Legal assistance services
Legal assistance services are free or low-cost legal services that are provided to people who can’t engage their own lawyer due to either:
- a low income (including a temporarily reduced income)
- reduced legal capability (e.g. due to intellectual disability or mental illness)
Impacts of legal issues
Vulnerable people in our community often have more legal issues than other community members, but are less equipped to deal with them.
According to the Legal Australia-Wide survey 2012 in 57% of cases, legal issues have a severe or moderate impact on the lives of vulnerable people, including their:
- physical and mental health
Many people also experience multiple legal issues at the same time, including those of a civil, family and/or criminal nature.
Research indicates that if civil legal needs are not addressed, they can escalate into more serious civil problems, and in some cases, lead to crime (Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements – Inquiry Report, 2014.
We provide funding for legal assistance services to help address these needs. These services help clients to:
- resolve legal matters earlier and with less expense
- proceed through court and tribunal proceedings more efficiently
- decrease domestic violence and child abuse.
Queensland’s service system
The network of legal assistance support available to vulnerable and disadvantaged Queenslanders is known as the ‘service system’.
Queensland’s service system includes community organisations that deliver local and state-wide services. These services are complemented by:
- Legal Aid Queensland
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) Ltd
- Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service
Community organisations are not-for-profit societies or associations established for community service purposes. Most community organisations that deliver legal assistance services in Queensland are community legal centres (CLCs).
CLCs have been providing legal services in Australia for more than 40 years. CLCs and community organisations are different from other legal service providers in a number of ways:
- They are independently operating not-for-profit organisations.
- They are community-based, focusing on the disadvantaged and those with special needs.
- They encourage community involvement.
- They are experts in identifying potential issues and formulating targeted responses to emerging community needs.
Generalist CLCs provide services on a range of legal issues to people living in a particular region or city.
Specialist CLCs offer expertise in certain areas of law (e.g. child support, mental health, tenancy, immigration and employment) or provide legal assistance for particular groups of people (e.g. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, children and young people, women, refugees, the homeless and prisoners).
Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ) is the peak association for CLCs in Queensland. They provide support and advocacy to the 33 independent, community-led CLCs operating in Queensland and offer information about how and where to access legal assistance services.
Types of services
CLCs provide tailored and responsive solutions to clients’ needs, by offering:
- advice and referral
- legal assistance and limited representation
- community legal education
- law and legal system reform activities.
As well as providing legal assistance services to individuals, CLCs also work at a higher level to help implement systemic change. For example, they deliver community legal education and law reform projects with the aim of building community capacity.
Legal Aid Queensland
Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ) is a statutory authority that provides legal information, advice, and representation to financially disadvantaged Queenslanders. It specialises in criminal, family, and civil law.
LAQ’s information and advice services are free to all Queenslanders. To be eligible for legal representation in court, you must meet LAQ’s means and merit test guidelines.
You can access LAQ services:
- in person at their offices in Brisbane and 13 regional locations
- through their state-wide telephone service
- through 1 of over 300 private law firms funded by LAQ’s grants program
- through their outreach advice services to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld)
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) is a community-based organisation that provides professional and culturally proficient legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Queensland.
Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service
Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (QIFVLS) delivers culturally appropriate legal services, welfare and support, advocacy and community education to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are victims of domestic violence, family violence and/or sexual assault.
Funding the service system
Under the legal assistance services program, we allocate Queensland and Commonwealth funding for the delivery of legal assistance services.
Commonwealth funding is allocated to individual community organisations under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services 2015–20 (PDF, 408KB) (the NPA). Find out more about our legal assistance services collaboration.
Our current investment
We have allocated more than $60 million of Queensland and Commonwealth funding to community organisations over 2017–20.
This total includes 3 parts. An initial investment of $52.3 million was allocated through a procurement process that required applicants to:
- demonstrate how they deliver legal assistance services according to the principles of the National Strategic Framework for Legal Assistance 2015–20 (PDF, 738KB)
- draw on the latest evidence and analysis of legal need to support their applications.
We also allocated $565,000 of interim Queensland funding to the 22 community organisations that were to be impacted by the Commonwealth funding cuts scheduled from 1 July 2017.
Finally, we allocated $6.906 million of Commonwealth funding that was reinstated through an amendment to the NPA. We restored our core service system and allocated funding through a procurement process for additional family law and family violence related services.
The results of the procurement process were announced on 14 September 2017. Ten community organisations were allocated funding to deliver additional family law and family violence related services across Brisbane, Gold Coast, Mackay, Cairns, Townsville and Palm Island.
To find out how much funding each community organisation has received read our Investment in legal assistance services 2017–20.
In addition to these allocations:
- Legal Aid Queensland will receive approximately $126.8 million of Queensland and Commonwealth funding in 2017–18.
- The Commonwealth Government directly allocates funding to ATSILS and QIFVLS for the delivery of legal assistance services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland.