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Newsletter | Newsletter July - December 2012


NLAF Achievements July – December 2012

This report summarises the activities of NLAF during the period from July to December 2012 including the outcomes of the NLAF meeting on 5 December 2012.

The work of NLAF over this period has focused on the following issues:

  • Strategies to address recruitment of lawyers in rural, regional and remote (RRR) areas;
  • Addressing the legal needs of prisoners;
  • Improving access to free employment law services for people at risk of social exclusion;
  • Fines and traffic law, particularly licence disqualification and suspension;
  • Housing law issues for socially and economically disadvantaged people including people at risk of homelessness who are living in social housing; and
  • A coordinated legal sector response to disasters and emergencies in NSW.

Working groups

Recruitment and retention of lawyers in RRR areas

  • The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, on behalf of the RRR working group, is undertaking research relating to monitoring vacancies in the public legal sector of NSW.  The research is scheduled to be completed by March 2013.The Commonwealth Attorney General's Department provided funding for this research.
  • The NLAF RRR working group acts as a steering committee for the Regional Outreach Clinic Program (ROCP) administered by Legal Aid NSW.  There are currently 15 ROCP clinics operating across NSW.  Under the ROCP, private lawyers and community legal centres (CLCs) provide regular advice and minor assistance clinics in communities in which there is identified legal need, little or no access to public legal services, and where Legal Aid NSW does not provide an outreach service. The firm or CLC may then take on casework and provide representation to clients who require additional assistance or refer the matter as appropriate.
  • NLAF RRR working group members have formed a strong and cooperative working relationship with the NACLC 5R Project Officers and considered ways to ensure the sustainability of the project including ways to leverage off existing professional networks in Western NSW.
  • The working group provided feedback to the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department on a stocktake of IT initiatives and the use of technology to facilitate access to legal information, legal assistance and the legal system. NLAF members have considered and discussed the ways they use or are planning to use technology to improve access to legal services. In some instances NLAF members are currently working together on specific projects that utilise technology to improve access to legal services.


  • The NLAF Prisoners Forum continues to provide the opportunity for legal service providers to work with Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) to address the legal needs of prisoners.  The Prisoners Legal Information Team (PLIT) reviewed and updated the content of the Legal Information Portal.
  • The content of the Portal has been made publically available on the CSNSW website. This enables lawyers to access the CSNSW website, identify relevant material for their clients and direct clients who are in custody and have access to the Portal to that material. 
  • CSNSW, Legal Aid NSW and CLCs (Women's Legal Services NSW, Hawkesbury Nepean Legal Centre, Wirringa Baiya and PIAC) are working on a project to develop a literacy program for inmates.  The curriculum of the program will incorporate legal topics and content from the Legal Information Portal.  The literacy program will be an accredited TAFE course.
  • The Prisoners Forum discussed issues including:
    • Lawyer client communication initiatives:
      In the first half of 2012, the NLAF Prisoners Forum raised the issue of access to telephones in legal visits areas in the context of a briefing paper about the difficulties associated with accessing interpreters for inmates during legal visits. CSNSW recently completed an audit of legal visits facilities in correctional centres across NSW and identified the need for access to telephones in legal visits areas. There are now plans to roll out installation of telephones in these areas;
    • Telephone assessment of prisoners for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
      Representatives from CSNSW met with the ALS NSW/ACT to discuss ways to facilitate referral of prisoners on remand to drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres. Discussions are ongoing;
    • Legal assistance to inmates with visa cancellation matters;
    • The operation of the Work and Development Orders Scheme in correctional centres;
    • Support for Aboriginal prisoners;
    • Programs for perpetrators of domestic violence;
    • Mapping of legal outreach services to correctional centres across NSW; and
    • Sentence administration arrangements.

Fines and traffic law

  • The NLAF fines and traffic law working group provides a useful forum to, amongst other things, discuss the roll out of the Work and Development Scheme.
  • Members of the working group held discussions with the Department of Premier and Cabinet about addressing licensing issues in Regional Action Plans (RAPS).
  • The working group drafted a submission to the Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs suggesting the provision of driver education in schools in RRR areas where there is a significant Aboriginal population, as an incentive to increase school attendance.

Employment law services

  • A CLC employment law network has been established at the Community Legal Centres (CLC) quarterlies to resource CLC lawyers interested in working on employment law matters.
  • Separately, an Employment Lawyers Forum will be convened by PILCH that will operate as a cross sector forum to exchange information and discuss developments in the law.
  • The Unfair dismissals project has commenced and PILCH has received a number of referrals. The Project involves three CLCs, (Marrickville, Shoalcoast and Northern Rivers CLCs) Legal Aid NSW civil lawyers and four member firms of PILCH. It is aimed at assisting vulnerable workers with their unfair dismissals claims up to the stage of a conciliation conference. The ultimate aim of the project is to demonstrate the impact of providing representation on the outcomes that can be achieved for these groups through the conciliation process.  It also includes identifying systemic issues and building a picture of the resources required to provide these services.
  • The working group has developed a briefing paper about the need for free employment law services.  The paper draws on information about the demand for legal services set out in the mapping report of the working group.

 Disasters and emergencies

  • Following on from the development of a checklist for responding to emergencies and disasters, the working group explored ways to promote the inclusion of legal assistance in both NSW state and Federal disaster and recovery arrangements.
  • The working group engaged with Emergency Management NSW. The chair of the working group met with the Director, Response and Recovery and the Director, Boards and Committees, NSW Ministry of Police and Emergency Services.
  • Following the meeting, Legal Aid NSW communicated to the Ministry of Police and Emergency Services the willingness of the legal assistance sector to participate in and contribute to disaster recovery operations and formalise its involvement in the planning and implementation recovery phases.


  • A briefing paper was developed that outlined some of the key legal and policy issues relating to housing for socially and economically disadvantaged people.  
  • The briefing paper formed the basis of discussions at the NLAF Plenary meeting in September about establishing a housing law working group.
  • In December 2012, NLAF established a housing law working group.  The aim of the working group is to provide a platform for organisations in the housing and legal sector to work together in a cooperative and collaborative manner to sustain the tenancies of vulnerable people (particularly people with mental health issues) at risk of homelessness who are living in social housing.

Groups reporting to NLAF

Learning and Development Group

The Learning and Development Group is working on a collaborative cross agency induction project.

Legal Information Referral Forum

LIRF met in July and November 2012.  Issues discussed at the meetings included:

  • Find Legal Answers website produced by the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC) http://www.legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/;
  • Mental Health Advocacy Service, Legal Aid NSW – appropriate referral pathways for clients who are not eligible to use the service;
  • Capacity and decision making - identifying capacity issues, referral pathways and importance of LawAccess as a point of first contact; and
  • CLEAR Database – an initiative of the National Association of Community Legal Centres.  The database of information about CLE and law reform materials.  The database is a tool for more efficient information sharing to encourage the use of existing materials and reduce duplication of resources.

Cooperative Legal Services Delivery

The Cooperative Legal Services Delivery Program reported on identified legal needs and emerging systemic issues including:

  • Housing – lack of social housing and affordable housing, lack of crisis accommodation, discrimination in securing rental properties;
  • Lack of mental health services for early intervention and court diversion in particular for young people;
  • Absence of Child Contact centres in Taree, Broken Hill and Griffith;
  • Debt, including utility debt and fines;
  • ADVOs – in appropriate orders made and subsequent breaches of ADVOs;
  • Service delivery in remote communities;
  • Employment law issues especially in relation to temporary skilled visa holders in regional communities.  Visa holders vulnerable to financial abuse, fear of reporting for fear of not being sponsored;
  • Identity documents in Aboriginal communities; and
  • Traffic offences and licensing issues.

Commonwealth issues

National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (NPA)

The NLAF meeting in September 2012 also served as a Jurisdictional Forum in accordance with the NPA.  Representatives from the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department attended the meeting.  Issues that were discussed included:

  • NPA review and review of the broader public legal assistance sector;
  • Restructure of Commonwealth Attorney General's Department;
  • Referrals from Commonwealth service delivery agencies to legal services;
  • Stocktake of IT initiatives in RRR NSW;
  • Recognition of legal assistance services in Commonwealth disaster and emergency arrangements;
  • Access to Justice website;
  • National data collection initiatives;
  • Placement of Family Relationship Centres and Children's Contact Services in RRR NSW;
  • Income management;
  • Demand for legal assistance in matters involving judicial review of refugee claims; and
  • Commonwealth funding for housing and homelessness.

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