Queensland legal assistance forums
The Queensland Legal Assistance Forum (QLAF) was established in February 2006 following a recommendation from the National Legal Aid Conference that legal assistance forums should be established in all states and territories in Australia.
It was intended that these forums would fill a greater coordination role in strategic planning for legal assistance service delivery in each state or territory.
The QLAF Strategic Plan 2019-21 states that the QLAF:
- implements and oversees collaborative service planning
- facilitates best practice and continuous improvement in service design and delivery by coordinating working groups, forums and other legal and non-legal services including oversight of the Regional Legal Assistance Forums (RLAFS)
The QLAF strategic plan is derived from National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020–25 and includes the following guiding principles:
- focus service delivery on people facing disadvantage
- appropriateness of service
- timely intervention
- empowerment and resilience
The QLAF is a voluntary body, comprised of chief executive officers (or a suitably qualified proxy if a CEO cannot attend) from the following organisations or bodies:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS)
- Bar Association of Queensland
- Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ)
- Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG)
- Legal Aid Queensland (LAQ)
- Queensland Council of Social Service
- Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service
- Queensland Law Society
The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department attends the QLAF as an observer. The QLAF usually meets quarterly.
The purpose of the QLAF is to coordinate and maximise the reach of legal assistance services and provide feedback to the Queensland and Commonwealth governments and other relevant bodies on legal assistance strategies. The QLAF also considers opportunities for targeting services between legal assistance service providers, as well as linking legal aid services with other service providers.
The role of the QLAF is to:
- implement and oversee collaborative service planning
- endorse Queensland’s evidence base
- drive best practice in service design by:
- establishing working groups and specialist legal assistance forums to inform best practice service delivery for priority client groups
- ensuring that new and existing services are developed in a collaborative manner with other legal and non-legal services
- drive continuous improvement by:
- progressing current initiatives, including through assigning tasks to working groups and specialist legal assistance forums
- identifying new initiatives as current initiatives are implemented
- supporting service providers to identify and adopt methodologies to better understand and measure the effectiveness of their services
- oversee and enhance the roles of state-wide, regional and specialist legal assistance forums in service system design
- provide feedback to the Queensland Government and other relevant bodies on legal assistance strategies (for example funding strategies, emerging demand and streamlining processes) based on evidence and best practice in service design
- consider regular updates from working groups and specialist legal assistance forums on the progress of initiatives
- provide regular updates and make information available to all organisations that are represented on the QLAF
- promote collaboration within legal services and with other non-legal services.
The QLAF will elect a chairperson who will hold that position for a period of two years. A chairperson may step down from the position prior to the end of the term. In the absence of the chairperson, another person shall be elected to chair the meeting.
Meetings will be held four times per year and as required out of session to consider extraordinary matters.
Information about meetings, including agendas, will be distributed at least two weeks in advance where possible.
Decisions of the QLAF will be based on consensus among members. Representatives may choose to record dissenting views.
It is recognised that some representative organisations have internal decision making processes which involve consultation with their member organisations.
Conflicts of interest
To prevent an actual conflict of interest from arising and to manage any perceived conflict, QLAF representatives will observe the following:
- when the potential for a conflict arises, it is the representative’s responsibility to disclose the nature of the potential conflict
- when a representative discloses a potential conflict, those present will decide whether a possible conflict makes the representative’s continued involvement untenable
- when a direct conflict is identified, the representative must absent themselves from the deliberation and decision-making process
- if the representative continues as part of the discussion after disclosure, the disclosure and subsequent participation shall be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
Secretariat functions of the QLAF are managed by DJAG. These functions include preparing and distributing meeting agendas, minutes and other documentation to the QLAF.
Collaboration with other forums
The QLAF will collaborate with other working groups and specialist legal assistance forums with service planning initiatives. The requirements for this collaboration are outlined in National Legal Assistance Partnership 2020-25 (Schedule B).
The QLAF will also seek advice from other relevant bodies when necessary.