Territory Stories

Annual Report 2020-2021, Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission



Annual Report 2020-2021, Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission

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Tabled Paper 433


Tabled Papers for 14th Assembly 2020 -; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT




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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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n o rt h e rn t e rr it o ry l e g a l a id c o m m is si o n a n n u a l re p o rt 2 0 2 0 /2 1 0 0 2 has been an invaluable Senior Counsel and I thank him for all his hard work representing our clients over many years. We wish him well. Following Ians departure we decided to create the position of Senior Public Defender and Ambrith Abayasekara was successful in being appointed as our first Senior Public Defender at NTLAC. NTLAC has continued to have strong input into Government policy and legislation. Although we are often unsuccessful in having our views accepted by government, it is important to continue to voice our concerns. I look forward to our continued work in the Barkly region following the launch last year of the Access to Justice in the Barkly Report which provided a road map to redress unmet legal need in this very disadvantaged area of the NT. We hope to pursue the very real issue of homelessness and overcrowding in Tennant Creek and surrounding communities and how this impacts on the incidents of domestic violence and the ability to build a stable, functioning family life. NTLAC has long advocated against the Territorys unfair and discriminatory sentencing laws and we are particularly pleased to see that the NT Government has now released the NT Law Reform Committees report on mandatory sentencing, as well as its report on the recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law. At the time I was appointed Director in 2002 we had a staff of approximately 44 people and occupied one floor of this building housing our Darwin office. Over the years, with a wonderful team of enthusiastic and visionary colleagues, the capacity and reach of the organization has been built. We now occupy 4 levels of our Building. We opened offices in Palmerston and Tennant Creek. We established the Domestic Violence Legal Service next to the Local Court in Darwin. We now have 112 employees. We have social support workers embedded throughout our legal practice and are able to provide a better, more holistic service to our clients, who continue to be the most marginalised. NTLAC is a professional legal practice but also operates to intervene and prevent legal problems before they arise. In our policy and strategy work we look beyond the particular case we are dealing with to address underlying and structural causes of criminal offending, domestic violence, civil law concerns and family breakdown. The organisation looks at the big picture while providing individual client care and services. It is for these reasons that I believe NTLAC will continue to be a leader in the NT legal assistance sector. I have been very fortunate over the years to have had the support of wonderfully supportive Chairs of the Board of NTLAC: the late David Farquhar, Chief Judge Elizabeth Morris and now, Duncan McConnel, current president of the NT Bar Association. I have also been very fortunate to have had the privilege of having Board members who have cared about the work we do and how we can best deliver services, albeit within a tight budget. I thank the current Chair and each of NTLAC's Board members. I also thank those in the private profession who continue to do our work despite the low remuneration. Finally, I thank each and every one of the staff of the Commission. An organisation like NTLAC is only as good as the people who work for it and I have been very fortunate to have worked over the years with tremendous people. My executive management team: Deputy Director, Fiona Hussin, Corporate Services Manager, Barbara Lelli and Human Resource Manager, Leeanne Morris deserve a special thank you from me. We have worked closely together over many years and I am deeply and sincerely Director s Report (continued)

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