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Annual Report 2007-08 Output 1.7

Legal services and policy advice on Indigenous law and justice and legal assistance and the administration of related government programs

Summary

In 2007–08, the Department successfully increased its funding and delivery of a range of law and justice services and programs to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and provided high-level strategic policy advice to Government. The Indigenous Justice and Legal Assistance Division is responsible for services and policy advice in Output 1.7.

Major work undertaken throughout the year resulted in the expansion of night patrol services and interpreter services under the NTER. The Department successfully renegotiated further three-year service provider contracts under the Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians program for 2008–11. Feedback was received on the consultative draft National Indigenous Law and Justice Strategy, released in 2007. As a result of that feedback, the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework is now in the final stages of development. The Attorney-General released the first nationally focused review of the Community Legal Service Program and the Department has begun consultations on some of the report’s recommendations.

Major achievements

Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program

In 2007–08, the Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program (PDRR) provided funds of $25.363 million to 123 projects across its four sub-outputs: youth projects, night patrols, prisoner support, and rehabilitation and restorative justice.

Expenditure for the night patrols service increased dramatically in 2007–08. The PDRR Program received additional funding of $12.111 million to expand night patrols to 73 Indigenous communities identified by the NTER.

Night patrols are an important initiative and assist in breaking the cycle of violence and crime in communities. By March 2008, the Department provided funding for the implementation of night patrols in all 73 NTER-identified communities, signing agreements with nine service providers to deliver these services.

The considerable expansion of night patrols and the interpreter service helps reduce the number of adverse contacts Indigenous people have with the criminal justice system. The night patrols have supported Indigenous people in taking charge of their own communities and provided employment opportunities for them.

Northern Territory Aboriginal interpreter service

The Department manages a memorandum of understanding between the Australian Government and Northern Territory Government on the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service. In 2007–08, the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service received $550,000 in additional funding to increase Indigenous people’s access to interpreters. The funding supported the service to meet the increased demand for interpreters resulting from the NTER and contributed to the recruitment and training of new interpreters and increasing access to interpreter services for Indigenous legal aid providers, Family Violence Prevention Legal Services units and Community Legal Centres.

Legal aid for Indigenous Australians

The Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program aims to improve the access of Indigenous people to high-quality and culturally sensitive legal aid services, so that they can fully exercise their legal rights as Australian citizens.

In 2007–08, the Indigenous Legal Aid section successfully renegotiated new three-year contracts for the period 2008–11 with eight of the nine current Indigenous legal aid service providers. The tender for the delivery of legal aid services to Indigenous people in the Queensland North Zone resulted in the selection of a new service provider for the region. The Indigenous legal aid service providers will deliver Indigenous legal aid services through 84 metropolitan, regional and remote service delivery sites across Australia, ensuring that Indigenous people have access to high-quality and culturally sensitive legal aid services. [see figure 3]

Additional funding for criminal, civil and family legal aid services was provided to address the increasing need of Indigenous people for such services as a result of Government initiatives, such as the NTER. One-off funding of $13.215 million was provided to increase the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS). The increase included $0.8 million for Indigenous legal services in the Northern Territory.

Law and justice advocacy development

The Department supported significant advocacy, law reform and community legal education activities with funding provided through the Law and Justice Advocacy Development Program. During 2007–08, the program funded three national meetings of the ATSILS, which provided a forum for service providers to discuss the law and justice issues impacting on their service delivery to Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous Law Centre within the University of New South Wales was funded to publish the Indigenous Law Bulletin and the Australian Indigenous Law Reporter. These publications provide access to current, relevant and useful information on the legal rights of Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program

Overall service delivery of the FVPLS Program increased substantially in 2007–08, in part due to the expansion of services into five new areas in 2006–07. Operations in the new areas (Albany, Broken Hill, Broome, Port Lincoln and Tennant Creek) were fully underway in 2007–08. There was a notable increase in demand for services across all units in 2007–08.

The Community Legal Education (CLE) Program, which was developed in conjunction with HREOC, was successfully implemented during 2007 and the first part of 2008. The CLE Program aims to lower the level of family violence in Indigenous communities by providing legal education adapted to suit local communities, educating and mentoring Indigenous youth and women and encouraging community members to speak out about family violence. There are 13 CLE workers, the majority of whom are Indigenous, currently operating from 10 rural and remote locations. A further two CLE workers will receive training in the 2008–09 financial year.

Indigenous policy

At its March 2008 meeting, SCAG agreed to progress the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework through the establishment of a working group. The Department has been developing the Framework for a number of years.

The Framework will provide a national foundation for a combined government response to the many law and justice issues facing Indigenous communities. Such issues include reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and enhancing community safety. Of particular concern is the recent growth in the incarceration rate of Indigenous women, which has significant negative impacts in communities, especially in the key areas of child rearing and social cohesion.

Through the development of partnerships between the Australian Government, State and Territory Governments, service providers and Indigenous communities, the Framework aims to share knowledge, successes and innovative solutions to the ongoing challenges.

Legal aid

The Attorney-General approved projects submitted by legal aid commissions in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania for funding under the Regional Innovations Program for Legal Services. The projects seek to improve access to justice for disadvantaged Australians in regional, rural and remote areas. The proposals, worth $5.8 million over four years, provide a range of capacity building initiatives to enhance access to legal services. The Program helps country firms employ lawyers and supports country graduates to complete practical legal training in regional Australia.

Significant one-off additional funding was provided to legal aid commissions during 2007–08. A one-off injection of $7 million was provided to legal aid commissions in New South Wales ($3 million), Victoria ($1.9 million), Queensland ($1.1 million), Western Australia ($955,000) and Tasmania ($96,841), to relieve cost pressures on family law services, particularly those relating to children. The Northern Territory received $650,000 in additional funding to assist in the provision of services flowing from the NTER.

The Expensive Commonwealth Criminal Cases Fund was supplemented by an additional $9 million in 2007–08 for expensive terrorism trials and a further $2 million will be provided for such trials in 2009–10. The Fund meets the cost of high-cost Commonwealth criminal cases, to ensure such cases do not erode the capacity of legal aid commissions to provide services for other Commonwealth law matters, including family law matters.

Financial assistance schemes

The Australian Government provided direct financial assistance through 26 financial assistance schemes, both statutory and non-statutory, to individuals and organisations for legal costs and related expenses for cases involving Commonwealth law where legal aid was not available.

Financial assistance was provided under the Royal Commissions and Inquiries Scheme to members of the public who assisted inquiries established by the Australian Government during the year. Such inquiries included the Equine Influenza Inquiry and the Clarke Inquiry into the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef.

To illustrate the workflow of the various schemes, in 2007–08, 921 grants of financial assistance were administered under the Native Title Act 1993 (four per cent more than was spent on grants in 2006–07) and 775 grants of financial assistance were administered for non-native title matters (52 per cent more than in 2006–07).

Community legal services

In March 2008, the Attorney-General released the report of the Review of the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program. It is the first nationally focused review of the Program.

The report highlights many positive aspects of the Program including the close connection between community legal centres and their communities, which enables them to be responsive to emerging client needs, and their expertise in dealing with matters not covered by other legal service providers. According to the report, community legal centres are also innovators in client-centred service delivery, which is well suited to assisting people with complex needs and multiple disadvantages.

The Department has commenced consultations on some of the report’s recommendations. These consultations will involve State and Territory Governments, State Community Legal Service Program funding bodies and community legal centres, through the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

In April 2008, the Attorney-General announced an additional one-off injection of $10 million for the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program. The funding will assist community legal centres to manage the increasing demand for their services, with all Commonwealth-funded centres receiving additional money. The funding was allocated on a needs basis, with a focus on each community legal centre’s funding level, location and client demographics. A range of program support projects were also funded. The funding injection will help vulnerable people access legal assistance.

Figure 3: Indigenous justice legal services across Australia at 30 June 2008

Figure 3: Indigenous justice legal services across Australia at 30 June 2008 

[Click on the image above to see a larger version]

Purchaser–provider arrangements

Indigenous family violence prevention legal services

HREOC was engaged to develop the Community Legal Education Training Package and to train CLE workers.

Indigenous legal aid

Under the Legal Aid to Indigenous Australians Program, services have been delivered through nine multi-year contracts, which expired in 2007–08. Eight of the nine contracts have been extended for a further three years. The remaining contract was put out to tender and a new service provider contracted for three years.

The new service delivery arrangements have resulted in performance targets being substantially achieved in 2007–08, with some service providers exceeding their targets in certain areas.

Community legal services

One of the terms of reference for the review of the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program was the development of a funding model for the distribution of Program funds. The Department engaged a consultant to assist in the development of the funding model, to provide a sound evidence-based framework for future enhancement of the Program. The consultant has been involved in the examination and maintenance of the legal aid funding model. The cost of the contract from departmental funds is $75,500.

Legal aid

The Departments monitoring of the performance of legal aid commissions indicated that they provided legal aid services in accordance with the terms and conditions of their legal aid agreements with the Commonwealth. Performance monitoring also indicated that grants of aid made by the legal aid commissions accorded with the priorities and guidelines set out in the agreements. Annual services payments were made to legal aid commissions in the first week of each quarter, as required under the agreements.

Evaluations and reviews

Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program

The Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs) (OEA) conducted a performance audit of the Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program in 2007–08. The objective of the performance audit was to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of the Program and its delivery by funded external service providers and to identify any areas where performance could be improved.

The audit comprised discussions with staff of the Department, detailed audit testing for each of the organisations sampled, and interviews and discussions with key staff and stakeholders.

The audit report affirmed the value of the Program, concluding that the Program’s service providers are highly committed to reducing Indigenous peoples’ adverse contact with the criminal justice system. The report also found that the Department’s management of the Program ensures providers are financially accountable and compliant with their contractual conditions. The final report was provided to the Department in January 2008.

Indigenous legal aid

The OEA also conducted a national evaluation of the Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program (LEGA Program). The overall objective of the evaluation was to assess the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of the management of the LEGA Program.

The evaluation methodology, which comprised extensive stakeholder consultations and a structured data collection and analysis framework, provided sound data from which to draw conclusions on program design, management and reporting, delivery of program objectives and service provision.

The evaluation found that overall the LEGA Program was meeting its primary objective of improving Indigenous Australians’ access to high-quality and culturally sensitive legal advice. The evaluation also found that the program was being delivered efficiently and economically and that there is wide stakeholder support and respect for the important roles played by the Indigenous legal aid service providers.

Family violence prevention legal services

The Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program engaged an external consultant to undertake an evaluation of the service delivery methods. The report is pending.

Legal aid

A national evaluation, conducted by external consultants, is examining the effectiveness, including the relative cost effectiveness, of family dispute resolution programs currently operating in legal aid commissions. The consultants will also make recommendations for a framework to facilitate the ongoing development and continuous improvement of programs. A previous evaluation was completed in 2000. The evaluation timeframe has been extended to allow the consultants additional time to obtain responses to a client survey, an important part of the evaluation. The due date for the final report is 30 September 2008. Increased client participation in the evaluation will give a more accurate picture of satisfaction levels.

Financial assistance

The Data and Workflow of Grants System (DAWGS) is the database that records financial assistance grant decisions, payments and commitment balances. Ongoing enhancements to DAWGS have improved the system’s recordkeeping, monitoring and reporting functions. The enhancements are expected to be finalised by 31 August 2008.

The Department is finalising a major internal review of financial assistance grants held in trust by non-government respondents under the Native Title Respondent Funding Scheme. Departmental officers have reconciled the grant funds committed by the Department with the trust records of the grant recipient. As a result of the review, substantial funds have been returned in matters which are inactive.

The Division contributed to the Government’s 2008 review of the lapsing program funding and operation of the native title system in relation to the Native Title Respondent Funding Scheme.

Community legal services

In March 2008, the Attorney-General released the report of the Review of the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program.

The review confirms the key role the Program plays in assisting disadvantaged members of the community with legal and related problems, and the expertise and innovative approach adopted by community legal centres in providing that assistance. Community legal centres’ connection to their communities and whole-of-client focus enables them to tailor their services to meet identified local needs. They are a good example of targeted and tailored interventions which address localised systemic disadvantage. A consultation process with key program stakeholders is underway and feedback from the first meetings is encouraging.

Outlook

A high priority for the Division will be its role in developing Indigenous community safety reform proposals for the COAG Indigenous Reform Working Group.

The Division will also prioritise:

  • finalisation of the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework
  • implementation of the new Commonwealth–State financial relations framework for legal aid
  • the implementation of the recommendations of the Review of the Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program, which will culminate in the development of new service agreements, due to take effect on 1 July 2009, and
  • participation in the independent review of the NTER, to be managed by FaHCSIA and finalised in October 2008.

Key challenges for the Indigenous Justice and Legal Assistance Division include:

  • increasing the capacity of service providers to attract and retain professional staff, particularly in regional and remote areas, and
  • addressing the cost pressures reported by legal assistance services providers to avoid a reduction in service levels.

Performance indicators
Quantitative and qualitative

Output 1.7

Legal services and policy advice on Indigenous law and justice and legal assistance and the administration of related government programs

Activity

Performance indicator

Result

Policy advice provided to ministers Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Submissions to ministers 133 124
Cabinet submissions 0 0
Ministerial correspondence* 262 600
Responses to questions on notice 2 0
Briefs 114 134
Speeches 3 1
Quality Advice to ministers provided within agreed timeframes Achieved

Agreed timelines met.
Extent of satisfaction of ministers as measured by periodic feedback from ministers and their offices Highly satisfied

Feedback received from ministers indicates information provided was satisfactory.
Advice provided to other agencies Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Items of legal/policy/operational advice 206 215
Quality Advice provided within agreed timelines Achieved

All advice to other agencies provided within agreed timeframes.
Advice provided is respected by client agencies, as measured by periodic feedback Achieved

Stakeholders indicated they were highly satisfied with the level of service provided.

The FaHCSIA Interdepartmental Indigenous Funding Forum noted: ‘The Attorney-General’s Department is always timely with responses.’
Management of programs Quality Agreements/contracts reflect Government requirements and are negotiated and implemented within agreed timelines Achieved

All agreements and contracts were negotiated and implemented within agreed timeframes.
Administration of programs Quality Performance of service providers is monitored through regular reports and performance meetings—80% of performance reports received within agreed timelines Achieved

The majority of Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice program service providers and NTER night patrol service providers complied with the reporting requirements and timeframes set out in the program funding agreements.

* The number of ministerials relates to the number of actions in relation to ministerial correspondence.

† Briefs include papers on current issues, possible parliamentary questions (new and updated) and meeting briefs.

‡ The number of advices provided by output have been derived from the Department’s annual workload survey and represent a snapshot obtained by aggregating data from four separate one-week periods—two from parliamentary sitting periods and two from non-sitting periods.

Performance information for Output 1.7—administered items

Administered item

Performance indicator

Result

Payments for the provision of legal aid for Indigenous Australians Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Services by type against targets:
    Target Actual
– Information, initial legal advice, minor assistance and referral 69,137 70,275 74,313
– Duty lawyer assistance 32,504 51,477 34,040
Legal casework representation and assistance against targets:
  Target Actual
– Criminal law matters 67,903 67,872 66,152
– Family law matters 2,600 3,003 2,693
– Civil law matters 4,070 2,355 4,486
Quality Complaints received about the contracted service deliveries that have not been effectively addressed to the satisfaction of the Department 0 0
Breaches against the service standards that were not rectified within the following reporting period 2 0
The Program received additional one-off funding of $13.215 million, not all of which was directed through legal services contracts. The additional funding was provided to meet capital needs, staffing and office accommodation requirements, expensive cases and services at Aboriginal community courts.
Budget price: $64.011 million Actual price: $64.012 million
Payments for the provision of law and justice advocacy services for Indigenous Australians Quality Funds provided in accordance with legislation and any relevant agreement or arrangement Achieved

Funds were provided through annual program funding agreements for 27 advocacy, law reform and community legal education projects.
Budget price: $2.495 million Actual price: $2.495 million
Payments for the provision of prevention, diversion, rehabilitation and restorative justice services for Indigenous Australians Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
  Target Actual
Percentage of expenditure on services by activity type against target: 100% 100% 100%
– Youth diversion 49% n/a 60%
– Rehabilitation 21% n/a 7%
– Restorative justice 8% n/a 7%
– Night patrols 22% n/a 26%
Quality Percentage of organisations whose applications for grants are approved 64%

Total funding requested continued to exceed program funding availability in 2007–08.
Access to services in regional and remote areas: percentage of grant applications approved in non-metropolitan Indigenous Coordination Centre areas 63%

A significant proportion of non-metropolitan applications continued to be approved under the PDRR Program.
Budget price: $25.363 million Actual price: $26.837 million
Payments for the provision of family violence prevention legal services for Indigenous Australians Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
  Target Actual
Persons assisted against targets 5,632 n/a 7,530
Community awareness programs undertaken against targets 3,158 n/a 3,821
Quality Requirements for service provision are met by the operational framework and program funding agreements Achieved
Centres meet service targets and quarterly performance reporting schedule Achieved
Budget price: $18.726 million Actual price: $18.681 million
Payments for the provision of legal aid—States and Territories (LAP)

Payments for the provision of legal aid (CLAP)
Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Number and cost of services by type: CLAP LAP CLAP LAP
– Information services 247,593 83,753 473,946 79,996
– Legal advice and minor assistance 74,644 68,372 69,074 55,928
– Duty lawyer services 7,512 6,486 10,005 6,644
– PDR grants of aid 12,500 2,308 13,012 2,910
– Litigation grants of aid 25,152 8,319 23,254 7,208
– Assignment services 42,436 11,822 41,632 9,610
  Note: Totals are estimates based on actual year-to-date outputs as at 31 March 2008.
Quality Extent to which service standards are met Services were provided in accordance with the standards set out in the agreements.
Budget price: $178.542 million Actual price: $178.294 million
Financial assistance towards legal costs and related expenditures Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Amount approved for payment in financial year against each scheme:
– Native title $5.004 million $3.390 million
– Non-native title schemes $2.021 million $2.245 million
Number of matters with current grants during a financial year, including grants finalised in a reporting year 1,325 1,696
Quality Number of grants the subject of adverse Ombudsman reports (or grant not challenged) as a percentage of number of current grants for each scheme in the financial year No grants were the subject of an adverse Ombudsman’s report.
Number of judicial review decisions upheld (or not challenged) as a percentage of number of decisions made for each scheme in the financial year No decisions were the subject of judicial review.
Payments for the provision of community legal services Quantity   2006–07 2007–08
Number of services provided against target, 250,000 (this number will represent services provided under the joint Commonwealth–State Community Legal Service Providers (CLSP) in those States where there is a State CLSP) 282,459 144,388
Quality Percentage of audited service providers confirmed as meeting CLSP service standards. Target: 95% 100% 100%
Percentage of clients reporting that CLSP services helped them in understanding or dealing with their problems. 95% of clients included in client surveys conducted during the year 98% 97.44%
Budget price: $33.065 million Actual price: $32.493 million
Payments for Indigenous interpreter services in the Northern Territory Quality Funds provided in accordance with legislation and any relevant agreement or arrangement Achieved

Funding is provided for Indigenous interpreter services under a three-year memorandum of understanding between the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. Additional funding was also provided by the Australian Government as part of the NTER.
Budget price: $1.683 million Actual price: $1.681 million

Key:
n/a not applicable


Our people

Implementing the Northern Territory Emergency Response

Katherine Buchanan (left) and Julie Finlayson, Indigenous Justice and Legal Assistance Division.

Katherine Buchanan (left) and
Julie Finlayson, Indigenous Justice and
Legal Assistance Division.

When the Australian Government launched the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) in June 2007 to protect Aboriginal children, the Northern Territory Service Delivery Team was formed within the Indigenous Law and Justice Branch to coordinate the Department’s contribution and its implementation of a number of law and order measures.

In Canberra, Julie Finlayson leads the team with 30 years experience in Indigenous affairs. Three Northern Territory-based team members represent the Department in Central Australia and the Top End. Our regional coordinators are located in Indigenous Coordination Centres in Darwin and out of Alice Springs, linking the Department with Territory service providers.

‘The challenges of developing and delivering programs and policies under the NTER make the work of this team interesting,’ Julie said.

As part of the emergency response, the team has provided expanded support to night patrol services, as well as Indigenous legal assistance services and Aboriginal interpreter services.

Many remote Indigenous communities have no police presence, and night patrol services, through their cultural authority and local knowledge, can make a difference, without taking on policing responsibilities.

‘By working collaboratively, the Department’s regional and national offices will support night patrol services in their significant role to help communities stay safe,’ Katherine Buchanan, a Canberra-based team member, explained.

Team members work closely with Territory providers to better understand the demands of service delivery to remote communities. Recently Canberra staff had the opportunity to enhance relationships with service providers and staff by travelling to the Territory communities such as Titjilkala in Central Australia, and Nauiyu Nambiyu and Galiwin’ku in the Top End.