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 Brendan Thomas, CEO of Legal Aid NSW.

Brendan Thomas BA | NLA Chair

Appointed by the NSW Attorney General, Brendan commenced in his role as Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid NSW on the 22 May 2017. Prior to this Brendan was the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Brendan worked for the Department of Justice for more than 20 years and has a strong track record of designing and implementing reforms providing services for victims of domestic violence and for Aboriginal communities.

Brendan has worked in crime prevention and criminal justice for more than 19 years. He has written widely on crime prevention and Aboriginal justice issues.

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 2017-18 financial year the funding comprised:

  • Commonwealth government – $231.391 million
  • State and territory governments – $473.349 million
  • Interest, contributions & fees – $94.058 million

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

Services we provide

In 2017-18 the commissions provided:

  • grants of aid approved = 150,243
  • legal advice (308,434) and legal task services (48,861) = 357,295
  • duty lawyer services = 486,923
  • family dispute resolution conferences = 8,047

For more statistics please see our Resources page

We do not provide legal advice