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 Suzan Cox OAM QC, Director, Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission.

Suzan Cox OAM QC | NLA Chair

Suzan has been a practicing lawyer (primarily in the criminal jurisdiction) for 41 years.

Suzan graduated from the University of New South Wales in the late 70s and her first legal position was with the Office of the Public Solicitor in Port Moresby, PNG. After three years of criminal circuits throughout PNG Suzan lived, studied and worked in New York City in the early 1980’s before being recruited to work for the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service in Alice Springs. After three years in Alice Springs she read at the Melbourne Bar from which she received leave to work at the North Australian Aboriginal Legal Service in Darwin in 1990. Suzan found her life partner in Darwin and stayed. Suzan worked at the NT Legal Aid Commission initially as manager of the Family Law Practice, then as the Criminal Law Practice Manager. In 2002 she was appointed as Director.

Suzan’s qualifications include a BA/LLB (UNSW 1978) and a LLM (Criminal Law NYU 1985). Suzan was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004, received an Order of Australia Medal for service to the law in 2019, is a fellow of the Charles Darwin University and a life member of the Criminal Law Association of the NT (CLANT).

Louise Smith | Executive Officer

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.

How we are funded

The commissions receive funding from three sources, and for the 2018-19 financial year the funding comprised:

  • Commonwealth government – $241.439 million
  • State and territory governments – $494.622 million
  • Interest, contributions & fees – $102.669 million

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

Services we provide

In 2018-19 the commissions provided:

  • grants of aid approved = 149,814
  • legal advice (291,206) and legal task services (42,681) = 333,887
  • duty lawyer services = 479,083
  • family dispute resolution conferences = 8,116

For more statistics please see our Resources page

We do not provide legal advice