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 Dr John Boersig, CEO of Legal Aid ACT.

Dr John Boersig | NLA Chair

Dr Boersig is CEO 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. 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 the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Louise Smith | Executive Officer

Louise is the Executive Officer for National Legal Aid and was appointed to the role in 2002.

Louise has held senior and management roles and has extensive practical legal experience representing clients gained at the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service and in private practice, and as an employee and volunteer solicitor at community legal centres in Tasmania and Victoria.

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 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 2016-17 financial year the funding comprised:

  • Commonwealth government – $225.214 million
  • State and territory governments – $403.427 million
  • Interest, contributions & fees – $100.948 million

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

Services we provide

In 2016-17 the commissions provided:

  • grants of aid approved = 146,244
  • legal advice (319,825) and legal task services (56,422) = 376,247
  • duty lawyer services = 456,768
  • family dispute resolution conferences = 7,936

For more statistics please see our Resources page

We do not provide legal advice