Legal Aid Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Unit provides expert advice on issues about discrimination, eg discrimination based on the grounds of gender, race, religion or sexual preference.
discrimination — discrimination occurs when a person with an attribute is treated or proposed to be treated less favourably than a person without that attribute in the same or similar circumstances.
Legal Aid Queensland's Child Protection Unit provides advice and conducts separate and direct representation of children and young people in chid protection cases.
Legal officers can comment on issues including:
- when the Department of Child Safety can apply to the Children's Court for a child protection order
- the different child protection orders the Children's Court can make
- the role and responsibilities of a 'separate representative' acting for a child (a separate representative is a lawyer who represents the child's best interests to the court).
The Consumer Protection Unit provides specialist advice and casework services in consumer law. The unit provides direct advice to clients and also provides advice to lawyers and financial counsellors throughout Queensland.
Consumer Protection Unit legal officers can comment on issues including:
- the unlawful repossession of property and goods
- problems with attempting to cancel direct debit authorities
- consumer lease issues
- banking issues
- mobile phone contracts
- housing loans
- liability for statute barred debts
- harassment by debt collectors
- problems with door-to-door sales
- problems with fringe credit providers.
Legal Aid Queensland is the state's largest criminal law practice. Criminal Law Services provides representation to people charged with criminal offences before Queensland courts.
Criminal Law Services legal officers can comment on issues including:
- criminal procedure ie getting bail, sentencing options, when a criminal conviction is recorded, the criminal matters dealt with by the various courts
- personal rights ie the elements of self defence, what amounts to provocation, what amounts to reasonable force according to the specific circumstances
- offences ie what elements must exist to make a case against an individual charged with a particular offence
- penalties ie the sentencing options provided for under The Penalties and Sentences Act, a prisoner's eligibility for probation
- police powers ie the length of time a person can be kept in custody, the alternatives to arrest, what information individual's have to give to police officers.
Note: It is often difficult for legal officers to comment on current cases or legally aided clients.
Duty lawyer services
Legal Aid Queensland coordinates the Queensland Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Program. In the Brisbane region, duty lawyer services are provided by Legal Aid Queensland's in-house criminal lawyers and private lawyers. Across regional Queensland, duty lawyer services are also provided by preferred supplier law firms (law firms Legal Aid Queensland has developed partnerships with).
Legal Aid Queensland’s in-house family lawyers also provide a Family Law Duty Lawyer Service throughout Queensland.
Legal Aid Queensland can comment on issues including:
- the role of the duty lawyer
- when the duty lawyer is available
- who can use the duty lawyer services
- which courts the duty lawyer operates from.
criminal law duty lawyer — is a person (either a solicitor or a barrister) appointed by Legal Aid Queensland to help unrepresented people (either on summons, bail or in custody) who have been charged with criminal offences in most Children's Courts and most Magistrates Courts.
family law duty lawyer — is a person appointed by Legal Aid Queensland to help unrepresented people who are appearing before the Family Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court.
Legal Aid Queensland's Family Law Services provides specialist services in the areas of child support, domestic violence, representation of children in various forums and general family law matters.
Legal officers from Family Law Services can comment on issues including:
residence — who the children live with (formerly called 'custody')
contact — when the children visit the person they don't live with
property settlement — division of the property of married or de facto couples after separation
divorce — the legal procedure which ends a marriage (divorce does not settle issues about property).
child support — money which a person pays to help financially support his or her child when the child does not live with that person. It can be provided in ways other than the payment of money, such as continued use of the family home, car, payment of school fees, rent etc.
liable parent — this is the term used for the person who the child does not usually live with. The child may or may not have contact with this parent. The Child Support Agency legislation refers to this person as a 'payer'.
domestic violence — domestic and family violence occurs between people in a range of domestic relationships including spousal, intimate personal, family and informal care relationships.
protection order — to obtain a protection order, a person, referred to in court as an aggrieved, must show one of the following types of violence has occurred and is likely to occur again:
- threats to injure a person or damage their property
- physical violence (including violence which does not cause actual injury eg pushing, shoving, holding down)
- damage to property (including animals)
- indecent behaviour (eg coercive sexual behaviour, forced sexual intercourse)
- intimidation and harassment ie persistent phone calls, verbal abuse, financial and psychological abuse.
Farm and rural legal issues
Legal Aid Queensland's Farm and Rural Legal Service provides advice and assistance to Queensland rural producers and businesses who have severe debt-related problems or are in dispute with their lenders or are otherwise facing financial hardship that relates to their business of primary production.
Our Farm and Rural Legal Service legal officers can comment on issues including:
- how the Farm and Rural Legal Service can help rural producers with severe debt-related problems
- producers' financial and legal rights during periods of drought
- the assistance measures available to rural producers in times of economic hardship.
Granting of legal aid
To get legal aid representation applicants must meet the Legal Aid Queensland means test, funding guidelines and in most cases, a merits test.
The means test involves reviewing an applicant's income and assets to determine if they are financially eligible for legal aid. Young people under 17 years of age don’t have to meet the means test to be eligible for aid, but may have to meet other guidelines. Applicants who rely solely on Centrelink payments for their income will usually pass the income section of our means test, however they will still need to be assessed under the assets section of the means test
The merits test considers a number of things including:
- the legal and factual merits of the case and if it is more likely to succeed or fail if it goes to court
- if a sensible person would risk their money to take the case to court
- if the benefit the applicant will receive from having a lawyer justifies spending limited public funds on their particular case.
Our CEO or Grants director can answer queries about the legal aid grants process. For example:
- What is the means test?
- Who does the means test apply to?
- How does the means test assess income?
Dispute resolution is a non-litigious alternative to resolving legal disputes. Dispute resolution encourages parties to resolve their differences through mediation under the guidance of an independent chairperson. Legal Aid Queensland has two distinct dispute resolution streams to help clients with family law disputes — the Family Law Conference Program and the Property Arbitration Program.
Legal Aid Queensland can comment on issues including:
- the benefits dispute resolution offers clients
- what is involved in implementing dispute resolution
- how Legal Aid Queensland dispute resolution programs operate
- the challenges involved for Legal Aid Queensland when trying to resolve issues through dispute resolution.
Youth law — criminal
A person aged 16 years and younger is dealt with as a juvenile in criminal law matters. A person aged 17 years and older is dealt with as an adult. Legal Aid Queensland's Youth Legal Aid Team helps juveniles who have been charged with a criminal offence.
The Youth Legal Aid Team can provide expert opinion on issues relating to juveniles and criminal law matters including:
- criminal responsibility
- questioning by police
- sentencing options available to the court when dealing with young people
- the Childrens Court ie how it operates, how it is different from adult courts.
Our Mental Health Unit provides information and advice to people in mental institutions and represents people before the Mental Health Court.
Mental Health Unit legal officers can comment on issues including:
- what an involuntary treatment order is
- the rights of mental health patients
- the powers of the Mental Health Court
- how a person can make a complaint about medical treatment.
Women and the law
Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy is a specialised unit of Legal Aid Queensland that provides legal advice, representation, social work support and court assistance in domestic violence matters.
Staff can comment on issues involving women and their interaction with our legal system including:
- the support services Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy offers women during domestic violence court proceedings
- issues that affect women's access to legal services
- the number of women who receive representation by Legal Aid Queensland each year
- violence against women
- initiatives undertaken by the Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy unit to help women from non-English-speaking backgrounds in need of legal assistance.
Telephone legal advice and information
Legal Aid Queensland provides free telephone legal information and advice. Our statewide telephone legal advice service accounts for about 30 per cent of all Legal Aid Queensland advices.
We also provide information and referrals to more than 250,000 people a year through our Client Information Services call centre.
Legal Aid Queensland can comment on issues involving providing telephone legal information and advice including:
- the benefits telephone advice and information offer Queenslanders ie benefit to rural and regional Queenslanders who cannot access Legal Aid Queensland services in person
- the types of queries clients have for our legal officers and client information officers
- how our legal officers and client information officers can help clients over the phone
- the technology used to allow Legal Aid Queensland to successfully help such a large number of clients via telephone services.