About National Legal Aid

Who we are

National Legal Aid (NLA) represents the directors of the eight state and territory legal aid commissions in Australia.

The legal aid commissions are independent statutory bodies that provide legal assistance services to the public, with a particular focus on the needs of people who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged.

One of the NLA directors, on a rotation basis, is the Chair and primary spokesperson for NLA. The current Chair of NLA is Louise Glanville, CEO Victoria Legal Aid.

Louise Glanville
NLA Chair

Louise has extensive experience across the justice, social services and government sectors.

Louise is the Chief Executive Officer of Victoria Legal Aid and the Chair of National Legal Aid. She also Chairs the Western Metropolitan Partnership and the Ministerial Development Advisory Panel, as well as holding an Adjunct Professor role at Victoria University. Prior to these appointments, Louise was the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation and she spent three years as Deputy CEO at the National Disability Insurance Agency implementing the NDIS. Louise was the inaugural Director of Victoria’s Neighbourhood Justice Centre Project which saw the Centre opening in Collingwood in 2007. She has worked for the Victorian Public Advocate, the then Victorian Department of Justice and the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department in Deputy Secretary roles, as well as in local government, academia, the private sector, and ministerial offices.

Louise holds qualifications in law, social work and social policy, and is keenly interested in the intersections between legal policy and public policy generally. Over the last decade, Louise has had extensive experience in varied roles related to governance, risk, strategic planning and financial management.

Katherine McKernan
Executive Director NLA

Katherine began her career at Legal Aid NSW as a communities program manager and has extensive experience in social justice and working to end disadvantage across government and the community sector.

From 2015 - 2022 she was the CEO of Homelessness NSW and Deputy Chair of Homelessness Australia and led policy and advocacy work in many areas including housing, domestic and family violence, support for ex-prisoners, supporting young people at risk and the NDIS. She was integral in successfully advocating to maintain National Housing and Homelessness Agreement funding in 2016–17 and again in 2020–21 and most recently in helping ensure that New South Wales’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic prioritised support for people experiencing homelessness.

Louise Keenan
Executive Officer NLA

Louise is a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court in the Australian states of Tasmania and Victoria and is entitled to practice in Commonwealth law courts.

Louise has held management and senior legal roles in legal assistance for many years. Louise was appointed as Executive Officer to NLA in 2002. Louise has extensive practical legal experience representing clients at the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service, in private practice in Tasmania and Victoria, and as an employee and volunteer solicitor at community legal centres in Tasmania and Victoria.

Louise is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and holds a combined arts law degree from Monash University (Victoria) and an Associate Diploma of Modern Languages (Indonesian) from the University of Tasmania.

Dr John Boersig PSM
CEO Legal Aid ACT

Dr Boersig is Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid ACT.

Prior to this appointment Dr Boersig worked as an Assistant Secretary in the Federal Attorney-General’s Department, responsible for a number of areas including Indigenous law and justice and human rights. Before joining the Attorney-General’s Department John practiced law in NSW, as a lawyer for the Aboriginal Legal Service and in private practice. He established the University of Newcastle Legal Centre and was Director of the Professional program in 1994 and was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. He was a part-time Presiding member of the Guardianship Tribunal for many years.

John has a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Sydney and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Canberra. He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2008.

Monique Hitter
CEO Legal Aid NSW

Monique is currently the CEO of Legal Aid NSW. She was appointed to the role in July 2022. Prior to this she was the Acting CEO from November 2021. Monique was also the Deputy CEO from November 2018 – November 2021 and prior to that was the Director Civil Law for 11 years.

Monique has been practicing law since 1997 and has also served as a Senior Member on the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division. In over 30 years working in social justice, Monique is especially proud of having established the Civil law Service for Aboriginal Communities, the Children’s Civil Law Service and expanding the reach and scope of the Legal Aid NSW Civil Law Program, such that the Productivity Commission in its landmark Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements, stated that it set the national benchmark for the provision of civil law services.

More recently in her role as Deputy CEO, Monique led a process to establish new policies in response to sexual harassment and unacceptable behaviour, the development of the Family Law Blueprint and Legal Aid NSW’s response to the pandemic.

Nicky Davies
CEO Legal Aid Queensland

Nicky Davies is the Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid Queensland.

Nicky was admitted as a solicitor in 1986 and has worked in England and Australia. Nicky has worked at Legal Aid Queensland for over 25 years in various roles including Senior Director Legal Practice and Director of Family Law and Civil Justice Services.

Nicky was a member of Family Law Council, 2004 – 2012, and convened Council’s Violence Committee. She was a Board member of the Family Law Practitioners' Association of Queensland, 2001 - 2009, including as President. Nicky was a foundation member of both Queensland Law Society’s Children’s Committee and Domestic and Family Violence Committee, and also served on the Society’s Family Law Committee.

Prior to joining Legal Aid Queensland Nicky was a partner in private practice in the UK.

Helen De Brito
Director Legal Aid WA

Helen De Brito started her career at Legal Aid WA in 2005 and has practised predominantly in criminal law.

In 2011, Helen was appointed Acting Solicitor in Charge of the Fremantle office, before going on to manage the Legal Practice Development Division and the Criminal Law Division. She was also responsible for establishing Legal Aid WA’s Virtual Office service in 2019.

Helen is strongly committed to improving service delivery and delivering positive outcomes for Legal Aid WA’s clients.  She’s passionate about resilience and wellness in the legal profession, regional service delivery, and the development and mentoring of staff.  Helen is a long-standing member of Legal Aid WA’s Reconciliation Action Plan Committee, has managed the Graduate Program, and the Country Lawyers Program.

As the Director of the Criminal Law Division, Helen was instrumental in maintaining criminal law services during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including establishing duty lawyer hubs. In 2022, the Institute of Public Administration Australia awarded the duty lawyer hubs as Best Practice in Innovation.

Helen has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from Murdoch University, achieving First Class Honours in Law.

Gabrielle Canny
CEO Legal Services Commission SA

Having worked for over 25 years as a lawyer and senior manager, Gabrielle possesses an extensive legal background, with experience working across the justice sector in private practice and for three Australian legal aid commissions.

Gabrielle is the Chief Executive Officer and Director of South Australia’s legal aid agency - the Legal Services Commission, a position held since 2010.

As the chair of the NLA Family Law Working Group, Gabrielle has a keen interest in family law matters and ensuring access to justice is available to those who are economically and/or socially disadvantaged. This includes leading NLA’s development of innovative AI assisted resources to empower people to navigate the settlement of family law disputes.

Gabrielle holds qualifications in law, from the University of Adelaide.

Annmarie Lumsden
Director Legal Aid NT

Annmarie has been the Director of Legal Aid NT since December 2022. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Law from the Australian National University and an Executive Masters in Public Administration from the Australian and New Zealand School of Government. She is a Law Society of NSW Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law.

Annmarie has over 30 years post admission experience, mainly as an employee of legal aid commissions in the Act and NSW, but also in private practice and government. She has practiced in civil, family and criminal law, strategic policy and law reform, and as corporate counsel.

Annmarie worked at Legal Aid NSW for over 20 years, holding leadership positions across the organisation including Solicitor Advocate in the Criminal Law Division, and Executive roles including Director Strategic Policy and Planning, Director Family Law, Director Grants and, for the 5 years before coming to the Territory, Director Criminal Law.

In 2022 Annmarie was conferred the Terry Keaney Award by a committee comprised of representatives from the NSW judiciary, the NSW Bar Association, the Law Society of NSW, ALS (NSW/ACT) and Legal Aid NSW for her dedication to the profession, excellence as a criminal defence lawyer and commitment to social justice.

Annmarie is a current member of the Council of the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration.

Kristen Wylie
Director Tasmania Legal Aid

Kristen was appointed as Director of Tasmania Legal Aid (TLA) in March 2023. Kristen graduated from the University of Tasmania in 1993, commencing general practice in Hobart before focusing on family law, family violence and commercial practice. After 8 years in private practice, Kristen joined TLA as the manager of the Family Law Practice in southern Tasmania, and in 2004 Kristen was appointed State Manager of the Family Law Practice (now known as Associate Director Family Law).

In September 2022 Kristen was awarded the Tasmanian Women Lawyers Achievement Award.

Kristen has significant experience as both solicitor and counsel and has been an independent children’s lawyer since 2001. In 2022 Kristen managed the development of Tasmania Legal Aid’s Independent Children’s Lawyers Practice Standards and Guidelines which were launched by the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.

Kristen has been a member of the National Legal Aid Family Law Working Group since 2004.

How we are funded

The legal aid commissions receive funding from three sources, and for the 2021-22 financial year the funding comprised:

  • Commonwealth government - $267.7 million
  • State and territory governments - $610.5 million
  • Interest, contributions & fees - $60 million

For more information on commission income and expenditure please see our Finance page

Services we provide

In 2021-22 the legal aid commissions provided:

  • grants of aid approved = 150,094
  • legal advice (269,578) and legal task services (34,915) = 304,493
  • duty lawyer services = 412,742
  • family dispute resolution conferences = 8,527

For more statistics please see our Resources page

We do not provide legal advice