cairns and Mt Isa and worked with the department to refine internal processes. As a result, these children are now quickly identified and referred to Youth Legal Aid to prepare bail applications.

As a result of this collaboration, Youth Legal Aid assisted 58 children, the majority being Indigenous, in being released from custody in the 2010-11 financial year.

Our Youth Legal Aid team continue to support the rights of vulnerable children  through their advocacy roles with the Youth Justice Reference Group, the Queensland Law Society and other stakeholders.


 

Seminar focuses on communication and cultural considerations for Indigenous clients

Earlier this year Legal Aid Queensland, in partnership with the Queensland Law Society and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, presented a seminar on communication skills and cultural considerations when representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.

The free member benefit seminar drew 98 registrations across the partner agencies, community legal centres and the private profession, with regional practitioners able to link in live via videoconference.

Providing legal advice and representation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients requires effective communication skills and cultural understanding. The interactive seminar featured Dr Diana Eades, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and Adjunct Professor, School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences, University of New England; barristers Andrew Boe, Lincoln Crowley and James Morton and John Tapp from ATSILS. The seminar was chaired by Mary Burgess, Strategic Policy and Communication director from Legal Aid Queensland.

The seminar focused on Indigenous languages and cultures in Queensland, a linguistics exercise for translating into standard Australian English, an exploration of intercultural communication issues, and practical techniques for communicating when representing Indigenous clients.


 

 

Legal Aid launches Application Assistance Program

During Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month we launched a new program at the Brisbane Magistrates Court to help women apply for protection orders against abusive partners.

The Application Assistance Program provides Legal Aid court assistance workers at the Brisbane Magistrates Court to help women apply for protection orders in a safe and secure environment. This vital service for women can make a significant difference in their lives at what is typically a very stressful time.

The Application Assistance Program is an extension of the existing Domestic Violence Court Assistance program, funded by the Department of Communities, which helps women experiencing violence to navigate the legal system while offering support, referral, advocacy and information.

The Application Assistance Program service is provided by Women’s Legal Aid, a group of specialist female lawyers and social workers at Legal Aid Queensland that provide services to women, policy advice and develop innovative legal responses to domestic violence.

 


Legal Aid publications update

Since our April 2011 edition of Head Note we have produced our flood insurance guide When disaster strikes – cyclones, storms and floods: A guide to getting your insurance claim paid, designed to help people affected by natural disasters with their insurance issues.

Updated publications
The following publications have been updated:

Factsheets:
How will an independent children's lawyer help my child?

Is a family report being prepared for your family law matter?

Can I get legal aid?

Guides:
Are you going to lose your driver licence? A guide to help you apply for a work licence or special hardship order

Posters:
Responding to an application for a protection order: Options for people who are respondents to an application for a protection order

Your legal rights. Improving access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, particularly women and their families (electronic copy not available, order this poster via SDS ordering website)

Wallet cards:
Legal Aid Queensland wallet card (electronic copy not available, order this poster via SDS ordering website)

Except where indicated, these publications can be viewed online and ordered for free at our website

Publications temporarily unavailable

The following legal information guides have been temporarily removed from distribution while the content and forms are updated:

  • Have you been charged with an offence? A guide to appearing in the magistrates court
  • Have you been in an accident? A guide to help you work out who pays for the damage
  • Does someone owe you money? A guide to help you claim a minor debt of $7500 or less
  • Small Claims Tribunal – A consumer guide
  • Do I have to keep the car? Used car contracts and your legal rights

 


New Community Legal Education e-bulletin

Our Community Legal Education team will soon be launching an e-bulletin to keep our partner agencies informed about Legal Aid’s community legal education publications and resources, as well as upcoming CLE events and activities, sector news and legislation changes affecting CLE.

The e-bulletin will be distributed on a quarterly basis. If you’d like to receive this new e-bulletin please email communitylegaled@legalaid.qld.gov.au


Relocation of Cairns Legal Aid office

Our Cairns Legal Aid office is relocating. From Monday 14 November 2011 our Cairns office will be located at:

Level 2
Cairns Square Complex
Cnr Abbott and Shield Streets
Cairns QLD 4870


Focus on fitness and fun

A renewed focus on teamwork, fitness and fun this year saw Legal Aid Queensland staff participating in charity walks, runs and Corporate Games. Legal Aid Queensland fielded two teams in the Corporate Games held at the University of Queensland St Lucia campus over 14-15 May.

A mixed netball team and a mixed touch football team represented Legal Aid Queensland at the Corporate Games. While neither team made the finals, staff enjoyed working together outside of an office environment and it brought together staff who don’t normally work together.

With CEO Anthony Reilly leading from the front on the netball court, it was an opportunity for staff to combine fitness, fun and work. Legal Aid Queensland also
covered staff entry fees for fun runs/walks such as the Mother’s Day Classic, QPILCH Walk for Justice and the Mackay Marina Run.

This supported the participation of staff in these events, which raise money for great causes while also giving staff the incentive to stay fit and reduce stress.

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