Our history: 2010–2019

Our history: 2010–2019

National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services

In June 2010 the Commonwealth and state and territory governments signed a new National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services. Among other matters, the agreement prioritised the earlier resolution of legal problems, the targeting of legal assistance services to people who experience, or are at risk of experiencing, social exclusion, and more 'joined up' service provision to address legal and other problems.

Our 30th anniversary

In 2011 we celebrated 30 years of helping poor and disadvantaged Victorians with their legal problems. In three decades we had funded 1,075,373 cases, provided legal advice on more than 1.1 million occasions, provided information on the phone more than 1.8 million times, and advised people at court more than 1.2 million times. We had also grown from a city headquarters and four branch offices, to a head office and 14 offices in suburban and regional centres.

Equal Opportunity Legal Service

In 2012 we launched the Equal Opportunity Legal Service in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Clearing House, to give low-income and disadvantaged people greater access to legal advice and representation when dealing with complaints of discrimination, vilification and sexual harassment.

Acquittal of Indonesian boat crew members 

In 2012, our policy submissions and advocacy in court made an impact as lawyers successfully argued for the acquittal of Indonesian boat crew members in Victoria’s first people smuggling trial. 

Establishing Victoria Legal Aid Chambers

In 2013 we established Victoria Legal Aid Chambers to better support our advocacy priorities across all our legal practice areas and deliver high quality legal services to our clients.

To ensure transparency , accountability and the efficient use of resources, we implemented a financial performance model to measure the cost and value of the advocacy, training and advice provided by Chambers.

Launching 1300 Legal Help number

In June 2013 we launched our new Legal Help phone number – 1300 792 387 – accessible Australia-wide for the cost of a local call from landlines. As the main phone entry point for people with a legal problem, it has made it easier and cheaper for people to contact us.

Increasing access to justice for clients with a mental illness

In 2014 we helped more clients with a mental illness through a significant increase in representation (via duty lawyer services and grants of legal assistance) before the Mental Health Review board. We were able to represent more people due to the growth of our Mental Health and Disability Advocacy program, made possible by a three-year grant form the Victorian Government and re-investment of savings made in other areas.

We now have specialist lawyers in our offices in Dandenong, Geelong, Bendigo and Melbourne, and provide extra support to our lawyers in other regional offices. We have also expanded our practice to include clients on community treatment orders and set up pilot clinics in community mental health facilities.

Strategy 2015–18

Following months of research, analysis and consultation Victoria Legal Aid has outlined three strategic directions to guide our work for the next three years: 

  • invest in timely intervention, especially for children and young people 
  • match services to the needs and abilities of our clients 
  • maximise benefits by working with others 

The directions, outlined in Strategy 2015–18, will enable us to deliver the most appropriate legal services at the right time, based on client needs. 

Reconciliation Action Plan

In 2015, we launched our Reconciliation Action Plan as a part of Reconciliation Week. The plan outlines to help address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the justice system and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait legal and community agencies to advocate for systemic change.   

New Independent Mental Health Advocacy Service

In 2015, we launched our Independent Mental Health Advocacy Service, a non-legal advocacy service supporting people who are receiving compulsory mental health treatment to have as much say as possible about their assessment, treatment and recovery. 

Family Law Legal Aid Services Review report released

In 2015, we identified 35 actions for change in response to the Family Law Legal Aid Services Review to ensure that family law legal aid services are fair, as widely available as possible, and sustainable. The actions reflect the future direction of our family law services as part of an ongoing process to embed greater accountability and better service delivery across legally aided services. 

Ella Ingram wins discrimination case against insurance giant

In 2015, we represented Ella Ingram who won a landmark discrimination case against insurance giant QBE for providing a travel insurance policy with a blanket exclusion for claims relating to mental illness. 

Family Advocacy and Support Services

In 2017, we launched Family Advocacy and Support Services, new approach that combines specialist legal assistance and social support for families affected by family violence who are involved in family law proceedings  

Prison Legal Help 

In 2017, we launched Prison Legal Help telephone service that provides more accessible legal help to people in Victorian prisons. 

New Mallee regional office

In 2017, we launched our new Mallee regional office. The service is in partnership with Mildura’s Sunraysia Community Health Services (SCHS) and the office is co-located at SCHS. This is based on a health justice partnership model, recognising that there is often an overlap between health and legal problems in people’s lives. 

Strategy 22 

Our Strategy 2018–22, known as ‘Strategy 22’ outlines how we will work towards our intended purpose, which is to make a difference for clients and the community through effective legal services and collaborative leadership of a strong and dynamic legal assistance sector. It outlines our strategic priorities in the next four years. Our plans, and investment decisions are informed by these priorities. 

Independent Family Advocacy and Support

In 2018, we established the Independent Family Advocacy and Support, a three-year pilot service, providing  non-legal advocacy to families engaged with the child protection system, focusing on matters before they go to court.  

Working together to improve access to justice for cross-border communities

The Cross-border justice report, released by Victoria Legal Aid and Legal Aid NSW in 2019, outlines how the commissions will improve access to legal assistance along the Victorian–NSW border. 

Live chat

In 2019, our Legal Help live chat service begins. Legal Help Chat is run by our qualified legal help staff and can help people with their legal questions.  

Second Reconciliation Action Plan

In 2019, we proudly launched our second Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), as part of our National NAIDOC Week celebrations. The RAP outlines how we will work together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to ensure the services we provide are culturally safe, accessible and responsive. 

Legal win in robodebt test case in Federal Court

In 2019, after years of defending the scheme, the Australian Government conceded its robodebt scheme was unlawful when we took them to court on behalf of two young women. Last year, almost one billion dollars in refunds and waived robodebts was returned to over 470 thousand people. 

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