Two new Launceston-based board members have joined The Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania.
Virieux Group and Rosevears Developments executive manager Naomi Walsh and Bishops Solicitors partner Julia Higgins will be responsible to ensure a positive and long-term future for Legal Aid Tasmania in their new roles.
They represent the first new appointments since the parliament changed Legal Aid’s Act to create a skills-based board.
Ms Higgins specialises in family law and is the vice chair of the Family Law Practitioners’ Association in Tasmania and a board member at the Launceston Women’s Shelter.
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Ms Walsh is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and has been the the executive manager of a hospitality group as well as the finance manager of a road construction company.
Both are University of Tasmania graduates, Ms Walsh has a Bachelor of Business and a Master of Business, and Ms Higgins has a double bachelor degree in Commerce and Law.
Ms Higgins said, “Legal Aid is central to providing access to justice for all individuals and particularly for those Tasmanians who would not otherwise have the financials means to seek legal assistance”.
Ms Walsh said she was excited to be appointed to the five-person commission board.
“Legal Aid provides crucial services and works proactively to get good outcomes for the community,” Ms Walsh said.
The board sets the strategic direction of the organisation, sets policies, provides financial oversight, promotes Legal Aid in the community as well as ensuring compliance with all relevant laws.
Legal Aid chairperson Patrick Lunn said both Ms Higgins and Ms Walsh would bring critical professional skills to the board.
They have a strong sense of social obligation and are committed to improving access to justice for disadvantaged Tasmanians, Mr Lunn said.
It would be a busy couple of years for the board as it was likely to oversee increased legal aid representation grants, increased duty lawyer services and better referrals to non-legal service providers to help clients turn their lives around, he said.
The board would also enhance services to people affected by elder abuse issues and oversee higher numbers of meditations of high-conflict disputes between separated couples concerning the living arrangements for children, he said.