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Imagine an area 160,000 square kilometres in size, which is a little under half the size of Germany.

Now envisage that area being serviced by 15 solicitors from six practices. This is the unique challenge for the legal profession operating in the Far West of NSW.

“Rural and regional practice is tough at the best of times but it’s at that next level of service and dedication,” says Brett McGrath, President of the Law Society of NSW.

McGrath recently returned from a visit to Broken Hill, where the Far West Regional Law Society hosted a roundtable for local solicitors and leaders of the legal profession. Among those who attended were Law Society CEO Kenneth Tickle, Broken Hill Magistrate Jacqueline Trad, Executive Director of Criminal Law at Legal Aid NSW Robert Hoyles and the Principal Legal Officer of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Nadine Miles.

McGrath concedes people living in these communities endure enormous barriers to justice.

“We’ve taken some feedback which we will advocate to government about resourcing and court resourcing, which is a theme that we’ve been running on considerably throughout this year,” he says.

This includes the provision of conferencing rooms in court, to enable solicitors to privately conference with their clients.

“We’re a trusted source of advice for government in particular and also the heads of jurisdiction,” says McGrath.

He says local practitioners are dealing with long court lists and many clients.

“[T]hey want to be able to deliver the best legal service they possibly can, they just need the resources from government to do it.”

McGrath says meeting with members of the profession face to face and hearing about some of their challenges, left a lasting impression.

“It was absolutely eye-opening and something that will resonate with us here at the Law Society for a long time,” he says.

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Law Society of NSW President Brett McGrath reads to children during a visit to Broken Hill

During his visit to Broken Hill, McGrath also had the opportunity to promote a literacy program delivering a free book per month to children in the Broken Hill and Central Darling Shire Council areas. 

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is delivered in Australia by the charity United Way Australia, which is the Law Society President’s charity for 2024. 

McGrath says early childhood education not only leads to a love of learning, basic literacy has enormous trickle on effects later in life. 

“We see youth crime as a major problem in remote and regional New South Wales,” he says. “That festers and begins when there’s disengagement from school.” 

“You won’t see the tangible benefits immediately,” says McGrath. “It is a long-term investment but it’s one that will reap huge dividends.”