On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #10 April 2010
On the Record – The e-bulletin
Community LegalCentres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #10 April 2010
This is the tenth edition of On the Record, the quarterly e-bulletin ofthe NSW Community Legal Centres. CommunityLegal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providingequitable and accessible legal services. To find out more about CLCs in NSW visit www.clcnsw.org.au
For moreinformation about On the Record, or any of the events happening in communitylegal centres, contact Alastair McEwin, Director, at the State Office,Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW), Alastair_McEwin@clc.net.au or phone 92127333.
If you do notwish to receive future issues of On the Record, please follow theinstructions to unsubscribe below. If you know others who may wish to receivethe e-bulletin, feel free to forward this email, and they will be able tosubscribe themselves to our list with the link below. Or you can subscribe byfilling out the form on our website. You can also change which email addressthe e-bulletin goes to, and update other details by following the links at thebottom of the email.
A delegation from the Vietnamese Lawyers Association visited Sydneyin March and met with Edwina MacDonald (Women's Legal Services NSW), RoxanaZulfacar (CLCNSW) and Louise Edwards (NACLC) to discuss the role of communitylegal centres and law reform. TheAssociation has already established 12 free legal assistance centres throughoutVietnam. Delegates wereparticularly interested in domestic violence services and the very topicalissue of whether CLC workers are paid less than public servants and the privatesector! Visits were also made toKingsford Legal Centre and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
Roxana Zulfacar, CLCNSW: Roxana_Zulfacar@clc.net.au
Sinceit came into force in 2000, ninety-nine countries have ratified the OptionalProtocol to CEDAW including Australia in late 2008. Yet, in over nine years, the CEDAW committee has onlydecided 11 communications and conducted just one inquiry under the OptionalProtocol.
EdwinaMacDonald (Women's Legal Services NSW) along with Rachel Ball (Human Rights LawResource Centre, Melbourne) and 15 other participants from across theAsia-Pacific region recently attended a six-day training workshop in Nepal onthe Optional Protocol.
Thisworkshop was organised and funded by International Women's Rights Action Watch– Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP) to build capacity in NGOs across the region for theeffective use of the Optional Protocol as a tool to protect and promote women'shuman rights and hold States accountable to their obligations under CEDAW.
Edwina MacDonald, WLS: Edwina_MacDonald@clc.net.au
While many rural and remote communities are striving to improveInternet access and electronic mail services, residents of Stanley Village, aremote Indigenous community in northern NSW, are celebrating the arrival ofsnail mail!
Local residents had long asked Australia Post for a direct serviceto the township, as travel to the nearest Post Office in Moree was difficultbecause of limited public transport.
PIAC was approached by a determined local resident and intervenedon his behalf to remind Australia Post of its Australia-wide community serviceobligations.
Australia Post has now agreed to deliver mail to Stanley Village,and Moree Shire Council, also contacted by PIAC, will make a financial donationtowards installing the new mailboxes.
PIAC’s involvement in the matter reflects its interest in ensuringthe equal provision of services to remote Indigenous communities.
Dominic O’Grady, PIAC: email@example.com
In November 2009 Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre celebrated 10 years ofproviding community legal services along the south coast of NSW. Supporters and friends filled the NowraSchool of Arts to celebrate and commemorate 10 years of services by MeredithMcLaine, Dianne Day and Evangaline Meier.
President Leonie Sinclair (also celebrating 10 years on the ManagementCommittee in 2010) said:
“An organisation is the sum of its parts and although we have had manyand varied workers and board members over the years we have achieved apersonality of our own. In theearly years it was not all smooth sailing as we found our feet both in terms ofthe staff fit and the kind of work weshould do.
“I believe we have achieved a good balance allround and this is reflected by our reputation in the community and results forclients we achieve.”
Kerry Wright, Shoalcoast CLC: firstname.lastname@example.org
DDLC has made a submission focused on emphasisingthe need for people with disability to be able to access the justice systemwithout barriers.
This perspective covers the higher rate of legalneed of people with disability, the prevalence of people with disabilityencountering ‘referral roundabouts’ when seeking legal advice, and the need formore accessible formats for legal advice and information.
Also highlighted are issues of costs in bringingcomplaints to the court level, and the critical need for increased funding toenable community legal centres to support people with disability.
Joanna Shulman, DDLC: email@example.com
The PrisonersPost-Release Housing & Debt Program isan initiative of Redfern LC’s Specialised Credit and Debt legal service and ourInner Sydney Tenancy Advice & Advocacy Service. It also partly arose from a recommendation of our AdvisoryCommittee to address the increase of female incarceration, especially amongstyoung Aboriginal women, and from the number of people accessing our servicefrom gaol.
Extensive research was undertaken on some of thekey issues facing people in the criminal justice system, particularly theability to reintegrate successfully within their communities afterrelease.
The program was piloted at inner-Sydney’s GuthrieHouse with women on a pre-release live-in program, and aimed to identify thecritical issues around housing and credit and debt. A series of five fortnightly workshops were held,conducted in an informal environment and targeted at, and attended by, women,most likely as part of their pre-release conditions. This allowed forsignificant input by the participants, whose feedback was positive; they foundthe topics covered and materials provided particularly useful.
The key persistent issues identified are:
a) The strong interlink between unstable housing, debt,relationship and family breakdowns; and
b)The importance of having systems in place and the necessary support to enablewomen to return to the community and to be restored to their children andfamilies, which continues to be paramount to women generally exiting the prisonsystem.
Oneof the most fundamental issues to prisoners’ reintegration into the communityis affordable and appropriate housing.Homeless people have been shown to be arrested and incarcerated at farhigher rates and the very issue of being homeless exposes a person to a higherrisk of offending through peer pressure, temptation or necessity.
Ex-prisoners with access to stable andsecure housing have lower rates of re-offending and re-incarceration and theirability to find employment and access assistance from services aresubstantially increased as a direct result of access to stable housing.
Credit and debt
Theproject shows many people enter prison with low-level competencies in theskills needed to manage debt, and no exposure to information on availableremedies.
Further,other barriers were identified such as prisoners ‘attitudes or conditions’preventing them from being able to manage their debts, or seek assistance withthem.
- Other existing problems which are more pressing – i.e. they may be worried about their children or their legal situation;
- A belief that the only solution to problems with debts is to find the money to pay them and, as they generally do not have money to make repayments, nor any prospect of getting money while in prison, they decide not to worry about a problem that they are convinced they cannot resolve; and
- Drug dependency where paying drug debts accrued in prison becomes a priority.
Asfines and debt problems are often left largely unchecked for a significantperiod of time - due to the women’s inability to cope with further issuesduring traumas and multiple crisis points in their lives – they often progressto the stage where legal action is commenced or 'enforcement proceedings' are instigated.
Overall,most women appeared to have more fines than debt, especially consumercredit-related. Through Info Exposheld at various prisons, some had accessed information and had taken stepstowards paying off their fines whilst inside, rather than being confronted withthem on release.
Informationaround critical limitation dates – where a creditor has not pursued, or beenunable to pursue the debt expeditiously, during the six year limitation period,the 12 years to enforce a judgment debt, and the fact that recovery of fines isnot subject to a limitation date - was considered useful and was unknown by alarge number of women.
In addition to housing and debt, other issues continue tobe:
- Insufficient post-release services;
- Lack of family or community cohesion and networks;
- Social stigma of incarceration;
- Difficulty gaining any meaningful employment; and
- Exposure to previous offending triggers and elements, such as returning to a community in which the offender is able to source illegal drugs to support addictions, especially when the offender is still vulnerable to re-addiction or is still in recovery.
RLC is planning to repeat sessions at Guthrie House and atother local community organisations that include services to families ofprisoners, and to men post-release.
GuthrieHouse is also attempting to capture relevant data to follow up the impact onparticipants of its program and facility.
Ultimately,we would like to see that addressing at least two specific and key areas,housing and debt, can impact favourably on recidivism rates.
Elizabeth Morley, RLC: Elizabeth_Morley@clc.net.au
On 26 January Kingsford Legal Centre’s AboriginalAccess Worker, Keith Ball, shared a stall at the annual Yabun festival inSydney’s Victoria Park, with Redfern and Marrickville Legal Centres.
Visitors to the stall received information about theCentres’ respective services, and were encouraged to sign a letter of supportfor an Australian Human Rights Act.
These letters have now been mailed to Prime MinsterRudd to request the Federal government enact a National Human Rights Act inAustralia.
Keith Ball, KLC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Illawarra Legal Centre (ILC) is delivering a new outreach service to theEurobodalla and Bega Valley areas, providing tenancy and welfare rights adviceand assistance.
The Illawarra Tenants Service and the ILC Welfare Rights Project havecombined to operate as the ‘South CoastTenants Service’ and establish offices in both Bega and Batemans Bay. Local residents now havetwice-weekly access to face-to-face assistance that includes duty advocacy andrepresentation at the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
This project will highlight the need for ongoingservice provision in these communities; funded until February 2011 by theFederal Attorney General’s Department, it will seek support for continuedoperation.
Les Farrell, Illawarra LC: Les_Farrell@clc.net.au
In March 2010,South West Sydney Legal Centre (SWSLC) launched a six-month trial of a Driving Offences Legal Service toprovide advice and legal representation for defendants charged with seriousdriving offences listed in Liverpool Local Court.
This projectmeets a growing demand at SWSLC for assistance with driving cases; from 3.8% ofSWSLC activities in 2006/7 to 12% in 2008/9, second only to family law.
SWSLC also has avery high representation of CALD and new settlers, who are poorly equipped toself represent, and often of low income.
The project willbe delivered by SWSLC in partnership with Armstrong Legal (the Liverpool officeof Marsden’s Law Group), and the Liverpool Local Court, and will be reviewedafter six months with a view to extending the service to other Local Courts inthis region.
Peter Multari, South West Sydney LC: Peter_Multari@clc.net.au
Newservice for wills, power of attorney and enduring guardianship
Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) has started a newservice to help people with limited financial capacity and health issues tohave a will, power of attorney and enduring guardianship drawn up.
This service will be offered at a special subsidised rate on aVoucher system, coordinated with solicitors from eight local firms working withthe CLS.
Clients make an appointment at the HRCLS to assess their financialcircumstances and needs, and complete a Wills Instruction Sheet. The client is then put in contact witha lawyer from the firms on the CLS list, who can assist in the time framerequired. Clients are issued witha Voucher (featuring the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service letterhead, and theletterheads of the Albury and District Law Society and North East LawAssociation) to be ‘redeemed’ at the participating firms. The cost of eachwill, power of attorney and enduring guardianship for a Voucher is $50 each.
This service means the HRCLS now:
- Has a list of law firms willing to offer a number of discounted wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianship (the number to be determined by the firm) per year;
- Can put clients in contact with a law firm prepared to take instructions from the holder of a Voucher within five working days;
- Identifies as recipients individuals who are financially disadvantaged (defined as someone in receipt of a social security pension or benefit and who does not have money or assets exceeding $5,000 excluding their interest in a family home or motor vehicle) and experience a particular vulnerability (e.g. frailty, ill health, language, isolation or disability).
The system is operating well and hopes to expand to include moreparticipating firms in 2010.
Educationpilot project with Charles Darwin University
Funding has been secured for a clinical education pilot projectfocused on family law in the second half of 2010.
The CLS will partner with Charles Darwin University and for 32weeks four external law students will spend two weeks on-site at the CLSlearning about the practicalities of family law in a remote/regional/ruralCLC. This project will give thestudents a unique opportunity to complete practical skills and - hopefully -encourage more lawyers into country areas!
Cross-borderweekly advice clinics
The HRCLS has started free weekly free legal advice clinics as anoutreach service at the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, with supportand referral from the staff and CEO.
This cross-border health service allows HRCLS to assist theIndigenous communities on both sides of the border, and more effectively thanthe previous experience of working with each of the individual local Aboriginalcorporations.
Karen Bowley, Hume Riverina CLS: KBowley@umfc.com.au
More than 30 people attended ‘Open Yarnin’, a two-hour community forum organised in October 2009by KLC’s Aboriginal Access Worker in collaboration with La Perouse AboriginalYouth Haven. Panel membersincluded the Bondi Outreach Project, the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, MaroubraPolice, the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney General and the NSWDepartment of Juvenile Justice.
Local Aboriginal young people and their families wereable to question the panel about a range of topics which included:
- Court Conditional Bail and Police Conditional Bail;
- Statements: when to give one and when not to give one
- Court: pleading guilty or not guilty;
- The new Bail Act and its impact on young Aboriginal people;
- Providing information to Police when approached; and
- ‘Move on’ orders and searches.
Issues that emerged included:
- More education for parents and youth workers to help them understand what to do when a young person is taken into police custody (KLC will develop a checklist for parents and youth workers to refer to as a guiding resource);
- The need for CLE workshops for youth workers and parents on their rights when dealing with the police; and
- More specifically targeted CLE workshops for youth on these areas.
Keith Ball, KLC: email@example.com
DDLC continues to work with other leadingdisability organisations to compile a Shadow Report on Australia’simplementation of the International Convention on the Rights of Persons withDisabilities (CRPD).
The Report will note the extent to which Australiahas implemented the CRPD and provide recommendations for the Government toenact in the future.
DDLC acknowledges the generous support of DLAPhillips Fox for this project by providing a full time solicitor for one yearto organise the consultation and the drafting of the Report.
Joanna Shulman, DDLC: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thelatest research report from the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) - Bail Me Out – NSW Young People and Bail – isnow available.
The YJCconducts research about juvenile justice and child welfare, and contributes tothe development of legislation in those areas, to promote the rights ofchildren and young people in NSW and across Australia.
The YJC is currently convened by the Children’sSolicitor who works at the Children’s Legal Service based in Marrickville LegalCentre. In August 2008 and January 2009, the YJCconducted a study about bail conditions and youth at the Children’s Court.
The research was conducted because of:
a) Concern about the growing number of young peoplein remand and reports of increased police surveillance and scrutiny of those onbail; and
b) A lack of existing research in this area.
This research considers the reasons for youngpeople being breached for bail conditions, the nature of bail conditionsimposed on young people, the impact of these conditions on young people and thedemographics of young people in remand.
Theresearch reports that, of those young people in custody for breach of bail:
- 56% did not commit new offences;
- 3% should not have been arrested as they were not on bail at the time;
- Almost 60% were granted bail by the court; and
- 8% of those granted bail could not meet their bail (usually due to no accommodation being available) and remained in detention.
Thereport shows that imposing bail conditions on young people is not serving thepublic interest. Rather, theimposition of onerous and ‘welfare focussed’ bail conditions, and breach of ‘technicalconditions’ resulted in the unnecessary presence of young people in the courts.
Theresearch also identified as areas for improvement:
- The need for bail conditions that are not onerous and easily understandable by young persons;
- Greater recognition of factors outside young people’s control that prevent them from complying with their conditions;
- Better communication between government entities to ensure that young people can comply with their bail conditions; and
- Police restraint in arresting young people for breach of bail conditions.
Copiesare available from: www.yjconline.net(PDF)
Katrina Wong, Marrickville LC: Katrina_Wong@clc.net.au
Recent reforms tothe Fines Act may allow people who meet special criteria to ‘work off’ theirfines debt through a Work and Development Order (WDO).
The IllawarraLegal Centre (ILC), with funding from the University of Wollongong Law Faculty,has developed two new information products:
a) FAQ sheet forworkers about Work and Development Orders; and
b) A wallet cardfor young people with fines debt, which includes information on WDOs.
The ILC iscurrently working with CLC advocates and members of the Youth Justice Coalitionto encourage appropriate organisations to become ‘Approved’ to oversee clientswho are seeking a WDO.
Copies of the resource materialsare available from the Centre.
Sharon Callaghan, Illawarra LC: Sharon_Callaghan@clc.net.au
4 – 6 May 2010
Crowne Plaza, Darling Harbour, Sydney
From4 to 6 May 2010, people from community legal centres (CLCs) across NSW willcome together at the Community Legal Centres NSW state conference to celebratethe work of CLCs which provide vital legal services for the community. The state conference is an invaluableopportunity for all in the NSW CLC network, supporting knowledge sharing,skills training and professional development.
DayOne is a closed program for RRR CLCs and specialist CLCs that work in RRRareas, and is being held at the University of Sydney Law School. Days Two and Three, at the Crowne Plazahotel, Darling Harbour, are open to all interested in CLC work. Justice Virginia Bell, Justice of theHigh Court of Australia, will deliver the keynote address on Day Two.
Forregistrations and further information:
The Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) ishelping to co-ordinate Anti-Poverty Week in NSW.
The week begins on Sunday 17October and finishes on Friday 23 October - though activities andevents can also take place just prior to and after these key dates – andhighlights the issue of material deprivation in Australia and internationally.
WRC works daily to ensure that ourclients and communities receive free legal services so that people on lowincomes are not further disadvantaged by the legal system.
Later this year, themuch-anticipated Henry Review of Taxation will finally be released, providingan opportunity for our communities to debate income redistribution. An example: a single, unemployed adultis currently trying to live on approximately $231 per week.
For more information:
Maree O’Hallaron, WRC: email@example.com
Law Week, held 17 – 22 May, has activities which include an open airlegal expo in Sydney's Martin Place, where members of the public can talk faceto face with major legal service providers and the Legal Services Roadshow,organised by Legal Aid, the courts and the Department of Justice and AttorneyGeneral, which will visit Wagga Wagga, Deniliquin, Griffith and Leeton.
Thestaff and work of Community Legal Centres in NSW have been recognised in thefollowing awards, for which CLCNSW extends its congratulations:
Shoalhaven International Women’s Day Celebrations:
MeredithMcLaine, Principal Solicitor with Shoalcoast CLC, was cited for her years ofcommunity legal work in Nowra (and elsewhere in NSW and Queensland), commitmentto social justice and human rights and particularly her dedication and interestin the areas of women’s legal rights and the empowerment and self-determinationof Aboriginal people.
UNSWVice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence:
KLC Director Anna Cody won this award for her passion and commitment to teaching UNSW law students, especially her focus on the impact of the law on thevulnerable and disadvantaged, and her dedication to ensuring all law studentshave some clinical legal experience during their studies.
UNSW Law Faculty Awardfor Professional and Technical Staff:
Anna Hartree, KLC Coordinator, was awarded this in recognition of her work updating student induction, andcommunity work in conjunction with teaching students.
Justice Awards 2009:
To the Legal Education and Advice in Prisonfor Women Project (LEAP), a partnership between Hawkesbury Nepean CommunityLegal Centre, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre and Women's LegalServices NSW.
ProBono Partnership Award (Highly Commended):
Sexual Assault Communications PrivilegeReferral Pilot, a partnership between Women's Legal Services NSW, Blake Dawson,Clayton Utz, Freehills, the Bar Association and the Office of the Director ofPublic Prosecutions.
Women Lawyers Association NSW Awards 2009:
To Edwina MacDonald,Women's Legal Services NSW, Woman Lawyer of the Year in a CommunityOrganisation.
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) areindependent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legalservices. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantagedand marginalised people and communities. CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but alsoencourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates. We promote human rights, social justiceand a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable lawsand legal systems. Centres worktowards achieving systemic change through community legal education, andthrough law and policy reform.
Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (CLCNSW) isthe peak body for CLCs in NSW. It isresourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government andPublic Purpose Fund. CLCNSW has 39member organisations including generalist and specialist community legalcentres.
Phone: (02) 9212 7333