"The general principles behind the concept of legal aid are that all people have the right to legal representation and other legal services; and that no-one should be denied justice merely because they are unable to afford the services they need."
Minister for Justice Mr Lickiss
Introduction of Queensland Legal Aid Bill
24 May 1978
The Legal Aid Office (Queensland) was established in December 1979. It evolved from State and Federal government recognition of the need to provide financially and socially disadvantaged people with access to legal representation and other legal services.
Prior to its establishment both the state and federal governments funded different organisations that provided these services. The State based organisation, the Legal Assistance Committee of Queensland, operated from 1965 to December 1979. It only granted aid for state law matters. All case work was referred to private practitioners.
It was funded from a percentage of interest earnt on Solicitors' Trust Accounts. The Federal Government established the Australian Legal Aid Office in 1974. It granted aid to people for whom the Commonwealth had responsibility, including children, migrants, aborigines, and social security recipients. The relationship between these two separate organisations was confusing to clients and the legal profession.
To improve the efficiency of legal services provided to financially and socially disadvantaged people, responsibility for administration of the legal aid offices was handed to the States in 1978. This decision facilitated the merger of the two organisations and the establishment of the Legal Aid Commission of Queensland. As the Commission was a statutory authority, it was accountable to the State Minister but independent of any governmental direction or influence.
In 1991 a State Government initiative brought about the merger of the Legal Aid Office (Queensland) with the Public Defender's Office. The newly expanded Legal Aid Office provided clients with access to family, civil, and all criminal law services.
Legal Aid Queensland was established in 1997 under the Legal Aid Queensland Act 1997 and is managed by its own Board. It replaces the former Legal Aid Office (Queensland) which was run by the Legal Aid Commission of Queensland. Legal Aid Queensland is also a statutory authority.