On the Record issue #28 Spring 2014
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice Issue #28
This is the 28th 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
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Executive Director, CLCNSW
Send him an email
Editorial: the impact that our community legal centres have for disadvantaged Australians
Legal assistance sector reforms
Productivity Commission completes final report on access to justice inquiry
Some fast facts: what community legal centres did in 2013/14
Kingsford Legal Centre and Long Bay Jail
The Arts Law Centre of Australia on the road
Hunter Homeless Connect Day
Marrickville Legal Centre’s and CatholicCare Sydney
Hunter CLC forging ties with friendship bracelets
LGBTIQ Safe Relationships Project wins CLCNSW Justice award
Arts Law Centre of Australia celebrates 30 years of empowering artists
Employment Law presentation at National CLC conference
Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre celebrates its 3rd birthday
Redfern Legal Centre wins International Student Community Engagement Award 2014
Plenty to celebrate at Hume Riverina Community Legal Service!
Law and Justice Foundation of NSW announces grant winners
For this editorial, CLCNSW invited the Executive Officer of Women’s Legal Services NSW, Helen Campbell, to provide a commentary on the important role that community legal centres play in obtaining access to justice for those who are most disadvantaged in our society.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has recently heard evidence from the victims of the Bethcar Children's home. These children were subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse while in state care. Women's Legal Services NSW (WLSNSW) represented 13 of the survivors in a civil claim for compensation. In dealing with the claim, the Royal Commission has heard, the state of NSW played 'hard ball' and took every possible technical point to try to wear down the claim.
The evidence presented by WLSNSW Principal Solicitor, Janet Loughman, to the Royal Commission demonstrates the unique and highly valuable role that CLCs can play in obtaining access to justice for the most disadvantaged Australians.
Working with the staff of its Indigenous Women's Legal Program, WLSNSW were able to support 13 traumatised women in unstable life circumstances to seek redress for the abuse they suffered while in state care. For almost 6 years the state of NSW fought every step of the process to try to defeat their claim. Without the endless hours of supportive and expert attention WLSNSW provided, the women would not have been able to pursue the claim. WLSNSW was able to resource extra support from pro bono counsel and volunteer solicitors for this case.
The state of NSW, in response to the details of their conduct of the litigation being revealed by the Royal Commission, has undertaken to change its approach to limitation periods in child sexual assault claims, to believing victims instead of re-traumatising them by making them re-prove the abuse they endured, and by taking a more co-operative approach to access to documents.
In future they have undertaken to look at claims quickly and may make an early offer of mediation instead of drawing out the process.
This is a victory not just for the clients of WLSNSW but for all disadvantaged victims of abuse in state care.
It is noted that the funding for the WLSNSW’s Indigenous Women's Legal Program ceases on 31 December 2014. Without the capacity to employ Indigenous staff with relevant expertise, WLSNSW would not be able to continue to provide this kind of service.
The Royal Commission Transcripts and evidence can be accessed online.
Executive Officer, Women’s Legal Services NSW
Send her an email
The Commonwealth Attorney General’s department is currently undertaking a process of legal assistance reforms. This includes a review of the national strategic framework for legal assistance and the funding allocation models. CLCs, along with other justice stakeholders, have been invited to provide input to this process. This included an online survey on funding allocations.
The Commonwealth reports that feedback and input received to date has been appreciated. Legal assistance reforms were discussed at the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council meeting on 3 October 2014. In particular, Ministers considered the draft national strategic framework for legal assistance, noting that it will be supported by national funding arrangements to be negotiated next year. There will be further opportunity to provide input into the framework, as well as aspects of future agreements, over the coming months. However, funding levels will not be announced until after the 12 May 2015 Budget.
Almost 150 service providers, states and territories across the three AGD-funded programmes responded to the recent survey on the development of the funding allocations models. The external consultants contracted by the AGD to develop the model are now analysing the survey results, the service data and written comments from stakeholders. They are expected to deliver draft models to the department by the end of the year. The department reports that they are unlikely to be able to consult further on the funding allocation models as they will become part of the Cabinet process and therefore confidential.
In the coming months, the Commonwealth will consult with justice stakeholders on related issues, including:
- National strategic framework for legal assistance
- Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice arrangements
- Update on funding allocation models
- Update on the national legal assistance data standardisation work
- Jurisdictional service planning
- Priority clients and services
- Next steps for future arrangements
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director CLCNSW. Send him an email
The final report into the Productivity Commission’s Access to Justice Arrangements inquiry has been completed and sent to the Australian Government for its consideration. Under legislation, the Government is then required to table the report in each House of the Parliament within 25 sitting days of receipt. Given that there are less than 25 sitting days left for 2014, CLCNSW thinks it unlikely we will see the report released this year. We predict it will be released between April and June 2015.
When the Government releases the report, the report will be available for free download from the Commission’s website and printed copies will also be available for purchase from the Commission’s publications agent.
CLCNSW, along with many of its member CLCs, NACLC, other CLC State/Territory CLC associations, and legal assistance provider colleagues played an active role in the inquiry. Everyone is to be congratulated on the work and effort they put into this. We also acknowledge and thank the Productivity Commission for the way they engaged with us during the process, particularly in facilitating appearances at hearings around Australia.
Further information on the inquiry can be accessed online.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director CLCNSW. Send him an email
According to figures recently released by NACLC, community legal centres across Australia did the following in 2013/14:
- They provided assistance to more than 208,756 clients.
- They provided a total of 262,633 advices.
- 76,389 casework files were open for matters.
- They provided 175,880 individual instances of information.
- Made 128,536 referrals.
- Completed 4,266 community legal education (‘CLE’) projects.
- Completed 878 law reform and legal policy projects.
Of the clients that CLCs assisted:
- 17.2% (35,833) were living in a sole parent family with dependent children.
- 18.7% (38,948) were not living in a family; instead were living as a boarder; living alone; or living in a shared house, hostel or boarding house.
- 6.3% (13,130) identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
- 16.4% (34,297) reported having a disability
- 58.0% (121,144) were female
- 62.6% (130,651) reported having either a low or no income (this means a weekly income under $500 per week or annual incomes of less than $26,000 per year.)
- 43.1% (87,335) reported receiving a government pension, benefit or allowance (e.g. family payment, rent assistance, age pension)
- While the majority of these clients mainly spoke English at home (85.9% / 179,366), the other three main languages were: Arabic (1.2% / 2,539), Mandarin (0.9% / 1,821) and Vietnamese (0.7% / 1,500)
- Only CLCs that receive funding under the Community Legal Services Program (‘CLSP’) are required to collect data using the Community Legal Service Information System (‘CLSIS’) database, the program that generated the above data.
- These figures are an underrepresentation of the total number of work activities performed, and the total number of clients assisted, by all CLCs. Some CLCs are not funded under the CLSP and their services and client figures will not be represented here. Further, many CLCs that are funded through the CLSP, also receive funding from other funding programs or sources. That work does not have to be recorded in CLSIS – although it or some of it commonly is – and some of it is not. The client and services statistics of services provided with funding from sources other than the CLSP are in some cases recorded in other databases and are not included here.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director CLCNSW. Send him an email
The Hunter Community Legal Centre hosted a free community event on Thursday 11 September 2014 as part of the national R U OK? Day. The event ran from 7 am to noon at Newcastle Beach, and aimed to raise awareness about mental health issues and suicide prevention. Hunter CLC and eight other participating local community service providers provided information and advice to those that attended, and the event also included a graffiti workshop, beach games and a ‘One Wave is All It Takes’ fluoro paddle out.
The R U OK? event was the first of its kind in Newcastle and has sparked interest amongst services to hold one annually. Hunter CLC, along with the eight local services, reached out to over 70 locals that morning, engaging in some meaningful conversations about depression, suicide prevention and mental well being.
Further information: Melissa McCabe, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.
R U OK? Day at Newcastle Beach. Source: Hunter CLC
KLC continues to provide legal assistance at Long Bay Jail. The Centre recently attended the Ngara Nura Community Agency Day to have lunch and talk to inmates and their families who are close to release from prison. This is always a great day and provides a chance for KLC to help prisoners and their families sort out their legal issues before they are released. A common theme is lots of mobile phone debt, fines and victims compensation.
Further information: Emma Golledge, Acting Director, KLC, send her an email
Over the first few weeks of September, the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law) hit the road visiting various remote and rural communities across Australia to deliver workshops, seminars and advice clinics to assist and educate artists to understand and protect their rights.
For the fourth year in a row Arts Law’s Artists in the Black (AITB) program partnered with Music NT for Bush Bands Business, a unique professional development program for Aboriginal community bands. Over three days in the first week of September, musicians from the six Central Australian community bands chosen to perform at the Bash Bands Bash honed their skills through professional development workshops and mentoring. This year, at Snow Kenna Park in Alice Springs, Arts Law’s Deputy Director Delwyn Everard assisted and advised aspiring musicians on legal issues such as contracts, releases and agreements, helping them to develop management and business skills.
Delwyn was then joined by Arts Law solicitor Morris Averill and Australian Government Solicitors Secondee Donna Robinson as they spent a week travelling around Alice Springs, Hermannsburg and Haasts Bluff visiting art centres in these communities. As part of the Artist in the Black service they educated the artists about their rights and drafted wills for them. At Hermannsburg Potters, an art centre in Hermannsburg, they also delivered a workshop on governance, to help strengthen the infrastructure of the centre.
Whilst those workshops were happening, Arts Law also partnered with Cassowary Coast Regional Council to deliver legal training and an advice clinic for artists and arts organisations in Far North Queensland. This included visits to the towns of Innisfail and Cardwell. Executive Director Robyn Ayres ran 2 days of workshops, one at Girringun Aboriginal Art Centre and one at the Innisfail Shire Hall and also provided a legal advice clinic at Innisfail. Feedback from the sessions was extremely positive with 95% rating the information, presenter and overall event as excellent or very good. A typical comment from one of the participants was “I liked the clear and easy to understand grass roots presentation which meets community comprehension of potential complex issues”.
Further information: Veronica Steer, Arts Law, phone (02) 9356 2566 or artslaw.com.au
In mid August Hunter CLC was involved in the Hunter Homeless Connect Day (“HHCD”). HHCD offers people who are homeless, at risk of homelessness, or are doing it tough a one-stop-shop of free services, activities, entertainment and giveaways. The Day attracted over 900 guests.
Solicitor Michael Giles and four volunteer students currently on placement at Hunter CLC were on hand to provide legal advice and information to guests. The volunteer students also provided many of the attendees the opportunity to complete a Legal Health Check, a series of questions designed to identify legal problems people may not be aware they have.
Hunter CLC’s Community Legal Education Coordinator, Ruby Taylor, was also present and was involved in the lead-up to HHCD as the Legal and Financial Hub Leader. Ruby liaised with a number of services to provide guests help with debt and fine management, birth certificates, tenancy advice and consumer information.
The Hunter CLC would like to acknowledge and thank the organisers of Hunter Homeless Connect Day, and the work of the many other services in attendance.
Further information: Ruby Taylor, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.
Marrickville Legal Centre’s (MLC) hardworking and creative staff have forged a new partnership with CatholicCare Sydney. MLC operates a Youth Legal Service. This is a state-wide service aimed at assisting young people between the ages of 12 and 24 with civil and criminal law matters. CatholicCare Sydney coordinates the network of counsellors working in Catholic schools across Sydney.
Following as a result of the June 2014 “Youth In Trouble” workshop, organised by the Youth Legal Service solicitors, MLC was contacted by CatholicCare Sydney.
In July 2014, the Youth Legal Service held a dedicated training session for approximately 40 CatholicCare Sydney counsellors. This session was a great success and inspired impassioned discussions over NSW criminal legislation, victim’s compensation rules, fines, police powers, as well as so-called “sexting” or child pornography offences.
Since this session for CatholicCare Sydney counsellors, the Youth Legal Service has been invited to deliver workshops to four different Catholic schools across Sydney. As a result, the service has had contact with nearly 1,000 students through its workshops.
Additionally, the Youth Legal Services have been operating a priority queue for CatholicCare counsellors seeking legal advice on behalf of their students. This has helped facilitate a growing relationship between the CatholicCare counsellors and the Youth Legal Service.
Further information: Liam McAuliffe, Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, phone (02) 9559 2899 or send him an email.
Ungooroo Aboriginal Corporation held the third annual MEEKA Youth Expo on Wednesday 10 September 2014. The day was aimed at creating links between Upper Hunter Valley young aboriginal people and the local services that are available to them. Hunter CLC volunteer Jennifer Spear and outreach solicitor Ellie Ryan attended the event armed with multi coloured embroidery yarn and a vague idea of how to make friendship bracelets, gleaned from YouTube. It didn’t take long before the table was full of students focused on turning the yarn into bracelets for themselves and their friends.
Ellie said, “We got to have a more informal chat with the students about the legal system in general, and we told them to keep an eye out for themselves on our Facebook page.” Jen agreed, saying “It was fun and interactive way to engage with curious youth.”
Hunter CLC would like to thank the conveners of MEEKA and the creators of “How to make friendship bracelets” on YouTube.
Further information: Ellie Ryan, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send an email.
KLC’s Aboriginal Access Worker, Kaleesha Morris, has been working on the ‘Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal young people in NSW’ campaign as a youth ambassador. Justice Reinvestment aims to look at how to redirect money from prisons to community based programs and solutions.
This year Kaleesha has been focusing on recruiting more youth ambassadors to the cause and promoting the campaign throughout the local community. Kaleesha was recently profiled in an article by ‘The Guardian’. KLC is extremely proud of Kaleesha’s amazing work!
Further information: Kaleesha Morris, KLC, send her an email.
The Australian Government is handing over its powers to protect national environmental icons to State Planning Ministers. It’s calling this process a ‘one-stop-shop’. Federal and State governments are lining up to sell the benefits, but it’s communities and the environment who are likely to lose out.
Mining companies, state port authorities, resort owners and dam-builders don’t want to go to the Australian Environment Minister anymore for approvals that affect national environmental icons. They just want to get on with the job, they say.
The federal Government’s one-stop-shop agenda is actually a series of eight ‘shops’ (planning departments) across the States and Territories. Each state will still ply their wares under different planning laws that assess big developments.
If the federal Government has its way, State planning departments will be solely responsible for assessing and approving projects that impact on ‘Matters of National Environmental Significance’ (MNES). These include nationally-threatened species, internationally-protected migratory species, Ramsar-listed wetlands, national and world heritage areas, for example.
The state-based ‘shops’ have always granted approvals to developers under state-based laws – assessing project applications and environmental studies, granting development consents, pollution licences and permits for state-level environmental impacts.
But assessing and approving impacts on ‘MNES’ has long been a national job – under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). Until now, the federal Environment Minister has assessed and approved such projects (and rejected a few). Major developers worry this dual process takes too long. This is despite record investment throughout the EPBC Act’s history, and the growing size and complexity of projects over this time – like mega-mines, rail and port projects that may affect sensitive sites.
The one-stop-shop agenda was the brainchild of the Business Council of Australia. It was accepted overnight in 2012, then later dumped by Prime Minister Gillard. Now the Abbott Government is championing the cause. Its proponents are confident there will be no slippage of environmental protections. But it’s doubtful that this approach will improve effectiveness or address our growing environmental challenges. Instead of one federal department doing its job, we will have eight state departments doing someone else's.
While the ink is drying on bilateral ‘assessment agreements’ with some states, pens are also poised to sign ‘approval agreements’ nation-wide. Yet analysis by the Australian Network of Environmental Defenders Offices (ANEDO), in a report called Full Report: Assessment of the adequacy of threatened species planning laws (2014), prepared and updated for the Places You Love Alliance, a coalition of 42 environment groups, has found that no state planning and biodiversity laws meet federal standards.
ANEDO has called for 3 things:
(1) Revisit the recommendations of the 10-year EPBC Act review, to improve both environmental protection and regulatory effectiveness.
(2) Raise state environmental assessment standards, in line with the federal reforms.
(3) Even if states show they can be entrusted to take care of impact assessment, the federal government must maintain its final oversight to approve or reject projects that threaten national environmental matters (MNES).
As things stand, the Government will have to convince Parliament that state approvals meet federal standards (via a 15-sitting-day disallowance period). At the same time, it is bolting-on a list of added requirements in the bilateral agreements – which suggests state laws do not.
Bilateral agreements that accredit weak laws are no substitute for the EPBC Act. Ultimately though, if the ‘one-stop-shop’ comes to pass, state planning departments will be the only shop, and the only sheriff, in town.
Further information: Mr Nari Sahukar, Senior Policy & Law Reform Solicitor, EDO NSW, send an email or phone (02) 9262 6989.
The Australian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson is undertaking a Rights and Responsibilities Tour.
NACLC and the Human Rights Network would like to encourage the involvement of CLCs across Australia in Rights and Responsibilities 2014. CLCs can be involved in a number of ways, including through:
- attending a consultation, or encouraging clients to attend a consultation
- completing the online survey
- making a submission, and/or
- contributing to the NACLC Human Rights Network submission.
More information about this is available here: New Link
A background information sheet and some possible talking points is available for CLCs on the National Noticeboard and the NACLC website, here: New Link
Further information: Amanda Alford, Deputy Director, Policy and Advocacy at NACLC on phone (02) 9264 9595 or send an email
Following the introduction of the Boarding Houses Act, 2012, the Tenants’ Union of NSW is now running a Boarding Houses Education Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to ensure that boarding house sector stakeholders, particularly residents of boarding houses, are aware of the new law in NSW and its application, and have the skills to monitor and take action under the relevant provisions of the Act. The Act has substantially changed the law relating to boarding houses and the contractual relationship between proprietors and residents is regulated for the first time. It is important that those affected by the legislation have adequate knowledge and skills about the law.
Meetings have been held with sector stakeholders and former residents and, as a result, workshops are being developed for advocates, community workers and current boarding house residents, to raise awareness of the Boarding House Legislation Act and what action to take when occupancy rights are infringed. In addition, resources will be developed for distribution to residents and community workers. These resources will include information on what the new rights are under the Act and, most importantly, where residents can go to get help to make sure occupancy rights are met.
Currently, the focus of the campaign is on traditional boarding houses. In the future, attention will be given to international students living in boarding house accommodation and residents moving into ‘new generation’ boarding houses.
- If your organisation would like information about boarding house legislation – a workshop for staff; a speaker for an interagency meeting; or a talk to residents living in a boarding house, please contact Margaret on the details below; or
- If you would like to receive a copy of the campaign’s monthly email bulletin Onboard, please contact Margaret on the details below to have your name added to the bulletin list.
Further information: Margaret Di Nicola, Tenants’ Union, Boarding House Project Officer, send her an email.
In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Women’s Legal Services NSW expressed concern at the proposals for police to be able to enter domestic violence scenes with body-mounted cameras and record abused victims, crying children, smashed-up rooms and any other signs of abuse, under legislation introduced in NSW Parliament in October.
Women's Legal Services NSW principal solicitor Janet Loughman said victims may only be able to recall details in calmer circumstances.
"It is important that this be recognised when assessing video evidence taken at the scene," she said.
In a nationwide first, video statements from the victim, taken at the scene, and powerful video footage taken in the immediate aftermath of domestic violence incidents, will be used as evidence in court cases.
Minister for Women Pru Goward said it would increase the success rate of domestic violence prosecutions.
The full story can be read online.
In the October 2014 edition of the NSW Law Society Journal, graduate lawyer Jessie Porteus, who works at King & Wood Mallesons, had this to say about her six-months stint at RACS (Refugee Advice and Casework Service):
“I gave advice to asylum seekers (often through interpreters), wrote submissions and represented clients at the Department of Immigration and at the Refugee Review Tribunal. The work was often heart-breaking and the processes so long and slow. In six months I didn’t see the grant of any protection visas. Everyone at RACS was really supportive and it was such a welcoming workplace. I felt like I was really helping people and I had a fantastic amount of responsibility and autonomy.”
Source: page 45, Law Society Journal (October 2014)
Editor’s comment: we are pleased that Jessie had such a rewarding time at RACS. Her experience is, we believe, just one positive example amongst many thousands of those of volunteer lawyers who make valuable contributions to the work of CLCs daily. These contributions make up a significant part of the service delivery of CLCs to access to justice for the community; without it, many more people in the community would not receive legal information and advice. Thank you Jessie, and all CLC volunteers, for all you do.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director, CLCNSW, send him an email
Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS NSW) has updated the publication “Just a piece of paper? Making your AVO work for you” with the Southern Women’s Group Inc. This Third edition is currently being printed and will be available soon. It will also be part of the Legal Toolkit in all public libraries in NSW.
The publication is intended to help people who already have an AVO for their protection and provides information about how AVOs work, how to report breaches and keep evidence of breaches, varying and revoking an AVO and AVOs and family law, immigration and victims support. The booklet also has information about staying safe and includes a new section on LGBTIQ relationships from the Safe Relationships Project at Inner City Legal Centre.
Cover of 'Just a piece of paper' resource. Source: Women’s Legal Services NSW
For further information contact: Natalie Neumann, Community Legal Education Coordinator, Women’s Legal Services NSW, phone (02) 8745 6956, or send an email.
This handbook is a practical guide for people having trouble with their mortgage. Getting behind on your repayments for a home loan is stressful. This handbook will help guide you to get a repayment arrangement in place with your lender. It explains your options and it has sample documents you can use and a list of useful contacts.
The handbook covers:
- What the lender has to do to take possession of your home
- What you can do to stop the lender taking possession of your home
- How to negotiate a repayment arrangement
- What to do if the lender won’t agree to a repayment arrangement
- Accessing your superannuation and mortgage assistance (if available)
- Getting a stay if the lender has a court order to evict you from your home
- Getting help
The handbook does not cover:
- Getting a home loan
- Business loans
- Loans for investments other than residential property e.g. shares
- Disputes with your lender other than financial hardship e.g. unjustness or unfairness, disputes over exit fees
- How to deal with defaults under your home loan other than your failure to make your regular loan repayments (such as your bankruptcy or your failure to keep the property insured).
This new edition (3rd) of the Mortgage Stress Handbook was written by the Financial Rights Legal Centre in August 2014 with input from Legal Aid NSW. This edition reflects the changes brought in under the new national regulatory framework for credit. The first edition was written by Legal Aid NSW in 2009 and the second and third editions were written by Katherine Lane, the Principal Solicitor at Financial Rights.
The Handbook is available online or free copies are available from Legal Aid NSW by calling 02 9219 5028.
Further information: Julia Davis, Policy & Communications Officer,
Financial Rights Legal Centre, phone (02) 8204 1384.
At the 2014 Justice awards, Inner City Legal Centre’s Safe Relationships Project won the CLCNSW award. This project is a court support and legal advice service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) people experiencing domestic violence in NSW. It also provides community legal education and training to individuals and organisations. The project has seen the establishment of the first LGBTIQ Safe Room in NSW (and Australia) for victims of domestic violence. The project has empowered LGBTIQ clients to become more involved in the court processes impacting on their lives, resulting in safer outcomes in court proceedings, including assisting in their recovery from trauma and re-entering LGBTIQ communities.
Highly commended for the CLCNSW award was the Aboriginal Family Law Project, developed by the Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre. The project was developed to promote among Aboriginal communities the importance of being proactive in using family law to make arrangements for children post-separation. With the participation of other legal assistance providers, the project produced a DVD ‘Looking after family’. The project has substantially benefitted the Aboriginal community in the Northern Rivers region by providing a resource that arms them with knowledge and contacts to assist them in starting family law proceedings where possible before child protection intervention.
Other nominees for the award were:
- Central Coast CLC: Information and advice clinic for unrepresented litigants in Apprehended Violence order (AVO) matters at Wyong Local Court
- HIV/AIDS Legal Centre: Dignity in Death – strategic litigation to change government policy
- Hume Riverina CLS: Subsidised wills, powers of attorney and enduring guardianship scheme
- Hunter CLC: Apprehended Violence order (AVO) duty service at Newcastle Local Court
- Macquarie LC: Volunteer solicitor roster
- Refugee Advice and Casework Service: Legal Help for Refugees Law Clinic
- Women’s Legal Services NSW: Speak Up
- Women’s Legal Services NSW and North and North West CLS: Ask LOIS – Armidale Project
The CLCNSW award is awarded to a project in a community legal centre that demonstrates outstanding commitment to improving access to justice in NSW, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people.
CLCNSW congratulates Inner City Legal Centre for its win and Northern Rivers CLC for its high commendation. We also congratulate and acknowledge all nominees for the award.
Further information on the Justice awards is available online.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director CLCNSW. Send an email
On Wednesday 3 September Arts Law celebrated its 30th birthday, with a gala fundraiser dinner at NSW Parliament House. The dinner, featuring art, performances, and tributes from staff, presidents, clients and supporters was a true celebration of the achievements of Arts Law in its 30 years of assisting Australia’s artists. The evening also was also a financial success raising over $40,000 for Arts Law and its service for Indigenous artists, “Artists in the Black”.
MC Andrew O’Keefe hosted the evening with trademark charisma and humour. The guests were treated to performances from David Campbell, international performer and recording artist and Krista Pav, an up and coming Indigenous blues and roots artist. Bronwyn Bancroft, director of Boomalli Cooperative, spoke of her experiences using Art Law’s services, giving examples of Arts Law’s “exemplary contribution directly to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. Unable to make it on the night, the Hon Michael Kirby, Arts Law’s first President, also shared some thoughts on Arts Law’s journey via video. Rupert Myer, Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts, toasted Arts Law at the conclusion of the evening.
Since its incorporation in 1984 Arts Law has given well over 70 000 advices to artists, has run 2000 educational workshops and currently publishes more than 250 different resources to help artist get a better deal. Over the last 20 years Arts Law has also advocated for better rights for artists in the areas of copyright, moral rights, freedom of expression, privacy, resale royalties and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property. Over the last 10 years the Artists in the Black service has assisted and educated 9122 Indigenous artists.
As the only community legal centre in Australia that assists artists to understand their rights and avoid exploitation Arts Law is a vital and unique organisation. The funds raised from this gala dinner will help Arts Law continue to provide as well as grow these services so that they may continue to empower the nation’s artists.
Further information: Veronica Steer, Arts Law, phone (02) 9356 2566 or artslaw.com.au
KLC’s employment solicitor presented a paper at the NACLC conference in Alice Springs in August. Her paper looked at the operation of the general protections system for people who experience discrimination at work. In particular she looked at gaps in the current law and areas where the law remains unclear. Many provisions around discrimination in the Fair Work Act remain untested and unclear making it hard to advise clients on likely outcomes.
KLC continues to give back up advice to other CLC lawyers who need specialist discrimination advice and will be doing more work in the future on general protections.
Further information: Maria Nawaz, Employment Solicitor, Kingsford LC, send her an email
Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre recently celebrated its 3rd birthday and opening of new premises in Murray St, Port Macquarie. The new venue is very close to the local courthouse and centre of town, and provides the CLC opportunities to engage in new ways with the community. The Centre was formally opened by the local Federal Member for Lyne, Dr David Gillespie MP, who spoke about the important work that the CLC does in the region. Dr Gillespie said, “Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres, Aboriginal Legal Service, all of these community legal services make part of a matrix that puts a safety net for all of us”.
Also present were many well-respected members of the Mid North Coast community, including solicitors and other community service providers.
The new premises includes a library of legal resources and computers which are available to the public to help them with their legal matters.
Further details: Melanie Kallmier, Mid North Coast CLC, send her an email
Redfern Legal Centre is a proud winner of the 2014 NSW International Student Community Engagement Award for its International Students Legal Advice Service.
On 15 September, international students and a range of organisations gathered to celebrate the 2014 NSW International Students Awards, organised by StudyNSW (a unit within NSW Trade & Investment dedicated to improving the experience of international students in NSW).
Held at the Sydney Opera House, the ceremony was an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of international students, education providers, businesses and community organisations across NSW.
Redfern Legal Centre was a proud joint winner with City of Sydney, for the newly created International Student Community Engagement Award for its International Students Advice Service.
A short film has been made about RLC's International Students Advice Service.
Further information: Jacqui Swinburne, Acting CEO, Redfern Legal Centre, phone (02) 9698 7277, send her an email
Karen Bowley finalist for the 2014 Justice Medal
Karen Bowley has the heart and soul of a true community lawyer, and it is a privilege to work beside someone who is so passionate and committed.
Karen has been employed with the HRCLS for 10 years, and has served as the principal lawyer for 5 of those years. In her current role, Karen provides outreach lawyer services to the rural regional and remote people of the Southern Riverina of NSW. She is also the Albury Regional Coordinator of the Cooperative Legal Services Delivery (CLSD).
Karen was at Parliament House in Sydney on 29 October 2014 for the Justice awards ceremony. There were many extraordinary and worthy nominees including Karen. Whilst she didn’t bring that Justice Medal back, we all know that we’ve got a winner amongst us.
If you would like to hear more about Karen’s great work in building up service delivery in regional and remote areas, please call our service on 02 6057 5000.
Further information on the Justice awards is available online.
Birthday celebrations to come
Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) celebrates 15 years of operation!
Upper Murray Family Care, a large local community organisation, tendered for the provision of Legal Services in 1998. After gaining funding the HRCLS was officially opened on 28 July 1999. Birthday celebrations for this fabulous achievement are in full preparation.
Legal Needs Analysis
The HRCLS has had a large catchment, covering North East Victoria and the Southern Riverina of NSW. The NSW catchment was particularly large and strained our capacity.
Our NSW catchment area was initially 34 Local Government Areas but has now been reduced to 14 Local Government Areas. This reduction now enables the HRCLS to be able to service a smaller catchment area with its limited resources.
The reduction was a result of a Legal Needs Analysis completed in August 2013 with the aim of understanding our met needs and to map our unmet legal needs across the HRCLS catchment areas. We have also used this legal needs analysis to change the focus of our outreach clinics.
From left to right: three past Principal Lawyers of the HRCLS – Karen Keegan, Karen Bowley and Helen McGowan. Source: Hume Riverina CLS
Further information: Alison Maher, Lawyer, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service, phone 02 6057 5000.
The Law and Justice Foundation of New South Wales provides grants for projects that will increase access to justice for a range of different groups in the community. In September, the Foundation announced the six successful applicants for 2014.
South West Sydney Legal Centre was awarded a grant of $49,999 to trial a program that provides support and advocacy at Court for women at ADVO hearings. Senior researchers at the Law and Justice Foundation will assist the Centre to evaluate the impact this has on the women’s outcomes.
Sexual assault counselling service Rosie’s Place was awarded a grant of $45,762 to work with the Education Centre Against Violence (ECAV) to develop a training program and manual for workers providing services to children and young people with cognitive disability at risk of, or experiencing, child abuse.
The Financial Rights Legal Centre (previously Consumer Credit Legal Centre) will receive $12,000 to develop a letter-generating program which enables consumers to type in their personal details and generate professional legal letters for dispute resolution purposes.
Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association (IWSA) was awarded a grant of $44,467 to produce two radio plays that provide information on forced and servile marriage in eight languages. The plays will be broadcast on SBS radio and other community radio stations.
Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre (MNCCLC) was awarded a grant of $50,000 to trial the delivery of legal services using video-conferencing facilities for residents living in remote areas of the Mid North Coast. If the trial is successful, MNCCLC will implement the strategy as part of their ongoing service delivery to the region.
Macarthur Legal Centre will receive an additional $5,000 to enable the Debtors’ Guide To Local Courts to be made available online via the Find Legal Answers website, which is maintained by the Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC) at the State Library of NSW.
Further information: Jane Kenny, Grants and Legal Information Manager, Law and Justice Foundation, phone (02) 8227 3200 or send an email.
July CLC Yarn Up and Training Day
At the July Yarn-Up and Training Day, supported by Gilbert + Tobin, Mr Geoff Scott, CEO of the National Congress of Australia’s First People (Congress), discussed with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff of the CLC sector, the position of Congress on the issue of Constitutional Recognition, and that Congress supports the recommendations released by the government Expert Panel in January 2012. Yarn Up participants also received a workshop from Jacqui Swinburne of Redfern Legal Centre on its work towards establishing Medico-Legal Partnerships at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Yarn Up participants provided feedback on the proposal.
Shoalcoast Koori Touch Footy Fun Day 2014
Shoalcoast CLC, based in Nowra, organised and hosted its second annual Koori Touch Footy Fun Day in September. Shoalcoast CLC organised a free BBQ jumping castle, waterslide and touch footy games. The day was well attended by the teams and the local services. Like last year’s successful event, the day raised the profile of Shoalcoast CLC in the community. Well done.
CLC Cultural Safety Workbook
This workbook has completed its first round of consultations and is due to be complete by early December. The Workbook is designed to assist centres in developing relationships with local Aboriginal organisations, communities and people.
Further information: Zachary Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
Next stage of the National Accreditation Scheme
Work on the National Accreditation Scheme has moved into a new stage following the Certification of all full members by 30 June 2014. The Regional Accreditation Coordinator's role is now to support centres in implementing their Workplans (providing individual assistance and sessions at the Quarterlies) and monitor 6 monthly progress reports.
Enhancements to the online platform
Enhancements are being made to the Standards & Performance Pathways (SPP), the online platform which CLCs use to undertake a self-assessment against the National Accreditation Scheme standards, following feedback from key stakeholders.
The new SPP will be more streamlined and user-friendly and will feature improved workplans, document library and compliance registers.
CLC's existing work will be carried across to the new system on 21 November 2014.
The RAC will liaise with CLCs about the changes and will inform CLCs about an orientation webinar to be provided by BNG, the website developer. Both the RAC and BNG will be offering support to CLCs during the transition period
Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
Contacting local MPs
CLCNSW has distributed to NSW CLCs posters promoting CLCs and a copy of CLCNSW Reconciliation Action Plan. A kit, including materials from Community Law Australia, has also been distributed to Coordinators and Directors of NSW CLCs to assist CLCs to provide information to local MPs and community organisations about the work of CLCs.
CLCNSW, at the request of the Domestic Violence-Victims Compensation Committee, has lodged a GIPA application with Victims Services for ‘Any directions, guidelines, procedural manuals, memos, or information being used by Victims Services staff, including assessors and decision makers, to make decisions about what constitutes grievous bodily harm for the purposes of assessing category C recognition payments as per section 35 (3)(c) of Victims Rights and Support Act 2013.’
The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer presented a workshop at the NACLC Conference in August on successful lobbying, advocacy and law reform with Conservative Governments. A Ted-inspired talk was also delivered on this topic. The session was well attended and feedback was positive. Additional copies of the handout are available.
Women in Prison Advocacy Network
CLCNSW is a member of Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN). WIPAN runs an extremely successful mentoring program for women released from prison. WIPAN recently received $250,000 from the NSW Attorney General to support this program. Congratulations WIPAN.
To get involved, visit https://www.wipan.net.au/
LawAccess and LawAssist
The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer recently visited LawAccess NSW as part of the CLCNSW Induction Program for new CLC staff.
LawAccess NSW is a free government telephone service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in NSW. LawAccess explained that they can give advice when someone is conflicted out from receiving advice from another legal service. They explained that they can help people fill in Legal Aid forms and will talk people through using the LawAssist website which has instructions for filling out court forms. The LawAssist website is: http://www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/lawassist_index.html
Further information: Kerry Nettle, Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
Practice Management Course
This year, 26 people participated in the joint College of Law / CLCNSW Practice Management Course. This is very pleasing to see and represents strong interest from the sector in continuing professional development for its lawyers, in particular for those seeking to become managing solicitors of their CLC practice.
The course was developed in response to feedback over many years from CLC lawyers that existing legal practice management courses lacked community-based content that was relevant to CLCs, including the focus on working with communities in a not-for-profit context, often for disadvantaged clients. Modules are delivered by a range of presenters including specialists who work in CLCs or have experience in community-based organisations, giving students the benefit of learning directly from their peers and colleagues in the sector. Students had an opportunity to reflect on best practice models for delivering legal services to those who may be facing injustice due to lack of information or services.
The course took place from 29 - 31 October 2014 in the Sydney CBD.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW. Send an email
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.