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At Legal Aid Queensland our role is to provide legal assistance to financially disadvantaged people throughout Queensland and I am honoured to have been appointed CEO in 2020–21 and entrusted to lead such an important organisation and committed workforce.
During the year, we worked towards achieving the objectives set out in our strategic plan while also being guided by the Queensland public service values—customers first, ideas into action, unleash potential, be courageous and empower people.
And of course, we did this while continuing to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our approach to responding to the pandemic was to protect the health and safety of staff, clients and stakeholders through managing work, health and safety risks and to maintain service delivery. In July 2020, we transitioned back to working from our offices in line with Queensland Government advice. Some employees negotiated hybrid working arrangements from the office and remotely where this worked operationally for their roles. Most face-to-face activities such as court appearances and visits to prisons and watch houses returned to largely pre-COVID-19 arrangements. However, some remote services have been maintained, including telephone or video court appearances in remote locations, dispute resolution conferences conducted remotely, and some advice services provided via telephone or video. We continued to work with justice sector agency partners to respond to instances of increased restrictions and longer-term changes and improvements to service delivery.
The bushfire disasters of 2019 and 2020 as well as COVID-19 resulted in additional funding from the federal government in 2020–21—a much needed and appreciated injection of vital funding to the organistion. As a result, we launched the Bushfire and Disaster Legal Help Project to increase community awareness and encourage Queenslanders to ensure their insurance policies protected them. Following the south east Queensland ‘Halloween hailstorms’ of October 2020, we also helped affected people with insurance-related problems.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our frontline legal assistance service delivery received resourcing to help vulnerable and disadvantaged community members affected by the pandemic. These additional funds allowed us to provide extra services in the short term to counter what has been recognised as the dreadful fallout from this pandemic—unemployment, financial stress and domestic and family violence and the results of these issues.
During the year, we also began offering free domestic violence and child protection advice clinics in the Richlands/Inala area. Run by our Inala office and Hub Community Legal, the clinics provide people with legal advice, help them apply for a domestic violence protection order, and help them apply for legal aid if needed.
We also launched our Law for All podcast channel to provide information about legal issues affecting everyday people with everyday problems for community, health and education workers and community members. We produced four episodes about domestic and family violence, buying a used car, Buy now pay later, and damage when a natural disaster hits. These podcasts complement our existing community legal education webinar program which aims to help people understand their legal rights and responsibilities, and how to access legal help if they need it.
At the heart of our service delivery are our dedicated staff. We aim to create a supportive and productive workplace for our staff by focusing on our workplace culture, leadership, professional development opportunities and work/life balance. During the year, we continued to participate in the whole-of-government Working for Queensland Employee Opinion Survey with 80 percent of respondents reporting high levels of engagement with the organisation. The feedback we received from the survey was invaluable in identifying areas for improvement and informed our Workforce Strategy 2020–23 and action plan. As part of the response to the survey results, we built on our existing psychological wellbeing training program for staff and embedded our new approach to flexible work following the return to workplaces after COVID-19 lockdowns. This planned approach to our people, culture and capability will help ensure we maintain our fine reputation, even during challenging COVID-19 times.
It has been a privilege to work with the Legal Aid Queensland Board and Executive Management Team as CEO this year. I would like to thank federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, and state Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Minister for Women and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, the Hon Shannon Fentiman MP for their support. I would also like to extend my thanks to former state Attorney-General the Hon Yvette D’Ath MP, for her support for Legal Aid Queensland’s important work over the past five years.
I extend my gratitude to Legal Aid Queensland staff, and our stakeholders and service delivery partners in the courts, government, community sector and private legal profession who worked closely with us throughout the year. I look forward to working with you all to deliver services to vulnerable Queenslanders in the years to come.
Chief executive officer
Last updated 19 October 2021