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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:
Our CLE Strategy is delivered through:
The NLAP’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:
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 access to a statewide network of referral agencies. Clients can also access information in person by visiting one of our offices or community access points.
Our website allows all Queenslanders to access accurate legal information and service provider referrals.
The website includes features such as:
During the year, our website was accessed 1,853,163 times with 3,243,001 pages being viewed.
Our client contact centre is based in Brisbane and operates Monday to Friday during business hours.
The client contact centre answered 137,090 calls in 2020–21 and provided 84,262 legal information and referral services to clients.
The team also provided 1622 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 2020–21, we continued to participate in the Queensland Police Service Police Referrals Service. The service helps people who come into contact with police and other community organisations to obtain support for legal issues.
We also worked to improve our business processes and systems to further streamline information and advice delivery to clients by:
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 Aid Queensland services. 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 474 clients.
Legal Aid Queensland continued to provide information and advice services to people wanting to share their experiences with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability through Your Story Disability Legal Support. This service is a free and independent national legal service jointly delivered by National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services. 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 on 1800 77 1800.
Your Story Disability Legal Support answered 2471 calls and provided 1282 legal information and referral services to clients during 2020–21.
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 2020–21
We provide free legal advice to eligible clients in:
In 2020–21, we provided legal advice and legal task services to 44,019 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.
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 2020–21, the Prison Advice Service provided 1292 advice services to Queensland prisoners.
We worked with the Brisbane based Refugee and Immigration Legal 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).
During 2020–21, we continued to provide telephone consumer advice clinics five days a week. We provided advice about:
During the year, we continued to provide specialist advice clinics about state and federal anti-discrimination laws three days a week. We also provided advice about state human rights protections in these clinics.
We 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 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 task assistance to clients to help facilitate their access to justice.
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 four days a week. We also provide a specialist advice clinic through the Fair Work Commission’s Workplace Advice Service.
During the year, we continued to provide 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. During 2020–21, we provided telephone advice clinics through 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 Social Services and Child Support Division clinic 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 appeals before the Social Services and Child Support Division with merit to Basic Rights Queensland for casework assistance.
We continued to provide an in-house NDIS advice clinic one day a week for clients who have received their National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) 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. These advice clinics are held two days a week to help 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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 1402 matters.
During the year, we provided legal advice and representation to people affected by bushfires, flooding and severe storms in Queensland. We also attended community meetings and forums to provide advice to Springfield residents still experiencing problems with their insurance claims following the ‘Halloween 2020 hailstorm’.
Our Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service operates in 107 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.
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.
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.
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 13,928 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.
We operated the Child Protection Duty Lawyer Service in Brisbane, Beenleigh, 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.
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 2020–21, with 77 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 continued 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.
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 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.
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 75–80 percent of our legal representation is provided by private lawyers, with the remainder provided by our in-house practice.
In 2020–21, our expenditure to private lawyers for representing clients was $72.9 million.
Our Grants division is responsible for processing applications for grants of legal assistance and managing these grants following approval.
We assessed 45,909 new applications for legal aid and approved 35,389 applications in 2020–21.
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 2020–21
In addition to processing initial applications for legal aid, during the year we managed 42,923 ongoing cases—this involved assessing and issuing 77,573 extensions to the initial grants as matters progress, paying 79,323 accounts, and recovering financial contributions from clients and external agencies.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we updated our external review processes to allow a more flexible approach for review dates and times.
We met with Queensland Corrective Services representatives to help improve processes for prisoners wanting to discuss their matters with external review officers.
In January 2021, we expanded our family law dispute resolution response to include funding for the court-based alternative dispute resolution program implemented by the family law courts in November 2020. Resolution of matters at any stage before preparation for, and appearance at, hearing delivers better outcomes for clients and courts and reduces the overall unit cost of matters which settle. We funded 86 matters for dispute resolution under this program.
During the year, we upgraded our internal grants officer audit program to ensure compliance with approved processes and requirements, and to identify areas of improvement for interactions with our suppliers.
We receive funding from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department to administer the Commonwealth Family Violence and Cross-examination of Parties Scheme. Demand for representation through the scheme has been high with 403 notifications received from the family law courts during 2020–21. Each notice may relate to a number of parties and each party is invited to apply. We approve applications for funding about 12 weeks before the hearing date where the cross-examination is to happen. Applications for funding are not subject to means or merits testing, and we usually allocate these to a preferred supplier to prepare for and conduct the hearing where the cross-examination is to happen. In 2020–21, we approved 204 parties for funding.
We provide legal representation in the Magistrates Court for guilty pleas, summary trials, committals, applications pursuant to s172 of the Mental Health Act, 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. In 2020–21, we began piloting a criminal law duty lawyer advice and representation service in the Brisbane and Holland Park Magistrates Courts. The pilots involve expanding existing advice services and aligning them with the duty lawyer service to minimise the need for processing grants of aid and streamline representation of people. These services were well received by the Magistrates Court and other stakeholders, and provided 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 and Ipswich. Court Link is a very successful bail-based case management program monitored by the Magistrates Court and aims to address the underlying causes of offending such as homelessness.
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.
In DPSOA matters, we act for people responding to dangerous prisoner applications brought by the Attorney-General, at periodic reviews of continuing detention orders, in contravention proceedings for breaches of supervision orders, and in applications to amend and extend supervision orders.
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 investigation and preparation.
Lawyers also provided advice and representation to clients who must appear before hearings conducted by the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland or the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. Advice and representation is also provided to witnesses or family in inquests held in the Coroner’s Court of Queensland.
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.
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.
Our Mental Health Court team provides advice and representation for people charged with criminal offences who have been referred to the Mental Health Court. The team is 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 is also a first point of contact for inquiries from practitioners and stakeholders about issues arising from the implementation of the Mental Health Act 2016.
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.
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 108 locations across Queensland, and during the year we provided 2316 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 23 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. The in-house team also plays an important role in providing legal advice to people in relation to tribunal process and procedure, the impacts of tribunal decisions, and options for appeal or review.
Our Dispute Resolution Service is responsible for arranging free legal representation for people appearing before the MHRT where s 740 of the Mental Health Act 2016 requires the appointment of a representative. 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.
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 continue 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 Legal Advocacy Program. 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 Legal Advocacy program 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 team considered 968 referrals and completed 69 bail applications before the Childrens Court of Queensland.
Our in-house Youth Legal Aid team has 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, Palm Island and Mount Isa areas.
In 2020–21, we continued to provide a Youth Practitioner Certification Program for all youth justice lawyers who do legal aid work. Training and education packages were delivered face-to-face 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2020–21.
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 also perform significant work in the Evatt List in the Federal Circuit Court dealing with matters where there are serious allegations of family violence or other allegations heightening risk to children or parties, through the Lighthouse Pilot being trialled in the Brisbane registry.
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.
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.
We provide representation in matters involving anti-discrimination, sexual harassment, victimisation and vilification under state and Commonwealth laws. Where appropriate we attached ‘piggy back’ actions relating to relevant considerations under the Human Rights Act to state anti-discrimination complaints in the QHRC. We provide representation in the Australian Human Rights Commission, QHRC, QCAT, Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, Queensland Court of Appeal and Federal Court of Australia.
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.
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:
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.
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:
In 2020–21, we helped seven veterans and their dependents to file appeals.
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:
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.
We provide casework assistance and representation for social security appeals in the AAT and the Federal Court of Australia.
During 2020–21, 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.
In 2020–21, 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.
The Public Defender, Rob East QC, was appointed as an acting judge in the District Court from 1 February 2021 for four months. The Deputy Public Defenders, Catherine Morgan and Katarina Prskalo, have shared the Public Defender role and continued to lead the in-house Counsel team.
Counsel continued to undertake complex trials and sentences in the Supreme, District and Magistrates Courts across the state, 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. Following an acquittal in a matter, the Townsville Intercultural Centre recognised the work undertaken by our regional counsel, Frank Richards.
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 training programs for expert witnesses in the area of mental health. In-house barristers also regularly helped train Bar Practice students by acting as ‘judges’ for mock trials and as presenters in advocacy training sessions.
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.
Legal Aid Queensland undertakes a client satisfaction survey every two years. The last survey was conducted in March 2019 with the next survey scheduled for September 2021.
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.
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 program of compliance checks. These may focus on particular aspects across a large number of grants of aid and suppliers or focus on identified areas. During 2020–21, we focussed on specific issues and conducted targeted audits across a number of suppliers and areas of work.
We communicate all compliance activity outcomes to the participants and use these to continuously improve our grant funding processes.
During the year, we developed and released an online training package for our preferred suppliers and their support staff to support compliance with requirements around applying for and managing grants of legal aid.
Legal Aid Queensland’s in-house legal practice again exceeded the Law Council of Australia’s target for equitable briefing of female barristers, with 41 percent of briefs allocated to women barristers during 2020–21. In addition, the percentage of female in-house counsel now exceeds 50 percent.
Our strategies to encourage private law firms that do legal aid work (preferred suppliers) to adopt the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy include a requirement under the preferred supplier service agreement, 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.
In 2020–21, a number of preferred supplier private law firms continued to reach or exceed the Equitable Briefing Policy target of 30 percent.
Legal Aid Queensland will continue to implement strategies to pursue the Equitable Briefing Policy goals of driving cultural change within the legal profession, supporting the progression and retention of women barristers, and addressing the pay gap and underrepresentation of women in the superior court.
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:
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.
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:
We are committed to providing high quality services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. During the year, we:
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. We can also organise Auslan interpreters if needed.
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 Your Story Disability Legal Support which supports people to share their experiences with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. For more information about the service, see Your Story Disability Legal Support above.
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 and CLCs 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, child protection and criminal law 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:
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:
Figure 9. Legal advices provided by location 2020–21
Figure 10. Applications for grants of aid received by location 2020–21
Key disadvantaged group
Criminal law %
Family law %
Civil law %
Regional and remote
Table 6. Access by key disadvantaged groups 2020–21
Last updated 19 October 2021