legal Aid

Fayu Li

The role of legal aid

Legal Aid NSW provides legal services to disadvantaged clients across NSW in most areas of criminal, family and civil law. Legal Aid NSW helps people with their legal problems. Our legal services include legal advice, help at court and family dispute resolution. We can help in most areas of criminal law, family law and civil law.

What legal advice they offer and some areas of law they don't advise on

  • Business matters, including new business information, partnerships, contracts, leases and franchises (unless the problem is connected to an issue with a friend or family member such as divorce, a partner's debt or being a guarantor for a loan).
  • Commercial investment matters.
  • Conveyancing.
  • Written employment contracts for new employment before entering into the contract. We might be able to provide legal advice about the employment contract once a client is in employment depending on how complex the contract is.
  • Local planning and development disputes.
  • Taxation matters.
  • While we can provide advice on wills, powers of attorney and guardianship appointments, we cannot prepare these documents for you.
  • Workers compensation.
  • Intellectual property/trademarks/patents.
  • Strata title disputes if you have not yet tried mediation (unless your dispute is about strata title levy debts).
  • Neighbourhood disputes if you have not yet tried mediation.
  • Legal advice about retirement village contracts before entering into a contract. However, we do provide legal advice once you are in a retirement village.
  • Disputes within not-for profit-organisations/articles of association.
  • Who is eligible for legal aid

    Anyone can use our advice services.

    However, there are some situations where we might not be able to give you legal advice. For example, if we have already given legal advice to the party you are in dispute with we may not be able to give you legal advice. This is because lawyers are not allowed to advise both parties to a dispute and we will have a 'conflict of interest'. If this happens we will refer you to another legal service for help. Even if there is a conflict of interest you might still be eligible to get a grant of legal aid for a private lawyer to be paid by Legal Aid NSW to represent you.

    An example of a success story

    People smuggling matters

    Legal Aid NSW is representing alleged people smugglers after granting aid in 105 matters. Many are being acquitted in NSW after a year in immigration detention and on remand.

    One of our clients Maynanse is from an impoverished community in a remote part of the Indonesian archipelago, surviving on subsistence farming and fishing. He was recruited by agents of people smuggling networks who come to the bigger villages offering work on fishing boats for large sums of money. The captain stopped the boat out at sea so people could board, then told Maynanse the job had changed and he now had to take the boat to Christmas Island, which Maynanse believed to be an Indonesian island.

    The captain disembarked and six hours later called Maynanse instructing him to follow the GPS coordinates which would in fact take the boat to Australia. Maynanse was terrified and outnumbered by passengers who did not want to turn back. He felt he had no choice but to continue the journey.

    At trial, Maynanse argued that the phone call at sea amounted to a ‘sudden or extraordinary emergency’, and that committing the offence was the only reasonable choice he had. The jury accepted Maynanse’s defence, and he was acquitted after a lengthy trial.