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Our performance

Services

Community legal education

8482

Discrete assistance
Information and referral
Legal advice and legal task services

228 782
36 643

Facilitated resolution processes
Family dispute resolution conferences
Civil dispute resolution

3072
13

Duty lawyer services
Criminal law duty lawyer
Family law duty lawyer
Domestic and family violence duty lawyer
Child protection duty lawyer
Administrative Appeals Tribunal duty lawyer

71 458
2305
23 826
643
475

Representation services
Applications received
Applications approved
Applications refused

44 718
34 755
9963

Table 3. Overview of Legal Aid Queensland services 2018–19

Overview of services

The Australian Government and the states and territories entered into a National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA) in July 2015. The NPA governs the manner in which Commonwealth legal aid services funding to the states and territories is to be used, as well as the broader goals and objectives of legal assistance services.

The NPA emphasises the early resolution of legal problems through community legal education (CLE) and discrete assistance (ie information, referral, legal advice and legal task services). The service delivery categories used in the NPA have been adopted throughout this annual report.

The categories are:

  • Community legal education
  • discrete assistance—information, referral, legal advice and legal task services
  • facilitated resolution processes
  • duty lawyer services
  • representation services
  • law and legal service reform
  • stakeholder engagement.

National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services target

The NPA includes a national performance framework for legal assistance for Commonwealth funded services. The sole performance benchmark relating to Legal Aid commissions is for 95 percent or more of representation services to be delivered to people experiencing financial disadvantage.

In 2019–20, we achieved 99.95 percent compliance compared to a 95 percent target.

Queensland Government service delivery statement measures

Performance targets

Notes

2019–20 target

2019–20 actual

Percentage of administrative decisions referred to external review that are overturned

1

6%

2.7%

Percentage of accounts processed by Grants division within 14 day period

2

90%

98.9%

Average cost per client for criminal law duty lawyer service

3, 4

$66

$52.76

Average cost for calls received through the contact centre

5

$5.25

$4.51

Notes:

  1. This measure demonstrates the effectiveness of the decision-making process for approval of grants of aid to clients.
  2. This measure demonstrates the effectiveness of the grants processing area, as it is expected that all accounts should be processed by the Grants division within a 14-day period, which allows for the appropriate administrative process for the checking and approval of invoices. This measure also represents the importance to local suppliers of receiving payments on a timely basis, as well as Legal Aid Queensland meeting requirements under Legal Aid Queensland Preferred Supplier Agreements. All accounts processed by the Grants division are for legal representation that is performed by preferred suppliers.
  3. This measure reflects the unique Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service and the efficiency of this service as it calculates the average time spent with a client and converts this into a dollar figure based on the hourly rate. The 2019–20 target of $66 reflects the cost of an average crime duty lawyer session (ie 30 minutes) as provided by preferred suppliers. The Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service is provided by both in-house lawyers and lawyers from Legal Aid Queensland’s preferred suppliers.
  4. The 2019–20 actual Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service rate of $52.76 is lower than the 2019–20 target of $66 primarily due to the greater cost efficiency from using
    a combination of both in-house/employed lawyers and preferred supplier lawyers.
  5. This measure demonstrates the efficiency of the contact centre services, as it calculates the average time spent on a call through the contact centre and converts
    this into a dollar figure based on the hourly salary rate of contact centre staff excluding overheads.

Table 4. Queensland Government service standards 2019–20

Objective 1. Provide quality and cost effective legal services to our clients

Community legal education

CLE activities are an integral part of the services offered by Legal Aid Queensland. Our CLE activities are coordinated through a strategy that responds to priority client groups and legal problems and aims to:

  • improve community understanding of the law
  • reduce litigation and costs to the justice system
  • help community members to understand their legal rights and responsibilities and how to access legal help if they need it
  • help stakeholders to understand our services and how to access them.

Our CLE Strategy is delivered through:

  • CLE activities and engagement with priority groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities
  • legal information sessions and webinars for community members and community, health and education workers
  • collaborative projects that focus on increasing awareness of the law and our services within more hard-to-reach communities
  • connecting with existing networks and establishing new networks through strong relationships
  • participation in community events such as Homeless Connect
  • web-based legal information and multimedia resources
  • written materials including factsheets and legal information guides.

The NPA’s focus on prevention, early intervention legal services and collaboration has been a key driver for the strategy and coordinating our CLE work.

During the year we:

  • worked with Indigenous service providers and networks to improve access to our specialist services, like child protection, and facilitated CLE through relationship building and using existing project resources like Blurred Borders
  • participated in community engagement meetings with service providers, including service delivery ‘hubs’ and co-located services in regional areas to provide information about our services and delivering CLE
  • facilitated collaborative service delivery opportunities and CLE skills sessions as part of our CLE legal assistance forum – a specialist forum of the Queensland Legal Assistance Forum (QLAF)
  • distributed editions of our e-newsletter Head Note to stakeholders
  • increased our social media presence to promote our resources and key legal information
  • participated in community events across Queensland including Homeless Connect, Finance Fairs, Musgrave Park Family Fun Day, Regional Council community events and other NAIDOC Week regional events, and the Mosaic Multicultural Festival
  • coordinated our CLE webinar program for community, health and education workers; we planned and delivered six webinars and YouTube videos on topics like young people and the law, understanding the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and our services, exploring Queensland’s new Human Rights Act, common consumer leases and ‘lemon laws’, Buy Now Pay Later and other loan products, practical tips for caseworkers supporting clients living with domestic and family violence, credit reports and Legal Aid Queensland’s services
  • delivered 158 CLE activities to 8482 people and produced 50 resources in response to community agency requests and identified need; topics included Legal Aid Queensland’s services, young people and the law, cyber bullying and sexting, domestic and family violence, dealing with clients with impaired capacity, consumer law, mortgage stress, human rights, and credit reporting
  • coordinated and administered the CLE Collaboration Fund’s 10th round to resource collaborative initiatives and partnerships to extend the reach of our CLE work. The fund allows us to resource community legal centres (CLCs), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) and Regional Legal Assistance Forums (RLAFs) and specialist forums to educate priority communities across Queensland. The eight funded projects will deliver CLE activities and resources to help tenants in regional Queensland, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and communities, young women who are pregnant and parenting and deliver CLE practice professional development to legal assistance workers in regional and remote areas.

Discrete assistance

Information and referral

Legal Aid Queensland provides comprehensive statewide free legal information and referral services to disadvantaged Queenslanders. Our legal information and referral services can be accessed online via the Legal Aid Queensland website (www.legalaid.qld.gov.au), by phone through our client contact centre or in person at one of our 14 offices throughout metropolitan and regional Queensland.

The Legal Aid Queensland website complements our information and referral services by providing comprehensive legal information and a statewide network of referral agencies. Clients can also access information in person by visiting one of our offices or community access points.

Website

Our website allows all Queenslanders to access accurate legal information and service provider referrals.

The website includes features such as:

  • mobile accessibility, making the site easy to read on smart phones and tablets
  • efficient search functionality, where users can simply type in what they are searching for without the need to understand where the information is located on the site
  • a quick exit button on the right of each page, which allows users who are viewing sensitive information to quickly exit the site and redirects them to another website
  • a built-in screen reader and translation tool called ‘Browsealoud’, which will read out our content to users (especially useful for people with vision impairments or low literacy levels and people from a non-English-speaking background)
  • a ‘For lawyers’ section, which includes announcements, key policies and procedures (like the Grants Handbook, best practice guidelines and case management standards) for our preferred supplier lawyers
  • a ‘Find a lawyer’ search feature, which allows users to locate a preferred supplier law firm or CLC near them
  • legal information written in plain language to make it easier to use and understand.

During the year, our website was accessed 1,708,032 times with 3,166,167 pages being viewed.

Client contact centre

Our client contact centre is based in Brisbane and operates Monday to Friday during business hours.

The client contact centre answered 139,003 calls in 2019–20 and provided 81,562 legal information and referral services to clients.

The team also provided 946 legal information and referral services via email.

We continued to give prisoners in correctional centres priority access to our client contact centre to reduce their waiting time. Prisoners are considered highly vulnerable clients as they have extremely limited access to legal services and support and are at a high risk of social exclusion and financial disadvantage. Prisoners’ call times are restricted and time waiting in a queue counts towards their call limit and impacts their capacity to deal with their legal issues.

In 2019–20, we continued our partnership with the Queensland Police Service as a community service provider for the Police Referrals Management Service. The service helps people who come into contact with police and other community agencies and organisations, and who require support for legal issues. During the year, we handled 3029 referrals from this program.

We also worked to improve our business processes and systems to further streamline information and advice delivery to clients. The changes included:

  • continuing to improve our intake process and referral pathways
  • continuing our monthly ongoing training program with specialist sessions on psychological wellness, cultural awareness and human rights
  • using videoconferencing and recording technology for regional front counter staff to participate in ongoing training sessions
  • providing training for new front counter staff to support them to deliver face-to-face services at regional front counters
  • continuing to streamline the call management process using a client-focused call pathway
  • improving specialist reporting to allow improved analysis of incoming calls and service delivery trends.

Client Assistance Service

This year, we continued to help some of our particularly vulnerable clients, especially those with multiple legal issues, through our Client Assistance Service. The service is targeted to clients who need extra help accessing legal help. The Client Assistance Service triages the client’s legal problems and provides the support they need to ensure they can access timely and appropriate legal services. This year, the service continued to grow, providing support to 347 clients. To meet the demand, several client information officers from the client contact centre have received specialist training to help clients who have been referred to the service.

Your Story Disability Legal Support

In September 2019, Legal Aid Queensland started a new service helping people to share their experiences with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The service has been named ‘Your Story Disability Legal Support’ and is a free and independent national legal service jointly delivered by National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS). Clients access the service online via the Your Story Disability Legal Support website (www.yourstorydisabilitylegal.org.au) or by calling the national Your Story Disability Legal Support information line.

The service has staff in each legal aid commission in Australia and in Aboriginal legal services around the country. Online and phone inquiries are answered by a small team of client information officers based at Legal Aid Queensland who have completed specialist disability awareness and trauma-informed practice training.

Your Story Disability Legal Support answered 1392 calls from 844 clients in 2019–20 and 496 callers identified as a person with disability. Your Story Disability Legal Support provided 1,184 legal information and referral services to clients during 2019–20.

Legal advice and legal task services

Financially disadvantaged Queenslanders can access our free legal advice and legal task services by telephone, including through the National Relay Service, by videoconference or face-to-face at Legal Aid Queensland offices and at designated outreach services.

Figure 7 Legal advice and legal tasks services 2019-20  

Figure 7. Legal advice and legal tasks services 2019-20

We provide free legal advice to eligible clients in:

Criminal law

  • Criminal charges in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts
  • Youth justice
  • Traffic matters
  • Mental health law

Family law

  • Parenting issues (eg arrangements about children)
  • Relationship issues (eg divorce, property settlement)
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Child support and maintenance
  • Child protection
  • Family dispute resolution

Civil law

  • Anti-discrimination and human rights
  • Farm and rural debt issues
  • Social security appeals
  • Peace and good behaviour
  • Victim Assist
  • Motor vehicle property damage
  • Consumer and debt disputes
  • Employment
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

In 2019–20, we provided legal advice and legal task services to 36,643 people.

The legal advice service is primarily provided by our Brisbane-based First Advice Contact Team (FACT), specialist legal teams and regional offices.

FACT provides face-to-face advice to eligible clients at our Brisbane office and remote legal advice via a statewide telephone service. FACT also provides legal task services for people who might need help with preparing letters and other documents following initial legal advice. They also help as domestic and family violence duty lawyers as needed.

Prison Advice Service

Our Prison Advice Service primarily uses videoconferencing to provide legal advice services to people in Queensland’s prisons. Videoconferencing reduces travel time and provides cost savings. The Prison Advice Service and some regional advice lawyers also provide face-to-face advice services at designated prisons.

In 2019–20, the Prison Advice Service provided 1710 advice services to Queensland prisoners.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Service advice referrals

We worked with the Brisbane based Refugee and Immigration Service (RAILS) to provide a warm referral pathway for clients who have family law, domestic violence or child protection issues. The lawyers provide advice through these referrals pathways and help clients apply for legal aid (if appropriate).

Victim Assist advice clinic

We provide specialist legal advice and minor assistance to victims of crime about applications for financial help to Victim Assist Queensland. We provide a weekly Victim Assist telephone advice clinic.

Consumer advice clinic

During 2019–20, we continued to provide telephone advice clinics five days a week, and face-to-face consumer advice clinics at our Inala, Woodridge and Ipswich offices. We provided advice about:

  • mortgage stress and housing repossession
  • debt and debt collection practices
  • credit cards and personal loans
  • car loans
  • small amount (payday) loans and consumer leases
  • telephone and other utilities contracts
  • insurance including home and contents, car insurance and funeral insurance
  • Australian Consumer law including faulty cars, unsolicited consumer agreements and training colleges and courses
  • bankruptcy and part IX agreements.

Anti-discrimination advice clinic

During the year, we continued to provide specialist advice clinics about state and federal anti-discrimination laws three days a week. From January 2020, we also provided advice about state human rights protections in these clinics.

We also provide a specialist advice clinic one afternoon a week through an arrangement with the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC). The clinic is available to clients whose complaints have been accepted by the commission. Clients receive advice face-to-face or via telephone about their complaint, the complaint process, the conciliation process and how to proceed to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). During these clinics, we also provide minor assistance to clients to help facilitate their access to justice.

Employment law advice clinic

We provide specialist legal advice and task assistance to federal system employees about federal employment law matters under the Fair Work Act 2009, including unfair dismissal, general protections, bullying, discrimination, civil penalty provision breaches, stand downs, flexibility arrangements and JobKeeper. We also provide advice on entitlements and disciplinary processes, and help clients apply for legal aid if appropriate. We provide telephone advice clinics five days a week. We also provide a specialist advice clinic three days a week through the Fair Work Commission’s Workplace Advice Service.

Social security appeals advice clinic

During the year, we established a specialist in-house legal advice clinic that focusses on providing advice to clients who do not yet have an appeal before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), including those who need help to lodge an appeal with the tribunal. This allows clients to achieve an early resolution rather than having to wait until their appeal reaches the tribunal. The clinic also supports clients whose appeal was unsuccessful and who are unsure how to progress their matter.

We also continued to provide social security appeal advice clinics in collaboration with the AAT and Basic Rights Queensland. We provide clinics at the AAT’s Social Services and Child Support Division and General Division two days each week. These clinics help clients who may be eligible for a grant of aid for their General Division appeal. The clinic at the Social Services and Child Support Division provides advice and minor assistance to clients who are representing themselves and many appeals are resolved at this level. We also refer vulnerable clients with merit to Basic Rights Queensland for casework assistance.

NDIS advice clinic

We continued to provide an in-house NDIS advice clinic one day a week for clients who have received their National Disability Insurance Agency internal review decisions but who have not yet lodged an appeal before the AAT. We also help those who need help to lodge an appeal with the tribunal.

During the year, we also provided NDIS appeals advice clinics through an arrangement with the AAT. This weekly advice clinic helps clients who have lodged external reviews in the AAT.

At these clinics we provide specialist NDIS advice to participants in the NDIS, prospective participants, and nominees in relation to their appointments and, if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.

Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program

We continued to provide our Legal Advice Referral Pathways Program, which helps vulnerable clients, particularly women who have experienced domestic and family violence, to receive priority legal advice. The program operates in 10 locations around the state—Brisbane, Caboolture, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Woodridge, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Bundaberg, Mackay and Townsville.

Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service and Application Assistance Program

During the year, we provided legal advice, support and information to women dealing with domestic and family violence matters and related child protection and family law matters, including through the Application Assistance Program and the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service.

The Application Assistance Program helps women applying for domestic and family violence protection orders in the Brisbane Magistrates Court by:

  • helping women prepare and lodge applications for domestic and family violence protection orders
  • providing support for women in court
  • helping women with risk assessments and safety planning
  • referring women to legal and support services.

The Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service provides free and confidential help to all women who attend the Brisbane Magistrates Court for domestic and family violence matters. The service is available to all women applying for, or responding to, a domestic and family violence protection order, and helps them:

  • access the court’s safety facilities
  • understand what protection orders are, including their conditions and what to do if an order is breached
  • understand the court process, including support and information
  • talk to the police prosecutor and court staff
  • make a safety plan
  • access relevant legal and community services for crisis counselling and emotional support
  • complete applications for legal aid.

Child Protection Early Legal Service

During the year, the Brisbane-based Child Protection Early Intervention Program changed its name to the Child Protection Early Legal Service. The service continued to focus on providing legal advice and advocacy for vulnerable parents early in child protection interventions. The team’s lawyers work collaboratively with community-based support agencies to make sure the program reaches vulnerable parents involved, or at risk of becoming involved, with the child protection system. Early legal support involves advocating for parents to receive support and guidance to keep their children safe so that statutory child protection intervention occurs only as a last resort. This support may involve legal advice and help before the start of court proceedings.

Child Protection Outreach Legal Service

The Child Protection Outreach Legal Service provides legal advice services to Mount Isa, Mackay, Longreach, Emerald, Biloela, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Cherbourg, Murgon, Cleveland, Roma, Charleville and Cunnamulla. The service also provides regular Child Protection Duty Lawyer Services in Gladstone, Mackay and Cleveland. The service is provided by Brisbane-based lawyers who regularly fly in and out of regional Queensland.

We have established referral pathway partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including the Director of Child Protection Litigation, the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor and the Office of the Public Guardian to help clients in these areas to get legal advice.

Child support advice clinic

We continued to provide child support advice two days each week. The clinic provides people with legal advice about reviewing child support decisions, child support agreements, paternity and enforcing outstanding child support payments. Lawyers provide advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence, and if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.

Family law advice clinic

We continued to provide legal advice each week to people experiencing complex family law issues. Lawyers provide advice to clients on their prospects of success and/or evidence, and if appropriate, help them apply for legal aid.

Domestic and family violence advice

During the year, we continued to provide specialist domestic and family violence advice services five days a week to help those affected by domestic and family violence and those who are responding to an application for a domestic and family violence order.

Youth Legal Advice Hotline

Our Youth Legal Advice Hotline continued to provide legal advice and support to young people, and assistance to youth justice stakeholders and Queensland Police. The hotline was established in November 2017 to help young people with improved access to early legal advice with the aim of increasing the likelihood of their issues reaching an early resolution, and promoting diversionary options or bail release for young people suspected by police of having committed an offence. Following new laws requiring Queensland Police to notify a legal aid organisation that a child is in custody for questioning, the hotline operating hours were expanded in December 2019 to provide services on a 24 hour basis from Friday until Sunday afternoon. The hotline now operates Monday to Thursday from 8am to 9pm and from Friday 8am to Sunday 5pm. During the year, staff provided early legal advice and help for 1276 matters.

Duty lawyer services

Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service

Our Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service operates in 99 Queensland Magistrates and Childrens Courts and plays a crucial role in our youth and adult justice systems. The service offers free initial legal advice and representation to people charged with criminal and serious traffic offences who are on bail or in custody in Queensland. Duty lawyers represent people on guilty pleas, make bail applications and request remands for clients.

Duty lawyer services are provided by our in-house lawyers, authorised private lawyers and the ATSILS who deliver services under roster or tender arrangements.

We are committed to case conferencing and mediating matters with the prosecution to ensure our clients have their legal issues resolved as soon as possible. This can have significant sentencing benefits for clients and can also result in savings to the criminal justice system by avoiding court time being wasted. It also means witnesses and victims do not have to go through the stress of attending court.

Family Law Duty Lawyer Service

Our Family Law Duty Lawyer Service provides help to self-represented litigants in the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court throughout Queensland for family law matters. We provide services in Brisbane, Southport, Ipswich, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.

The duty lawyer service provides information, legal advice, referrals and in some cases, representation for clients with matters in court that day. We also help people complete their own forms and documents, negotiate and settle consent orders, and seek adjournments. We help people complete applications for legal aid or access our review process if they have previously been unsuccessful with applications for aid.

Family Advocacy and Support Services

The Family Advocacy and Support Services operate in the Commonwealth law courts in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns. This is a federal government funded service focusing on giving more and earlier help to clients impacted by family violence.

The service recognises people coming to the family law courts need more than just legal help—it involves lawyers and social support workers who can work together to address the client’s legal and non-legal needs.

The service provides legal advice and help for unrepresented people on their court date, complementing the Family Law Duty Lawyer Service. Legal help is also provided for clients who are not in court but have a very urgent family law issue, such as seeking recovery, or airport watch list orders for children.

Lawyers give people information and legal advice, negotiate with other parties, prepare simple court documents and represent people in court (in some situations). Support workers can help clients with safety planning and referrals for their social support needs. The service continues to provide a wrap-around legal and social support service to clients who need urgent help.

Domestic and Family Violence Duty Lawyer Service

We continued our role as a key partner involved in the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts at Southport, Beenleigh, Townsville, Mount Isa and Palm Island. We operate duty lawyer services to support clients and the court. The service gives people access to free legal help before their court appearance. The service’s clients include those affected by domestic and family violence and those who are responding to an application for a domestic and family violence order. In Southport, the service also provides legal help to defendants charged with breaching domestic and family violence orders and related criminal cases. The duty lawyers provide legal advice, representation and referrals to other legal and support services for people appearing before the specialist courts.

This year, the duty lawyers in the Specialist Domestic and Family Violence Courts have helped 10,671 people appearing before the court for civil domestic and family violence matters.

We also operated domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in 25 other court locations around Queensland.

The duty lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help clients fill out forms and documents needed for that day in court, discuss the clients’ eligibility for ongoing support from Legal Aid Queensland in the domestic violence matter and other related legal problems, and provide referrals to appropriate support services. In some circumstances, the duty lawyer may also appear in court on the client’s behalf for their domestic violence matter.

The duty lawyer services are provided in the 30 courts by in-house lawyers and lawyers from preferred supplier law firms and CLCs. Providing legal help and referrals early in the court process helps applicants and respondents to better understand their options and the legal implications of these options. It also helps people to connect with support services early to keep them and their children safe.

Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service

We operated the Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service in Brisbane, Ipswich, Southport, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Caboolture, Pine Rivers, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns Childrens Courts.

The Child Protection Outreach Legal Service provided duty lawyer services in Mackay, Gladstone and Cleveland.

The duty lawyers provide free legal help to parents and young people before they appear in court for their child protection matter.

The service is a court-based advice model where lawyers provide free legal information and advice, help people fill out forms and documents needed for that day in court and also talk to the clients about their eligibility for ongoing legal representation from Legal Aid Queensland. In some circumstances, the duty lawyer may also appear in court on the client’s behalf for their child protection matter.

The Child Protection Duty Lawyer Services are provided by in-house lawyers and lawyers from preferred supplier law firms and CLCs. Lawyers being available to provide advice to people about their child protection issues help the clients to be properly informed before going into court, to feel more confident negotiating the legal process and more accepting of the outcomes.

Facilitated resolution processes

Resolving family law problems through dispute resolution processes

Legal Aid Queensland is a national leader in providing lawyer-assisted family law dispute resolution. We provide a statewide lawyer-assisted family dispute resolution program. We aim to resolve family law disputes before matters go to court or before a final hearing if court proceedings have started. The program achieved an outstanding result in 2019–20, with 78 percent of matters achieving an early resolution.

We have dispute resolution conference organisers in Brisbane and regional centres around the state to help families. Family law dispute resolution conferences are held at our Brisbane and regional offices and by telephone and videoconference. An important part of our dispute resolution program is our property arbitration program, which allows parties to settle property disputes.

During the year, we started a property mediation conference process to allow parties with property disputes to resolve these in a two-step conference process that allows property disclosure and discovery to occur.

Providing services to the farming community

Our Farm and Rural Legal Service provides free legal help to Queensland farmers and primary producers experiencing financial hardship related to their business, including those with severe debt problems or those in dispute with their lenders.

During the year, we provided legal advice via telephone or face-to-face and represented clients in 11 mediations with their banks and finance providers. The service was provided by our in-house lawyers and involved travelling thousands of kilometres on outback Queensland roads to see farmers on their properties.

Representation services

Our in-house practice, together with hundreds of private
law firms and barristers, provide representation services to legally-aided clients in serious crime, general crime, juvenile justice, family law, child protection, domestic violence and other civil law matters. We use grants of aid to purchase these services from private lawyers and manage in-house work allocations.

About 75 percent of our legal representation is provided by private lawyers, with the remainder provided by our in-house practice.

In 2019–20, our expenditure to private lawyers for representing clients was $68.4 million.

Processing applications for grants of aid

Our Grants division is responsible for processing applications for grants of legal assistance and managing these grants following approval.

We assessed 44,718 new applications for legal aid and approved 34,755 applications in 2019–20.

We saw an increase in the number of applications for family and civil law matters compared with 2018–19. Applications are processed by staff in our Brisbane and regional offices. Demand for our services is high so we use strict criteria when granting aid for legal representation. In determining whether to approve a grant of aid, grants officers assess requests in line with our guidelines, which are set by the Legal Aid Queensland Board, and apply the means and merits tests. This process looks at the financial means of the person applying and the case’s merit. If an application is refused, internal and external review processes are available to applicants.

We also allocate independent children’s lawyers in family law proceedings and separate representatives in child protection proceedings from the specialist panels we maintain.

 

Figure 8 Applications for grants of aid received and approved 2019-20

Figure 8. Applications for grants of aid received and approved 2019-20

Managing grants of aid

In addition to processing initial applications for legal aid, during the year we managed nearly 40,000 ongoing cases—this involved assessing and issuing 75,809 extensions to the initial grants as matters progress, paying 75,698 accounts, and recovering financial contributions from clients and external agencies.

Improving grants of aid

In consultation with our stakeholders, we conducted our annual fee review and identified funding responses in particular areas for review in 2020–21 when further funding may become available.

We entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Queensland Police Service to allow Grants staff to access copies of police material needed to assess legal aid applications through a secure portal. This has allowed us to assess and process applications without needing to follow up with clients about this information.

Commonwealth Family Violence and Cross-Examination of Parties Scheme

We receive funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department to fund the Commonwealth Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme. During 2019–20, we developed and implemented a response to the scheme allowing representation in matters where there is a ban on personal cross-examination in family law hearings. We receive applications for funding, which are not subject to means or merits testing, and usually allocate these to a preferred supplier to prepare for and conduct the hearing where the cross-examination is to occur. The scheme began operating
on 10 September 2019 and funded 212 applicants.

In-house legal practices

Criminal law services

Magistrates Court

We provide legal representation in the Magistrates Court for guilty pleas, summary trials, committals and other Magistrates Court matters.

Our lawyers are involved in the Magistrates Court call-over process in Brisbane and provide case conferencing services for summary and committal matters. During the year, we continued our in-house duty lawyer services in Brisbane to help unrepresented defendants in the criminal jurisdiction of the Brisbane Magistrates Court and the Holland Park Magistrates Court. These services are well received by the Magistrates Court and provide legal help and representation to a significant number of defendants.

Consistent with the state government’s commitment to diversionary court programs, we have actively participated in supporting these courts in Queensland. The Queensland Drug and Alcohol Court continued to operate this year, and our extensive knowledge and experience of previous drug court programs has allowed us to positively contribute to the successful operation of this important specialist court program. We also continued to provide duty lawyer services to help unrepresented defendants in the Court Link criminal call-over in Brisbane. Court Link is a bail-based case management program monitored by the Magistrates Court and aims to address the underlying causes of offending such as homelessness.

Serious and general crime

Our lawyers specialise in the defence of complex and general criminal law cases in Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.

We provide legal assistance in Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act 2003 (DPSOA) matters and continued representation to cover prisoners who may fall within the parameters of No Body, No Parole (NBNP) hearings before the Parole Board of Queensland.

In DPSOA matters, we act for people responding to dangerous prisoner applications brought by the Attorney-General, at periodic reviews of continuing detention orders, and in contravention proceedings for breaches of supervision orders. Where NBNP provisions apply, a prisoner will be detained, without release, for the rest of their sentence without a regular review mechanism. In cases involving a life sentence, this would result in a prisoner never being released into the community on parole.

Representation in our criminal litigation teams is often delivered in serious criminal matters such as murder, major fraud and complicated drug prosecutions. The defence of these matters is challenging and demanding, requiring extensive research, investigation and preparation.

Lawyers also provided help to clients who must appear before hearings conducted by the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland or the Australian Crime Commission.

The General Crime team has helped in absorbing the growing demand in criminal law work across all jurisdictions, particularly in south east Queensland’s District and Supreme Court jurisdictions.

Our experienced lawyers continued to contribute to criminal justice system consultation to help increase efficiencies in the superior courts, particularly in relation to streamlining criminal justice processes.

Appeals

Legal Aid Queensland represents people on appeal in the District Court appellate jurisdiction, Queensland Court of Appeal and the High Court of Australia. Appellate jurisdictions are the safety net for the criminal justice system and our lawyers appear in many appeals alongside in-house counsel.

Our lawyers work with stakeholders in the appellate jurisdictions to improve representation and the justice system generally. Our Appeals team has also been actively engaged with the Court of Appeal to ensure we provide efficient and effective defence representation in legally-aided appeals.

Mental Health Court

Our Mental Health Unit provides advice and representation for people charged with criminal offences who have been referred to the Mental Health Court. The team is also committed to helping Queenslanders affected by mental illness or significant impairment and strives to provide them with a voice in the justice system.

The team works closely with our in-house counsel and Mental Health Review Tribunal team to conduct matters, representing the vast majority of non-privately represented clients appearing in the Mental Health Court.

Legal representation in the Mental Health Review Tribunal

We continued working with the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) to provide legal representation services to patients appearing before the tribunal under the Mental Health Act 2016.

The tribunal sits in 72 locations across Queensland, and during the year we provided 2255 legal representation services to clients.

The MHRT is an independent statutory body protecting the rights of people receiving involuntary treatment for mental illness. It provides an independent review process and makes decisions about whether treatment should occur either in hospital or in the community.

To help service clients statewide, we have an in-house MHRT team based in Brisbane and in-house regional lawyers along with a network of 45 external legal service providers (private law firms that do legal aid work and CLCs).

Our in-house team, working together with the network of service providers, gives legal help to some of Queensland’s most vulnerable people appearing in the tribunal across the state.

Arranging representation for MHRT referrals

Our Dispute Resolution Service is responsible for arranging free legal representation for people appearing before the MHRT where the MHRT has identified a need for legal representation and where those people would otherwise be unrepresented. Funded by Queensland Health to help meet its statutory obligations, we administer the allocation of legal representation from a specialist panel including lawyers in our MHRT team as well as preferred suppliers and CLCs.
In 2019–20, we allocated representation for 3214 matters.

Helping young people in the criminal justice system

Our Youth Legal Aid team provides specialist legal assistance to children and young people in the youth justice system, particularly in south-east Queensland. The team is a significant stakeholder in the youth justice sector and advocates strongly on behalf of vulnerable children.

During the year, we continued to provide advice and policy submissions to government on issues relating to youth justice. Our youth justice lawyers also used their knowledge, experience and expertise to provide statewide legal training programs for youth justice stakeholders to improve justice outcomes for young people.

The state government continued to fund us to deliver the Youth Legal Advice Hotline and our Remand Reduction Strategy. The hotline enables young people and youth justice stakeholders to access legal information and advice about a criminal law matter by telephone, while providing Queensland Police investigating officers with an available lawyer to help promote early resolution of matters and diversionary options.

The Remand Reduction Strategy provides an important legal advice and representation service for young people detained in custody, helping them to pursue bail applications where the case has merit. During the year, our Remand Reduction team considered 968 referrals and completed 69 bail applications before the Childrens Court of Queensland.

Our in-house Youth Legal Aid team represents young people in casework matters and also provides legal advice services at regular sessions to young people in detention. The team has also continued to deliver duty lawyer services to court locations in south-east Queensland to accommodate the increased numbers of young people before the Childrens Court. The state government also funded us to deliver expanded Childrens Court representation in the Townsville, Burdekin, Herbert River and Mount Isa areas.

In 2019–20, we developed and launched the Youth Justice Practitioners Guide for defence and prosecution lawyers who appear in the Childrens Court so they can be aware of the specific provisions of the Youth Justice Act, its principles and procedures. We developed and implemented a Youth Practitioner Certification Program for all youth justice lawyers who do legal aid work. Training and education packages were delivered in 16 locations across Queensland and via webinar to improve the quality and effectiveness of legal representation for young people. Certification training included elements such as cultural capability, developmental psychology and impairment, trauma, speech and language, and competence in youth justice legislation.

Family law services

Social science work

Our social scientists play an integral role in delivering our legal services to vulnerable clients. They support people through legal processes, chair family dispute resolution conferences, complete social assessment and family reports and provide counselling services. We provide social work services from our Brisbane and Townsville offices.

During the year, our social workers completed forensic assessment reports and psychological reports for independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives involved in family law and child protection matters and provided testimony before the courts. They helped our lawyers by providing clients with information and referrals to appropriate external organisations for help with non-legal matters such as mental health problems, substance dependencies and accommodation difficulties.

Helping those affected by domestic and family violence

We represent people in domestic and family violence matters through grants of aid to private law firms and to our in-house legal practice.

Our specialist multi-disciplined Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy team helps clients experiencing domestic and family violence. The team comprises specialist lawyers and social workers who provide services to people and practical advice about service delivery in domestic and family violence cases.

Rockhampton Domestic Violence unit

The Commonwealth funded Domestic Violence Service in Rockhampton provides a wrap-around service to clients impacted by domestic violence.

The service is designed to support the client’s legal and non-legal needs by involving lawyers and support workers working together to address the client’s needs. The service provides advice and assistance for clients in the domestic and family violence and family law jurisdictions in Rockhampton and surrounding areas.

Counselling Notes Protect

We work to deliver the Counselling Notes Protect service in partnership with Women’s Legal Service. The service provides advice, assistance and representation to clients about Queensland law that protects the counselling records of victims of sexual assault or alleged sexual assault from being used in some courts.

Helping people with child support issues

We provide information, referral, legal advice and representation services to clients in some child support areas. We can explain how the child support formula works, how the Family Tax Benefit is affected and how to prove paternity.

Children and young people

Helping children, their families and the courts to assess the best interests of children involved in legal proceedings is a key focus of the work conducted by our family and child protection lawyers. We continued to provide legal services for children and young people involved in family law and child protection matters in 2019–20.

Courts exercising family law and child protection jurisdiction make a significant number of independent children’s lawyer and separate representative appointments, where judicial officers order a child’s interests be separately represented. Independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives provide best interests representation for children, playing a unique and difficult role within the family law and child protection systems. They gather and assess independent evidence, help children and young people to participate in legal processes that affect them, and provide measured guidance and recommendations to the courts about the best interests of children and young people. The cases they work on are complex and demanding. Many of these matters are dealt with by specialist in-house lawyers. Our in-house independent children’s lawyers and separate representatives have significant experience and knowledge about parenting and child protection cases.

In addition to appearing in complex child protection and family law matters, our in-house lawyers also perform considerable work in the Family Court of Australia’s Magellan list—a case management list devoted to cases where there are allegations of serious physical abuse or sexual abuse of children.

We facilitated independent children’s lawyer and separate representative panel meetings to help ensure knowledge is shared and issues are discussed between the private practitioners on the panel and in-house specialist lawyers. This ensures a consistent, quality approach to representing children and young people.

Child protection

We are the largest child protection legal service provider to individuals in Queensland, providing information and advice, representation of parents, direct representation of young people, separate representation of children and young people in the Childrens Court of Queensland, and limited representation in the QCAT in respect of reviewable decisions.

Civil justice services

Anti-discrimination services

We provide representation in matters involving anti-discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification. We provide representation in the Australian Human Rights Commission, QHRC, QCAT, Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, Queensland Court of Appeal and Federal Court of Australia. From January 2020, our casework included discrimination and, as appropriate, attached human rights actions.

Employment law

We provide specialist legal representation to federal system employees for unfair dismissal and general protections matters covered by the Fair Work Act 2009. We provide representation in the Fair Work Commission, Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court of Australia.

Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme

The Civil Law Legal Aid Scheme is an outlays only scheme that helps financially disadvantaged people who have a civil law claim for which no grant of legal aid is available. Funded by the Public Trustee of Queensland and administered by Legal Aid Queensland, the scheme covers outlays required to prepare civil law claims for settlement negotiations and/or court proceedings. The scheme does not fund legal professional fees and lawyers accessing the scheme must agree to speculate their fees. The scheme operates under guidelines independent of Legal Aid Queensland’s grants of legal aid.

The scheme will consider providing funding for outlays where:

  • there are reasonable prospects of the scheme recovering outlays
  • the action can be dealt with in the Queensland legal jurisdiction
  • an approved firm is willing to act on a speculative basis for their professional fees.

Applications are subject to means testing and merit assessment, and assistance will only be approved if it is considered the claim has reasonable prospects of success.

As a result of findings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Limitation of Action Act 1974 (Qld) was changed, removing the time limit restriction on childhood abuse personal injury claims. During the year, the scheme experienced an increase in applications for help with childhood abuse personal injury claims resulting from the removal of time limits.

Legal help for war veterans and their dependents

We receive federal funding under the War Veterans’ Legal Aid Scheme to provide help to veterans and their dependents in relation to appeals of Veterans Review Board decisions about:

  • war caused disability pension entitlements or assessment claims under Part II of the Veterans Entitlement Act 1986
  • claims under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 about warlike or
    non-warlike service.

In 2019–20, we helped eight veterans and their dependents to file appeals.

Consumer protection

We provide representation in credit, debt and consumer law matters. We provide advice to clients as well as lawyers and financial counsellors throughout Queensland. During the year, we helped people with:

  • mortgage stress
  • housing repossession
  • debt (including debts faced by people experiencing family violence)
  • credit cards and personal loans (including car loans)
  • telecommunications and utilities
  • misleading and deceptive conduct, unfair contract terms and unsolicited consumer agreements (including door-to-door selling)
  • insurance (including flood and bushfire insurance claims)
  • debt collection practices
  • credit reporting
  • bankruptcy and part IX agreements.
Farm and Rural Legal Service

The Farm and Rural Legal Service provides advice and representation at farm debt mediations to Queensland farmers and primary producers facing financial hardship related to their business, including severe debt problems or those who are in dispute with their lenders.

Social security appeals

We provide casework assistance and representation for social security appeals in the General Division of the AAT and the Federal Court of Australia.

National Disability Insurance Scheme appeals

During 2019–20, we continued to provide legal representation to eligible people who have applied for an external review to the AAT of a decision by the NDIA.

Counsel

In 2019–20, our team of in-house barristers continued to demonstrate their commitment to providing quality specialist legal advocacy services to disadvantaged Queenslanders and continued to work efficiently and effectively.

Rob East was appointed Public Defender in August 2019 and QC in November 2019. This prestigious accolade is an appropriate testament both to the quality and expertise of our in-house barristers generally, and to Rob’s personal standing as an advocate and leader in the profession. Experienced barrister and member of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, Katarina Prskalo, was appointed Deputy Public Defender in December 2019. Rob and Katarina together with Catherine Morgan, Deputy Public Defender, form Counsel’s leadership team.

Counsel continued to undertake complex trials and sentences in the Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts, and appeared at all Mental Health Court sittings throughout the year. Counsel also appeared for respondents to applications brought under the DPSOA before the Supreme Court in its civil jurisdiction.

In 2019, Deputy Public Defender Catherine Morgan appeared as junior counsel to Peter Callaghan SC (as His Honour then was) in the landmark case of R v TAL, successfully opposing first application for a retrial under the statutory exceptions to the double jeopardy rule. This was an achievement of which Legal Aid Queensland can be proud, involving a well-coordinated team effort by Counsel, our Appeals team and Toowoomba office, supported by thorough research by our Library staff.

Senior barristers regularly provided advice on the merit of applications for grants of aid for appeals against conviction and sentence. They also appeared in appeals against conviction and sentence before the Queensland Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.

Members of the in-house Counsel team shared their legal expertise by contributing to Legal Aid Queensland’s continuing professional development (CPD) program, and by helping in training programs for expert witnesses in the area of mental health. In-house barristers have also regularly helped with the training of Bar Practice students, as ‘judges’ for mock trials, and as presenters in advocacy training sessions. More temporary acting opportunities in Counsel have been provided, to help junior legal practitioners within Legal Aid Queensland to develop their advocacy skills under the guidance of more senior practitioners.

Ensuring quality legal services

Legal Aid Queensland aims to provide quality legal services to financially disadvantaged people and we continue to improve the quality of our work and the outcomes for our clients.

Measuring client satisfaction

In March 2019, we commissioned market research consultants Colmar Brunton to conduct our biennial client survey. This involved a telephone survey of 500 previous clients. Clients were asked about their overall satisfaction with Legal Aid Queensland, and more detailed questions about the specific services they received and their experiences.

The survey revealed positive outcomes for Legal Aid Queensland in overall service satisfaction and performance across our key service areas. Overall satisfaction was rated 7.1 out of 10 and satisfaction was generally high across most client groups in Queensland. The results indicated we are performing strongly on information, advice and casework services.

Client satisfaction with legal representation and advice services increased respectively from 8.6 and 7.6 in 2017, to 8.7 and 7.7 in 2019. In particular, 80 percent of clients receiving representation were very satisfied, and the survey reported a very high satisfaction level with representation services provided by both in-house and private lawyers.

Satisfaction scores are influenced significantly by the outcome of a client’s application for a grant of aid for representation in court. Clients who did not receive a grant of aid were the least satisfied, with a mean score of 3.5 out of 10, whereas clients who received a grant of aid scored the application service at 8.6 out of 10.

The research provided useful information to help us prioritise future service improvement initiatives.

In-house lawyers

We continued to use our Quality Legal Services Framework for Legal Aid Queensland employed lawyers. The document lists the measures we have in place to ensure we maintain a high standard of service delivery to our clients.

This includes:

  • recruiting and selecting lawyers through open, merit based selection processes
  • providing an induction program for new lawyers to ensure they are familiar with standards of conduct, professional requirements and administrative processes
  • developing and delivering a CPD program for lawyers
  • compliance with legal profession standards
  • compliance with legal service standards, case management standards and practice management standards
  • providing legal professional supervision to lawyers
  • regularly reviewing files and auditing lawyers
  • responding to client feedback and complaints
  • conducting a client satisfaction survey every two years to guide improvements to service delivery.

Preferred supplier law firms

Our preferred supplier law firms are required under their agreement with Legal Aid Queensland to meet our policies, guidelines, and file management, practice and case management standards.

As part of our commitment to ensuring funding is used in line with the terms and conditions of approved grants, we implement a rolling program of compliance checks. These compliance checks focus on particular aspects of compliance across a large number of grants of aid and suppliers.

In 2019–20, we continued to focus on the following areas of compliance:

  • confirming a conference with counsel and the client happened before the client signed instructions to proceed to trial
  • holding signed instructions for trial before requesting a grant of aid for trial.

We communicate all compliance activity outcomes to the participants and use these to continuously improve our grant funding processes.

We require the work performed by preferred supplier firms to be at a high professional and ethical standard and the preferred supplier firms comply with the terms of the preferred supplier agreement. We respond to complaints received from clients and other stakeholders about preferred suppliers in line with our complaints policy and procedures. We assess complaints to identify any concerns about the preferred supplier’s compliance with the agreement. If we identify concerns, the complaint is investigated by seeking a response from the preferred supplier and gathering any other material relevant to the complaint. We consider all available information and decide whether the complaint is substantiated or not substantiated. We then notify the complainant and the preferred supplier once the investigation is finalised.

We record all complaints and these can be used to identify a pattern of non-compliance. Substantiated non-compliances can be dealt with under the clauses of the preferred supplier agreement including a notice of breach or by terminating the preferred supplier agreement. Complaints of a serious nature can also be referred to the Legal Services Commissioner.

During 2019–20, we continued to send monthly e-newsletters to inform all preferred suppliers of updates to our policies and procedures, and current issues of interest. Additionally, we began developing broader training materials to support preferred supplier firm interaction with the Grants division and to maintain compliance with our requirements. We also delivered training at the Queensland Law Society Criminal Law Conference and tailored training sessions for individual firms during the year.

Working to improve equitable briefing of barristers

Legal Aid Queensland remains committed to the objective of the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy of achieving a level playing field for all members of the legal profession, particularly the target of briefing women barristers in at least 30 percent of all matters and paying 30 percent of the value of all brief fees to women barristers.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the courts’ operations in the final quarter of 2019–20, we have examined the briefing figures for the first nine months of the financial year to measure our success in applying the Equitable Briefing Policy. Our in-house legal practice continues to have no difficulty in exceeding the Law Council of Australia’s target, with 41 percent of briefs allocated to women barristers during the first nine months of 2019–20. We are also pleased to report the percentage of women in-house counsel has increased to 50 percent this year, compared with 45 percent in 2018–19.

We are continuing to implement strategies to encourage private law firms that do legal aid work (preferred suppliers) to adopt the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy. Our preferred supplier firms are required under their preferred supplier service agreements, when selecting counsel, to make a reasonable endeavour to comply with the Equitable Briefing Policy, and if required, provide information about the efforts made to identify and consider briefing female counsel.

Based on the briefing figures for the first nine months of the financial year, while some firms performing our work still have some way to go in achieving this important objective, we are pleased to note other firms have improved their female briefing rate, with some exceeding the 30 percent target.

As a strong supporter of women in the legal profession, we were delighted to present the Equitable Briefing Award at the 2019 Women Lawyers Association Queensland Awards. Congratulations to law firm Jeffery, Cuddihy and Joyce in Gympie on receiving the Legal Aid Queensland Equitable Briefing Award. We hope this award encourages law firms to reflect on their briefing policies so they brief women barristers more frequently and more women are encouraged to join and remain at the Queensland Bar, enriching the legal profession and the community it serves. We will continue to implement strategies to pursue the Equitable Briefing Policy goals in the years ahead.

Briefing counsel policy and committee

Our In-house Lawyers Briefing Counsel Policy ensures probity and accountability in decisions by our in-house lawyers when briefing counsel.

Our briefing policy sets out general briefing guidelines and provides specific procedures for briefing counsel in expensive or extraordinary cases.

The general briefing guidelines include requirements to:

  • consider the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy which aims to promote diversity, equality and respect to improve the retention of women barristers within the profession
  • genuinely consider briefing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander barristers where it is possible
  • consider briefing in-house counsel to ensure cost effectiveness
  • briefing regional barristers wherever a barrister of sufficient experience and expertise is available
  • briefing in a way that develops a wide and diverse pool of barristers who can do legal aid work
  • rs who have appropriate experience and expertise
  • being objective, independent, apolitical and impartial.

A Briefing Monitoring Committee is chaired by the CEO to monitor in-house lawyers’ briefing practices and ensure the In-house Lawyers Briefing Counsel Policy’s goals are supported.

Access by disadvantaged groups

Assisting culturally and linguistically diverse clients

During the year, we continued our commitment to clients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We promoted our services within these communities to increase people’s awareness of Legal Aid Queensland and improve their access to justice by:

  • delivering CLE sessions on common legal topics to people from migrant and refugee backgrounds in a TAFE and settlement support setting
  • distributing translated legal information to people from migrant and refugee backgrounds
  • using free interpreter services for clients in line with the state government’s Language Services Policy
  • promoting our website, which includes a built-in screen reader and translation tool called ‘Browsealoud’, that can translate content into 90 languages.

Improving services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients

We are committed to providing high quality services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. During the year, we:

  • implemented our First Nations Strategic Plan 2018–22, which continues to:
    • increase awareness and accessibility of our services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    • position the organisation as a centre of excellence for culturally capable legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
    • position us as a significant employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the legal profession
    • contribute to developing a more equitable justice system that addresses the disparity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the broader legal profession
    • continued the Remand Reduction Strategy which provides a legal advice and representation service for young people detained in custody, helping to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on remand
  • continued the Child Protection Early Legal Service which provides legal advice and advocacy for vulnerable parents early in child protection intervention, helping to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the child protection system
  • established partnerships with key Indigenous child protection service providers
  • facilitated the delivery of ongoing cross-cultural awareness training to staff to help ensure staff delivering services are culturally competent
  • enhanced our cultural awareness training to understand the importance of communication for those who speak several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in a legal setting
  • continued to promote our Indigenous Hotline, which gives priority to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander callers so they can access legal information and advice for the cost of a local call from a landline anywhere in Queensland
  • provided an information stall at NAIDOC Week events in Brisbane, Caboolture, Ipswich, Rockhampton, Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa
  • assisted the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network to deliver financial planning services to Palm Island people
  • maintained best practice guidelines for in-house and private lawyers performing legal aid work to ensure legal services are provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients in a culturally appropriate way
  • participated in legal assistance forums and the QLAF Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategic Working Group which aim to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal assistance service providers and non-legal services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • continued to implement our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan and increased the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, which improves service delivery to clients
  • continued our graduate lawyer program with one of the graduates being appointed to a permanent lawyer position in Cairns
  • delivered cultural capability training as part of the Youth Practitioner Certification Program for lawyers to more than 600 people across Queensland.

Helping people with a disability

We recognise many people with disabilities experience legal problems and require services that respond to their individual needs and circumstances. Our website is accessible to users, including people with disabilities, as required by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines endorsed by the Australian Government.

Web accessibility focuses on providing equal access and opportunity for people with disabilities. For example, websites should be compatible with screen readers used by people with vision impairment and with devices used by people who cannot use a mouse because of a physical impairment. It also benefits people with literacy issues, older users and mobile device users.

When people with a disability make contact with our client contact centre or visit one of our offices, we have processes in place for identifying their vulnerabilities and giving them priority and supported access to our services.

People who are deaf, or who have a hearing or speech impairment, can contact us through the National Relay Service.

The Client Assistance Service operates in the contact centre to help some of our particularly vulnerable clients, especially those with multiple legal issues, who need extra help to access our services.

In September 2019, we started a new service helping people to share their experiences with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The service—Your Story Disability Legal Support—is a free and independent national legal service jointly delivered by National Legal Aid and NATSILS. For more information about the service, see page 28.

Legal services for regional, rural and remote Queenslanders

Legal Aid Queensland is committed to providing frontline legal services to rural, regional and remote areas of Queensland. We have 13 regional offices providing services throughout regional Queensland, and a statewide network of regional preferred supplier private law firms that contribute to supporting Queensland’s justice system.

We also work closely with 38 CLCs across the state. Many CLCs help Legal Aid Queensland deliver domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in courts across Queensland.

We provide direct legal services such as grants of aid for court representation, legal information and advice, and duty lawyer services to people in rural, regional and remote Queensland (see Figures 9 and 10). About 40 percent of our legal advice and representation services are delivered to clients in non-metropolitan areas.

Other frontline legal aid services available to regional Queenslanders include:

  • criminal law duty lawyer services in Magistrates and Childrens Courts in regional towns across Queensland
  • family law duty lawyer services in Townsville, Cairns, Mackay, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Maroochydore, Toowoomba, Southport, Hervey Bay and Ipswich
  • domestic and family violence duty lawyer services in Richlands, Beenleigh, Southport, Caboolture, Holland Park, Cleveland, Pine Rivers, Redcliffe, Sandgate, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Maroochydore, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns, Mount Isa and Palm Island
  • child protection duty lawyer services in Ipswich, Pine Rivers, Caboolture, Cleveland, Southport, Maroochydore, Gladstone, Mackay, Cairns and Townsville
  • child protection legal advice services in Mount Isa, Mackay, Longreach, Emerald, Biloela, Gladstone, Kingaroy, Cherbourg, Murgon, Cleveland, Roma, Charleville and Cunnamulla
  • a Domestic Violence Service in Rockhampton, which meets clients’ legal and non-legal needs
  • a Farm and Rural Legal Service, which provides free legal help to Queensland farmers and primary producers experiencing financial hardship related to their business, including those with severe debt problems or those in dispute with their lenders
  • providing legal help to residents of bushfire and flood affected areas of Queensland
  • in-house counsel appearing in regional and remote courts including circuits to Mount Isa, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Thursday Island, Cape York Peninsula, Bowen, Charters Towers, Hervey Bay, Gympie, Bundaberg, Kingaroy and Maryborough
  • legal outreach clinics, where lawyers travel to surrounding regions or link in by videoconference to provide legal advice services, to Cooktown and Tully (Cairns office), Bribie Island (Caboolture office in conjunction with local CLCs), and Dirranbandi, Goondiwindi and Tara (Toowoomba office).

We also:

  • help the ATSILS and the courts on circuit to the remote areas of Normanton, Burketown, Mornington Island and Doomadgee (from our Mount Isa office), and Thursday Island and other Torres Strait Islands (from our Cairns office)
  • provide a statewide telephone legal information line and an Indigenous Hotline where people can call from a landline from anywhere in Queensland for the cost of a local call
  • work with 42 community access points across Queensland that provide information about our services, access to some of our publications, and help people access free telephone legal advice.

Women as a priority client group

We treat women, especially women experiencing domestic and family violence, as a priority client group. We support the Queensland Government strategy to reduce domestic and family violence by delivering legal information, advice and representation to disadvantaged Queenslanders experiencing domestic and family violence. We support and acknowledge Queensland’s domestic violence laws’ objective—to maximise or increase the safety, protection and wellbeing of people who fear or experience domestic violence, including their children.

Our specialist Violence Prevention and Women’s Advocacy team works with clients who experience domestic and family violence. Their mission is to increase women’s access to our services and improve our responsiveness to meet women’s legal needs. They work to develop and maintain effective working relationships with service providers and identify, review and respond to issues impacting on women’s access to justice.

The team acts for women with complex legal issues in the areas of family law, child protection, discrimination, domestic violence and crime. They also provide services to women from culturally diverse backgrounds and women with intellectual disabilities. We have a network of family lawyers in our 13 regional offices who deliver legal services to local communities in response to issues arising from family relationships, including domestic and family violence, and child protection.

Our Violence Against Women Strategy is an integrated, collaborative and consistent response to clients who have been affected by domestic and family violence. Under the strategy, we have developed and implemented practical tools for our practitioners including:

  • Best practice guidelines for working with people who have experienced domestic violence
  • Best practice guidelines for lawyers working with respondents in domestic violence proceedings
  • Best practice guidelines for working with sexual assault victims
  • a domestic violence risk assessment tool
  • an internal policy for responding to staff experiencing domestic violence.

Figure 9 Legal advices provided by location 2019-20  

Figure 9. Legal advices provided by location 2019-20

Figure 10 Applications for grants of aid received by location 2019-20  

Figure 10. Applications for grants of aid received by location 2019-20

Key disadvantaged group

Criminal law %

Family law %

Civil law %

Total %

Legal advice

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

26.69
11.65
12.72
9.53

66.30
6.47
14.33
12.42

52.28
7.14
12.35
13.32

50.67
8.16
13.26
11.87

Applications received

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

23.12
18.36
14.60
5.28

62.20
10.33
15.72
10.83

62.45
13.76
14.70
10.79

35.71
16.20
14.84
7.06

Applications approved

Female
Indigenous
Regional and remote
Culturally diverse

22.40
19.39
13.93
5.01

60.08
11.59
13.77
9.12

67.97
15.91
13.72
9.02

31.59
18.06
13.89
5.92

Table 6. Access by key disadvantaged groups 2019–20 

Objective 2. Progress our vision through collaboration and policy leadership

Queensland Legal Assistance Forum

The QLAF helps member organisations address legal assistance issues by facilitating cooperative working relationships with other legal service providers in rural and regional areas. Legal Aid Queensland provides secretariat support to the forum.

This year, the QLAF developed a two-year strategic plan, with the following objectives:

  • to become better engaged, informed and connected with the RLAFs and working groups
  • to actively review the RLAFs’ regional plans and support RLAFs to develop plans
  • to facilitate opportunities for information sharing between legal services and social services sectors
  • to understand, influence and contribute to the practical implementation and application of the Human Rights Act 2019 with particular focus on ATSILS and other highly-vulnerable cohorts
  • to seek funding to map the legal needs of, and legal assistance services for, marginailsed and vulnerable people across Queensland.

There are five specialist forums under the QLAF:

  • Best Practice and Evidence Based Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal and non-legal service providers to improve the quality and effectiveness of services and client outcomes through improved practice, efficient systems and professional, well-trained staff.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Service Planning Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal assistance service providers and non-legal services, including social, community and health services working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Mental Health Service Planning Working Group—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal and non-legal service providers, including social, community and health services working with people with mental health issues, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment.
  • Children and Families Legal Assistance Forum—to encourage cooperation and collaboration between legal assistance service providers working with families and children and to promote good practice across legal assistance services in delivering legal and related services to families and children. The forum comprises a Steering Committee and two associated working groups:
    • a Training Committee
    • a Child Protection Service Delivery Committee.

The Domestic and Family Violence Advisory Committee was discontinued in October 2019 as it had fulfilled its purpose. However, issues relating to this legal need are still updated to the Steering Committee.

  • Community Legal Education Legal Assistance Forum—to promote cooperation and collaboration between legal service providers who are delivering and initiating CLE activities. This allows service providers to share CLE information and resources to avoid duplication and fosters good CLE practice.

Regional Legal Assistance Forums

There are 12 RLAFs around the state, based around the regional Legal Aid Queensland offices. During 2019–20, we continued to coordinate the work of those forums. The RLAFs aim to encourage collaborative and cooperative working relationships between legal aid service providers in each region. By working together service providers have been able to identify emerging legal needs in their communities and help determine which legal service is best placed to meet legal needs and ultimately reduce service delivery gaps.

RLAFs continue to broaden their memberships and collaborations in their regions. For example, several RLAFs have added to their membership representatives from their local Murri Court, Youth Justice office, and court registrars. This has proved very beneficial to streamlining access to justice,and improving client outcomes by better collaboration with local agencies and the court.

One RLAF successfully applied for funding from the CLE Collaboration Fund which is offered annually. The Rockhampton RLAF First Nations Community Arts project will facilitate an avenue for young people to complete community service obligations by participating in a number of arts/CLE workshops directed by Indigenous artists and attended by local Elders and appropriate support services. This process will link the young people with opportunities for additional learning, possible training and education pathways and help to reduce their risk of further involvement with the criminal justice system, while also creating an artwork that can be visible in the community.

Supporting community legal centres

We act as state program manager for CLCs, monitoring their financial reporting and ensuring service delivery targets are met. During 2019–20, we administered funding on behalf of state and federal governments to 38 organisations throughout Queensland (see Table 7 for more information).

The state government also provided $223,000 through its project funding account to the following organisations for the following projects:

  • Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia – Mental Health Act 2016 Collaboration Project ($50,000)
  • Community Legal Centres Queensland – Digital Framework ($113,000)
  • LawRight – Law Yarn ($60,000).

Twenty-seven funded organisations also received a share in the Digital Project funding pool, totaling $262,399 in grants.

Extra funding was provided to 11 organisations for the following purposes:

  • Caxton Legal Centre – Coronial Assistance Service ($100,000)
  • Community Legal Centres Queensland – National Accreditation Scheme ($50,892), Human Rights Act ($90,000), Client survey coordination ($30,000) and COVID-19 Sector Support ($5000)
  • RAILS – Legacy Casework Visa process ($77,592)
  • Townsville CLC – Delivery of specialist legal assistance services in response to 2019 floods ($100,000)
  • Court Network – QCAT Services ($50,000)
  • HUB Community Legal – Queensland Foster and Kinship Care Legal Support ($175,000) and Translating brochures ($4400)
  • Women’s Legal Service – Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre service ($12,000) and Southern Queensland Correctional Centre service ($9000)
  • LawRight – LawYarn ($50,000)
  • Basic Rights Queensland – Security services ($25,620) and relocation costs ($27,835)
  • Gold Coast CLC – Establishing Ormeau outreach ($18,233)
  • Prisoners’ Legal Service – COVID-19 Parole Service ($120,000).

Community legal centre

Federal government funding $

State government funding $

Total recurrent funding $

Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia Ltd

68,808

101,144

169,952

ATSI Women's Legal Service NQ Inc.

370,418

173,165

543,583

Basic Rights Queensland Inc.

375,867

559,652

935,519

Bayside Community Legal Service Inc.

49,844

89,394

139,238

Cairns Community Legal Centre Inc.

275,044

471,555

746,599

Care Goondiwindi Association Inc.

52,564

90,093

142,657

Carers Queensland Inc.

116,210

167,683

283,893

Caxton Legal Centre Inc.

834,941

1,105,665

1,940,606

Centacare

73,725

106,758

180,483

Central Qld Community Legal Centre Inc.

214,959

385,515

600,474

Community Legal Centres Queensland

459,046

459,046

Court Network Incorporated

196,891

282,833

479,724

DVConnect Ltd

58,474

86,780

145,254

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland

103,226

103,226

Environmental Defenders Office of Northern Queensland

85,726

85,726

Environmental Defenders Office Ltd

188,948

188,948

Gladstone Community Legal Advice Program

50,625

87,160

137,785

Gold Coast Community Legal Centre & Advice Bureau Inc.

440,748

567,099

1,007,847

LawRight

684,615

816,640

1,501,255

LGBTI Legal Service Inc.

149,156

149,156

Mackay Regional Community Legal Centre Inc.

218,263

225,583

443,846

Moreton Bay Regional Community Legal Service Inc.

49,844

89,394

139,238

North Queensland Women's Legal Service Inc.

646,577

556,859

1,203,436

Nundah Community Legal Service

167,889

90,093

257,982

Pine Rivers Community Legal Service

371,024

321,675

692,699

Prisoners Legal Service Inc.

213,413

319,026

532,439

Queensland Advocacy Inc.

206,540

307,284

513,824

Refugee & Immigration Legal Service Inc.

320,782

481,529

802,311

South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre Inc.

448,261

502,223

950,484

Suncoast Community Legal Service Inc.

159,271

286,043

445,314

Taylor Street Community Legal Service

178,066

305,199

483,265

Tenants Queensland Inc.

139,708

199,132

338,840

TASC National Ltd

676,536

1,006,949

1,683,485

Townsville Community Legal Service Inc.

188,479

338,024

526,503

Western Queensland Justice Network

109,037

187,731

296,768

Women's Legal Service Inc.

783,094

933,360

1,716,454

Youth Advocacy Centre Inc.

147,285

219,110

366,395

YFS Legal

256,583

380,785

637,368

Total

9,144,385

12,827,237

21,971,622

Table 7. Recurrent funding for CLCs from state and federal governments 2019–20

Law and legal service reform

In 2019–20, we continued to respond to policy and legislative reform proposals from state and federal governments, commissions of inquiry and industry bodies.

We provided submissions on:

Criminal law and youth justice

  • Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
  • Proposed amendments to Appeal Costs Funds Act 1973 and Coroners Act 1973
  • Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019
  • Penalties for assaults on public officers (Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council consultation)
  • Review of consent laws and excuse of mistake of fact (Queensland Law Reform Commission consultation)
  • Department of Justice and Attorney-General Recommendations arising out of the Daniel Morcombe inquest (Queensland Law Reform Commission consultation)

Consumer and credit law

  • Australia Government Treasury’s consultation on Open Banking designation instrument
  • Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) consultation Credit licensing: approach to responsible lending
  • ASIC’s consultation Using the product intervention power: short term credit (two submissions)
  • ASIC’s consultation Internal dispute resolution: update to RG 165
  • Australia Government Treasury’s extending unfair contract terms to insurance contracts exposure draft legislation
  • ASIC’s consultation Unsolicited telephone sales of direct life insurance and consumer credit insurance
  • Australia Government Treasury’s draft legislation on Mandatory comprehensive credit reporting and hardship arrangements
  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry
  • Australia Government Treasury’s proposed reforms to the sale of add-on insurance products
  • Australia Government Treasury’s mortgage broker best interests duty and remuneration reforms
  • Australian Banking Association’s application to amend the Banking Code of Practice
  • Australia Government Treasury’s consultation on the removal of the exemption for funeral expenses policy
  • Australia Government Treasury’s Consumer data right regime – privacy impact assessment
  • ASIC’s consultation Draft legislative instrument for unsolicited telephone sales of direct life insurance and consumer credit insurance
  • ASIC’s consultation Product intervention: the sale of add-on financial products through caryard intermediaries
  • Australia Government Treasury’s consultation Making insurance claims handling a financial service
  • ASIC’s consultation Product intervention orders and add-on products
  • Australia Government Treasury’s discussion paper Implementing Royal Commission Recommendation 7.1 – Establishing a Compensation Scheme of Last Resort
  • Senate inquiry on the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Small Amount Credit Contract and Consumer Lease Reforms) Bill
  • Australian Banking Association’s consultation paper about the use of credit cards for gambling
  • Australia Government Treasury’s consultation Financial Services Royal Commission – Enhancing consumer protections and strengthening regulators
  • ASIC’s consultation Product design and distribution obligations
  • Australian Finance Industry Association’s consultation on the Buy now pay later code of practice
  • ASIC’s consultation Draft guidance on the new best interests duty for mortgage brokers

Other submissions

  • Elder Abuse Prevention Project
  • Adequacy of Newstart and related payments and alternative mechanisms to determine the level of income support payments in Australia
  • Australian Human Rights Commission discussion paper Priorities for federal discrimination law reform response
  • Religious Freedom Bills 2019

Family law

We also contributed to the following submissions made by National Legal Aid:

  • Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System
  • Council of Attorneys-General Family Violence Working Group Consultation Paper: Options for improving the family violence competency of legal practitioners.

Stakeholder engagement

Working with government and justice system stakeholders

We supported government policy development and the justice system’s efficient management by collaborating with our colleagues in government and the wider justice system.

This involved participating in the:

  • Queensland Courts Safety and Risk Committee
  • Queensland Courts Users Stakeholder Group
  • Streamlining Criminal Justice Committee
  • Federal Circuit Court stakeholders group
  • Domestic and Family Violence Specialist Court Working Group
  • Brisbane Domestic Violence Court Stakeholder Group
  • Brisbane Child Protection Court Stakeholder Group
  • ASIC Consumer Regulator Forum (Queensland)
  • Childrens Court Committees for Youth Justice and Child Protection
  • Watch House Support Group
  • Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council
  • Specialist Court, Referral and Support Services Steering Group
  • Mental Health Review Tribunal stakeholder group.

We also participated in the Queensland Law Society’s Children’s Committee, Criminal Law Committee, Domestic and Family Violence Committee and Family Law Committee, contributing to criminal law, family law, youth justice, child protection, and domestic and family violence policy.

Industry Reference Group

The Industry Reference Group provides a regular forum for consultation with the legal profession and for discussing and managing stakeholder concerns. The group comprises nominated representatives from the Queensland Law Society and Bar Association of Queensland and is chaired by Legal Aid Queensland’s CEO.

The group met twice during the year. During these meetings members were consulted on and provided feedback about:

  • introducing limited financial verification for low risk matters aimed at streamlining the legal aid application assessment process
  • the annual fees review
  • new family law initiatives including the family violence and cross examination scheme, property law mediation pilot and family advocacy support services
  • the complex criminal case barrister panel
  • compulsory training for practitioners undertaking work on the criminal law youth panel
  • Legal Aid Queensland’s response to COVID-19
  • proposed redesign of the Legal Aid Queensland application form to remove inefficiencies and improve client expectations. 

Objective 3. Build on our business capability and sustainability

Our people

Workforce plan

Our workforce plan outlines strategies and initiatives relating to attracting, motivating, developing and retaining employees and their safety. It also includes responses to the Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey results and considers relevant government policies (eg Code of Conduct, union encouragement and flexible work practices). These focus areas have been identified as important to achieving desired workforce outcomes and we are continually building on our existing strengths and addressing identified opportunities. During the year, we made progress in implementing initiatives from our workforce plan.

Learning and development

We continued to provide our in-house CPD program during 2019–20. Most sessions are open to all staff, as well as law firms that provide legal aid services, CLCs and the ATSILS. Sessions are available face-to-face or via videoconferencing or webinar and are usually recorded so they can be accessed later. Our program aims to ensure our lawyers and those that provide legal aid services are up to date with the latest legislation changes and have the opportunity to develop their professional skills and legal knowledge. The program allows legal staff to earn CPD points, which are needed to renew practising certificates each year.

Other development opportunities for staff included:

Conferences and intensives

  • Civil law conference
  • Child protection and separate representative intensive
  • Dispute resolution conference organisers training
  • Dispute resolution practitioner training
  • National independent children’s lawyer intensives
  • Public defenders conference
  • Criminal law duty lawyer Intensive
  • Grants officers conference
  • Youth practitioner certification training

Cultural competency program

  • Cultural awareness training
  • Cross cultural communication
  • Cultural competency series

Psychological wellness training program

  • Vicarious trauma related training
  • Responding to threats of harm training
  • Managing aggressive client behaviour
  • Sustaining resilience training
  • Trauma informed practice training

Essential skills

  • Code of Conduct
  • Induction training for all new staff
  • Human rights training day
  • Regional systems training
  • Work, health and safety incident reporting training
  • Applying for jobs training
  • Train the trainer workshops
  • Change management training
  • Effective planning and time management training
  • Risk management training
  • Presentation skills training
  • Computer systems training including in-house systems
  • Achievement development plan training

Leadership pathways program

  • New managers course
  • Recruitment and selection training
  • Supervision and feedback training
  • Transitioning to management training
  • Corporate skills for new managers
  • Corporate governance.

Staff have access to the Study and Research Assistance Scheme and the Certified Agreement training initiatives, which provide funds for higher educational requirements. Staff can also access external training and conferences for individual development needs.

We also provided staff with face-to-face and online e-learning opportunities to familiarise them with our policies and procedures, and to develop their skills and knowledge. Most in-house training is regularly reviewed by staff evaluations and improvements are made where appropriate and in conjunction with the facilitator.

Attracting and retaining staff

We want our staff to be able to find an appropriate work-life balance. During the year, we continued to offer and promote flexible working options, including accessing accrued time leave, working part time, job sharing, telecommuting and purchased leave arrangements. We also continued to provide remote computer access to many staff.

We have implemented strategies to help our staff effectively manage the possible impact of their work on their mental health and emotional wellbeing. We are particularly aware our lawyers, grants officers and support staff are routinely involved in work that is confronting and stressful, which puts them at risk of suffering vicarious trauma. These risks were addressed by arranging workshops on managing the psychological impacts of practising law and managing aggressive client behaviour. We also provided staff with information about support networks and self-help strategies, and access to confidential counselling services (see Figure 11 for staff absenteeism and turnover rates).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan

We made significant progress in implementing our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment plan.

The plan aims to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment opportunities and retention rates through targeted recruitment and selection processes, inclusive work practices and employee development.

We have increased our percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees to 4.59 percent compared with 4.08 percent in 2018–19.

Graduate recruitment program

The graduate program currently has six graduates in regional and Brisbane centres. Three of the graduates identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.

Workplace composition (full-time equivalents)

At 30 June 2020, Legal Aid Queensland had 569.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees working in 14 offices throughout the state (see Figures 12 and 13 for more information).

Equal employment opportunity

We are committed to equal employment opportunity (EEO) principles and have successfully implemented these principles across the organisation. Our EEO statistics highlight our commitment to equitable recruitment, selection and promotion policies (see Figure 14 for more information).

Figure 11 Staff absenteeism and turnover 2019–20  

Figure 11. Staff absenteeism and turnover 2019-20

Figure 12 Actual staff by employment type (by FTE) 2019-20  

Figure 12. Actual staff by employment type (by FTE) 2019-20

laq-annualreport-fig-13-2020.png  

Figure 13. Staff age profile (by headcount) 2019–20

Figure 14 Equal employment opportunity target group membership 2019-20  

Figure 14. Equal employment opportunity target group membership 2019-20

Measuring staff satisfaction

We continue to participate in the whole-of-government Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey. Our results in 2019 were very positive compared with the wider Queensland public sector. 83 percent of staff completed the survey, with 81 percent of those who responded reporting high levels of engagement. 78 percent of staff indicated they engage in flexible work.

The feedback we received from the survey was invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and we will continue to implement changes in response to the survey feedback. The next survey will be conducted in September 2020.

Code of conduct

Legal Aid Queensland is covered by a whole-of-government Code of Conduct. The single Code of Conduct reflects ethical values contained in the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 and covers the following principles:

  • integrity and impartiality
  • promoting the public good
  • commitment to the system of government
  • accountability and transparency.

The code guides us in managing issues like:

  • conflicts of interest
  • personal conduct
  • commitment to service delivery
  • information sharing and relationship building across agencies
  • adherence to organisational values and policies
  • continuous performance improvement
  • appropriate use of official information and resources.

Our Workplace Behaviours Policy also provides standards relating to appropriate workplace behaviour, and an employee’s Achievement and Development Plan outlines obligations relating to the Code of Conduct. We manage Code of Conduct breaches in line with the Public Service Commission’s Discipline Guide.

We provide staff with Code of Conduct and workplace behaviours training when they start work and then annually.

Our systems and processes

Records and information management

Under the Public Records Act 2002, we are required to make and keep full and accurate records of our activities, and to comply with records and information management policies, standards and guidelines issued by the State Archivist. We use the Micro Focus Records Manager 8 (RM8) electronic document and records management system (eDRMS) and have integrated RM8 with core business systems where appropriate to streamline capturing business records.

In 2019–20, we continued records and information management reforms to improve and support good corporate governance by:

  • consulting with our customers to provide guidance on corporate recordkeeping requirements in relation to the Records Governance Policy
  • refining digitisation processes to continue expanding Legal Aid Queensland’s corporate memory
  • performing risk assessments on process changes and software implementation needed to respond to the COVID-19 situation.

We progressed the transition from paper to digital records by:

  • expanding the digitising processes that can be completed using our statewide fleet of multifunction devices
  • identifying opportunities where a scan-first process can be implemented.

We improved our records and information management system’s reliability and security by:

  • participating in user group sessions to keep abreast of the organisation’s eDRMS capabilities and implement changes
  • starting to upgrade the eDRMS.

We continued to implement appropriate disposal activities by:

  • starting a project that involves reviewing and assigning files to boxes ensuring current software is used efficiently
  • applying the disposal freeze issued by the State Archivist in response to the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Abuse
  • reviewing our disposal procedures and implementing appropriate changes in line with best practice.

We have collaborated with other government agencies to share knowledge about best practice records and information management by participating in:

  • focus group discussions with agencies such as Queensland State Archives
  • professional development opportunities delivered by Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia—the core industry professional body for records and information management.

Library services

Our library provides comprehensive reference, research and research-training services to our staff. It supports legal service delivery, planning and management through its modern collection, knowledge management and current awareness services, and experienced staff.

During the year, we:

  • maintained our specialty collections of criminal law, family law and civil law judgments to provide our lawyers with case law tools designed for their needs
  • trained staff to effectively use legal information resources for legal research
  • produced eight case law and five legislation alerting services for legal teams
  • upgraded the comparable sentences databases to provide new search options for finding relevant cases
  • completed projects to modernise our catalogue and collections and manage our electronic resources.

Key in-house legal information resources are available to preferred supplier law firms, CLCs and the ATSILS to help them provide high quality legal services to clients.

Reducing environmental impact

During 2019–20, we continued work to improve energy and conservation efficiencies to help reduce our environmental impact.

Efforts to achieve savings have continued through:

  • expanding the new lighting system installed as part of our main Brisbane office’s refurbishment
  • using multifunctional devices for printing, copying, faxing and scanning, reducing our energy use and carbon footprint
  • using rain water collected in our three 16,000 litre water tanks to flush our toilets and irrigate our gardens at our 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane office building
  • reusing water (condensation) from our air-conditioning systems to flush our toilets
  • closely measuring, monitoring and publicising our energy and water use figures to inform and encourage staff
  • implementing an electronic electricity use and reporting tool, which is monitored daily
  • monitoring our daily water use to check for potential water leaks in our systems and reporting on water loss
  • reducing our air-conditioning use during the cooler months
  • using a high efficiency water chiller for our air-conditioning system, which effectively shuts down during low cooling demand periods
  • modifying our air-conditioning water pumps so they shut down when the chiller cycles off
  • increasing sensor lighting to reduce energy use
  • introducing timer technology to reduce use of water boilers, hot water systems and water pumps
  • venting our 44 Herschel Street, Brisbane office building early in the morning in hotter months to expel hot air accumulated overnight and therefore reducing the load on the air-conditioning system
  • educating staff about ways they can help save water and energy
  • managing our cleaning contract and service hours to reduce after-hours lighting use
  • participating in a long term whole-of-government energy supply contract to increase purchasing power and improve supply conditions, while also reducing energy pricing and costs
  • using videoconferencing facilities to reduce transport-related carbon emissions, energy use and associated costs
  • choosing more energy efficient cars when replacing vehicles in our fleet
  • recycling paper, cardboard, cans, glass and printer toner cartridges
  • participating in events like Earth Hour
  • constantly looking for opportunities to further reduce our water and energy use.

Figure 15 Herschel St Brisbane office water consumption 

Figure 15. Herschel St, Brisbane office water consumption

 Figure 16 Herschel St Brisbane office energy consumption

Figure 16. Herschel St, Brisbane office energy consumption

Information Communication and Technology program

During 2019–20, we continued to complete all scheduled work within the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) 2017–20 Strategic Plan. We also started several business improvement projects related to establishing a robust infrastructure, improving mobility and implementing modern technologies.

The ICT 2017–20 Strategic Plan includes the service delivery and strategic direction Information Technology (IT) Services are undertaking to support the organisation. The plan outlines the key areas in which IT Services will focus planning, investment and delivery through four strategic objectives:

  • supporting the effective and efficient operation of the organisation and its business through ICT
  • advancing the organisation’s business with better use of ICT on a modern mobile digital platform
  • engaging more easily with the public, preferred suppliers, government departments and non-governmental organisations
  • building a capable, trusted and more forward-looking ICT provider.

During the year, we:

  • implemented Office 365 and Windows 10 across all Legal Aid Queensland computers; this has been essential to allow work from home capability during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • reviewed two legacy business critical, bespoke systems and determined these should be replaced when funding is available
  • conducted a Disaster Recovery Test to verify business continuity processes
  • conducted a server replacement project to replace 86 servers that are essential for business continuity
  • conducted a statewide Uninterrupted Power Supply upgrade that are essential for LAQ business continuity
  • continued working towards completing initiatives outlined in the ICT 2017–20 Strategic Plan and developed the ICT Strategic Plan 2020–23
  • completed multiple projects to enable working from home at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
    • upgrading the internet connection and associated hardware to allow all staff to work from home
    • rolling out 200 new laptops to staff
    • implementing multiple communication technologies to allow all staff to use videoconferencing and collaboration tools
    • upgrading software and hardware capabilities to allow staff to access business critical systems
    • implementing softphone capabilities so staff can make/receive calls on their mobile device.

Open data

Data about the Queensland Language Services Policy is available on the Queensland Government Open Data portal. To access more information, government data and the Annual Report 2019–20 Open Data, visit www.data.qld.gov.au 

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