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Chief executive officer’s report 2017–18 annual report

At Legal Aid Queensland, our job is to provide legal services to people who face financial disadvantage. We are passionate about our work because it helps maintain the rule of law, protect legal rights, support the efficiency of the justice system and reduce the social impacts of legal problems.

We are guided by our Strategic Plan 2017-21 and its four objectives, along with the Queensland public service values-customers first, ideas into action, unleash potential, be courageous and empower people.

Each year provides an opportunity to get better at what we do, and 2017-18 was no exception as we improved and expanded our services.

Improvements to our service delivery included:

  • establishing Counselling Notes Protect, a partnership with Women's Legal Service, to protect the counselling communications of victims of sexual assault from being used in courts
  • establishing the Youth Legal Advice Hotline, through which young people and their families can talk to a lawyer and get legal help
  • increasing our legal representation of young people in bail applications through the Remand Reduction Strategy
  • representing participants in the new Drug and Alcohol Court
  • providing duty lawyer services to the Townsville Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Court and associated Mount Isa and Palm Island circuit courts
  • enhancing domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in Caboolture, Pine Rivers, Brisbane and Beenleigh
  • establishing a specialist Domestic Violence Unit in Rockhampton
  • representing applications for external merits review of National Disability Insurance Agency decisions
  • improving the availability of grants of aid for legal representation in child protection matters
  • expanding our Farm and Rural Legal Service
  • promoting our services' availability through targeted use of social media
  • extending our Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Services to Magistrates Courts in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Torres Strait regions in collaboration with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service.

As well as establishing new services, we also increased the volume of our information, advice, duty lawyer and legal representation services compared with 2016-17.

While expanding, we also took steps to ensure our services' sustainability and quality. We improved the fees paid for legal aid work by private lawyers, including an across the board CPI fee increase in February 2018, and a 7 percent increase for fees paid for child protection grants of aid from March 2018. Working in partnership with the Bar Association of Queensland and Queensland Law Society, we established a quality-assured panel of barristers for complex criminal law matters. We invested in social inclusion areas of our in-house legal practice such as child protection and youth justice, and implemented a regional graduate lawyer program. As noted by the chair, we are also pursuing a range of initiatives to improve the quality of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Underpinning good service delivery are good people, good systems and good financial management.

We aim to create a supportive and productive workplace for our staff by investing in staff development, psychological wellness and improved accommodation. On this front, the positive findings of the 2017 Working for Queensland Survey-where we exceeded Queensland public sector results for workplace climate-were gratifying to read.

Big steps were made in 2017-18 to position Legal Aid Queensland to harness the opportunities of the digital age for improved service delivery. These included deploying Surface Pros across our legal teams as our preferred mobile digital platform, and successfully outsourcing our data centre.

Our financial management also proved effective in 2017-18, with the organisation delivering an operational surplus and retaining a healthy balance sheet. These outcomes were supported by the continuing growth in our Queensland Government funding.

Thanks are due to so many for helping Legal Aid Queensland do its important work.

I would like to express my appreciation to the state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, the Honourable Yvette D'Ath MP, for her continuing strong support for our work, and her continuing advocacy for improvements to our funding.

My appreciation is also extended to the federal Attorney General, the Honourable Christian Porter MP, for his demonstrated interest in legal aid nationally.

Thanks are also due to our chairperson, the Honourable Margaret McMurdo AC, and other board members for their stable leadership and guidance throughout the year.

Legal Aid Queensland is only able to get its job done through the support of our network of colleagues and friends in the private legal profession, community legal centres, judiciary, government agencies and the broader community. Thanks to all for your ongoing support.

And last, but certainly not least, thanks are due to our staff who keep plugging away every day with an insight and good humour that continues to humble me.

Next year is the 40th anniversary of Legal Aid Queensland as an independent statutory agency. I'm looking forward to celebrating it with all of you as we continue our journey.


Anthony Reilly
Chief executive officer

Last updated 2 October 2018

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