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NLAF Working Group on Aboriginal Clients

Report 20 November 2008

The Working Group met on 23 September and 6 November. Sub-Working Groups on the Civil Law Access Project and Pilot Project; and the Evaluation and updating of the Guide to Legal Services for Aboriginal people in NSW and the ACT met several times during the period 27 August to 25 November 2008.

The Working Group has been engaged in the following projects over the past 3 months

Access to Civil Law for Aboriginal Clients – Civil Law Access Project Pilot

The major focus of the Working Group is to address unmet need for access to Civil Law services for Aboriginal people. Towards this, the Group’s principal task has been the development and implementation of a Pilot Project in the Northern Rivers region. This project was approved by the NLAF Plenary on 27 February 2008. A sub-Working Group has met regularly to develop the Pilot Project.

Progress on the pilot to date has consisted of:

  • preliminary meeting and consultation with key agencies and stakeholders in the region to confirm relevance of the project and appropriateness of delivery
  • linking to existing consultations with Aboriginal groups to determine civil law needs.
  • liaison with Chris Cunneen about the research that he is conducting for Legal Aid NSW on the civil and family law needs of Aboriginal people.
  • Draft Report of findings from the consultations circulated to Working Group
  • Project Managers Journal circulated to Working Group

The pilot has deviated from the model approved by NLAF in that some of the planned consultations were not carried out and not all Working Group members attended consultations. The Working Group believes that these changes are acceptable based on the following reasons

  • the consultations were based on case studies as recommended by the model
  • some Working Group members did carry out consultations in the region
  • strong themes emerged from the consultations that were done
  • linking in to existing consultations rather than carrying out a separate set of consultations saves resources and reduces the risk of over-researching the local Aboriginal community
  • the involvement of a large number of Sydney based agencies in consultations at a local level is costly and may not be a sustainable model

Next steps on the project are:

  • preparation of the report on civil and family law needs in the Northern Rivers region which will be circulated to NLAF members and agencies in the local area
  • identification of existing resources and services which meet the identified needs
  • identification of gaps
  • further consultation with the local community to determine an appropriate strategy to meet these gaps
  • finalising the project manager’s journal and lessons learned

Evaluation of the Guide to Legal Services for Aboriginal people in NSW and the ACT

The Evaluation of the Guide to Legal Services for Aboriginal people in NSW and the ACT (‘Guide’) has now been completed with the assistance of a grant from the Law and Justice Foundation and the assistance of the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council. Suzie Forell, of the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW presented the findings of this Evaluation at the previous meeting of the NLAF Plenary (of 27 August).

A copy of this Evaluation has been distributed to Members of the NLAF Plenary. The Evaluation is to be printed over December and distributed to participants and relevant stakeholders in January 2009. It will also be published on the NLAF web site.

Updated edition of the Guide to Legal Services for Aboriginal people in NSW and the ACT

Further to the evaluation’s recommendations and other feedback regarding the Guide, a sub-working group has been meeting to develop an updated and slightly streamlined edition of the Guide. This will be published in an electronic format on the ALS website together with another version with a search engine facility to enable referrer’s service providers and members of the public to quickly find the service(s) they are looking for. Print copies of the updated Guide or sections of it will still be made available upon request.

Recommendations from this Evaluation included development of an updated edition of the Guide, to be published primarily in electronic format. Given its lead of the Evaluation, the Working Group proposes that AJAC be responsible for its publication. Further to the request of the NLAF Plenary (at its meeting of 27 August), the ALS will project manage this new edition of the Guide and its electronic publication.

Family Violence and Trauma in Aboriginal Communities

Further to earlier meetings, the Working Group has agreed that although no immediate task or project has been identified to address this set of issues, it should remain on the Working Group’s agenda. The Group acknowledged that priorities and tasks may be identified later in 2008 or 2009.

Raymond Brazil, Convenor