On the record - the e-bulletin
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #3 March 2007
This is the third edition of On the Record, the quarterly e-bulletin of the NSW Community Legal Centres. Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. To find out more about the 39 CLCs in NSW visit www.nswclc.org.au
For more information about On the Record, or any of the events happening in the Community Legal Centres, contact Jean Parker at the State Office of the Combined Community Legal Centres Group (CCLCG) email@example.com or phone 9318 2355.
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1. State-Wide Milestones:
2. Community Law:
Hawkesbury case finds rail transit officers not authorised to take people to court
Youth Law Diary Launched
New Home Building Advocacy Service (HOBAS) Launched
Predatory Lending Project
UNSW Indigenous Pre-Law Program
3. Human Rights in Action:
5. CLC Events:
CLCs active in Law Week March 25-31
Discrimination Toolkit Launch – ‘Your Guide to making a Discrimination Complaint’
Albury Wodonga CLC Law Week Activities
Far West Family Violence Prevention Legal Service opened
EDO Annual Conference 2007- Beyond Environmental Law
Second Community Education Training Session
Redfern Legal Centre’s 30th Birthday Celebrations
EDO Welcomes New Aboriginal Liaison Officer
1. State-Wide Milestones
2007 has seen an auspicious beginning for community legal centres, as two major landmarks came to fruition – firstly, the much awaited release of the Report of the Review of the NSW Community Legal Centres Funding Program; and secondly, the receipt of funds from the NSW Public Purpose Fund of over $500,000 for the sector to improve its access to Aboriginal communities and its training and development programs.
NSW Community Legal Centres were declared to have a clean bill of health after an extensive review of the NSW Community Legal Centres Funding Program. On 15 February 2007, the Commonwealth Attorney-General Philip Ruddock and the NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus released the Report of the Review of the NSW Community Legal Centres Funding Program (www.nswclc.org.au/NSWclcReviewReport.pdf).
The Review, which received over 50 submissions from community organisations, government departments and individuals, found that the CLC Funding Program is “sound, well-conceived and well administered” and represents “an effective use of public funds” that warrants continued government support.
CLCs, flexible and responsive:
The Review noted that a key strength of the program is that Centres have flexibility to design and develop their service delivery model, based on their knowledge and experience of communities, and their strong relationships with other service providers. They are highly effective at identifying unmet legal need in the community, and using a mix of strategies including legal services, community development approaches, law reform and community legal education, to meet these needs.
CCLCG welcomes the Review Report and its recommendation to resource all existing CLCs to a minimum baseline level of funding. The Review also found that Centres are under-resourced and under-funded to meet the growing demand for their services, and that more funding would improve the accessibility of CLCs to Indigenous Australians and other disadvantaged client groups.
CCLCG will continue to work with the Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General to address the review report’s recommendations and improve the work of CLCs.
CLCs were delighted when the Public Purpose Fund approved a grant of over $500,000/year for two State-wide programs:
1. CCLCG Training Program
2. CCLCG Aboriginal Legal Access Program
The need for these two programs was identified in the Report of the Review of the NSW Community Legal Centres Funding Program (see above), and the funds now enable CCLCG to implement some of the recommendations of the report.
The CCLCG Training Program specifically aims to ensure that CLCs have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide the best services possible to their clients against the backdrop of a rapidly changing legal scene. In particular centres in rural regional and remote areas will be provided with opportunities to train and develop their staff and management committee members. CLCCG is in the process of engaging a training program coordinator to oversee this program.
The CCLCG Aboriginal Legal Access Program responds to the continuing difficulty Aboriginal clients face in accessing legal services. CLCs found that Aboriginal clients faced compounded problems as members of social and economically disadvantaged communities that made it hard to access legal services. In response to this several CLCs have initiated very positive projects to improve the accessibility of their services for Aboriginal clients. The CCLCG Aboriginal Legal Access Program was initiated to strengthen these existing initiatives and enable them to continue and expand. This program aims to increase awareness among Aboriginal people in NSW of their legal rights and the local availability of legal and government services, as well as to improve the quality and level of legal services provided to Aboriginal clients.
The Aboriginal Legal Access Program will provide funds to individual CLCs throughout NSW to support projects aimed at improving the access of Aboriginal people to legal justice. CCLCG will is in the process of engaging an Aboriginal Legal Access Development Worker to implement the program.
For more information about these programs please contact Alison Aggarwal, Director, CCLCG on 9318 2355 or Alison_aggarwal@clc.net.au
Hawkesbury case finds rail transit officers not authorised to take people to court:
Hawkesbury Nepean Community Legal Centre successfully defended penalty notices issued to two clients by RailCorp transit officers for allegedly hindering and obstructing "authorised officers" in the performance of their duties under the Rail Safety Act 2002, and for the use of offensive language.
In the (unreported) case of RailCorp v Pantehis and Wiles, the Local Court found that the transit officers had not been authorised under their delegations from the CEO of RailCorp to commence legal proceedings for an offence under the Rail Safety Act or to recover any debts that become due under this Act. On this basis, the matters were dismissed by the Court.
This is important for any client who has been issued similar penalty notices by a RailCorp transit officer, because until the delegation is amended, if someone is issued with a court attendance notice or elects to have the infringement determined by a Court, Rail Corp lacks the authority to commence proceedings and accordingly, the matter before the court should be dismissed. For more information contact Pip Davis of Hawkesbury Nepean CLC on 02 4588 5618.
Shoalcoast CLC’s latest Community Legal Education initiative is a 2007 Youth Law Diary. The diary is for high-school aged young people and school-leavers, and contains legal information and tips on twelve monthly topics covering issues such as Renting, Mobile Phone Contracts, Fines, Police Powers, Centrelink Payments, Victim’s Compensation and Human Rights.
The free diary is being distributed in high schools and youth services throughout the Shoalhaven. To encourage recipients to access and think about the legal information they contain, the diaries have an entry form to a quiz competition included. The quiz, which was devised by Project and Policy Solicitor Meredith McLaine, has 12 multiple-choice questions on diary topics. All correct answers will go into a draw for a prize. The quiz and publicity about the diary will also be in the local paper. For information on the diary call Meredith on 02 4422 9529.
HOBAS is a new service for consumers who have building disputes and is being run as a pilot program by Macquarie Legal Centre for one year. The service will provide telephone legal advice, consultations, mediation and representation in some cases.
Contact Macquarie Legal Centre on 9760 0111 for advice or further information.
Seen all the news about record numbers of people losing their homes over the last year? As a response to this crisis Consumer Credit Legal Centre (NSW) Inc (‘CCLC’), Legal Aid and the (Public Interest Law Clearing House) PILCH have jointly established the Predatory Lending Project (‘PLP’). The PLP will lobby for effective law reform to prevent predatory lending practices, and aims to run cases for borrowers facing loss of their homes as a result of these practices. These legal services will be provided free or on a grant of legal aid by a number of major law firms who have agreed to participate in the project and to act for borrowers who are victims of predatory loans.
What distinguishes a loan that is slightly less competitive, or “priced for risk”, from a loan that could be categorised as predatory or abusive? There is no easy answer to this question but most loans we would describe as predatory have many of the following features:
1. Expensive to set up;
2. Have higher interest rates;
3. Destined to fail because the lender relies on the security (the client's home) rather than their ability to pay;
4. Often the lender is not a member of a dispute resolution scheme such as the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman.
In short many clients we have referred to the PLP are pensioners or very low income earners who took out a loan in desperate circumstances that they never had any hope of paying and the lender knew it! CCLC is currently acting for a number of clients who are victims of predatory loans where the lender has started proceedings in the Supreme Court and the action is trying save their homes from being sold.
If you have any clients who may be victims of a predatory loan, you are welcome to call CCLC on 1800 808 488 for advice and assistance.
Kingsford Legal Centre hosted 10 Indigenous students from around Australia in the UNSW Law Faculty’s pre-law program. This program prepares students for studies in law and provides an alternative entry scheme to study law. The program is a unique way that UNSW and the Kingsford Legal Centre are addressing Indigenous disadvantage, by removing some of the barriers to Indigenous students studying law.
“Promote Fairness” CLCs tell NSW State Election Candidates:
CCLCG has recently published and distributed a policy statement entitled " Promoting Fairness and Justice in NSW 2007". The policy statement aims to push for progressive legal policy platforms at the forthcoming State Election, to ensure a more effective justice sector in NSW. CLCs are calling for law reform and improvements around 3 key areas:
1. Human Rights (including a NSW Charter of Rights and Anti-Discrimination Law reform).
2. Improving Access to Justice (including better provision of regional services and interpreters)
3. Safer Families (including seeking changes to the laws on Domestic Violence, Child Welfare and Victim’s Compensation).
If you would like a copy of the policy statement, please contact Nerissa Bradley at CCLCG on 9318 2355.
In January 2007, Arts Law made a submission to the Australian Law Reform
Commission (ALRC) in response to the Review of Privacy (ALRC issues paper). Arts Law commented on issues which impact upon artists and arts organisations. Of particular concern are proposals for the introduction of an action for ‘breach of privacy’, which would have a detrimental impact on artists such as street photographers who create artwork that reflects public places and spaces. An expectation of privacy in public places, or while engaging in public activities drastically alters the current societal expectations as well as the current legal protections.
‘Sufficient safeguards exist’
In fact sufficient regulation exists which addresses the use or publication of unauthorised images, such as photographs, taken in public places which are offensive, defamatory, misleading and deceptive, or a breach of confidence. Moreover, areas of law such as defamation, the Federal Trade Practices Act, state and territory Fair Trading Acts, and the law of passing off, may be used by individuals to prevent unauthorised use of their image in particular circumstances. These mechanisms, combined with criminal law, provide sufficient safeguards. Further legislation would have undesirable effects on artistic practice and would curtail the freedom of individuals and artists to take photographs or paint images of public places. To download the Arts Law submission visit: www.artslaw.com.au/_documents/files/Privacy-ResponsetoIssuesPaper31.pdf
A highly successful free film night was held in the Illawarra to celebrate International Human Rights Day. The project was a result of a partnership between Illawarra Legal Centre, the Do Good Business Project, Hopscotch Films and the Gala Cinema Warrawong. “Kanyini” is the personal journey of Aboriginal man Bob Randall from the bush to now, and addresses why Aboriginal people are now struggling. Bookings for the film were so popular that a second screening was held. Discussion was facilitated after each screening, and the audience was encouraged to use the Kanyini website and “what can you do” suggestions. Feedback from both Indigenous and non- Indigenous audience members was enthusiastic. For more information or to purchase the film, go to www.kanyini.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding a Way - case studies in disability discrimination law:
On the 7th of February the Disability Discrimination Law Centre (DDLC) launched a new book of disability discrimination law case studies. The book aims to give practical tips about what to expect when dealing with disability discrimination law. Copies of Finding a Way are free, subject to postage costs, and can be obtained by emailing email@example.com or calling 02 9310 7722.
Rural Landholders’ Guide:
The Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO), in association with the Hunter-Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority has released a very successful publication entititled “The Rural Landholders’ Guide to Environmental Law”. The booklet covers legal issues relating to land management including water law, native vegetation law and conservation on private land.
The booklet has been extremely popular with landholders as it explains the complex legal issues affecting farmers in plain English. The EDO is also conducting community education workshops based on the booklet and these have been very well attended. To order free copies of the Guide call the EDO on 9262 6989 or to download the pdf (993 KB) go to: www.edo.org.au/edonsw/site/pdf/landowners_guide.pdf
This state-wide referral Guide was recently launched by the NSW Legal Assistance Forum (NLAF) Working Group on Aboriginal Clients, which includes the Coalition of Aboriginal Legal Services (formerly the ALS), the Legal Aid Commission, several member CLCs and other NGOs. The Guide was produced in response lack of information in the community on the civil and criminal law services that can assist Aboriginal people. The guide is easy to use and has a complete list of civil and criminal legal services accessible to Aboriginal people. If you would like a copy of the Guide, please contact Nerissa Bradley at CCLCG or Raymond Brazil from the Aboriginal Legal Services on 88428000.
CLCs active in Law Week March 25- 31 2007:
Kingsford Community Legal Centre, Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW are launching this innovative and practical legal resource on Wednesday 28th March. The launch will be followed by canapés and drinks. Speakers include the Hon. Justice Elizabeth Evatt AC and Mr Bill Grant OAM, CEO Legal Aid NSW. The Launch will be held at Reception Lounge, Legal Aid NSW, Central Square, 323 Castlereagh Street Haymarket (cnr. Hay Street, opp. Belmore Park) For more information contact: Kylie Granger on 9219 5028 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about the Toolkit please contact Meredith Osborne at Elizabeth Evatt CLC on 02 4782 4155.
Albury Wodonga CLC is holding a seminar on Welfare Rights on Thursday March 29th, and a “Lawyers in the Park” free sausage sizzle at midday on Friday March 30th. From Monday 26th March to Friday 30th March a static display will be set up at Centro Albury by the Community Legal Service and Albury Regional Library to promote Law Week and the local legal profession and services. For more information contact Albury Wodonga Community Legal Service on (02) 6056 8210 or email: email@example.com
On 24th January Deputy PM Mark Vaile and MP John Cobb officially launched the new Family Violence Prevention Legal Service which is being auspiced by the Far West CLC. This is a vital service for Indigenous victims of family violence and sexual assault in the Far West of NSW. The service is funded through the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. It will employ a solicitor, a domestic violence sexual assault worker, a community development worker, a case worker, a coordinator and an administrative support worker. For more information contact Neville Gasmier on 08 8088 2020.
EDO Annual Conference 2007- Beyond Environmental Law: intersections between legal disciplines and the environment, 16 and 17 February 2007:
The Environmental Defender’s Office in conjunction with the Australian Centre for Environmental Law Sydney, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney hosted this highly innovative two-day conference. Experts, across a broad range of legal disciplines reflected on how their areas of law impact on the environment. The Keynote Speaker was Professor Kevin Gray from Trinity College, University of Cambridge, who spoke on the topic “Can environmental regulation amount to a taking of common law property rights?” For conference papers please call the EDO on 9262 6989.
A small grant from the Law and Justice Foundation funded the second Community Education training workshop by the Combined Community Legal Centres Group (CCLCG) and the Tenants Union.
This extremely popular workshop held over the 14th &15th of February, was met with widespread enthusiasm by the participants, with the energy level in the room at the end of the two days contributing at least 0.01% of the total global warming increase in this month! Participants included a range of staff from many CLCs: principal solicitors, CLE workers, Court Assistance Scheme workers, youth education workers, generalist and specialist solicitors.
Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) was established in 1977 - the first community legal centre in NSW, and the second in Australia - by lawyers, law students and academics, social workers and community activists outraged at the injustice created by the lack of affordable legal services for disadvantaged and marginalised people. The Centre opened with one paid staff member, barely any money, and lots of volunteers with expertise, enthusiasm, passion, commitment and a vision. Over the last 30 years Redfern Legal Centre has been blessed with a continuing stream of dedicated volunteers. Nowadays the Centre has 15 paid staff and around 120 volunteers (mainly solicitors and law students), who come in every week to help people find their way through the legal maze.
To celebrate its 30 year anniversary, Redfern Legal Centre is holding a cocktail party at its home, Redfern Town Hall, on Friday, 9th March from 5.30pm - 7.30pm. The occasion will include the launch of a history of Redfern Legal Centre and a photo exhibition, and will give everyone a wonderful opportunity to catch up with others who have given their time for Redfern. Attendants are asked for a $20 donation at the door. To RSVP or get more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A new position has recently been created at the Environmental Defender’s Office with funding from the Law and Justice Foundation. Neva Collings was recently appointed to the position, and is responsible for improving the EDO’s delivery of environmental law services to Aboriginal clients.
The EDO recognises the importance of Indigenous involvement in the protection of the environment as well as the importance of providing equitable access to EDO services across NSW. In her role as Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Neva will engage with the Indigenous community and ensure the EDO delivers educational and legal services to Aboriginal clients across the State. Four environmental law workshops will be held throughout the year in Dubbo, Sydney Metro, Narooma and Coffs Harbour. The project will also produce a Guide to Environmental Law for Aboriginal Communities.
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 provide a range of legal services including strategic case work, community legal education and law reform campaigns. We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems.
The Combined Community Legal Centres Group (NSW) Inc (CCLCG) is the peak body for (CLCs) in NSW. We are resourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government. CCLCG has 39 member organizations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.
Specialist centres work in particular areas of law, such as disability discrimination, tenancy, domestic violence, environment, social security and consumer credit; or with particular sections of the community, for example, women, indigenous communities, refugees, older people and young people. Specialist centres service all of NSW, usually through the provision of phone advice, but also through rural outreach programs, regular community education programs in regional areas, and the provision of training and back-up advice for CLC workers from generalist centres.
Generalist legal centres, on the other hand, provide legal advice to people living within a particular geographic area. For example Western NSW CLC (Dubbo) provides advice to people in the greater west of NSW, Shoalcoast CLC (Nowra) provides advice to people living on the south coast of NSW, and Inner City Legal Centre (Darlinghurst) provides advice to people living or working in the Sydney CBD/Darlinghurst/Bondi region.
Community Legal Centres not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates. Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.
For more information on the NSW Community Legal Centres or CCLCG go to www.nswclc.org.au or call 9318 2355.