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 2017–18, NLAF was chaired by Richard Funston (Legal Aid NSW) until he was appointed to the bench in March 2018. Deputy Chair, Geoff Mulherin (Law and Justice Foundation of NSW), acted as Chair for the last quarter. NLAF received reports from the following groups:
The NSW Civil Justice Special Projects team (Department of Justice NSW) and the NSW Attorney General’s Office provided quarterly updates to NLAF, and the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department provided half yearly updates.
Chaired by Camilla Pandolfini (Public Interest Advocacy Centre), the Prisoners Forum meetings focused mainly on the topics of women in prison and prisoners’ health.
Guest speakers, including the Commissioner on Victims Rights, Principal Advisor on Women Offenders from Corrective Services NSW, Chief Legal Officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Director of the Miranda Project, and representatives of the Inspector of Custodial Services, presented on a number of issues relating to women in prisons. Concerns raised include mixed gender correctional centres, overrepresentation of Aboriginal women and the high rate of those in remand not ending up with custodial order (46%).
Representatives from the Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network presented the results of the three surveys on Prisoners Health, Aboriginal Health, and Young People in Custody Health (2015). Some notable issues were the high rate of homelessness prior to incarceration, high levels of chronic disease, and the high prevalence of previous head injury and psychological conditions in young people in prison.
In March 2018, the Prisoners Forum worked with the Fines and Traffic Law Working Group to successfully resolve an issue relating to Victims Restitution Orders (VRO) and Work and Development Orders (WDO) in prison. Following a letter from NLAF to the Commissioner of Corrective Services, drafted by members of both working groups, Corrective Services NSW agreed to change their policy to allow prisoners to undertake a WDO to pay off a VRO debt.
Fines and traffic law working group
The Fines and traffic law working group was chaired by Nadine Miles (Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT Ltd). Following tireless advocacy for almost five years to increases access to birth certificates, the working group was very pleased about the Attorney General’s decision to provide free birth certificates to Aboriginal people and disadvantaged community members.
NLAF sent a letter to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight to raise concerns about the disproportionate number of bicycle fines being issued to young people in certain locations and the adult penalty rate being applied. A copy of the letter was also sent to the Commissioner of Fines Administration and to the Commissioner of the NSW Police Force. Despite the negative response received from the Minister, the working group will continue to work on this issue with academics and other stakeholders.
On a related issue, NLAF made a submission to the Commissioner of Fines Administration to provide feedback on the Fairer Penalty Notice System review. Representatives from the working group also met with Revenue NSW and the Department of Finance, Services and Innovation to discuss the proposed changes.
NLAF Prisoners Forum
NLAF Fines and Traffic Law Working Group
Community Legal Centres NSW Learning and Development Group
Legal Information and Referral Forum
Cooperative Legal Services Delivery (CLSD) Program.
For more information on NLAF, visit www.nlaf.org.au