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On the Record issue #27 Winter 2014


Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #27
/ Winter 2014

This is the 27th edition of On The Record, the quarterly e-bulletin of Community Legal Centres NSW Incorporated (CLCNSW).  CLCNSW is the peak representative body for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in NSW.  CLCs are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services.  To find out more about CLCs in NSW visit www.clcnsw.org.au

If you do not wish to receive future issues of On the Record, please follow the instructions to unsubscribe below.  If you know others who may wish to receive the e-bulletin, feel free to forward this email, and they will be able to subscribe themselves to our list with the link below.  Or you can subscribe by filling out the form on our website.  You can also change which email address the e-bulletin goes to, and update other details, by following the links at the bottom of the email.

Contents:

1. Community Legal Sector News

Editorial: silencing our voices – at what cost?
CLCNSW 2014 Symposium
More funding cuts for CLCs
Rollover of funding agreements for CLCs
Development of funding distribution model for legal assistance providers
Release of report of review of National Partnerships Agreement

2. Community Law

Opening Doors Interactive Play
Informing older LGBTI people about their rights
Hunter CLC Improves Access To Justice At Muswellbrook
Millers Point Tenants’ Service
Volunteer Solicitor assists to extend outreach efficiency on the South Coast
Community Workers Series in Kingsford area
Funding Cut to KLC Program
Marrickville Legal Centre’s community legal education workshops
Legal Education for Sex Workers in Newcastle

3. Human Rights in action

Shoalcoast CLC appears before Senate Committee
Newcastle University Legal Centre establishes Justice Project
Kingsford Legal Centre responds to Productivity Commission Inquiry Into Access To Justice Arrangements
Advocating for grandparents who raise their grandchildren

4. Case reports

Court of Appeal decides ‘may’ means ‘may’
Exercising a workplace right and a subsequent dismissal
Homeless Connect: Andrew’s Story

5. Media mentions

Tom McDonald on The Checkout: Practical Tips for Keeping your Bond
Concern over exploitation of international students at work

6. Publications

RLC’s International Students Service Gets Social: New Video!
DVD: Looking after Family
NFP Law: information hub for charities and not-for-profits
Outasite Lite: e-publication for people living in residential parks
Survey on Housing Affordability

7. Events, commendations and developments

Hina Jilani addresses guests at the 2014 Human Rights Dinner
Community keen for Touch Football Gala Day on the South Coast of NSW
The Arts Law Centre of Australia Pro Bono Awards
Facilitated Panel Conversation at Family Law Pathways Network Annual Conference
Arts Law’s 30th Birthday Gala Dinner
knowmore’s 1st anniversary and successful outreach to Broken Hill
CCLC has a new name!
Quarter of a century of service to Illawarra Legal Centre

8. State Office Update

Aboriginal Legal Access Program
Accreditation Scheme
Advocacy and Human Rights
Sector Development

9. What are Community Legal Centres and what is CLCNSW?

 

1. Community Legal Sector News


Editorial: silencing our voices – at what cost?

In previous editions we have talked about the value of CLCs undertaking systemic law reform and policy work.  We think it makes sense that some of our resources go towards advocating for reform to unfair or discriminatory laws or policies that may adversely affect thousands of people in the community.  CLCs may, for example, give the same advice to hundreds of clients on the same issue;,it would be far more cost-effective to fix or rectify a piece of legalisation that adversely affects many in the community.

It was therefore with great disappointment that we saw the Commonwealth remove law reform as a funded activity from our funding agreement.  The Attorney General, The Hon Senator George Brandis QC, stated that his preference was to see limited resources go directly to those who need it the most, that is, legal advice directly to people who are attending community legal centres.  He has further stated that CLCs are not to engage in law reform submissions using Commonwealth funding.  We are, however, welcome to do it in our own time, such as after hours.  Whilst we don’t dispute that there are many in the community who urgently need legal advice or assistance, we are concerned that the Commonwealth doesn’t appear to appreciate the benefits of spending some resources to fix a problem that could have long-lasting social and economic benefits.

Whilst the Commonwealth has removed law reform from our activities, we are pleased that we can undertake law reform under State funding (see further under “Rollover of funding for CLCs”).  This provides most CLCs in NSW with a great degree of flexibility to undertake important systemic policy work on NSW issues, for which our clients and the community in NSW can only benefit.

As for the Commonwealth and its law reform issues, at what price will attempts to silence us come? Only time will tell.

Alastair McEwin
Director CLCNSW
Send him an email

CLCNSW 2014 Symposium

The CLCNSW Symposium 2014 was held on Wednesday 21 May at the Novotel in Darling Harbour, Sydney.  This biennial event is an opportunity for the NSW CLC sector to celebrate and affirm the progress and achievements of CLCs within the legal justice sector and the broader community.

The day’s proceedings commenced with a Welcome to Country by Donna Ingram, who has attended previous CLCNSW events.  The Hon Brad Hazzard, NSW Attorney General, then opened the proceedings.  He reassured CLCs that he supported their work, stating his door was ‘always open’ to hearing our views. His welcome was followed by the inaugural CLCNSW oration, delivered by Eva Cox, a leading commentator on social justice issues.  Eva’s talk was entitled “Creating a good society – social justice and the role of CLCs”.  Eva spoke about the importance of an ongoing dialogue with the government of the day and using a variety of strategies to ensure social justice issues are raised and made known.

Delegates then had the opportunity to attend sessions covering a wide range of topics.  These included: the effectiveness of policy and law reform activities; AVO Information and Advice Clinics; marginal workers; assessing the effectiveness of self help legal materials; using video technology to improve access to justice in RRR areas; festivals in RRR areas; ethical lawyering for community lawyers; supporting asylum seekers living in the community; improving access to justice for people with disability in rural areas; and creative partnerships with the private sector for the public interest.

The day concluded with a plenary session on surviving funding cuts and advocacy restrictions.  It commenced with a keynote presentation entitled “How Low Can You Go: Whither Funding for Community Legal Services?” delivered by Dr Jennifer Neilsen.  Following this, there was a panel discussion with additional perspectives provided by Mary Waterford, Western Sydney Community Forum, and Rhiannon Cook, NCOSS.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW. Send him an email

More funding cuts for CLCs

In the last edition of On the Record we reported that cuts had been made to a wide number of organisations in the justice sector, including a significant number of CLCs.  These included cuts to the EDO NSW, Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), and CLCNSW.  Programs funded by the NSW Public Purpose Fund (PPF) took a particularly nasty cut, including a 27% reduction in funding to the Aboriginal Legal Access Program.

More recently, we were further dismayed, even alarmed, to learn of how the Commonwealth Attorney General would implement the cuts for CLCs announced in the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) decision of December 2013.  In brief, the Australian Government will not honour one-off funding agreements awarded to approximately 60 CLCs across Australia from 1 July 2015.  These funding agreements, which were provided by the previous Rudd government on a 4-year basis and commenced on 1 July 2013, were a very welcome relief for these 60 CLCs, many of which are at the lower end of receipt of government income.  In NSW, CLCs used the money to, for example, employ Aboriginal workers to commence outreach services in rural and remote areas.  With the withdrawal of this funding, such employment is now either at risk or will cease on 30 June 2015.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

Rollover of funding agreements for CLCs

CLCs in NSW are mostly funded through the tripartite Commonwealth-NSW Community Legal Services Program (CLSP) agreement, administered by Legal Aid NSW.  At literally the last minute, we were advised that our funding effective 1 July 2014 would be rolled over for a further 12-month period.  The agreements provided to CLCs for this period had a range of variations, a number of which were significant in nature.  The variation of most concern was the removal by the Commonwealth Government of law reform from its list of funded activities, as well as the removal of a clause which provided that Commonwealth agreements did not contain provisions that could stifle ‘legitimate debate’ or ‘advocacy activities’, including limiting an organisation’s ‘right to enter into criticism of the Commonwealth’.

CLCNSW naturally viewed this action on the part of the Commonwealth with concern.  We believe that CLCs should have reasonably unfettered freedom to advocate on behalf of their clients; undertaking law reform is certainly a reasonable action to do so.  It was therefore very pleasing to see the NSW Attorney General allow for law reform activities to be included in the definition of State funded activities.  We applaud the NSW Attorney General for his position on this and thank him for his support of CLCs’ work in this area.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

Development of funding distribution model for legal assistance providers

CLCNSW is aware that the Commonwealth Government is currently scoping the development of a funding distribution model for legal assistance providers.  To that end, the Government has appointed a consultant, John Walker, to develop this model.

We understand the consultant has been asked to develop a model that allows for an equitable distribution of Commonwealth funding (estimated at $325m per year) for Legal Aid Commissions (LACs), CLCs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services (ATSILS).  The model is to:

The consultant is expected to provide the Government with a model by 31 December 2014.

We hope the Commonwealth Government and consultant will consult with all stakeholders in a timely and constructive manner in the development of this model.  We note with particular concern the short timeframe of the process, if implementation is expected to commence on 1 July 2015.  It is important also to note that there have been many inquiries over the years and most, if not all, inquiries have recommended the need for more funding for legal assistance providers; we therefore view with concern the viability of any new funding model that is not supported by any new additional funding beyond the budgeted allocation of $325m.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

Release of report of review of National Partnerships Agreement

Regular readers of On The Record will recall that the Australian Government announced a review of the National Partnerships Agreement (NPA) back in June 2012.  The NPA provides Commonwealth funding to public legal services, including CLCs, legal aid commissions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services.

The Review was undertaken by the Allen Consulting Group (now ACIL Allen Consulting) for the Australian Government over the period from May 2012 to June 2013.   The draft report was provided to the Rudd Government shortly before it went into caretaker mode before the 2013 election.  After a long delay, it was finally released in July 2014.

Some findings of the report with respect to services effectiveness, efficiency and quality include:

The report concluded that legal assistance service providers are, in the main, providing appropriate quality services to disadvantaged Australians.

The full report is available online.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

2.    Community law


Opening Doors Interactive Play

Hunter CLC is involved in an interactive play developed in conjunction with the Hunter CLSD and Tantrum Youth Arts.

The play tells the story of Zoe, a 15 year old girl grappling with issues of family violence and sexting. The play has received funding from Westpac and Sparke Helmore Lawyers and is being rolled out to a number of schools throughout the Hunter region this year.  The play is targeted towards year 9 and 10 students and to date has been very well received by students.

A solicitor from Hunter CLC attends each performance speaking briefly about AVOs during the performance and then participating in a question and answer session at the end of the play.

So far this year the play has been performed for 3 schools with another 5 performances to go.

Further information: Kim Richardson, Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

Informing older LGBTI people about their rights

The Sydney based Aged-care Rights Service (TARS) provides a range of services including education, advocacy and legal advice on the rights of seniors within NSW. In 2013 TARS sought funding to improve access and equity for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).

The Reaching Out project held sessions on legal and advocacy issues in a range of formats including representation on panels with partner agencies (ACON), ‘key speaker’ sessions and larger community forums with a panel and ensuing discussion. Where possible we partnered with local community CLCs (Northern Rivers, Far West) for the legal component and in other regions utilised TARS legal expertise.

The aims of the project included:

The smaller sessions were evaluated for impact via pre and post discussion questionnaires and the larger sessions through a feedback ‘process evaluation’. The project also had an independent evaluation component.

A number of resources were developed that targeted LGBTI as a result of recommendations from the consultations that current resources were lacking/too heterogeneous. These included a TARS LGBTI specific service brochure, the ‘10 most frequently asked legal questions for LGBTI’, a poster on discrimination and where to gain assistance and a Power point on ‘Planning Ahead for LGBTI’. These may all be ordered from TARS or downloaded from the website www.tars.com.au

Significant numbers of LGBTI people in diverse locations (urban, rural and regional) now have a better understanding of their rights as they age and where to turn for information and assistance and are aware of the importance of setting up ‘Planning Ahead’ documentation in line with the NSW Ageing Strategy.

In 2014 TARS applied for and received a Multicultural Advantage Grant to run a similar project in Western Sydney and the Riverina where large proportions of multicultural groups reside to increase access and equity via partnership with appropriate multi -cultural agencies and significant community leaders.

Further information: Diana Bernard, Coordinator Education & Promotion

The Aged care Rights Service, phone (02) 9281 3600.

Hunter CLC Improves Access To Justice At Muswellbrook

Self-represented parties in AVO matters will now have access to legal advice at Muswellbrook Local Court thanks to a new service provided by the Hunter CLC.

Applicants and defendants will be able to access information and advice from Hunter CLC staff and student volunteers at the Muswellbrook courthouse on the first Monday of every month.  Ellie Ryan, Outreach Solicitor at Hunter CLC, says the new service will mirror the AVO duty program provided by Hunter CLC solicitors at Newcastle Local Court.

“The assistance provided by our solicitors at the Newcastle Local Court has been very well utilised and has received a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “We’re really pleased to be able to provide a similar service to the Muswellbrook community.”

The AVO advice service will run in conjunction with the Hunter CLC and Legal Aid outreach clinic that operates fortnightly in Muswellbrook out of the Wanaruah Land Council building.

Further information: Ellie Ryan, Outreach Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

Millers Point Tenants’ Service

City of Sydney is supporting Redfern Legal Centre establish the Miller Point Tenants’ Service. Tenant advocates provide assistance to the tenants of Millers Point impacted upon by the decision to relocate residents from the area. You can reach an advocate on 0478 192 450 or see an advocate by appointment during the advice sessions held on:

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Volunteer Solicitor assists to extend outreach efficiency on the South Coast

Chris Haezelwood, an experienced solicitor with a background of CLC work in Victoria as well as private practice, has taken up a role of volunteer outreach solicitor in the Eurobodalla Region (Batemans Bay and Moruya). The assistance he provides Shoalcoast CLC has enabled the outreach times to be extended and provides invaluable assistance to the centre’s ALAP solicitor, Les Farrell.

The centre’s recent decision to expend more resources in the Eurobodalla region have gained a rapid acceptance with an overall increase in enquiry and attendance at outreach clinics.  The support of the local court magistrate for the region has also been encouraging.

Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, send him an email

Community Workers Series in Kingsford area

KLC has continued its monthly community workers legal education series in 2014.  Since March KLC has held workshops for community workers on Discrimination Law, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients and Powers of Attorney.  The sessions have been well attended.  

The ‘Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Clients’ workshop was presented by KLC’s Aboriginal Access Worker, Kaleesha Morris, who based it on KLC’s Aboriginal Service Provision Manual.  The feedback from this session was overwhelmingly positive and it was great to see the participants from different organisations swapping contact details at the end of the session so they could work collaboratively in the future.  Upcoming sessions will be on employment law and child protection law.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Funding Cut to KLC Program

In its May budget the Federal Government cut the funding to the Kingsford Legal Centre’s Family Law and Domestic Violence Community Legal Education Clinic by $100,000,  $50,000 per year over two years - 2015/16 and 2016/17.  KLC is very disappointed that this valuable resource for its local community will be reduced.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Marrickville Legal Centre’s community legal education workshops

Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) regularly conducts community legal education (CLE) as part of its ongoing services. MLC’s Inner West Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (IWTAAS) and Northern Sydney Area Tenants’ Service (NSATS) provide advice and advocacy to public and private tenants and boarders and lodgers regarding their rights under NSW law. Additionally, the Youth Legal Service is a state-wide service which assists young people under the age of 24 with civil and criminal law matters.

In May 2014, MLC presented a CLE session on the mysterious and intriguing world of ‘Priority Housing’ applications. MLC has been presenting a Priority Housing information-share session for community workers for several years. Since its inception, the session has developed and evolved alongside changes made to the process of applying for social housing.

Approximately 9 social workers attended to share their experiences and learn more about the intricacies of assisting their clients to achieve ‘priority’ status on the social housing waiting list in NSW. Numerous materials including (anchored) website links to relevant policies on the Housing Pathways website, as well as sample resources and fact sheets were presented during the session and provided by email to participants to take back to their workplace and share with colleagues.

On 26 June 2014, MLC’s Youth Legal Services ran a “Youth in Trouble: An Update on the Law for Youth Workers”. This workshop was a great success with 9 attendees, who learnt about the amendments to NSW criminal legislation, graffiti laws, victim’s compensation laws, as well as receiving an update on so-called “sexting” or child pornography offences and fines.

MLC is committed to ensuring that the community, social workers and youth workers receive continuing legal education. MLC also runs workshops for organisations, community groups, teachers, parents, and young people. Please contact MLC if you are interested in organising one such workshop.

Further information: Liam McAuliffe, Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, phone (02) 9559 2899 or send an email

Legal Education for Sex Workers in Newcastle

Solicitors from Hunter CLC recently developed a workshop for sex workers in Newcastle. The workshop included a presentation on the rights and obligations of sex workers, time for question and answer, and the option for workers to complete a “Legal Health Check”.

The workshop took place at the ACON’s Newcastle office, and covered topics such as employment rights and duties, council planning policies and police powers as they relate to sex workers. Prior to the workshop, an outreach worker from ACON had collected questions and current concerns from sex workers in Newcastle, and the presentation was largely structured to address those concerns.

The workshop was well received, with a high level of participation from the workers and ACON staff who attended.

The Hunter CLC would like to acknowledge the assistance of ACON, the Inner City Legal Centre and solicitors from local law firm McCullough Robertson in developing the workshop.

Further information: Ruby Taylor, Community Legal Education & Law Reform Coordinator, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

3.    Human Rights in action


Shoalcoast CLC appears before Senate Committee

Black Friday (13th June 2014) was not such a bleak day for two of Shoalcoast CLC’s staff.  Meredith McLaine, Solicitor in charge of the Indigenous Family Law Project, and Mary Jean Kelly, Aboriginal Project Worker, were invited to appear before the Community Affairs Reference Committee in response to Shoalcoast’s submission on Grandparents who take on the primary responsibility of raising their grandchildren.

Shoalcoast CLC also invited a representative from Mission Australia’s Grandparents Program in Nowra and there were also representatives from the Aged Rights Service (TARS) in the same session.  Both Meredith and Mary Jean reported that Senators displayed a keen interest in the submission and were particularly interactive in discussions.  A transcript of the session can be found in Hansard.

Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, send him an email

Newcastle University Legal Centre establishes Justice Project

This year, the University of Newcastle Legal Centre established its ‘Justice Project.’  The project functions as an independent post-conviction review scheme that advocates for ‘eligible persons’ who have exhausted their standard appeal rights but nonetheless continue to profess their innocence to a serious crime with which they have been convicted and remain incarcerated. The project considers cases of alleged wrongful convictions based on police corruption, false identification, ‘unsafe confessions, poor representation, improper forensic science and/or convictions predominantly based on the testimony of informants.

The work is conducted by Lawyers at the Legal Centre with the assistance of law students whose involvement provides participating students an opportunity to contribute to the maintenance and integrity of our criminal justice system and reflect on the concept of ‘social justice’ while providing valuable legal assistance to those members of our society who are not in a position to advance their case.

The Justice Project is currently assisting a number of incarcerated persons who continue to profess their innocence in circumstances where there remains some doubt over their conviction. 

Further information: Daniel Matas, Solicitor/Clinical Teacher, University of Newcastle Legal Centre, phone 02 4921 8690. 

Kingsford Legal Centre responds to Productivity Commission Inquiry Into Access To Justice Arrangements

The Productivity Commission released their draft report on access to justice arrangements. KLC sent a submission responding to a number of information requests and draft recommendations, focusing particularly on draft recommendations to change the way CLCs are funded.  KLC emphasised the value of its connection with its local community and how that enables effective community advocacy.  It also argued against competitive tendering as a model for legal service provision.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Advocating for grandparents who raise their grandchildren

TARS’ Older Persons’ Legal Service made submissions to the Committee Inquiry into Grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren.  TARS and the Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, including the Area Manager of NSW South Coast Mission Australia, and an Aboriginal Family Law Support worker, were invited to appear before the Reference Committee to provide further evidence when the Committee held sittings in Sydney.  This was to provide further evidence in relation to the difficulties and challenges faced by Grandparents when they fulfil this role.  The reporting date is 30 September 2014.

Further information: Meg Small, The Aged-care Rights Service Inc.

Older Persons’ Legal Service, phone (02) 9281 3600

4.    Case notes


Court of Appeal decides ‘may’ means ‘may’

The Tenants’ Union recently had a great win in the Court of Appeal where it sought judicial review of a decision of the District Court.  The case is called: Cain v NSW Land and Housing Corporation [2014] NSWCA 28.

The District Court had upheld an appeal by the landlord (NSW Land and Housing Corporation) and decided that for the purposes of section 91(1)(a) of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (“the Act”) that “may” means “must”.

Section 91 of the Act provides for termination of residential tenancies where there is use of the premises for an ‘illegal purpose’.  Ms Cain had been charged with offences under the Drugs, Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 and her landlord then sought to evict her under section 91(1)(a) of the Act.  When the tenancy matter came before the former Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal, the criminal matter in the District Court had been adjourned for a period of 10 months, giving Ms Cain the opportunity to complete medical and rehabilitation programmes.  The Tribunal ‘took guidance’ from the District Court decision in the criminal matter and declined to terminate her tenancy, and instead made orders for specific performance.

Ms Cain’s landlord then appealed the decision to the District Court and argued that the provision was mandatory and requires the Tribunal to make an order for termination once the facts for the exercise of that power were established.  The District Court upheld the appeal.  The TU instituted judicial review proceedings and the matter was heard in the Court of Appeal in February 2014.  The Court found numerous errors with the judgment in the court below and set aside all orders made by the District Court. The Court also said at [53]: the respondent’s construction leads to results which are fairly described as ‘absurd’ or ‘irrational’ or ‘unjust’.

The litigation, from when it started in the Tribunal to judgment in the Court of Appeal took approximately 16 months.  The TU would like to thank Ms Cain for her perseverance. 

Further information: Cass Wong, Tenants’ Union, phone (02) 8117 3700, send an email

Exercising a workplace right and a subsequent dismissal

A recent Redfern Legal Centre employment case highlighted the importance of foreign workers having access to information regarding their workplace rights during employment and access to legal advice in the case of dismissal.

Emmanuel had travelled to Australia on a working holiday visa. He was interested in finding a job that required travelling the country. He was successful in his application for such a position and understood from the employment contract that he was required to undertake training in order to do the job.  Following the completion of the training, Emmanuel understood he would begin his working holiday journey across Australia.

On the final day of his training, Emmanuel was dismissed from the position. He had a basic understanding of workplace rights and sought legal advice regarding his dismissal. Emmanuel told RLC that he had previously approached a manager outlining his concerns during the training period that he was being paid less than the minimum wage.  He believed his dismissal was directly related to the fact that he had exercised this workplace right.

RLC assisted Emmanuel to lodge a General Protections complaint with the Fair Work Commission, as per the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) ss. 365 and 372.  The matter was resolved through a conciliation conference at the Fair Work Commission.

Part of the importance for this case for RLC is that it highlights the need for foreign workers to have recognised and understood their basic workplace rights in Australia. In this case, if Emmanuel had not understood the relationship between his exercising of a workplace right and its role in his subsequent termination he may never have sought legal advice from RLC’s employment service.

Since resolving this matter, RLC is determined to continue working with foreign workers and increasing understanding of their workplace rights.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Homeless Connect: Andrew’s Story

Homeless Connect is an excellent initiative focused on linking people who are homeless to vital services and support. The volunteer-run, not-for-profit initiative culminates in an annual one-day event, held this year on 3 June at Sydney Town Hall.

Redfern Legal Centre met many people who were homeless or living in uncertain accommodation and was able to provide legal advice and referral services to people in need of support.

RLC met one client, Andrew (not his real name), who was homeless and in poor health and did not have a family network. Andrew was concerned about what would happen to his belongings when he dies and who would know about, or be alerted to, his instructions after his death.

Andrew was aware that even if he was able to invest in a funeral fund that there was no service responsible for alerting family or relevant persons where this information was held. Andrew wanted to know why there is no central agency or register where people can register their details, their assets and their wishes to direct people after the event of their death.

The NSW Trustee and Guardian is an inadequate service for people in Andrew’s position as it involves fees and acts as an executor of a person’s estate, possibly negating the wishes of a client after their death. This issue highlights the uncertainty a person who is homeless can experience when faced with issues around sickness and death and the need to address the lack of provisions for people in this situation.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

5.    Media mentions


Tom McDonald on The Checkout: Practical Tips for Keeping your Bond

RLC Tenant Advocate, Tom McDonald, was on the ABC’s program, The Checkout, this month giving practical advice to tenants in relation to keeping their bond at the end of their tenancy. Every year, over 60,000 bond disputes are heard in Tribunals or other bodies across Australia. Nationally, that’s more than 80 million dollars worth of bond money.

Generally it’s up to your landlord to prove why your bond money shouldn’t be paid back to you. But your position will be stronger if you’ve got your own evidence to show why you’re not responsible for the damage. Taking photos and filling out the condition report carefully (at the beginning and at the end of your tenancy) could mean the difference between keeping your bond and losing some or all of it.

Watch the full story online

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Concern over exploitation of international students at work

In Sydney, Redfern Legal Centre solicitor Kate Gauld says the international students - 470,000 of them in Australia - need early education on their workplace rights.

"Certainly, the more that international students can be aware of their rights from the beginning, the better. It means that they might be less likely to accept employment from something that really has alarm bells, from my perspective, written all over it. So any type of education work that can be done so that they do know that right from the get go would be absolutely beneficial."

But Ms Gauld says the problem is bigger than just a lack of awareness.

Some cases she works on involve allegedly sham contracts, where employers hire the students illegally by forcing them to get Australian Business Numbers instead of tax file numbers.

Ms Gauld says that gives employers the freedom to withhold work entitlements from international students.

"The students might not know the implications for that, and so what it means is that, legally, they're setting themselves up essentially as running their own business without knowing that they're doing that. And it also means that they're not getting certain entitlements that the students should be getting. Meanwhile, the employer is dodging their responsibility for certain things as well. When it comes to tax time, the students may not know then what that means in terms of their tax return, what they have to put in for."

Read full story online

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

6.    Publications


RLC’s International Students Service Gets Social: New Video!

RLC has produced a short video for international students, An International Student Guide to Share Housing, full of practical tips about moving in and out of a share house.

RLC also has a Facebook page to provide an informal, conversational place for international students to keep up to date on how to stay out of legal trouble.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

DVD: Looking after Family

The Far North Coast has a comparatively high rate of removal of Aboriginal children from their parents by the Department of Family and Community Services (previously DOCS).   This is partly because families are not aware of the option of using family law proceedings for their parenting arrangements which stops FACS from being able to file Children’s Court proceedings for removal of children.  Many people are not aware that there are two very separate courts in Lismore for family law and child protection proceedings.

As part of the Aboriginal family law project, Northern Rivers CLC recently launched its DVD ‘Looking after family’.  The DVD attempts to encourage Aboriginal families to use family law and to show the potentially vast difference in outcomes between the Children’s Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Judge Coates from the Federal Circuit Court’s Indigenous Access to Justice Committee spoke to the 60 people at the launch and said “The message in the DVD was consistent with the view of the Family Court”. Judge Coates was supportive of the message in the DVD and strongly believes that parents need to be proactive when it comes to the safety of their children. 

The parents in the DVD are extras from Gods of Wheat Street that recently screened on the ABC and the writer of the series has a cameo appearance.  The DVD can be viewed at www.lookingafterfamily.org.au and there is a competition running to encourage people to watch the DVD so please consider how your service can promote it.

Further information: Katja McPherson, solicitor, Northern Rivers CLC, phone: 6621 1000, send an email

NFP Law: information hub for charities and not-for-profits

Justice Connect has launched a comprehensive new website to help charities and not-for-profits get much needed legal support and navigate the rapidly changing legal landscape at a critical time for the sector.

The Information Hub was created by the Not-for-profit Law service at Justice Connect with the help of hundreds of volunteer lawyers. It features free, tailored legal information on over 80 topics from charity reporting and good governance to social media and privacy laws.

Not-for-profit Law’s Manager of Legal Information, Kate Fazio, said many community organisations were under-resourced and struggled to feel confident that they were on top of legal compliance issues.  “Many of the community organisations we support, including CLCs, are already run off their feet helping society’s most vulnerable.  Legal issues add stress, uncertainty and significant costs that impact on their delivery of services for the community.

“If we can help not-for-profits with their legal issues, then they have more time, resources and energy for doing their vital work in the community.

“The Hub is especially important for reaching groups in regional areas, where there may not be any lawyers with not-for-profit expertise.”

Ms Fazio said the creation of the Information Hub was possible with significant support from the legal profession along with grant funding.

“Pro bono lawyers recognise that the not-for-profit sector is a critical contributor to Australia’s economy, employment and community needs.”

CEO of the Reach Foundation, Sarah Davies, said that the Information Hub is a unique resource for the not-for-profit sector.

“Having access to such accessible, clear, and comprehensive information is hugely valuable for non-profits. The information and resources are of the highest quality so you can rely on them with confidence and the generous sharing of resources saves so much time and duplication.”

The NSW Information Hub was created by redeveloping and expanding the Victorian information webportal previously developed by Not-for-profit Law. The new Information Hub can be accessed at www.nfplaw.org.au. Justice Connect’s website can be accessed at www.justiceconnect.org.au.

The Hub was officially launched in Sydney on July 15 and in Melbourne on July 17.

Further information: Kate Fazio, Manager of Legal information at Not-for-Profit Law on 0438 442 784 or send an email

Outasite Lite: e-publication for people living in residential parks

The Tenants Union has relaunched Outasite Lite, an e-publication for people living in residential parks in NSW.  Outasite and Outasite Lite were previously published by the Park and Village Service to whom a debt is owed.

The publications ensure that park residents have access to good quality, independent information about issues affecting them.  The first issue of the relaunched Outasite Lite was published in June and can be viewed here www.tenantsunion.org.au/publications/51-outasite.

For further information: Julie Lee, Tenants’ Union, phone (02) 8117 3700 send an email

Survey on Housing Affordability

Earlier this year the Tenants’ Union conducted a short online survey on Housing Affordability to gauge tenants' experiences and expectations of renting. 580 tenants responded.

The most striking thing the survey shows is how worried tenants are - particularly in circumstances they cannot control or where choices are restricted. Most express satisfaction with their current housing, but it is a satisfaction formed in a tightly constrained space: they see few or no other options in the housing market (not in owner-occupation, or in rental), and they put up with problems and with lacklustre rates of responsiveness from landlords.

Download the full report at www.tenantsunion.org.au

Further information: Ned Cutcher, Tenants’ Union, phone (02) 8117 3700, send an email

7.    Events, commendations and developments


Hina Jilani addresses guests at the 2014 Human Rights Dinner

In June Justice Connect and the Human Rights Law Centre hosted their annual Human Rights Dinner in Melbourne and, for the first time, in Sydney. Almost 600 guests were in attendance, representing a broad cross-section of the human rights and legal communities.

The Human Rights Dinner acknowledges and thanks those who work with Justice Connect and the Human Rights Law Centre to help strengthen the access to justice and human rights community. It is also an important fundraiser for both organisations, raising money to support Justice Connect's work improving access to justice for people experiencing disadvantage (and the community organisations that support them), and to support the Human Rights Law Centre's work promoting and protecting human rights in Australia and beyond.

The highlight of the event was an inspiring keynote address by Hina Jilani, a pioneering human rights lawyer, pro-democracy campaigner, leading activist in Pakistan's women's movement and international champion of human rights.

Ms. Jilani’s address focussed on the perils of being a human rights defender. Drawing on her personal experiences working with victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan as well as her observations of Rwanda, Malaysia and other parts of the world, Ms. Jilani spoke passionately of the need to protect human rights defenders who are often subjected to killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and vilification campaigns to discredit them and their work. Ms Jilani concluded: “Without human rights defenders democracy will not survive. Without human rights defenders, human rights, the rule of law and all kinds of civilised behaviour will not find support…Let us pray that the international community can act in a timely and effective manner to protect those who are really the eyes and ears of the human rights community.”

An edited transcript of Hina Jilan’s speech is online.

To find out more about Justice Connect and the Human Rights Law Centre, visit www.justiceconnect.org.au and www.hrlc.org.au

Further information: Rachel Brown, Communications Manager, Justice Connect, phone (03) 8636 4422, send an email

Community keen for Touch Football Gala Day on the South Coast of NSW

The Third Koori Touch Football Gala Day, scheduled for 24th September 2014 is already attracting plenty of interest from not only the local Koori community but NGOs from the Shoalhaven and Eurobodalla Council Regions.

With over 20 teams indicating their interest in registering for the event, including two teams from the local area police command, it is sure to be a hotly contested competition. However, the attention may not all be on the football as jumping castles, slides and displays from Rural Fire Brigades and many local organisations will no doubt attract the younger children and parents.  All in all, a great community day.

Shoalcoast CLC is proud to host the event and thanks all supporters of past events and looks forward to their continued and growing support in the future.

Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, send him an email

The Arts Law Centre of Australia Pro Bono Awards

On Wednesday 4th June the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) held their annual Pro Bono Awards, recognising the enormous contribution that volunteers from across the country make to Arts Law.

Each year Arts Law commissions a talented artist, usually a final year student from one of Australia’s tertiary art schools, to produce a limited edition print which they award to 30 lawyers or other professionals who have made a significant pro bono contribution to Arts Law’s clients – the artists and arts organisations of Australia. This year the print, entitled Body Conglomerate, was by Lotte Smith, an artist in her honours year at the National Art School in Sydney.

These volunteers and pro bono supporters are vital to the delivery of Arts Law services. In 2013 Arts Law estimated the value of this pro bono support to be approximately two million dollars.

The winners of the Arts Law Pro bono Awards for 2013 were: Jonathan Adamopoulos (Allens/Linklaters), Claudia Adams (Herbert Smith Freehills), Charles Alexander (Minter Ellison), Lishan Ang (Frederick Jordan Chambers), Stephen Boyle (Stephen Boyle Media and Entertainment Law), Elizabeth Burrows (Influence Legal), Mandy Chapman (Beyond International Ltd), Christopher Chow (Chris Chow Creative Legal), Rob Clark (10th Floor Chambers), Stephen Digby (Digby Law), Katherine Giles (ABC Legal Services), Rob Glass (Media Arts Lawyers), Melissa Goode (Herbert Smith Freehills), Chris Govey (Allens/Linklaters), Monique Hennessy (Arts Law Centre of Australia), Ishan Karunanayake (Ministry of Sound Australia), Ben Kay (Kay & Hughes), John MacPhail (Finlaysons), Grant McAvaney (ABC Legal Services), Moira McKenzie (GI & Sanicki Lawyers), Renu Menon (Gadens), Julie Robb (Banki Haddock Fiora), Ian Robertson (Holding Redlich), Michael Tucak (Creative Legal), Mandy van den Elshout (ABC Legal Services), Caroline Verge (Verge Whitford and Co), Marcus Walkom (Media Arts Lawyers), Tracey Wren (Orica Australia) and Clare Young (Allens/Linklaters). The winner of the Arts Community Pro Bono Award was Paul Spiro (Gadens, Brisbane).

Further information: Fiona Bell, Marketing and Communications Officer, Arts Law Centre of Australia, send an email

Facilitated Panel Conversation at Family Law Pathways Network Annual Conference

On Friday 20 June the Greater Newcastle Family Law Pathways Network held its annual conference. The conference was entitled Falling Though the Cracks: The Complexities of Collaboration between Child Protection and Family Law. It included speakers from the Judiciary, the Legal Profession and Family and Community Services.

There were upwards of 150 attendees.     

Luke Shearston, a family lawyer from the Hunter CLC ran a facilitated panel conversation as one of the conference sessions. On his panel were representatives from Interrelate, the Relationships Australia Children's Contact Centre, and Catholic Care.

The panel members explored a range of issues, from responding to (or not responding to) subpoena to the dangers of interpreting a psychologist’s notes.

The session was well received as was the conference as a whole.

Further information: Luke Shearston, Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

Arts Law’s 30th Birthday Gala Dinner

This year the Arts Law Centre of Australia is celebrating 30 years of empowering Australia’s artists. Arts Law has done this through providing legal advice, resources and education to Australia’s arts communities.

In recognition of this important milestone Arts Law is holding a 30th Birthday Gala Dinner on 3 September 2013. It will be a night of celebration and reflection, of entertainment and fun, and of raising funds to support the work of Arts Law, especially for Artists in the Black, Arts Law’s legal service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Arts Law was formed thirty years ago through the vision and determination of its founding Executive Director, Shane Simpson AM, his able Deputy, Natasha Serventy and the Board of Directors led by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

Today the need for Arts Law is as great as ever. The world in which artists and creators operate is increasingly complex, especially the legal issues they encounter. Arts Law’s mission continues to be one of empowering all Australian arts communities to understand and protect their legal rights so that they can carry out their arts practice in a non-exploitative and financially sustainable environment.

Please come along to help Arts Law celebrate and support this mission.

Event Details:
Venue:
Strangers Dining Room, NSW Parliament House, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Date: Wednesday Evening 3rd of September, 2014
Time: 6 for 6.30pm
Performances: By a range of talented artists. Watch this space for more information!
Tickets: $230

Further information: Fiona Bell, Marketing and Communications Officer, Arts Law Centre of Australia, send an email

knowmore’s 1st anniversary and successful outreach to Broken Hill

This July, knowmore celebrated its one-year anniversary assisting anyone engaging with or considering engaging with the Royal Commission. Over the past year, knowmore has seen 1584 unique clients and provided over 3600 advices. knowmore has expanded its capacity and physical presence – establishing offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Outreach remains a regular activity at knowmore to ensure that remote and rural clients are informed and their legal questions answered.

A recent excursion to Broken Hill in late June allowed knowmore staff to work closely with local services to break down any legal barriers that residents might have to engaging with the Royal Commission and having the opportunity to tell their story.

Two lawyers, two social workers and an Aboriginal community engagement worker from knowmore worked with Warra Warra legal service to deliver information sessions, as part of the FVPLS-funded community engagement program. Visits were made to Broken Hill, Wilcannia in the first week, and Menindee and Dareton in the second week.

The Speaking and Healing forums took an innovative and inclusive approach, aiming to engage the community in a direct and open way through talking circles, visual aids, activities and workshopping the issues as a group. This kind of trauma-informed and respectful approach is one that knowmore maintains throughout its service delivery to clients, in recognition of their experiences of institutional child sexual abuse and the impact of that experience.

To request a visit from knowmore to your local area, simply email info@knowmore.org.au or call 02 8267 7400.

knowmore’s free advice line is 1800 605 762
www.knowmore.org.au

Further information: Anaya Latter, Communications Manager, knowmore, send an email

CCLC has a new name!

The Consumer Credit Legal Centre (NSW) (CCLC) is now known as the Financial Rights Legal Centre. The change is in name and logo only – its services remain the same.

The name Consumer Credit Legal Centre has served the organisation well, however it no longer captures the breadth of its services or areas of expertise.  The organisation decided that there was a need for a name that had a better fit with what it does, and was easier to understand for consumers.

Its clients and stakeholders also told it that the name CCLC didn’t clearly explain what it did as a legal centre and what consumers can expect from it when they call one of its advice hotlines.

You will now find the organisation’s website at www.financialrights.org.au. Please take the time to update any links to the website. Financial Rights Legal Centre will continue to keep the www.cclcnsw.org.au web address open for a time, so that if people enter this address they will be automatically directed to the new website.  You can continue to use any email addresses for the organisation if you swap ‘cclcnsw’ for ‘financialrights’, for example info@financialrights.org.au rather than info@cclcnsw.org.au.

Financial Rights Legal Centre was delighted that The Hon. Matthew Ryan Mason-Cox, MLC (the NSW Minister for Fair Trading) officially re-launched their two consumer websites. Alan Kirkland (the CEO of CHOICE) also joined in for this exciting step in the evolution of the centre’s services.  The improved websites have a whole new user-friendly layout, and lots of new self-help resources.

 

Further information: Julia Davis, Policy & Communications Officer, Financial Rights Legal Centre, phone (02) 8204 1384, send an email

Quarter of a century of service to Illawarra Legal Centre

Illawarra Legal Centre recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of financial counsellor Maroun Germanos joining its service.  Maroun has been a financial counsellor and advocate with ILC since 1989 and continues to be an energetic voice of compassion and good sense for clients, staff and the community.  Maroun joined the Consumer Credit service - now the financial counselling service - and was immediately up to his ears in casework while trying to find time for more preventative work in information and education and while dealing with considerable funding uncertainty.  So, no change there!  Apart from being at the core of our financial counselling team, Maroun also initiated the ALAP and tenants services and remains a champion of access to justice in the local community.

Further information: Linda Tucker, Illawarra Legal Centre, send an email

8.    State Office Update


Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)

Launch of the CLCNSW Reconciliation Action Plan Launch

The CLCNSW Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) was launched at the July 2014 Quarterlies, just after the General Meeting.  We were pleased that Uncle Ray Davison delivered the 'Welcome to Country' at the beginning of the event.  The RAP was then launched by special guests, Federal Court Judge Matthew Myers, and Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year 2014 Cheryl Orr.  The event concluded with a screening of Northern Rivers CLC’s DVD 'Let's Look After Family'.

CLCNSW’s Aboriginal Legal Access Program wishes to thank all who have assisted to develop the CLCNSW RAP.

May CLC Yarn Up and Training Day

At the May Yarn-Up and Training Day, supported by Gilbert + Tobin, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff of the CLC sector discussed the potential effects on the delivery of services of the incoming cuts to funding.  In addition, guest speaker Cheryl Orr spoke to the changes in Care and Protection, and, Galit Aflalo (locum at Tenants’ Union NSW) and John Mewburn spoke on the issues facing Aboriginal tenants in NSW.

Cheryl Orr: Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year 2014

Following CLCNSW’s nomination, Cheryl Orr won the award of ‘Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year 2014’.  In our submission we noted, amongst the many contributions Ms Orr has made, her leadership and work with Community Legal Centres in the areas of Care and Protection and Family law concerning keeping families together where appropriate. Well done Cheryl!

ALAP PPF Funding

CLCNSW would like to congratulate those Community Legal Centres who have supplemented cuts in PPF funding from within their own core funds. These commitments are especially important in the context of the current funding cuts.

Law Society of NSW: Young Lawyers Mentoring Program

The Young Lawyers (YL) Mentoring program is in the process of starting. Any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander law students can apply for a mentor by getting in contact with the Young Lawyers: http://www.lawsociety.com.au/about/YoungLawyers/

Aurora Internship Program

CLCNSW ALAP hosted Aurora intern Kyle Hawthorn for 6 weeks.  During his time with CLCNSW Kyle worked on a briefing paper on the current state of ‘Constitutional Recognition’ looking at issues of potential conflicts with the sovereignty movement, and the need for symbolic recognition to be met with practical change.  Kyle is also volunteering at Hawkesbury Nepean CLC on Wednesday evening advice sessions.

CLCs are encouraged to host interns from the Aurora program.

Further information: Zachary Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

Accreditation Scheme

Certification of all full CLCNSW members

CLCNSW congratulates all active full CLCNSW members on achieving certification under the National Accreditation Scheme by 30 June 2014.  This means all CLCs in NSW have completed a self-assessment of their policies and procedures, had a site visit, and developed a workplan to address areas for improvement.

CLCNSW congratulates all members for their positive engagement and participation in the process.  We appreciate that it can be an onerous and time-consuming one at times.  We believe that ultimately all stakeholders, particularly our clients, will benefit as we all work towards best practice service delivery.

Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

Advocacy and Human Rights

Review of Victims Support Scheme

CLCNSW wrote to the NSW Attorney General about the first 12 months of the Victims Rights and Support Act 2013.  The letter made 19 recommendations about changes needed to the Act to improve access to justice for victims. The letter was prepared by the Domestic Violence and Victims Compensation Committee with input from several centres.  The letter can be found on the CLCNSW website: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/cb_pages/victims_compensation_review.php

Changes to Racial Discrimination Act

CLCNSW, like several other CLCs in NSW, made a submission to the Australian Government regarding proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act opposing the Attorney General’s Exposure Draft. CLCNSW believes the proposed changes send a clear message to the Australian community that the federal Government is weakening its stance against racism.

CLCNSW was pleased to see the Government’s recent announcement that it will not proceed with plans to change the Act.

Productivity Commission Access to Justice Inquiry

The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer assisted with the preparation of a CLCNSW response to the Draft report of the Productivity Commission Access to Justice Inquiry.  The CLCNSW Director and Advocacy & Human Rights Officer appeared before the Productivity Commission Access to Justice Inquiry public hearing in Sydney.

Further information: Kerry Nettle, locum Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

Sector Development

Changes to the Sector Development Program

Following the loss of its funding from the NSW Public Purpose Fund, CLCNSW is currently reviewing the way it delivers its sector development activities for the NSW CLC sector.  Greg Dwyer, Sector Development Coordinator, resigned from the position in June.  We thank Greg for his many extensive contributions to the program and the sector.  We have not replaced this position.  In the interim, other CLCNSW staff will take on some of the activities related to the program, including the provision of professional development opportunities and coordination of the quarterly meetings.  CLCNSW recognises the importance of tailor-made training sessions for CLC staff and remains committed to offering these into the future.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send an email

9.    What are Community Legal Centres and what is CLCNSW?

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities.  CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates.  We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems.  Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.

Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (CLCNSW) is the peak body for CLCs in NSW.  It is resourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund.  CLCNSW has 40 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.

Further information:
Suite 805, Level 8
28 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7333
Fax: (02) 9212 7332
Send an email
Website: www.clcnsw.org.au

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