NSW Legal Assistance Forum
The Foundation participates in NLAF, an organisation promoting collaboration and coordination in the development of legal services in New South Wales. The Foundation houses and supports the NLAF project manager and is part of the NLAF Executive.
In 2016–17, NLAF welcomed the NSW Family Violence Prevention Legal Services as a member. The chair in 2016 was Nassim Arrage (CLCNSW) and in 2017 Richard Funston (Legal Aid NSW). Quarterly meetings received reports from NLAF Working Groups (see summary below),CLCNSW Learning and Development Group, Law and Justice Foundation Legal Information and Referral Forum and Legal Aid NSW Cooperative Legal Services Delivery Program. Updates were also provided by the NSW Civil Justice Strategy and Commonwealth Attorney-General’s office. A representative from the NSW Attorney General’s office commenced attending meetings after the NSW Attorney General, Gabrielle Upton, attended the June 2016 meeting. See www.nlaf.org.au for more information.
The Prisoners Forum is chaired by Richard Funston (Legal Aid NSW). Presentations were made about a broad range of initiatives assisting prisoners including the Miranda Project helping women at risk of going to prison; Prisoners Aid NSW Inmate Property Services and Mates on the Move Project; NSW Gambling Help Justice and Corrections Project; Inspector of Custodial Services Old and Inside: Managing aged offenders in custody report and the 2017 Women in Remand inspection; Justice Health Specialist Mental Health Services for Older People and Weave Youth and Community Services Creating Futures Justice Program. Issues discussed included the implementation and success of new telephone triage systems by Legal Aid NSW and LawAccess NSW to manage prisoner calls; the MOU between Corrective Services and the Office of State Revenue to enable exchange of fines data to encourage uptake of Work and Development Orders (WDOs) in prisons. Updates were also provided to meetings by Corrective Services regarding their Better Prisons Program and from Justice regardng the joint AVL Project.
Education Act working group
The Education Act (EA) Prosecutions working group is chaired by Annmarie Lumsden (Legal Aid NSW) and continued to progress a range of initiatives aimed at raising awareness amongst Magistrates, lawyers, Department of Education staff, parents and children about the availability of legal aid for EA matters. A flyer and poster developed by Legal Aid NSW were distributed to Children’s and Local Courts, Community Legal Centres, Education Health and Wellbeing staff, Legal Aid NSW Panel Coordinators and Legal Aid NSW offices. Regular updates were received from the NSW Ombudsman regarding their inquiries into issues raised by the NLAF as reported in the previous period. At its May meeting it was agreed that the Working Group objectives had been met and a final report on its activities and outcomes was submitted to the June NLAF meeting and is available on the NLAF website.
Fines and traffic law working group
The Fines and traffic law working group is chaired by Nadine Miles (Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT). Access to birth certificates continued to be a major issue discussed by the Working Group. Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registry commenced attending meetings from September 2016 providing updates on their work targeted at increasing access to Birth Certificates. A meeting was arranged with the Premier’s Implementation Unit in May 2017 to discuss the issues and possible solutions. Roads and Maritime Services provided updates on Aboriginal Safe Driving initiatives and Transport for NSW regarding Driver Licence Disqualification Reforms due to take effect late 2017. A letter sent to the Minister for Roads regarding the impact of new bicycle fines on young people did not result in a positive response. This issue remains a concern for the working group and will be followed up in the next period. The Office of State Revenue (OSR) reported a change in their Garnishee Orders (GOs) guidelines for fines debt. These are now consistent with the Civil Procedures Act 2005 (NSW) ensuring bank balances cannot be reduced below a protected amount by GOs. The Work and Development Order (WDO) Guidelines were updated coming into effect in May 2017. At the same time the decision to move unpaid Victims Restitution Orders from Victims Services to the Office of State Revenue for collection was implemented. Discussions are underway regarding options for managing these larger debts, particularly the potential impacts on WDO sponsors.
For more information on NLAF, visit www.nlaf.org.au