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Chair's report

On behalf of the board, I am pleased to introduce Legal Aid Queensland’s 2013–14 Annual Report.

As a former assistant public defender and crown prosecutor, I was delighted to be appointed to the role of chair of the board in February 2014. I have a strong commitment to the role Legal Aid Queensland plays in our justice system and have enjoyed working closely with the organisation’s management and staff over the last six months to ensure vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders have access to essential legal services.

The board and management team are committed to embedding Queensland’s public service values — customers first, ideas into action, unleash potential, be courageous and empower people — into our processes and culture.

It has been another busy year for Legal Aid Queensland as we continued to put customers first by delivering services that matter to the community. Our staff deliver a huge number of services to the people of Queensland on a daily basis. Every day at Legal Aid Queensland:

  • we provide legal information, referrals and community legal education (CLE) to more than 4500 people via our call centre and front counters, website, publications and CLE activities
  • we provide free legal advice and minor assistance to more than 220 people over the phone, via videoconference or at one of our offices
  • our Magistrates Court duty lawyers represent 310 people who have been charged with a criminal offence
  • our family law duty lawyers help about eight unrepresented people get through their day in the family courts
  • lawyers represent 25 people in dispute resolution services to work out their family and civil law problems without going to court
  • we approve 110 individual grants of aid in new criminal, family, child protection, domestic violence and other legal matters.

I’d like to congratulate all staff on their hard work and achievements over the last 12 months.

During 2013–14, the board has continued its focus on long-term financial sustainability, with the organisation delivering its fifth operating surplus since 2009–10. As a result of our sound financial position, the board was able to approve increases in the fees payable to private lawyers who undertake legal aid work in a variety of criminal, family and civil law matters, without seeking additional funding from government. Lawyers in private practice deliver almost 80 percent of legal aid services to the community and we certainly couldn’t meet these legal needs without their ongoing support. As a result, we are committed to delivering fee increases for private lawyers who deliver legal aid services where possible.

In June 2013, the organisation participated in the Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey, with 51 percent of employees contributing responses. The survey results indicated that employees felt engaged while at work, understood their roles and collaborated well with stakeholders. The feedback we received was invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and helping us to empower our people. We participated in the survey again in May 2014, with 61 percent of staff responding, and our results had improved since the previous year, and were higher than the Queensland public service average in most areas.

During the year, we moved forward with our plan to improve our offices in Brisbane and across regional Queensland. We have completed refurbishing two floors of our Brisbane headquarters at 44 Herschel Street. And I was pleased to be able to welcome our state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP in May to officially open our new office at Ipswich. These new premises provide improved client interaction facilities, including extra interview rooms and family dispute resolution conferencing rooms, and are centrally located for staff and clients. We also upgraded our office accommodation at Caboolture and started work on the design plans for our Bundaberg office, which we plan to upgrade and expand in 2014–15.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, Rachel Hunter, for her outstanding contribution to the board and the leadership of Legal Aid Queensland during her four years as chair. Rachel has been a strong advocate for the organisation to both government and stakeholders, and her extensive executive management experience and people skills have ensured Legal Aid Queensland’s strategic and financial stability.

I would also like to thank the state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP, and the federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, for their and their governments’ ongoing support for Legal Aid Queensland. The board looks forward to working with you during 2014–15.

I am proud of the role Legal Aid Queensland plays in the justice system and I look forward to being a strong advocate for the organisation in the coming financial year.

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Brian Stewart
Chairperson, Legal Aid Queensland Board

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