Bulletin 48 - Role of Legal Services

Legal issues bulletin 48 - Role of Legal Services

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This bulletin provides advice to staff on the range of assistance available from Legal Services (the directorate).

The role of the directorate

The directorate provides legal support and advice to school staff on matters arising from the department’s operations. It represents or arranges for the representation of the department before a range of courts and tribunals and prepares or assists in the preparation of legal documents. Representatives from the directorate also address staff at development days, forums and conferences on relevant legal issues.

The main areas for Legal Services

The main areas in which the directorate represents the department and its staff include:

  • Anti-discrimination complaints before the Anti-Discrimination Board and the Australian Human Rights Commission and any subsequent legal proceedings
  • Work Health and Safety prosecutions
  • Complaints concerning alleged breaches of privacy, Access to Government Information legislation and a variety of other review applications before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal
  • School attendance prosecutions
  • Liability claims arising from injuries to students and others which occur at schools or during the course of departmental activities
  • Industrial proceedings such as unfair dismissal applications and disputes
  • Debt recovery proceedings
  • Contractual disputes and general commercial matters

Will Legal Services appear for me in court?

If legal proceedings are commenced against an employee in relation to something arising directly from the employee’s work, the directorate can appear or arrange for legal representation to occur. In most instances, such representation is arranged through the Attorney General’s department. This is known as Crown representation.

In some circumstances, such as applications for apprehended personal violence orders sought by or against staff, the directorate appears directly for individual staff or arranges for representation by private solicitors.

Can Legal Services assist with all legal proceedings?

The directorate cannot assist employees with any private legal proceedings – i.e. the circumstances do not arise directly from the employee’s work. Additionally, in accordance with Government policy, the directorate cannot represent employees who seek to commence defamation actions or other proceedings even where the circumstances are work-related.

Where the circumstances are work-related, basic preliminary advice can be provided but the arrangement of and cost of any legal representation is the responsibility of the employee concerned. For further information refer to Legal Issues Bulletin No. 34 – Defamation.

Seeking advice from the directorate

As well as senior executive staff, the directorate will generally give advice to principals, campus managers and office managers concerning matters arising from their schools or areas of responsibility. If other staff members seek advice from the directorate, they should do so generally with the knowledge and approval of the principal.

Can Legal Services assist with all legal proceedings?

Legal officers regularly speak at conferences, forums and workshops on a variety of legal issues. It is generally preferable if staff from other schools or campuses are also invited to attend but each request for a presentation is considered on its own merits.

Further details, including a list of forthcoming presentations, are available on the Legal Services website.

Arranging for a legal officer to address a conference

You will need email a request prior to the date of the planned conference and provide the following information at a minimum:

  • date and time of the conference
  • broadly who will be attending
  • the number of people who will be attending
  • the issue or issues you wish to be addressed at the conference.

The more notice you can provide, the better.

Seeking legal advice from the directorate

The directorate operates a telephone advice service from 9 am to 5 pm weekdays. Lawyers staff this service on a rotational basis and are available to provide advice on a wide range of issues.

Sometimes it will not be possible to provide advice over the telephone owing to the complexity of the issue. In these cases, further written information will generally be sought from the caller and the matter then allocated to a particular legal officer for further consideration and advice.

Staff can also seek advice from the directorate via fax or email.

Advice on the directorate's website

The directorate maintains a variety of information on legal topics on its website, including:

Additionally, the website contains a section which provides advice on a wide range of frequently asked questions. This section is reviewed and updated as changes in law and policy occur.

What about advice on policy related issues?

Advice regarding policy or procedural issues should be directed to the relevant operational unit or directorate responsible for the particular issue.

School principals, in the first instance, should seek to clarify policy related issues with their School Education Director who will, if necessary, seek further advice from State Office or operational units or directorates. Further information on key contacts can be found in the Support for principals – Key Contacts.

Legal Services advice for parents or students

Unfortunately, it is not possible for Legal Services of the Department of Education to give advice to parents about legal issues affecting their children at our schools and colleges. This is because we have a legal obligation to avoid conflicts of interest that might arise in such situations.

Parents can receive free and confidential legal information, referrals and, in some cases advice by calling LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529. Parents who would prefer to talk to LawAccess NSW with the assistance of an interpreter can call LawAccess NSW through the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450. Parents wanting advice about department policy should ring (02) 9561 8000. Alternatively, parents may be able to get information from the Parents and Citizens Association of NSW.

The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre is a not for profit community legal centre that provides free legal advice and referrals to young people on legal issues including general legal rights, school issues, family law, child protection law and discrimination. They also provide information about and referrals to other services including accommodation, health, alcohol and other drug services, financial assistance, and specialised counselling. They can be contacted on (02) 9322 4808 or at 356 Victoria Street DARLINGHURST NSW 2000.

Seeking advice from Legal Services

If the issue about which you seek advice mainly involves a particular policy, procedural or operational issue, you should first direct your enquiry to the relevant operational unit, or in the case of school principals, to the School Education Director.

If having done so, there remain legal issues to resolve, or if the initial enquiry is primarily legal in nature, you should refer to the Legal Services portal where information addressing commonly occurring issues is provided.

If an answer to your problem cannot be found after doing these things, you can seek legal advice by contacting the directorate.

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