Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Launch of evaluation of Legal Aid NSW partnership with Settlement Services International (SSI)


Thank you very much.

I would like to start by also adding my acknowledgement of the traditional owners.

I would also like to acknowledge: Mr Bill Grant CEO Legal Aid NSW; Geoff Mulherin, Director, Law & Justice Foundation, NSW; Dr Hugh McDonald, Law and Justice Foundation; Phillip Naden, CEO Aboriginal Legal Service; Kamalle Dabboussy, Chair of the Board of SSI; Ms Violet Roumelitis, CEO Settlement Services International; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, with special responsibility for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, it is my very great pleasure to be here today to launch the evaluation of the partnership between Legal Aid New South Wales and Settlement Services International on behalf of the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC.

The Attorney-General regrets that he cannot attend due to other commitments but he has asked me to pass on his best wishes.

The partnership between Legal Aid NSW and Settlement Services International ensures that recently arrived migrants receive timely legal advice and help to assist with settlement in their new home.

This is an excellent example of early intervention and collaboration as prioritised in the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

The National Partnership Agreement focused Commonwealth funding for legal aid commissions to increase the delivery of early intervention services.

I am pleased to be advised that Legal Aid NSW has seen an eighty percent increase in the number of early intervention services since the commencement of the Agreement in 2010.

This has included a fifty percent increase in outreach services provided by mobile lawyers over the last five years.

In 2013-14, Legal Aid NSW provided well over fifteen thousand outreach advice services.

This includes the legal outreach services provided at the migrant resource centres under the partnership with SSI.

As part of the settlement process, the Australian Government funds services to provide programmes that build the capacity of newly arrived people to participate in Australian society.

An understanding of the law and legal system is fundamental to that capacity.

That is why this partnership has been so important, as legal aid lawyers work with clients at migrant resource centres to develop an understanding of Australian law.

By partnering with migrant resource centres, Legal Aid NSW is providing a joined-up service with existing providers, to assist clients where they feel comfortable.

The Law and Justice Foundation review being launched today makes it clear that both the partnership and the outreach to clients were successful.

It is important that programmes are assessed to ensure that they are as effective as possible.

It is even more important to test your services when you are striving to assist hard-to-reach clients with varied cultures and even more varied needs.

Good evaluation demonstrates success and progress, as well as identifying what needs improving. Good evaluation of a good programme validates the efforts of everyone involved.

The evaluation report we are here today to launch clearly validates the importance and success of the partnership between Legal Aid NSW and Settlement Services.

Together they can now confidently roll out this significant and innovative service, knowing that they have achieved their aims of improving access and equity for their clients in a culturally appropriate way.

After only a year, the statistics are impressive.

With its Commonwealth funding under the National Partnership Agreement, Legal Aid NSW has provided over 21,000 pieces of assistance and 49 community legal education events at 10 migrant resource centres in NSW and in Sydney.

These legal outreach services have been provided to clients born in over one hundred countries, such as Iraq, Vietnam, Lebanon and Iran.

The CEOs of the migrant resource centres have identified that the service has resulted in a reduced burden on government services such as health, child protection and family services and the Department of Immigration.

We also applaud the strength of the collaborative model that has been used in this project.

In delivering settlement services, we rely on partnerships to deliver good outcomes to clients, and there is now a growing trend of legal aid and settlement services working together to increase new arrivals’ ability to contribute to their community.

It is with great pleasure that I now launch Reaching in by joining-up, the evaluation of the legal assistance partnership between Legal Aid NSW and Settlement Services International.

Thank you.