Main Content Anchor

Commonwealth and state legal aid service priorities

Commonwealth and legal aid service priorities

The National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services sets out the following Commonwealth legal aid priorities.

General principles to be applied to each priority

  • Consideration should be given in all cases, to what other services (non-legal as well as legal) may be relevant to a client’s needs and the appropriateness of referral.
  • Services directed to a case should, where appropriate, focus on resolution of the matter through the use of preventative, early intervention or dispute resolution services rather than litigation.
  • The provision of all preventative and early intervention legal education, information, advice, assistance and advocacy services are considered a Commonwealth legal aid priority regardless of whether the matter type comes within Commonwealth or state/territory law.
  • The priorities for family law matters relate to complex issues and fundamental matters necessary for the wellbeing of children and/or people who have experienced, are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing, family violence. The priorities are not intended to include grants of legal assistance for matters such as matrimonial divorce proceedings, applications for passport, change of name applications, unless special circumstances apply.
  • The priorities for family law, criminal law, civil law and special circumstances of the applicant outlined below are not listed in any hierarchical order.

Family law priorities

  • Family law matters that involve a grant of legal assistance being provided to assist:
    • children, including the appointment of a court appointed independent children’s lawyer
    • people who have experienced, are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing, family violence, and
    • family members resolve complex issues relating to the living arrangements, relationships and financial support of their children.
  • State law matters in which a child’s safety or welfare is at risk and there are other connected family law priorities for which a grant of legal assistance could be made.
  • State law matters where the applicant’s safety is at risk and there are other connected family law priorities for which a grant of legal assistance could be made.

Criminal law priorities

  • Commonwealth criminal law matters that involve a grant of legal assistance being provided to assist people facing Commonwealth criminal offences or undergoing Commonwealth criminal proceedings where the defendant is:
    • a child, or
    • a person who, if convicted, is likely to receive a sentence involving a period of imprisonment.

Civil law priorities

  • Commonwealth civil law matters that involve a grant of legal assistance being provided for:

    a.  assistance to war veterans under the War Veterans Legal Grants of Legal Aid Scheme
    b.  matters relating to social security and other Commonwealth benefits
    c.  migration matters where assistance is not available from services funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship
    d.  Commonwealth employment, equal opportunity and discrimination cases
    e.  Commonwealth consumer law matters
    f.  matters arising under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002
    g.  proceedings under section 19 or 21 of the Extradition Act 1988.

Special circumstances of the applicant priorities

  • Cases requiring a grant of aid involving special circumstances such as a language or literacy problem, intellectual, psychiatric or physical disability, a person’s remote locality making it difficult to obtain legal assistance or where the person would otherwise be at risk of social exclusion.
  • Cases requiring a grant of aid where the applicant is a child or the applicant is appointed under the Crimes Act 1914 to question a child complainant or child witness, should be considered a priority.

State legal aid service priorities

The agreement between the State of Queensland and Legal Aid Queensland sets out Queensland’s legal aid priorities for state law matters. The priority areas of law are set out below.

Criminal law

Matters where Queensland has prescribed in legislation that legal assistance will be provided by Legal Aid Queensland

Specified criminal proceedings:

  • District and Supreme Court criminal proceedings.
  • Indictable offences in the childrens court at every stage of the proceedings.
  • Appeals to the Court of Appeal or the High Court with respect to criminal charges.
  • References to the Mental Health Court in respect of specified criminal proceedings.
  • Committal proceedings in the magistrates court in respect of charges for which the maximum penalty exceeds 14 years.
  • Breaches of probation, community service and suspended sentences in District and Supreme Courts.
  • Bail.

Committal proceedings

Summary criminal prosecutions

  • Summary trials not involving traffic prosecutions
  • Pleas of guilty in the magistrates court.

Civil law

  • Child protection
  • Domestic violence
  • Mental health matters
  • Matters under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act
  • Proceedings under the Terrorism (Preventative Detention) Act 2005
  • Proceedings under the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002
  • Workers compensation matters
  • Inquests
  • Discrimination matters
  • Consumer matters, including consumer credit.

Other matters

A legal matter that is not a State legal aid priority as set out above is taken to be a state legal aid priority if:

  • the matter is a state law matter
  • there are state funds available to provide legal assistance, and
  • Legal Aid Queensland considers that at least one of the special circumstances set out below exists in relation to the matter:
    • the applicant has an intellectual, psychiatric or physical disability
    • the applicant is from a non-English speaking background
    • it is difficult for the applicant to obtain legal assistance because the applicant lives in a remote location or
    • the applicant is a child.
Back to top