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Head Note October 2012

Attorney-General officially opens Cairns Legal Aid office 

We were delighted that the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Mr Jarrod Bleijie MP was able to join us last month for the official opening of our Cairns Legal Aid office.

The Cairns Legal Aid office was relocated to new larger premises to provide improved conditions for both staff and clients, such as the new client interview and dispute resolution conference facilities.

The Cairns Legal Aid office is conveniently located in the centre of the Cairns CBD, close to public transport and other amenities.

The event was also attended by Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly, Legal Aid Queensland Board member Terry Browne, Cairns Principal Solicitor Trish Price as well as many representatives from the Cairns legal and justice sector.

"Legal Aid Queensland performs a number of roles within the Cairns community from face-to-face legal advice sessions to weekly visits to the Lotus Glen Correction Centre," the Attorney-General said during his official speech.

"Last year this office assisted more than 3700 duty lawyer clients and funded more than 1600 cases.

"These figures highlight the dedication of the staff in this office to provide frontline services to help disadvantaged Queenslanders achieve a fair result in the justice system."


 

Fee increase for criminal law duty lawyers 

 The Legal Aid Queensland Board has approved an increase in the hourly fee paid to criminal law duty lawyers. From 1 July 2012 rostered criminal law duty lawyers will be paid $120 an hour, an increase of $10 an hour.

“The criminal law duty lawyer service plays a crucial role in Queensland’s juvenile and adult justice systems,” Legal Aid Queensland Chief Executive Officer Anthony Reilly said.

“The increase in fees paid to criminal law duty lawyers recognises the important work they do representing people in magistrates courts across Queensland, as well as the increased workload they have undertaken since the introduction of the Moynihan reforms.”

Criminal law duty lawyers are based in Queensland’s magistrates and childrens courts and provide free, initial legal advice and representation to people charged with criminal and some traffic offences, who are on bail or in custody in Queensland. Duty lawyers can enter guilty pleas, make bail applications or request remands for clients.

Duty lawyer services are provided by Legal Aid Queensland’s in-house lawyers and authorised private lawyers who deliver services under roster or tender arrangements.


 

New guidelines and fees relating to domestic violence 

 In response to the new Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 that came into effect on 17 September 2012, the Legal Aid Queensland Board have approved
revised guidelines for domestic violence grants of aid, and an increase in the hourly rate for domestic violence matters from $95 an hour to $105 an hour.

Changes to the guidelines came into effect for applications received on or after 17 September 2012. Legal practitioners can view a copy of the new guidelines online within the policy manual section of Legal Aid Queensland’s Grants Handbook.

If you have any queries in relation to the operation of the new guidelines please contact your grants officer.


 

Legal Aid's 2011-12 Annual Report now available 

Legal Aid’s 2011-12 Annual Report is now available for download from our website. The report highlights our outcomes and major achievements for 2011-12 which included:

  • approved applications for grants of aid increased to 27,847 in 2011-12, compared to 27,186 in 2010-11
  • more than eighty percent of our grants of aid were provided to preferred supplier law firms in 2011-12 which equated to $57.89M in expenditure, an increase of $1.6M on 2010-11
  • legal information and referral services provided to the public in 2011-12 increased by more than 30 percent on 2010-11
  • legal advice and minor assistance services provided to the public in 2011-12 increased by 5.3 percent on 2010-11
  • criminal law duty lawyer services provided to the public in 2011-12 increased by 4.2 percent on 2010-11.

 


 

Legal Aid awards 2012 Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund grants 

Legal Aid Queensland has announced the 2012 recipients of the Legal Aid Queensland Collaboration Fund to support community legal education initiatives across Queensland.

Young parents and seniors are among the community members who will benefit from initiatives supported through the fund. The 2012 funding round will also resource collaborative projects in regional Queensland and continue to strengthen the community legal education sector.

The recipients sharing in $68,159 in funding are:

 

  • Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House Incorporated: to work collaboratively with Seniors Legal and Support Services (SLASS) to provide a series of presentations (and associated publications) to seniors’ service providers on specified areas of law within the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s jurisdiction, and to develop a Self Representation Service factsheet and training program for the community legal sector on how to use the resource.
  • Suncoast Community Legal Service: to develop a self help kit to help people deal with small personal injuries claims.
  • Caxton Legal Centre Inc: to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of Caxton Legal Centre’s existing CLE products, research and report on best practice CLE and develop a CLE strategy.
  • Youth Advocacy Centre: to develop legal education resources that empower pregnant and parenting young people to help them to identify how to apply child protection legal information in their own lives.
  • Regional Legal Assistance Forum (RLAF) networks: to resource sustainable community legal education activities in regional areas in partnership with other local legal service agencies.

 

Legal Aid Queensland has also provided $10,000 in funding to the Aboriginal Torres and Strait Islander Legal Service to develop a DVD on child protection law.


 

 2012 Law Week Hypothetical video now online

A video of the 2012 Law Week Hypothetical is now available on Legal Aid Queensland’s YouTube channel and website.

This year the hypothetical focused on domestic violence, exploring the challenges, support services and the legal protection available for people experiencing domestic violence.

Moderator and award winning journalist Kay McGrath guided a panel of experts through a fictional domestic violence scenario examining healthy versus unhealthy relationships, the new Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012, and some of the common myths and facts about domestic violence.

The expert panel included:

  • Ms Fionna Fairbrother (Principal Lawyer, Legal Aid Queensland)
  • His Honour Judge Brendan Butler AM SC (Chief Magistrate, Brisbane Magistrates Court)
  • Ms Heather Nancarrow (Director, Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research, Central Queensland University)
  • Ms Megan Giles (Director, Child and Family Policy, Department of Communities)
  • Inspector Mark Wheatley (Legal Services Branch, Queensland Police)
  • Ms Amanda Whelan (Coordinator, Brisbane Domestic Violence Advocacy Service).

The Law Week Hypothetical is one of the major highlights of National Law Week and provides a great opportunity for the community to learn more about Queensland’s justice system.

You can access a range of community legal education video resources on Legal Aid’s YouTube channel and website. Legal Aid is delighted that a number of organisations are utilising these videos for professional development purposes including the New South Wales Police which use the 2011 hypothetical video for internal staff training.


 

Upcoming event: updated domestic violence publications 

Legal Aid Queensland produces a range of factsheets and guides which provide legal information to the general public on a range of common legal issues. We have recently updated our domestic violence publications in line with the new Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012.

As part of this process, Legal Aid worked collaboratively with the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Queensland Courts and other key stakeholders to ensure the revised publications provided practical up-to-date legal information for people experiencing domestic or family violence.

Our revised How to apply for a protection order (Domestic Violence) guide provides information on how to access help and support if you are experiencing domestic violence, instructions on how to apply for a protection order and what to expect when you go to court.

This free guide is available to view online or download from the Legal Aid Queensland website and will soon be available to order via the Queensland Government Bookshop, and for collection from our 14 Legal Aid offices across Queensland. A number of updated domestic violence factsheets, posters and wallet cards will also be available soon.

As part of our commitment to providing access to justice to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, some of these resources have been translated into several languages.

The Legal Aid Queensland best practice guidelines for working with clients affected by violence have also been updated in line with the legislative changes. The guidelines include a new and improved risk assessment tool for our lawyers when working with clients affected by domestic violence.

You are invited to attend the launch of our updated domestic violence publications.

Cost: Free

When: 10am Wednesday, 17 October 2012.

Where: Auditorium rooms, ground floor, 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane (Legal Aid Queensland building)

Find out more: Please RSVP to events@legalaid.qld.gov.au. For more information phone 07 3238 3431.


 

Legal Aid a finalist in IPAA Public Sector Excellence Awards 

Legal Aid Queensland’s Flood and Cyclone Legal Help team has been recognised as a finalist in the IPAA Queensland Public Sector Excellence Awards in the State Government category.

The devastating floods and cyclones of 2011 left hundreds of families homeless or living in severely damaged homes. People in these situations often experience a range of legal problems while trying to get their lives back on track, such as issues relating to insurance claims, accommodation, rental properties, employment, debt and even family law problems. In response, Legal Aid Queensland, in partnership with other Queensland legal organisations, established Flood and Cyclone Legal Help.

Legal Aid Queensland’s Consumer Protection Unit was turned into a special Flood and Cyclone Legal Help Response team, with extra lawyers drafted in to help provide information, assistance and advice to affected Queenslanders. Lawyers attended recovery centres and community meetings, and held advice and information clinics in affected areas.

They provided assistance and advice in a range of areas, but the main focus of work has been on helping people who have had trouble getting their insurance claims paid by their insurers.

The team has worked with more than 540 clients to try to get decisions on rejected insurance claims overturned through either internal dispute resolution or the Financial Ombudsman Service. They have been successful in having a large number of matters resolved in the favour of clients.


 

Legal Aid develops in-house Quality Legal Services Framework 

To ensure the ongoing quality and high standard of legal services provided by our in-house legal practice, Legal Aid Queensland has developed a Quality Legal Services Framework.

“As part of our responsibilities under the Legal Aid Queensland Act 1997, Legal Aid Queensland and our in-house legal practice must observe the rules and standards of professional conduct and ethics a private lawyer is required to observe, and is subject to the professional obligations to which a private lawyer is subject, by law or custom, in legal practice,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

“To ensure we continue to meet our professional and statutory obligations as a law practice we have developed a Quality Legal Services Framework to provide our staff with a framework for the assurance of the quality of our legal services.”

The Quality Legal Services Framework outlines the responsibilities of legal aid lawyers and the Chief Executive Officer with regard to:

 

  • merit based recruitment and selection
  • staff induction
  • continuing professional development
  • compliance with legal profession and organisational standards
  • legal professional supervision
  • file reviews and audit
  • complaints management
  • conducting client satisfaction surveys every two years.

 

We are now in the process of developing specific policies to support the framework and outline staff responsibilities.


 

Legal Aid welcomes AusAid placements 

In the past two months Legal Aid has welcomed four people on AusAid funded placements who were in Australia to enhance their knowledge and skills in various aspects of legal professional practice, case management, record keeping and management, and then introduce organisational improvements in their respective organisations.

Terry Berem, a lawyer from the Public Solicitor’s Office in Papua New Guinea joined us for six weeks to participate in in-housing training sessions, learn business systems, and observe how our staff engage with clients, justice sector networks and other stakeholders.

Carol Noel, also from the PNG Public Solicitor’s Office, joined us for four weeks. Carol is an information management officer and met with our front counter, criminal law in-house practice, finance and record keeping services to learn more about our processes and work practices in these areas.

Douglas Hou, the Public Solicitor from the Solomon Islands’ Public Solicitor’s Office, joined us for six weeks to learn more about leadership, organisational change, and human resource management. Douglas also travelled to Canberra to observe the High Court of Australia.

Sophia Munamua, a lawyer from the Solomon Islands’ Pubic Solicitor’s Office, observed Legal Aid’s Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy team to inform the establishment of a legal and advocacy gender unit back in the Solomon Islands. Sophia also visited Legal Aid’s Townsville office, as well as outreach sites, courts and other agencies in the Townsville area.


Bring Your Bills Day 

Legal Aid Queensland is collaborating with community partners to participate in Bring Your Bills Day initiatives across Queensland. This innovative model combines community legal education with service delivery by providing direct access to services and information in a one-stop-shop design.

In early September Legal Aid Queensland collaborated with Youth and Family Services (Logan) and Uniting Care to hold a Bring Your Bills Day in Logan City, as part of 2012 MoneySmart week.

"Bring Your Bills Days provide a great opportunity for people to access practical help and expert advice to deal with problems related to household bills, with many people obtaining an immediate resolution,” Community Legal Education Coordinator Linda Richards said.

At Bring Your Bills Day events community members have direct access to services including Legal Aid Queensland, local financial counselling services, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Office of Fair Trading and the Energy and Water Ombudsman Queensland. If issues are not resolved on the day, assistance and referral to appropriate services are organised.

Legal Aid also participated in a Bring Your Bills Day event in Dalby earlier this month.

Upcoming Bring Your Bills Day events will be held at Chermside on 15 October and in Laidley on 22 October.


National Legal Aid statistics available

National Legal Aid has released a range of statistics for the 2011-12 financial year for each state and territory legal aid commission.

The statistics detail the number of approved applications for legal aid by law type, and compare the number of matters assigned to the legal aid commissions’ in-house practices versus the number assigned to external preferred supplier law firms.

In 2011-12 Legal Aid Queensland allocated the highest percentage of approved applications of aid to external preferred supplier law firms out of all the legal aid commissions.

“This result represents a $57.89 million investment by Legal Aid Queensland in preferred supplier law firms during the 2011-12 financial year,” Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said.

These statistics are available on the Legal Aid NSW website.


Legal Aid supports Do not knock campaign 

Legal Aid Queensland supports the Do not knock campaign to put a stop to unwelcome, dishonest or intimidating door-to-door salespeople, launched by the Consumer Action Law Centre and Financial Counselling Australia.

The centrepiece of the campaign is the Do not knock sticker which, when displayed in a prominent location, sends a clear message to salespeople that they are not welcome at a particular address. The Dealing with door-to-door sales videos, information and resources are available on the Legal Aid Queensland website.


Anthony Reilly takes part in CEO Sleepout 

More than 100,000 Australians find themselves homeless each night of the year. Just under half of these are women; a quarter are under the age of 18.

Legal Aid Queensland’s CEO Anthony Reilly once again braved the cold to participate in the 2012 St Vinnies CEO Sleepout. On 21 June 2012, Anthony and 157 CEOs around Queensland experienced what it’s like to spend one night sleeping rough. 

Each participant was asked to raise funds with the money going to help those that are homeless, with over $898,000 raised this year. The Brisbane event was held at the Southbank Parklands with Anthony’s bed for the night being a piece of cardboard on a concrete floor. Sleeping on concrete was a daunting task but sadly a reality for many people in Queensland.

Anthony raised $2062 for this importance cause and would like to thank everyone who donated.

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