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Head Note October 2014

Annual report released 

Legal Aid Queensland’s 2013–14 Annual Report was tabled in State Parliament on 30 September 2014 and details the organisation’s ongoing strong financial position and commitment to ensure the long-term sustainability of core services.

Legal Aid Queensland increased its overall legal services in 2013–14. This included:

  • a two percent increase in legal information and referral services provided to the public
  • providing 55,793 legal advice and minor assistance services
  • approving 27,375 initial applications for grants of aid
  • providing $54.7M in grants to private law firms to represent legally-aided clients
  • a 13 percent increase in criminal law duty lawyer services compared with 2012–13
  • helping 6219 people in dispute resolution conferences to resolve disputes without going to court.

Other major achievements in 2013–14 included:

  • expanding Legal Aid Queensland’s Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program, which helps vulnerable women receive priority legal advice, to Bundaberg and Mackay
  • issuing a fourth round of grants to community organisations from the Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund to resource collaborative projects to extend the reach of the organisation’s community legal education work
  • establishing new legal advice clinics at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service
  • piloting a Family Dispute Early Resolution program, which has expanded the organisation’s highly successful lawyer-assisted family law conferencing program
  • partnering with Micah Projects to establish a pilot project to provide legal services to young pregnant women or women with vulnerable children
  • increasing fees payable for all Commonwealth civil and family law grants of aid, as well as fees for child protection matters, by five percent
  • introducing fee increases for some magistrates and district court matters
  • approving a second round of criminal law fee increases for court time, which began on 1 July 2014
  • establishing an industry reference group with representatives from the Queensland Law Society and the Bar Association of Queensland, which provides a formal forum for regular consultation with the profession
  • working with the Bar Association of Queensland to establish a junior barrister briefing program where barristers are briefed by Legal Aid Queensland criminal lawyers to undertake summary pleas, summary trials and s 222 District Court appeal appearances
  • relocating our Ipswich office, and refurbishing our Caboolture office and parts of our Brisbane office.

Visit the Legal Aid Queensland website to view the Annual Report.

Legal Aid Queensland welcomes new board members 

Legal Aid Queensland has welcomed Sandra Deane and Philip Askin to its board. Ms Deane and Mr Askin bring a wealth of skills and experience to the board, which will ensure the organisation continues to be managed in a strategic, innovativeand accountable manner. Sandra Deane and Philip Askin join board chair Brian Stewart and fellow board members Allan Welsh and Peter Nolan to complete the board.

Sandra Deane

Sandra Deane is an experienced board member, tribunal member and an independent energy consultant with extensive private and public sector experience. She brings experience from senior positions (including as CEO) in the corporate and professional sectors.

Sandra was admitted as a solicitor in 1988 and has more than 20 years’ experience in legal practice in corporate and private practice and tribunal roles. She also has more than 14 years’ experience in the energy sector. She brings professional expertise in contract management and negotiation, dispute resolution and compliance.

She is currently a member of the Energex Limited Board and a sessional member of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Philip Askin

Philip Askin was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland in 1981 and has practised exclusively in litigation since 1982, in all jurisdictions in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and the High Court. He is managing partner of Townsville-based law firm Roberts Nehmer McKee Lawyers, where he specialises in major commercial litigation, general dispute resolution, trade practices and defamation.

Philip holds the position of honorary solicitor with the Totally and Permanently Disabled Ex-Servicemen and Women’s Association in Townsville, and is the chairman of the Cathedral School of St Anne and St James board of directors, Townsville, and board member of The Good Shepherd Limited as Trustee for The Good Shepherd Home Charitable Trust.

New child protection duty lawyer service in Cairns and Townsville

 Legal Aid Queensland has established a new Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service in Cairns and Townsville to provide free legal help to people appearing in court for child protection issues.

The service is located at the Cairns and Townsville Magistrates Courts and is targeted at people who turn up for court for a child protection matter but haven’t received advice from a lawyer.

Legal Aid Queensland CEO Anthony Reilly said the new service would provide much needed assistance to vulnerable children and parents.

“The duty lawyer service will help to ensure children and families in the child protection system are receiving legal advice before they go into a court room,” Mr Reilly said.

“The duty lawyers will help people to understand their current situation, explain their legal options and guide them through the next steps they need to take to achieve the best outcome.”

Principal lawyer in Legal Aid Queensland’s Cairns office, Trish Price, said the child protection duty lawyer would provide a basic service to help people get through their day in court and be better prepared for future court appearances.

“The service will provide free legal information and advice to people appearing in court that day about child protection issues,” she said.

“The service can also help people apply for legal aid and may be able to assist in negotiations with the Department of Child Safety or represent people that day in court for some matters.”

People needing legal representation for an ongoing child protection matter will still need to apply for a grant of aid to have a Legal Aid Queensland lawyer represent them in court, or appoint a private lawyer.

Service details:

Operating hours: from 8.30am each Thursday
Location: Cairns Magistrates Court, 5D Sheridan Street, Cairns
People should check in with the child protection duty lawyer, who will be located on the second floor of the court building, before going into court.

Operating hours: from 10.30am each Wednesday
Location: Townsville Magistrates Court, 31 Walker Street, Townsville
To see the duty lawyer, people should check in at the duty lawyer counter, located on the first floor, before going into court.

Legal Aid Queensland lawyer awarded Churchill Fellowship

Congratulations to Nigel Miller, principal lawyer in Legal Aid Queensland’s Child Protection team, for being awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

 Nigel is one of only 106 Australians to be awarded a fellowship in 2014 and who will travel around the globe to undertake a diverse array of research for the betterment of Australia.

Nigel will use his fellowship to explore the establishment of a child protection law specialist accreditation program in Queensland and will visit the USA, Canada, Switzerland and the UK as part of his research.

Petá’s record and information management expertise recognised 

Legal Aid Queensland’s records coordinator Petá Sweeney has been admitted as a Fellow of the Records and Information Management (RIM) Professionals Australasia. Fellowship represents the highest level of professional membership, recognising an outstanding standard of professional conduct and ethical behaviour.

Petá is one of only nine fellows throughout Australasia and only the third fellow in Queensland since the association was established in 1969.

This award recognises Petá’s 25 years of dedicated service to the records management profession. Throughout her career Petá has undertaken a number of major projects including implementing the Public Records (Qld) Act 2002, the whole-of-government electronic document and records management system, and Legal Aid Queensland’s records management system (TRIM).

Petá has held a number of elected positions within RIM Professionals Australasia (Queensland branch), including Professional Development Committee chair, Education Committee chair and branch secretary. Petá is also the current Queensland Branch president of the association.

Check your insurance policy before storm, cyclone and bushfire season 

 As storm, cyclone and bushfire season approaches, Legal Aid Queensland is encouraging Queenslanders to check their insurance policies to make sure they are adequately covered if disaster strikes.

Legal Aid Queensland chief executive officer Anthony Reilly said checking your insurance policy now and better understanding your legal rights, could save heartache and financial stress down the track.

“Legal Aid Queensland has helped hundreds of Queenslanders with their insurance claims following natural disasters, including the 2011 floods,” Mr Reilly said.

“Our lawyers have found that if people had checked their policies each year before the extreme summer weather kicked-in, they could have avoided some of the problems they faced when making a claim.”

Mr Reilly said people who are insured should check their policies and ask themselves:

  • Am I up to date with my payments?
  • Do I know where my policy is?
  • Does my policy really cover what I think it covers?
  • What can’t I claim for under the policy?
  • Are there maximum amounts or limits I can claim?

“If you can’t answer these questions then you need to call your insurer and double check. Take notes of the call including the date, time, who you spoke to, what you asked and what they told you,” Mr Reilly said.

“Make sure your payments are up to date, that your policy hasn’t lapsed and that you are covered for all scenarios that may affect homes in your area - be it flood, storm, cyclone or fire.”

Mr Reilly said people affected by natural disasters often had 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 essential services damaged by floods, cyclones or bushfires.

“If people have been affected by a natural disaster, they can call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 for the cost of a local call from a landline in Australia to get free legal information and advice, or to be referred to another organisation who can assist with your problem,” he said.

Legal Aid Queensland also offers free factsheets and online publications to help people affected by natural disasters, available on the Flood and Cyclone Legal Help website or the Legal Aid Queensland website.

Helping vulnerable people access justice 

Legal Aid Queensland regularly helps clients who’ve encountered problems with unfair and/or unsolicited contracts. Here’s an example of how we helped a client avoid paying a cancellation fee for an unsolicited contract.

Joe* is an old age pensioner who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer. Telecom company A recently phoned Joe — Joe thought the caller was his existing telecom company (Telecom company B). Joe thought Telecom company B was just changing business names and so he agreed to what he thought was a continuation of service by Telecom company B under the new company name. It was not until almost five minutes into the unsolicited phone call that the caller mentioned Telecom company A’s name.

The next day Joe went into a shopping centre and saw the shopfront staff of Telecom company B. He asked why they were changing names — the staff told him they were not changing names. The staff called their head office for Joe and he was told that his contract had been cancelled. The next day Joe rang Telecom company A and said he had misunderstood their phone call and he wanted to stay with his original provider. Joe's contract with Telecom company A was then cancelled.

Joe received a number of letters from debt collectors alleging he owed a large cancellation fee to Telecom company A, despite the alleged unfair conduct in the phone call and the fact the contract was cancelled during the cooling off period for unsolicited agreements.

Legal Aid Queensland took on Joe's case and contacted Telecom company A and the debt collector on Joe's behalf. We received agreement from Telecom company A and the debt collector that the cancellation fee was not owed — a great outcome for Joe.

*Not his real name.

Publications update 

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

Legal information guides:

For practitioners and service providers

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