The first legal aid scheme in WA was started by the Law Society of Western Australia in the 1960s. It relied heavily on private lawyers working for free. Before then, there was no coordination of legal aid services; the only subsidised legal help available was voluntary work done by private lawyers.
In 1974, the Commonwealth Government set up the first Australian Legal Aid Office (ALAO) in Fremantle, WA. The ALAO only provided legal aid for cases that involved Commonwealth laws, such as family law and bankruptcy, or involved helping people owed a special responsibility by the Commonwealth, like members of the military and war veterans.
For several years, the two schemes operated alongside each other, but there were issues in terms of the scope and efficiency of having two separate schemes. In 1978, the legal aid services provided by the Law Society of WA and the ALAO were formally replaced by the creation of the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia. The Legal Aid Commission was jointly funded by the Commonwealth and WA State Governments to provide legal aid services in Western Australia.
Growth of regional offices
In 1978, when Legal Aid WA opened its first office in Perth, the ALAO offices in Midland and Fremantle were converted into outer metropolitan offices of Legal Aid WA.
Legal Aid WA continued to expand into regional Western Australia and opened regional offices in Broome (1985), Bunbury (1985), South Headland (1986), Kalgoorlie, Albany (2005), Geraldton (2005) and Kununurra (2008). We also provide lawyers at outposts on Christmas and Cocos Islands and at Carnarvon (opened in 2012).
In 2015, all of Legal Aid WA’s metropolitan services relocated to our current Perth office at 32 St Georges Terrace.
Reviewed: 20 April 2018