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START OF 2015-16 annual report
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In 2015–16, Legal Aid Queensland continued to strive to be a leader in a fair justice system where people can understand and protect their legal rights.
This year saw domestic and family violence again in the national spotlight as an issue affecting families and communities, and we have focused our efforts on helping those affected by this crisis.
We are guided by our Strategic Plan 2013–17 and its four objectives, along with Queensland’s public service values—customers first, ideas into action, be courageous, unleash potential and empower people—which inform how we pursue our strategic objectives.
Our Strategic Plan’s first objective is to support early resolution of legal problems and social inclusion. Two of our key achievements against this objective in 2015–16 were the expansion of our domestic and family violence duty lawyer service to 14 locations across the state and the expansion of our child protection duty lawyer service to nine locations.
As the major provider of legal assistance and representation services to people experiencing domestic and family violence in Queensland, we also participated in the Queensland Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Court pilot at Southport. Another key achievement was the expansion of our legal advice referral pathways program to Maroochydore and Rockhampton, connecting with key service partners in these areas to ensure vulnerable clients experiencing domestic violence are promptly referred to us for legal help.
Launching our new Legal Aid Queensland website was another significant achievement this year. The new website is mobile-friendly and features improved search functionality, plain English legal information about common legal problems, a quick exit button which allows users viewing sensitive information to quickly exit the site, and a screen reader and translation tool, which is useful for people with vision impairments or low literacy levels and for people from a non-English-speaking background.
We also expanded the reach of our CLE program by initiating a free monthly webinar program. The webinars are targeted at community workers throughout Queensland and focus on legal topics or issues commonly experienced by their clients.
Our second objective is to provide quality and cost effective legal services statewide to our clients. In line with this focus, we reviewed our grant of aid fees paid to preferred supplier law firms and delivered financially sustainable fee increases of between five and 15 percent across a range of grant areas. During the year, we also reviewed and amended our Commonwealth family law guidelines to highlight our lawyer assisted dispute resolution model and to better align our representation grants for parenting matters with the Family Law Act provisions.
Progress our vision through collaboration and policy leadership is our third objective which we achieved by contributing to state government policy development to improve court diversion options and highlight the intersection between child protection, family violence and the family law system.
In line with our commitment to collaborate and consult with the legal profession, we continued to administer our Industry Reference Group, consulting with members to seek their input and feedback on a range of business initiatives for the organisation.
Our fourth objective is to build on our business capability and sustainability. In line with this focus, we developed our Workforce Plan 2015–18, which provides strategic direction for the organisation’s human resource management activities to attract, develop, motivate and retain staff while providing a safe and supportive working environment.
Legal Aid Queensland’s call centre is one of the key client contact points for the organisation, with our frontline client information officers providing legal information and referral services to hundreds of clients each day. Last year, our call centre continued to improve their service delivery outputs with improved call waiting times, a reduced caller abandonment rate and stabilised call length times. These service delivery improvements, coupled with extra staff resources, allowed the call centre to answer almost 6000 more calls than the previous year.
I would like to thank the state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, and the federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, for their ongoing support for the organisation.
We were delighted to learn the state and federal governments have committed extra much needed funds to the organisation, which will help Legal Aid Queensland continue to provide responsive, targeted legal services to vulnerable Queenslanders across the state when they need it.
The additional funding for next financial year will be used for:
family law grants of aid. I would also like to thank the Legal Aid Queensland Board for their ongoing stewardship of the organisation, our committed management team, hard working staff and loyal service delivery partners. Thank you for your support and contribution during the past year.
Acting chief executive officer