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Chapter 8 - Civil Justice and Legal Services - administered programs

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Civil Justice and Legal Services - administered programs

Program 1.3

Justice services

Summary

A major focus of 2011-12 was the provision of effective resources for legal assistance services to disadvantaged Australians and communities. This has been achieved by:

  • implementing key initiatives under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services, with a focus on developing a more strategic approach to service delivery, including an increased focus on early intervention and prevention services
  • consolidating the legal financial assistance schemes administered by the department to ensure a more effective and equitable distribution of limited funds
  • establishing the disbursement support scheme to provide broader assistance to financially disadvantaged Australians and greater support for pro-bono legal work.

Major achievements

Consolidation of legal financial assistance schemes

As part of its 2011-12 Budget, the Australian Government has expanded the range of matters and individuals that would qualify for assistance under the various legal financial assistance schemes administered by the department. The goal was to ensure a fairer and more effective distribution of limited legal assistance funds. The changes also provide greater support for pro bono activities of the legal community.

The department has worked to consolidate the existing legal financial assistance schemes under a unifying set of guidelines. The Commonwealth Guidelines for Legal Financial Assistance 2012 provide a consistent approach to grants administration across all schemes, and will come into effect on 1 July 2012.

In consultation with organisations associated with the delivery of pro bono legal services, the department developed the disbursement support scheme, which will commence on 1 July 2012. This scheme aims to assist financially disadvantaged persons overcome the obstacle imposed by the cost of disbursements. Assistance is available for persons who would not otherwise receive government assistance and is limited to Commonwealth non-criminal legal matters.

The department conducted a review of the native title respondent funding scheme. It was timely to re-evaluate the level of legal assistance provided to respondent parties to native title claims given the development of native title law in the years since the enactment of the Native Title Act 1993. The department's review was informed by a public consultation process and a report prepared by an independent consultant, Mr Anthony Neal SC. Changes to the native title respondent funding scheme will take effect on 1 January 2013.

Review of the Legal Assistance National Partnership

The department commissioned a review of legal assistance services that will assess the progress made by the parties to the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services in respect of achieving the agreed outcomes, objectives and outputs.

The review is a collaborative project between the Commonwealth, states and territories. It will evaluate the quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of service delivery across all four Commonwealth-funded legal assistance service providers, ie legal aid commissions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, community legal centres and family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians. The review will be completed by 30 June 2013.

Establishment of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Pro Bono

The Australian Government provided funding of $450,000 over three years (commencing on 1 July 2011) to establish the Centre for Asia-Pacific Pro Bono. The department has worked closely with the Law Council of Australia in the establishment of the Centre. The Centre administers a clearinghouse to coordinate requests from the Asia-Pacific region for pro bono assistance by Australia and administer an associated disbursement fund.

The Centre supports development in the Asia-Pacific (particularly within the law and justice sector) and provides a service to match requests for assistance with providers of international pro bono legal services. The department will continue to work with the Law Council of Australia in relation to the future work of the Centre.

Evaluations/reviews

The department commissioned a review of legal assistance services which is due for completion by 30 June 2013. The review is a collaborative project between the Commonwealth, states and territories. It will evaluate the quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of service delivery across all four Commonwealth-funded legal assistance service providers, ie legal aid commissions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, community legal centres and family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians.

Outlook at 30 June 2012

The legal aid program will focus on the review of legal assistance services. This review will ensure that legal assistance is of high quality and targeted to those most in need, and that the delivery of legal assistance is cost effective, coordinated with other service provision and done in collaboration across the legal assistance sector. The review is to be completed by 30 June 2013.

In parallel with the review, this program will continue working with states and territories to implement key initiatives under the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. Key measures under the Agreement include jurisdictional forums to improve coordination and targeting of services between legal assistance service providers and information and referral strategies to ensure comprehensive access to information and seamless referral.

The department's work on consolidating the legal financial assistance schemes will continue in the coming year. On 1 January 2013, the new parameters for the operation of the native title respondent funding scheme will commence. The department will also be reviewing the operation of the disbursement support scheme to ensure that it continues to deliver the desired outcomes.

Performance results

Table 8.1: Performance results, Program 1.3

Key performance indicator Results
Improvement in access to education, information, advice and support services for disadvantaged Australians and communities. Achieved

Comment: Data reported by legal aid commissions for the first six months of 2011-12 indicates an increase in the number of these services being provided. Full year data will not be available until 31 August 2012.

In 2011-12, community legal centres have provided more than 235,600 advices, closed more than 50,000 cases and delivered more than 3,300 community legal education sessions nationally.

 

Table 8.2: Program 1.3

Administered Items Results
Payments for grants to Australian organisations Achieved

Comment: Fifteen grants approved for fifteen organisations.
Budget price: $1.633 million Actual price: $1.632 million
Payments for the provision of legal aid - Legal Aid Commissions Achieved

Comment: Funding was provided from the Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund and the Illegal Foreign Fishing Fund for 596 claims from legal aid commissions for reimbursement of costs incurred for expensive matters.
Budget price: $10.218 million Actual price: $10.214 million
Payments for the provision of community legal services Achieved

Comment: Payments made in accordance with the terms and conditions of the service agreements.
Budget price: $36.286 million Actual price: $36.286 million
Financial assistance towards legal costs and related expenses Achieved

Comment: Funding was provided across a range of legal financial assistance schemes on a case-by-case basis. Schemes include the Special Circumstances (Overseas) Scheme, Overseas Custody (Child Removal) Scheme and Native Title Respondent Funding Scheme.
Budget price: $4.527 million Actual price: $4.524 million
Payments for services under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Child Support Scheme legislation Achieved

Comment: In accordance with individual agreements with the States, the Australian Government promotes an accessible system of federal civil justice by providing funds for services under the Family Law Act 1975 and the Child Support Scheme legislation by State courts summary jurisdiction.
Budget Price: $2.354 million Actual Price: $2.159 million
Payments to Law Courts Limited for contributions to operating and capital expenses Achieved

Comment: The Department pays 47.5 per cent of the operating expenses of the Law Courts building in Sydney.
Budget Price: $2.430 million Actual Price: $2.430 million
Family Court of Western Australia Achieved

Comment: The Australian Government contributes to the operating expenses of the Family Court of Western Australia to ensure access to the Court in family law and child support matters.
Budget Price: $17.358 million Actual Price: $17.448 million
Payments for membership of international bodies Achieved

Comment: Funds provided in accordance with approved agreements.
Budget Price: $0.550 million Actual Price: $0.549 million
Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program Achieved

Comment: Australia's Human Rights Framework provided funding of $2.068 million over four years to non-government organisations to develop and deliver community education and engagement programs to promote greater understanding of human rights. A second round of fifteen grants totalling $459,703 was announced by the Attorney-General on 9 September 2011. In total $957,309 has been awarded to 30 projects since the inception of the program.
Budget Price: $0.509 million Actual Price: $0.513 million
Personal Property Securities-public awareness campaign Achieved

Comment: The Personal Property Securities Campaign ran national radio, online and press advertising from 23 January - 30 June 2012.
Budget Price: $1.602 million Actual Price: $1.321 million
Publications of Acts and select legislative instruments Achieved

Comment: In 2011-12, all new Acts and select Legislative Instruments continued to be printed and distributed free of charge to Members of the Australian Parliament and to key reference libraries worldwide.

 

In line with changes to the Acts Publication Act 1905 that came into force in January 2011, all new Acts as made and an increased number of Acts as amended were published online in authoritative form. Work to make all Acts in force available in authoritative form will continue over 2012-13. Fewer than 700 Acts are outstanding but these do include some particularly long and frequently amended Acts.

Work has also continued on filling known gaps in online holdings of Commonwealth law. As part of this, work has begun on digitising and linking up the thousands of Acts and Statutory Rules made before 1973 and 1979 respectively. This important historic material is expected to be released to the public in 2013.

Budget Price: $1.569 million Actual Price: $1.610 million
Special Appropriations Results
Law Officers Act 1964 Achieved

Comment: The Department processes payment of pensions to former
Solicitor's - General
Budget Price: $0.450 million Actual Price: $0.300 million

 

Program 1.4

Family relationships

Summary

During 2011-12, the Government provided $153 million to seventy-two not-for-profit community based organisations, one business, and one agency (Department of Human Services - Centrelink), to assist Australian families during and after separation and divorce. The eleven service types are:

  • sixty-five Family Relationship Centres, with 59,091 clients1
  • sixty-five Children's Contact Services, with 39,681clients
  • forty counselling services, with 169,721 clients2
  • twenty Parenting Orders Program services, with 8,988 clients
  • twenty-eight Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services, with 5,474 clients
  • eighteen Family Dispute Resolution services, with 15,858 clients
  • forty-two Regional Family Dispute Resolution services, with 6,371 clients
  • eighteen Supporting Children after Separation Program services, with 9,844 clients
  • the Family Relationship Advice Line, Information and Advice component, with 62,320 calls3
  • the Telephone and Online Dispute Resolution Service, with 16,620 calls
  • the Legal Advice Service, with 5,301 calls.

Face to face services are available through Australia, and for people not easily able to access them, telephone-based services offer a viable alternative. The client numbers indicate a continuing high demand for programs that provide family relationship assistance for separating and separated families.

Major achievements

The department has developed a common screening and risk assessment tool and framework for people entering the family law system. This package is known as the Detection Of Overall Risk Screen (DOORS) and will be available in both 'pen and paper' and computer formats. DOORS will be simple to use as well as practical and flexible in meeting the varying needs of professionals, service locations and client demographics. It will allow clients to be identified for referral to services to address risks and needs. The tool and framework complement the earlier development of the AVERT training package for family violence and safety issues.

Relationships Australia Queensland has been selected to replace the Department of Human Services (Centrelink) as the provider of the Family Relationship Advice Line (Information and Advice service), commencing in October 2012. The Family Relationship Advice Line provides information and advice about family relationship and family separation issues, and referral to other relevant services. Relationships Australia Queensland already provides the Telephone and Online Dispute Resolution service, so their selection as the provider of the Family Relationship Advice Line means there will be closer links between these two non-face-to-face services.

Purchaser/provider arrangements

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) manages contractual arrangements with organisations funded to provide family law services under the Family Support Program. This arrangement is delivered under a memorandum of understanding between FaHCSIA and the department. Funding agreements are in place to provide these services till 30 June 2014.

Family Support Program

The department funds family law-related services through the Family Support Program. The Program commenced on 1 July 2011 and brought together a number of existing family, children and parenting services, most of which are funded through the FaHCSIA portfolio. The Family Support Program works with and supports families, and nurtures children, especially those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged. It enables families to better manage life's transitions, ensure children at risk are protected and contribute to building stronger, more resilient communities.

Evaluations/reviews

The department has commissioned Encompass Family and Community to conduct an independent review of the Family Law Pathways Networks, which will report in the second half of 2012. The Networks are funded by the department to enhance the integration of the family law system, at a local level. The review has considered:

  • the applicability of current categories of Networks (ie 'small', 'medium' and 'large') and associated funding levels and geographical coverage
  • current terms of funding agreements and whether this needs to be reconsidered
  • various governance models developed by Networks
  • constraints and challenges for Networks
  • achievements and benefits of the Networks in contributing to the ongoing development of the family law system.

Any changes ensuing from the review will be implemented for the next round of funding agreements to commence in July 2013.

Outlook at 30 June 2012

The department has commissioned Allen Consulting Group to undertake research on the Family Support Program family law services, which will be used to inform a review of these services prior to the signing of new funding agreements, to commence in July 2014.

The research will entail site visits, surveys and interviews with a wide variety of family law system stakeholders, and analysis of administrative data. The research will consider:

  • value for money of services
  • client participation in services including access by various groups of clients
  • location of services
  • interventions undertaken
  • effectiveness of services
  • service integration in family law system
  • use of alternative technology.

The department has commissioned the Australian Children's Contact Services Association to develop a draft Operational Framework for Children's Contact Services (CCSs).

The framework will guide minimum service level standards for the delivery of CCSs, respond to the issues of waiting times, case prioritisation and interaction with other parts of the family law system. A draft framework is expected to be provided to the department in the first half of 2013.

Performance results

Table 8.3: Performance results, Program 1.4

Key performance indicator Results
Improving the family law system's response to family violence and to enhance the role of family services to keep more people out of court, including through family dispute resolution. Achieved

Comment: This key performance indicator has been achieved through the development of the common screening and risk assessment framework and tool.

 

Table 8.4: Program 1.4

Administered Items Results
Family Relationships Services Programs Achieved
Budget price: $165.082 million Actual price: $ 164.875 million

 

Program 1.5

Indigenous law and justice

Summary

The objective of Program 1.5 is to improve Indigenous family and community safety. Work under this program for 2011-12 included:

  • administering the Indigenous Legal Assistance and Policy Reform Program and the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program
  • delivering the Indigenous Justice Program
  • delivering the Closing the Gapin the Northern Territory law and order measures while preparing for the transition to Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative
  • providing ongoing support for Indigenous interpreter services in the Northern Territory
  • five recipients receiving funding under the second round of the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program.

Major achievements

Indigenous Justice Program

In 2011-12, major achievements for the Indigenous Justice Program were:

  • supporting justice-focused projects that helped reduce recidivism and incarceration
  • supporting projects to reduce petrol sniffing and substance abuse for Indigenous youth in designated remote regions
  • introducing a minimum dataset to measure outcomes achieved from the Prisoner Through Care projects.

Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory law and order measures

Achievements in Northern Territory law and order measures include:

  • preparing community night patrol services to transition from the Closing the Gapin the Northern Territory to the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative. This included consultation with existing service providers in the development and design of new processes to improve service delivery
  • supporting stronger relationships and cooperation between community night patrols and the Northern Territory Police through memoranda of understanding between local police and patrols. The memoranda of understanding will clarify how local police and night patrollers work together to achieve community safety outcomes
  • facilitating support for Community Engagement Police Officers who commenced operation in eight remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory in July 2011. The department provided $3.4 million over 2010-11 and 2011-12 for the Community Engagement Police Officers
  • supporting the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service to implement the findings of the Commonwealth Ombudsman's report Talking in language: Indigenous language interpreters and government communication. The funding has contributed to advanced legal training for interpreters, workshops for organisations which engage interpreters, re-recording of police cautions for use during police interview processes (in fifteen major languages) and trialling appointment of interpreters to Magistrates Courts in 'bush court' settings.

Indigenous Legal Aid and Policy Reform Program

The Indigenous Legal Assistance and Policy Reform Program provides funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services to deliver high quality, culturally sensitive legal assistance services, including duty lawyers, advice, case work and representation in criminal, civil and family law matters. The majority of service outlets (88 per cent) are located in regional and remote areas. Outreach service models are employed to ensure legal assistance services are available at court circuits and bush courts. Assistance is provided mainly in criminal matters (84 per cent). Of the total services provided, 30 per cent were delivered to women.

In 2011-12, the Indigenous Legal Assistance and Policy Reform Program entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Torres Strait Regional Authority to facilitate the administration of legal service delivery in the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula. The department has funded the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Queensland to provide the services from October 2011 to 30 June 2014. The funding in 2011-12 was $600,000.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Safe Communities Strategy

The department and FaHCSIA are continuing to lead discussions with state and territory governments on a national Indigenous Safe Communities Strategy. A joint meeting of the Standing Council on Law and Justice's Indigenous Justice Working Group and the Working Group on Indigenous Reform's Indigenous Reform Coordination Sub-Group was held in Sydney on 28-29 March 2012. The Commonwealth has engaged, and will continue to engage, with jurisdictions bilaterally and multilaterally. Discussions on the Strategy will occur at the Working Group on Indigenous Reform and the Indigenous Reform Coordination Sub-Group throughout 2012.

Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program

The objective of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Program is to work collaboratively with other service providers to deliver legal assistance and related services, including counselling and court support, to Indigenous adults and children who are victim survivors of family violence.

The Program is delivered by fourteen service providers to thirty-one identified high-need service areas in rural and remote areas. The service providers work closely with the community, providing assistance in child protection, referral, community engagement and community legal education.

In 2011-12, $1.1 million was provided to seven early intervention and prevention projects across Australia. The projects raise community awareness about family violence and promote positive strategies to help people who are exposed to violence achieve change. The grants ranged from $45,000 to $330,000 and will assist communities in rural and remote locations.

Evaluations/reviews

Family Violence Prevention Legal Service - Financial Control Audit

The department engaged Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu to undertake a financial control audit and financial viability assessment of twelve family violence prevention legal service providers. The report was completed on 30 June 2012 and the department will undertake analysis and prepare an implementation plan. The outcome and implementation of the findings and recommendations will be reported on in 2013.

Review of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Program

The department engaged the Allen Consulting Group to undertake a review of the family violence prevention legal services. A draft report is expected to be submitted to the department in July 2012. The outcomes and recommendations of this report will be reported on in 2013, and will inform the review of Commonwealth legal assistance programs.

Outlook at 30 June 2012

The department will seek feedback from other service providers on the performance of individual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service providers. The survey will cover the accessibility and responsiveness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. The extent to which the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service providers collaborate with other service providers will also be measured, as well as the effectiveness of their referral processes.

As family violence prevention legal services enter the final year of their current funding agreements, the department has commenced a review of the program and will advise the Government on the proposed future directions. The department will consult with relevant stakeholders to inform this review.

The department will work with the relevant service providers to smoothly transfer the provision of community night patrol services from the Closing the Gap initiative to the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative. This will include application of a new performance reporting framework and the roll-out of a new community night patroller training package.

The department and the Northern Territory Police will undertake an independent evaluation of the Community Engagement Police Officers in 2012-13. Findings and recommendations from the evaluation will inform government consideration of further activity in this area.

All jurisdictions have agreed to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework in 2013-14. The purpose of the evaluation is to consider the policy and program changes since the endorsement of the framework at a national level and at a state and territory level, as well as issues identified in its application. The department is funding evaluations of twenty-six Indigenous justice programs under the framework. This is a joint project with all jurisdictions to build the evidence base about 'what works' to address the over-representation of Indigenous people within the criminal justice system. The first tranche of evaluations is scheduled for completion in December 2012. The second tranche will be finalised in October 2013.

A review of the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program will be undertaken in 2012-13. Funding for the Program is ongoing.

Performance results

Table 8.5: Performance results, Program 1.5

Key performance indicator Results
Identifiable progress in improving community and family safety of Indigenous Australians Partially achieved

Community and family safety for Indigenous Australians remains an area of considerable concern. However, identifiable progress has been achieved in a number of areas, including:
  • funding Community Engagement Police Officers in eight remote Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory
  • funding initiatives designed to reduce reoffending under the Indigenous Justice Program
  • funding community night patrols in eighty Northern Territory communities
  • funding for Aboriginal interpreter services in the Northern Territory
  • continuing to develop an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Safe Communities Strategy, and associated work on justice targets.
Improved access to appropriate legal services for Indigenous Australians Achieved

Comment: Grants made to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and family violence prevention legal services have helped improve access to legal assistance for Indigenous Australians. The memorandum of understanding with the Torres Strait Regional Authority has increased services to remote areas.
Negotiation of Safe Communities Strategy successfully concluded with states and territories Partially achieved

The development of an Indigenous Safe Communities Strategy was discussed at the 27 April 2012 meeting of the Working Group on Indigenous Reform. Negotiations with states and territories on the Strategy are continuing.
The Australian Government and states and territories are engaged in agreed activities identified under the Safe Communities Strategy Partially achieved

Comment: Negotiations on an Indigenous Safe Communities Strategy are ongoing. Agreement on activities under the Strategy is included in this process.

 

Table 8.6: Program 1.5

Administered Items Results
Payments under the Indigenous
Justice Program
Achieved

Comment: Funds were provided for forty-five projects, including Petrol Sniffing Strategy projects, across four funding streams, namely prisoner through care, youth prevention and diversion, restorative justice, and community patrols.
Budget price: $11.459 million Actual price: $11.461 million
Payments for the provision of family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians Achieved

Comment: Grant payments were made to fourteen family violence prevention legal service organisations. Two reviews of the service were commenced in 2011-12. Findings of these reviews will be implemented in 2013 and will inform the review of Commonwealth legal assistance programs.
Budget price: $19.833 million Actual price: $19.832 million
Indigenous Legal Assistance and
Policy Reform Program
Achieved

Comment: Grant payments were made to eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service organisations. Additional one-off funding of $200,000 was used to support increased service delivery.
Budget price: $65.666 million Actual price: $65.664 million
Payments for Indigenous interpreter services in the Northern Territory Achieved

Comment: Funding provided to the Northern Territory Government for interpreter services to Indigenous Australians.
Budget price: $1.285 million Actual price: $1.285 million
Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory law and order measures Achieved

Comment: Funding provided for night patrol services and additional legal and interpreter services as part of the Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory national partnership.
Budget price: $25.503 million Actual price: $25.503 million
Native title system Achieved

Comment: Funding was provided to five recipients under the Native Title Anthropologist Grants Program. Recipients were: the Cairns Institute, James Cook University; ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology; University of Adelaide School of Social Sciences (two projects); and the University of Sydney Department of Anthropology, School of Social and Political Sciences.
Budget price: $0.526 million Actual price: $0.526 million

 

Our people

Kimberley Community Legal Services: pulling together in remote Australia

discussing current justice and legal issues in the Kimberley region

Hundreds of Indigenous Australians in remote communities across the Kimberleys in Western Australia learned more about their legal rights and responsibilities in activities sponsored by the department in early 2012.

Kimberley Community Legal Service (KCLS) staff flew and camped around the region to respond to invitations from community members and agencies to discuss current justice and legal issues in communities and to provide legal advocacy services to individuals.

The department supports and funds KCLS and 138 community legal services centres around Australia as part of our Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program.

In the Kimberleys - from Kununurra to Balgo to remote Kalumburu and along the Gibb River Road - the 'stolen wages' issue has been a big focus for 2012.

From 1905 to 1972, many employers held money and property belonging to Aboriginal people. There is little or no evidence the money was ever returned to those people. A Western Australia state government task force established a reparation scheme in March 2012, inviting people to apply for up to $2,000 to be returned to them. KCLS began gathering community responses to the scheme during regular outreach activities in remote Kimberley communities.

It became clear that this scheme would impact widely throughout the Kimberley and many Kimberley people would be eligible to receive payments under the Scheme. KCLS developed a work plan to disseminate information, provide legal assistance to applicants and communicate with the state government about community responses to the scheme. This plan included a series of week-long trips to remote communities to engage in wider community legal education and to talk about stolen wages. The Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid WA partnered with KCLS in these trips to provide these much-needed services.

KCLS also engaged with local schools and students about their rights and responsibilities with the law. Other people wanted to know about their rights when police entered their homes. Some people wanted to apply for the Stolen Wages Scheme and have their remarkable stories heard. Through workshops and more informal settings, KCLS met these information needs. In doing so, they strengthened relationships with the local Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid WA, and formed strong bonds with community leaders, families and schools.

'In the outback, the distances seem endless and services are limited,' said Joan Jardine, Director of the Community Legal Services section in the department in Canberra. 'Community legal centres do a great job because they know everyone has to pull together to succeed.'

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