On the Record issue #30 Winter / Spring 2015
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Winter / Spring 2015
This is the 30th 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.
Executive Director, CLCNSW
Send him an email
Submission: Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee - Access to Legal Services
Technology is described as creating and using technical means to interact with life, society and the environment. For years, community legal centres (CLCs) have been using technology to deliver legal services to their communities. From using Skype to connect with clients in rural areas to developing apps to providing advice via email, CLCs have embraced technology in myriad ways in their quest to ensure that all people in the community have access to legal information, regardless of where they are.
There is no doubt that there have been enormous advances in technology in recent years – who remembers the big mobile phones the size of bricks when they first came out? And the big clunky desktop computers that came with hard drives that sat either next to the computer monitor or underneath the desk? And not to mention all the wires that were connected to all sorts of things – printers, mouses, fax machines and so forth. The new ‘wireless’ world presents many opportunities for CLCs to be innovative in service delivery.
CLCNSW is proud of the way CLCs have used technology in service delivery. This edition of On The Record looks at just a few of the ways CLCs have embraced technology in their work. And, as with any emerging trends, we look forward to seeing CLCs continue to build on their innovative way, as we all work towards a society that enables access to justice to all.
Executive Director, CLCNSW
Send him an email
A National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Legal Assistance Services has been negotiated between States/Territory governments and the Commonwealth government. The NPA is for a five-year period, commencing 1 July 2015 and ending 30 June 2020. It outlines funding, priorities, objectives, reporting requirements and performance benchmarks for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) and Legal Aid Commissions (LACs). The NPA outlines the jurisdictional breakdown of funding being provided by the Commonwealth to each State and Territory for CLCs and LACs, over the five years of the NPA.
In entering the NPA, the Commonwealth and States/Territories recognise that they have mutual interest in working together to improve access to justice and resolve legal problems for the most disadvantaged people in Australia and maximise service delivery through the effective and efficient use of available resources. Further, they are committed to progressing issues that affect the legal assistance sector and support the principles of the National Strategic Framework for Legal Assistance.
The NPA outlines the Commonwealth’s funding allocations for the life of the agreement. Of great concern to all in the sector is the fact that on 1 July 2017, the Commonwealth’s funding for NSW CLCs will drop by a massive 25%; nationally it will decrease by 30%. CLCNSW’s view is that this decrease, known as the ‘funding cliff’, will have dire consequences on CLC service delivery. We ask that the Commonwealth not only reverses this reduction, but also provides additional funding, noting that the Productivity Commission recommended an additional $200m in funding for the legal assistance sector.
The NPA was negotiated under some very trying circumstances between the parties, including many last-minute changes to key components of the agreement. This includes a requirement that, for the first two years of the NPA, 85% of CLC representation services are to be provided to people experiencing financial disadvantage. The benchmark will then increase to 90% from 1 July 2017. CLCNSW views this requirement to focus our services on people experiencing financial disadvantage as a real restriction on the true freedom of CLCs to operate flexible services that can respond quickly to the changing and emerging needs of the communities they serve. We also continue to hold other concerns about the NPA; these include a potential loss of national consistency in data collection and jurisdictional service planning. There is also ambiguity around the use of Commonwealth funds for systemic advocacy work. That all said, we remain committed to working with government and our funding managers to ensure that our clients receive the best possible service.
Recently, the Commonwealth announced $100m in funding to address the need for women and children to be safe from family violence and abuse. This funding includes $15m over three years for legal services to provide specialist legal help to women escaping unsafe violent relationships. In announcing the funding, Prime Minister Turnbull said it was time to urgently redress the issue of family violence. In NSW, funding will be provided to Western NSW CLC and Legal Aid NSW to provide specialist legal help.
CLCNSW sees this funding as a step in the right direction yet thousands of women and children will still be at risk. This funding will not go anywhere near redressing the funding crisis that CLCs are currently experiencing as they deal with the overwhelming demand for legal help. As stated in the article above, in 2017/18 we are expecting a cut of 25% for CLCs in NSW (nationally, the cut will be nearly 30% for CLCs across Australia). Therefore the new funding will barely cover the cuts in the first year alone in 2017/18. CLCNSW was also disappointed that there was no allocation of funding to family violence programs specifically targeted at ATSI communities.
“As a service that works specifically with Aboriginal women and children, family violence is an issue we deal with all the time,” says Christine Robinson, Coordinator of Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre. “We need to make sure that the funding announced yesterday does not get absorbed by the bureaucracy but goes straight to legal assistance services that specialise in providing culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal women and children”.
This year, Community Legal Centres in NSW are celebrating 40 years of the beginnings of the statewide network of CLCs. In 1975, lawyers, volunteers, academics, social workers, students and community activists met in Redfern to discuss the need for community legal centres that challenged unfair laws as well as helping people exercise their rights. In the ensuing 40 years since, a strong robust network of nearly 40 CLCs has developed across NSW.
To commemorate the beginning of the CLC movement, CLCNSW is hosting events over 2 days. These include:
· Evening cocktail party on Thursday 19 November 2015.
· CLCNSW 40-year oration in the morning of Friday 20 November 2015.
· CLC talent show in the afternoon of Friday 20 November 2015.
The cocktail party will feature Julian Burnside AO QC, a renowned advocate for the rights of refugees. There will also be an auction, with a number of exciting prizes, such as a weekend away at a house on the south coast of NSW. Maha Adbo OAM, the 2014 NSW Human Rights medallist, will deliver the 40-year oration. Her speech will be preceded by opening remarks from Justice Virginia Bell AC, Justice of the High Court and former staff member of Redfern Legal Centre. The oration will be followed by a panel of former and current staff of CLCs talking about their memories. The celebrations will end with a CLC talent show, where CLCs will put on acts to commemorate 40 years of fighting for access to justice.
All who have been involved in CLCs over the last 40 years are warmly invited to sector to celebrate this important milestone with us.
Further information and to buy tickets: www.clcnsw.org.au
The recently released Census 2014 report by the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) highlights the wide range of technological platforms and methods that CLCs are using to deliver legal assistance and community legal education to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
While more established technologies such as websites and emails featured prominently, the Census also captured the uptake of newer methods and platforms by the 112 CLCs that responded to a question on this topic, particularly:
o 19.6% of respondents used Skype to provide legal advice
o 16.1% used YouTube to provide CLE, and
o 7.1% used smart phone apps for legal information.
The NSW results mirror the national profile in most respects.
Recently, NACLC released a new publication showcasing the many and varied innovative ways CLCs are using these methods and platforms to identify and respond to legal need, using examples drawn from the previous Census.
For a copy of the recently released NSW Census 2014 report contact CLCNSW. The full national report and infographic can be downloaded from the NACLC website. You can also request hard copies from NACLC by contacting the office on 02 9264 9595 or send them an email.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Executive Director CLCNSW. Send him an email
The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) launched its first social media profile on Twitter in May 2015. In a recent review of its communication strategy, it was noted that communication objectives include the need to promote the services provided by HRCLS as well as to inform, educate and empower clients and the general community. Social media was seen as a free platform to engage those groups, to be more visible in the catchment area and in the CLC/community justice sector, as well as complementing more traditional means of communication.
The Twitter launch was timed to coincide with Law Week 2015 and was used to inform the community of both the messages of Law Week and the events occurring in the local region. Twitter posts about Law Week were seen by nearly 800 people. HRCLS’ twitter posts have now reached 325,000 people, followers have grown to 86 with a steady engagement rate of about 3%. Nearly 5,000 people have seen posts informing them of HRCLS services, including workshops conducted by IDRS NSW and facilitated by HRCLS.
HRCLS is a cross border service, providing legal advice on both sides of the NSW/Victorian border. Anecdotally it has been long known that this gives rise to unique problems. HRCLS used Twitter to promote an online survey to find out how often people in the region cross the border each week and what the community thought were the main cross border issues. Over 3,000 people saw the tweets regarding the survey, and a significant amount of data was obtained. Collaboration has since taken place with the other NSW/Victorian cross border CLC, Mallee Family Care, who are now conducting the same survey in their region.
Twitter has enabled HRCLS to participate in current “conversations”, particularly around CLC funding cuts and Family Violence and has led to 9 different mainstream media opportunities (newspaper, TV & radio) where these matters have been raised and discussed. A radio interview and 3 newspaper articles (in different regional papers) in the last month specifically arose as a result of tweets. All of this would not have been possible without the use of social media.
Further information: Sarah Rodgers, Principal Lawyer, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service. Phone: (02) 6057 5000. Send her an email
Ask LOIS (Legal Online Information Service) is a website at www.asklois.org.au, run by Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS).
Ask LOIS has been funded through the NBN, but unfortunately, funding will cease on 1 July 2015. While WLS will self-fund the project until the end of 2015, its future thereafter is very uncertain. Ask LOIS provides free legal training, resources, information and advice for community workers across NSW who are assisting women experiencing or escaping domestic violence. At present, it has 1,520 members.
Through Ask LOIS, WLS has harnessed technology to efficiently deliver community legal education across NSW so location and costs are not barriers for education and training, especially for community workers in regional, rural or remote locations. The most popular feature of Ask LOIS is its free and interactive fortnightly webinars. Through Ask LOIS, WLS delivers community legal education to a large audience without the need for the presenter or the viewer to leave their office.
Since October 2012, Ask LOIS has delivered 67 live webinars with almost 2500 webinar participants. Each webinar is then uploaded to the Ask LOIS website along with a summary factsheet so it can be viewed by workers anytime, anywhere. To date, the archived webinars have been viewed in full almost 3000 times.
The website also features interactive training case studies, a one-stop-shop of resources on domestic violence and a national service directory. Ask LOIS is also used to provide direct legal advice to vulnerable clients in regional and remote areas who have limited access to other legal services due to geographic isolation. Advice is either provided through callbacks or videoconferencing via community workers.
The project has been overwhelmingly successful in providing a top down approach to assist community workers helping women escaping violence. Despite being one of the most cost efficient modes of delivering community legal education, cuts to the sector mean LOIS is under serious threat. This could leave a huge gap in training and resources for community workers working with victims of domestic violence.
Further information: Alex Davis, Solicitor / Project Officer, Women's Legal Services NSW, phone (02) 8745 6934, send an email
In April 2015, Mt Druitt and Area Community Legal Centre launched a brand new website, useful to both centre clients and the broader NSW community. The website is designed to make legal services more accessible to clients by including sample legal documents, an online form to request phone advice and Google translate feature allowing clients to read the website in their native language.
The website also features a client catchment search tool to allow clients to identify if they qualify for advice and assistance from the centre. The centre is excited about this initiative and is looking forward to contributing to more projects that facilitate improved accessibility to quality legal services.
Further information: Rosemary Davies, Administrator, Mt Druitt & Area Community Legal Centre, phone (02) 9675 2009, send an email
The National Children’s and Youth Law Centre is a unique community legal centre that uses technology to help children and young people across Australia to resolve their problems by providing high- quality, youth-friendly legal information, advice, referrals and assistance.
The internet is often a young person’s first port of call to find information about a problem they’re experiencing. While young people don’t necessarily identify their problems as “legal” in nature, many issues that affect them, from family disputes to issues at school, are grounded in the law. In 2014, over 1 million people visited Lawstuff, the Centre’s legal information website. The website provides young people with legally accurate information about their rights and responsibilities in an honest, non-judgmental way. It covers topics from “Cars and Licences” to “Cyberbullying” to “When Can I have Sex?”
Lawstuff is pioneering a question and answer style of providing information. The Centre uses real-life examples. This resonates with young people. They are able to type their question into a search engine and find an example on Lawstuff that matches their situation and language style, accessing information about their rights and practical solutions.
Children throughout Australia can access the Centre online. Young people from all states and territories can also get free and confidential help through the Centre’s email-based legal advice service, Lawmail. This particularly allows young people in remote, rural and regional areas to get legal advice without having to travel. In 2014, the Centre responded to over 1000 clients.
Lawmail is the only national legal advice service for young people and their advocates. The Centre finds that the ability to seek help online reduces the fear or embarrassment young people may otherwise feel when asking for help. The Centre also operates a similar online legal service for Australian Catholic University students in four jurisdictions.
Further information: www.lawstuff.org.au or send an email to Matthew Keeley, Director, National Children and Youth Law Centre
Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre’s South East NSW Women’s Legal Service has used video conferencing (Skype) since 2013 to connect with women in regional, rural and, remote areas. The project was initiated to explore different ways to improve access to justice in the Shoalcoast region.
The objective of the project was to improve the timeliness and access to legal advice for women in the region and to provide instantaneous face-to-face appointments between solicitors and clients. Currently the centre’s outreach is scheduled every 4 weeks and this is just too long for some clients to have to wait to get the urgent assistance they are in need of.
Requests for Skype appointments were initially relatively few, however Shoalcoast has noticed an increased demand in the last 6 months for immediate appointments. Shoalcoast has employed two Community Development Workers, one in Bega and one in Cooma who can facilitate these appointments; Shoalcoast attributes the growth for Skype appointments with the centre having employees based in the communities away from its main office.
An obvious advantage of providing face-to-face appointments via Skype is the reduced costs associated with travel, time and accommodation. Shoalcoast has found that ultimately the success of video conferencing is the need for a support person to assist with technology. It seems that clients are becoming more comfortable using technology and the centre hopes to continue to grow in this area.
Further information: Lucinda Knapp, Solicitor, Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, phone (02) 4422 9529, send an email.
Since July 2013 the Financial Rights Legal Centre has been using a Web Enquiry Form (WEF) to give legal advice about insurance to consumers. The Insurance Law Service (ILS) is a national legal advice service that has been primarily telephone based since 2007. Since the ILS started offering web access for advice our solicitors have responded to over 1400 email submissions in addition to 12,000 phone calls for insurance law advice.
Financial Rights began offering web access to legal advice out of concern for consumers that were either unable to get through on our busy ILS phone line, and for consumers who were unable to call the ILS during our operating hours (9:30-4:30 AEST). The WEF gives consumers the ability to contact the ILS at anytime of the day, and solicitors usually respond to the email submissions within 48 hours.
The ILS received between 50-100 calls for legal advice every day. At first we were concerned that we might receive more emails than we could respond to. Fortunately the number of emails has remained manageable (about 10-12 per week). Only a certain percentage of consumers are comfortable using web-based technology.
Although Financial Rights is proud to offer this additional service for consumers, the best outcome has been for our Centre. The WEF technology that we use allows us to filter out questions for legal advice about issues we cannot advise on. For example, we don’t give any legal advice about business insurance, health insurance, workers comp, landlord insurance or public liability. If a consumer ticks one of those products in the WEF they will be directed to a more relevant website and unable to submit a query to our service. Our website analytics have allowed us to track this filtering process, and we can see that about 80% of consumers that start filling out our WEF get filtered out for various reasons. This automated process saves our solicitors significant resources that used to be spent referring callers to more relevant services.
In March 2015 Financial Rights launched a second WEF for our Credit & Debt Hotline. Now residents of NSW can get free financial counselling or legal advice about their credit, debt or banking disputes over email and they can contact us after-hours.
Further information: Julia Davis, Policy & Communications Officer, Financial Rights Legal Centre, phone 02 8204 1384, send an email
The Central Coast Community Legal Centre (CCCLC) has recently completed a project called “The Young & The Renters” aimed at providing accurate and helpful information regarding youth tenancy rights to young people in the Gosford and Wyong regions. CCCLC partnered with Central Coast Tenants' Advice & Advocacy Service (CCTAAS) and Regional Youth Support Service Inc. (RYSS) to create easy to understand videos and related brochure targeting under-18 year olds regarding their legal capacity to sign rental contracts.
A key element of the program was that it should be youth-friendly and interactive while being informative. CCCLC created a series of short videos providing up-to-date legal information for youth to protect themselves against age-discrimination within the real estate industry. These have been uploaded on the brand new CCCLC YouTube channel, and will also be added to the websites of the project partner organisations. The project also involved an associated power-point presentation, and brochure, which will be presented at various youth venues around the Central Coast.
Collaboration with CCTAAS and RYSS was integral to the success of the project, with CCTAAS sharing their expert tenancy knowledge and fact-checking the resources produced, and RYSS providing their expertise in creating accessible youth-friendly resources.
The project will be promoted through social media and the CCCLC website, as well as the websites of the CCTAAS and the RYSS. You can view the videos on Central Coast CLC’s YouTube channel
Further information: Nassim Arrage, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, phone (02) 4353 4988, send an email
The Hunter CLC has recently participated in a number of Community Expos:
You’re Kidding Me
Volunteers from the Hunter CLC recently attended the You’re Kidding Me Expo in Warners Bay, a showcase of support programs and resources for families with young children in the Lake Macquarie area. Attending this expo allowed our volunteers to provide information on our family law programs to local families in the Hunter region, as well as a few fun goodies for the kids!
Solicitor Lynn Flanagan and Social Work Student Georgina Williams attended the Expo to provide information about the Hunter Community Legal Centre’s services to the community. Brochures, diaries and other items were received enthusiastically by those in attendance. In discussions, Lynn and Georgina had many opportunities to outline the services HCLC could provide relevant for such clients.
Hunter Multicultural Services Expo
Two members of the Hunter CLC’s volunteer student team attended the 2015 Hunter Multicultural Services Expo in Lambton. At this event Hunter CLC was able to connect with individuals and families from diverse backgrounds in the region. They provided brochures and information about legal services in the area with a focus on multicultural issues such as discrimination and work rights. Our team loved attending this expo as our stall placement gave us a front row seat for a variety of cultural performances.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Managing Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, phone (02) 4040 9121, send an email
Central Coast Community Legal Centre, acting on its commitment to community engagement and education, has started hosting a series of practical legal information seminars for community workers in the Gosford and Wyong regions.
The seminar series is called “Talking Law”, with seminars being held every month for both community workers and lawyers. They cover a wide range of topics such as Discrimination Law, Rights and Responsibilities of Young Renters, Financial Rights, Care and Protection Law, Client Confidentiality and Privacy, and legal triage.
Central Coast CLC has recognised that various issues are prevalent on the Central Coast, such as youth homelessness, separation, parenting and custody disputes, discrimination, and issues that arise from financial stress, such as debt. The seminars are designed not only to cover the legal aspects of these issues, but to also equip community workers in both the community and legal sectors with practical skills to better manage clients that may present with these problems.
Central Coast CLC is committed to increasing the provision of community legal education to the Wyong and Gosford regions through involvement and engagement with the Central Coast community. Collaborating with local partner organisations as well as other community legal centres has ensured the best delivery of legal information to the Central Coast.
The Talking Law flyer with a list of topics and dates is available to download here.
Further information: Nassim Arrage, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, phone (02) 4353 4988, send an email
Redfern Legal Centre's education program for community workers has just completed a second year as a statewide service delivered mainly by webinar. Topics cover the full spectrum of its areas of practice, with tenancy, social housing and domestic violence the most popular. In the last six months RLC ran 14 workshops with over 900 workers registering to attend.
Whilst online webinars are not perfect in regards to accessibility, with poor internet connections affecting the experience for some, the technology has provided organisations with new opportunities for community reach. Rural community workers in particular value the opportunity to attend training without leaving town (or even leaving their desks!).
CLC staff, volunteers, and anyone else in the legal assistance sector are also welcome to participate. Go to http://rlc.org.au/community-workers and sign up to the Community Worker Alerts to be notified of future training.
Further information: Nick Manning, Community Engagement & Education Officer, Redfern Legal Centre, send him an email.
The Tenants’ Union delivered the first training under this project to welfare staff at Silverwater prison. The training focuses on the particular issues for Aboriginal women as tenants of social housing and the difficulties they experience in maintaining their tenancy while in custody or regaining it on release. The training will be rolled out to workers in agencies supporting prisoners.
Further information: Paul van Reyk, Tenants’ Union, phone 02 8117 3720.
The Act is due for its 5-year review as of June 2015. No formal announcement yet on the process or timetable, but the TU has begun work on an initial discussion paper. Individuals and organisations wanting to have an input can contact the TU.
Further information: Ned Cutcher, Tenants’ Union Policy Officer, phone 02 8117 3712.
NSW is currently considering the implementation of a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, modelled on ‘Clare’s Law’, which was recently introduced in the UK.
The purpose of the scheme is to allow individuals to discover whether their partner has a history of offences relating to domestic violence. RLC recently attended a roundtable discussion with Pru Goward, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and Gabrielle Upton, Attorney General, to discuss the initiative.
RLC also prepared a submission in response to the released discussion paper outlining our proposed model for implementation. RLC advocates using pre-existing Local Coordination Points (LCPs) and Safety Action Meetings (SAMs) under the ‘It Stops Here: Safe Pathway’ program to administer the scheme, as they have relevant expertise and systems in place, and are able to provide further support to those accessing the scheme. This will require the accelerated roll-out of LCPs and SAMs across NSW and the allocation of additional resources in order to ensure the scheme is effective.
The Tenants’ Union and the network of tenancy advice services have been conducting a campaign for an increase in funding to the services. These services are funded from the interest raised on bonds held by the Rental Bond Board. But there has been no increase in baseline funding to the services since 2002, while the number of bonds held by the Rental Bond Board has increased by 28% and the number of renters seeking support from TAAS increased by 24%.
Further information: www.yourbond.org
Submission: Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee - Access to Legal Services
Redfern Legal Centre prepared a submission for the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee’s inquiry into Access to Legal Services, which examined the extent and adequacy of legal assistance services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals. Our position is that current access to legal services is not sufficient to meet the pressing legal needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
RLC highlighted a number of causes throughout the submission, including the limited funding available to legal service providers and over-policing leading to an overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals within the criminal justice system.
RLC also reemphasised the overall economic benefit of adequate legal assistance services, in particular highlighting the success of the Medical – Legal Partnership recently established at RPA. Partnerships such as this assist in addressing legal needs which contribute to complex health issues, not only assisting vulnerable individuals but also reducing overall costs on the health system.
Overall, RLC recommended the Commonwealth increase funding to legal assistance services, consistent with the recommendation of the Productivity Commission.
Read RLC’s submission here.
Abby (not her real name) was a single-mother with a teenage daughter, living in public housing. Her sole source of income was the Centrelink Newstart allowance, which amounted to $280 per week. Abby had a complex history of trauma, mental health issues and substance abuse, and had previously been in an abusive relationship with Omar (not his real name) for 13 years.
After being released from prison, Omar began frequently staying at Abby’s house against her wishes. Abby did not inform Housing NSW of this as she was concerned it may cause her to be evicted. The increased anxiety and stress caused by Omar’s presence led Abby to relapse into substance abuse.
In June 2014, Abby suspected Omar had started using heroin again. Around the same time, two people came to Abby’s residence on multiple occasions and knocked on her door. They said that Omar had left something for them at her house. After five days of continued harassment, Abby called Omar who told her to give them the “balloons” he had left in the bedroom. Due to her fear of Omar and the people harassing her, Abby did as she was instructed. However, the two people were undercover police, and in August 2014, Abby was charged with supply of a prohibited substance. Omar was also charged with over 30 counts of drug-related offences.
Following a guilty plea and successful drug rehabilitation through the MERIT program, Abby entered a 2-year good behaviour bond. The court cited her remorse, recovery and the impact of domestic violence in the decision not to impose a custodial sentence. However, shortly after her trial ended, Housing NSW applied to terminate Abby’s lease for “illegal use of premises”.
RLC represented Abby before the Tribunal, arguing for the Tribunal to use its discretion considering Abby’s circumstances. After considering RLC’s submissions, the Tribunal dismissed NSW Housing’s termination application and allowed Abby to stay in her premises.
Angelica (not her real name) was an international student from Columbia, studying in Sydney. Looking for cheap accommodation she settled on a backpackers lodge in the CBD.
Although the unit was only a two-bedroom apartment, Angelica discovered that there were 7 other occupants in the apartment, with two bunk beds in each room. She also paid a security deposit of $400 and two weeks rent upfront. When Angelica told the proprietor she was unhappy with the living arrangements, she was told to leave the next day.
Angelica then packed her belongings and left to go out, only to return to the premises to find her laptop and suitcase stolen. Angelica’s flat mate told her that the landlord had taken her belongings, which he denied. He also refused to return her security deposit.
Angelica came to RLC’s International Student Service distressed and frustrated. RLC assisted Angelica to report the matters to the NSW Police and the Local Council to investigate the failure to register the premises and comply with safety and health regulations. RLC also assisted Angelica to successfully apply to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for compensation for the loss of personal possessions due to breaches of the occupancy principals under the Act.
In an article about funding cuts for immigration legal services, Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director of RACS, had this to say:
This cut applies not just to Manne’s organisation but also to all organisations providing legal help for asylum seekers.
As Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, executive director of the Sydney-based Refugee Advice and Casework Service, explains: before the last election all agencies got money to provide legal assistance to asylum seekers on a fee-for-service basis under a program called the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme.
“This was cut in September 2013 when the Coalition came in, and from that point on we weren’t referred any more clients who came by boat,” she says.
“This funding had been bipartisan [for about 20 years] before this government. It was quite limited, but it was expanded by Labor, who at least realised people need assistance when they come off a boat and are vulnerable and can’t speak English.”
The scheme is not entirely gone. Money is still available for legal assistance to asylum seekers who arrive by air. Still the government expects a substantial saving – about $100 million over the next four years.
“What it meant for us was 85 per cent of our money went,” says Jackson-Vaughan. “So last year we hired a fundraiser. We had to become a fundraising entity as well as a legal centre.”
Read the full article here
In an article about potential cuts to funding and an additional means testing requirement, Women’s Legal Services NSW talked about the impact that would have on their services. Amongst other things, Helen Campbell, Executive Officer, had this to say:
Executive officer Helen Campbell said restrictive financial testing will be introduced soon and there are reports of 25 per cent cuts to federal funding beginning in the 2017-18 financial year.
The federal government is negotiating with the states on a new national agreement for legal assistance service funding and there is uncertainty in the community legal services sector.
"We haven't seen the document, we've only been told things about it," she said.
Ms Campbell said potential new rules about who they can help and how they can help would be "devastating."
"They are saying we have to means test people and only help people with financial disadvantage," Ms Campbell said.
Ms Campbell said an example might be a pregnant woman whose employer wants to terminate her employment, who might come to women's legal services and have to be means tested, having a job might prevent her receiving support.
"We could give her one-off advice and say 'goodness me you have rights but we can't help you,"' she said.
"But on her own she would be facing losing her job and wouldn't get paid parental leave or [be able to] pay rent and would probably end up on Centrelink.
"We're saying if we can help prevent a problem occurring we can help them and save taxpayer money."
Read the full article here
In June, Buzzfeed featured an article called, ‘This Is Why You Should Care About Community Legal Centre Funding’.
Known as a ‘clickbait’ website, due to its social media savvy way of promoting its content rather than forms the more traditional media employ, the publication’s article proved a successful way to broadcast both the call for sector-wide funding and RLC’s appeal for funding.
The success of the engagement with newer media, with its potential reach to younger audiences who tend to use social media more interactively, is evident in the article’s wide appeal; which saw it shared, liked and commented on over 1000 times across both Facebook and Twitter.
As social media is increasingly incorporated into business models, both media organisations and the community sector are finding ways to reach new audiences and ways of engaging the public. Working with social media, and new media who place an emphasis on social media, can be extremely useful tools to get your message out.
To watch an ABC Australia Wide program on RLC’s sustainable funding appeal go here, to read an ABC News article on RLC’s appeal go here, and to view more RLC in the media go here.
Further information: Ella Semega-Janneh, Communications and Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email.
A wallet- and pocket-friendly card is available for boarding house residents with information on their rights and where to get advice on tenancy issues. Residents, advocates and community workers can get phone advice service during business hours for boarding house residents or agencies working with them. Call 1800 767 126.
The cards are being distributed through tenant advice services, homelessness agencies and neighbourhood centres and other agencies working with boarding house residents. Margaret can also provide on-site training for residents and workers. Keep track of ongoing developments in the project via Onboard, the ebulletin for the project.
Further information: Margaret di Nicola, Boarding House Education Officer, phone 02 8117 3713.
LawAccess NSW has expanded the LawAssist website to include a topic about dealing with an estate after someone has died.
LawAssist is a website provided by LawAccess NSW. It is designed to help people who are dealing with legal problems in NSW without a lawyer, by providing practical, plain language information on specific areas of law and the legal process.
The new topic, ‘After Someone Dies’, has information about:
• Who to notify after someone dies
• The will
• Assets and debts
• What to do with the estate
• Applying for probate
• Applying for letters of administration
• Grants from outside NSW
• After probate or administration
• Distributing the estate, and
• Family provisions claims.
You can view the new After Someone Dies topic here
The LawAssist website also has information about: Debts – Small Claims, Car Accidents, Fines, Driving Offence and Crime, Fences, AVOs, Employment Rights, as well as other skills based topics including Mediation, Negotiation and Reading and writing legal documents.
Further information: call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or email.
This year the Hunter CLC partnered with the Newcastle City Library, the Department of Fair Trading and the local Cooperative Legal Services Delivery Program to organise and facilitate a range of activities for Law Week 2015. During the day solicitors and volunteers from the Hunter CLC took part in a Legal Information Expo, where a number of legal and related services set up stalls at the Newcastle Region Library.
Members of the public were able to talk to services about the assistance they could receive. In the evening Hunter CLC solicitors took part in a panel discussion focused on “Staying Safe Online”. The discussion centred on ways families could act protectively when using social media and the internet. The Hunter CLC focused on sexting, cyberbullying and the use of social media in domestic violence situations, while a representative of the Department of Fair Trading discussed online scams, and actions individuals could take to avoid scammers.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Managing Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, phone (02) 4040 9121, send an email
Carolyn Jones, a senior solicitor at Women’s Legal Services NSW, has won the 2015 Women Lawyers Association of the Year Award in the category of Community or Academic Organisation.
Carolyn has particular expertise in family law and child protection matters involving family violence and in working with mothers in prison. She has a strong background in family law, having worked in the Family Court of
Australia as a legal associate and in private practice at Watts McCray
Lawyers. She has also worked in other community legal centres including the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre.
Carolyn is also a co-convenor of the CLCNSW Prisoners’ Rights working group. From all of us at CLCNSW and the sector, congratulations Carolyn!
Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) and UNSW Law have announced that the RLC Police Powers practice has been saved from closure thanks to UNSW Law sponsorship. The successful statewide service had faced closure after a number or state and federal funding losses.
The newly named UNSW Policing Practice, funded by UNSW Law, will allow RLC to continue its work to advocate for vulnerable clients and elevate the issues around policing and police powers statewide, while at the same time providing internship opportunities for UNSW Law students.
The sponsorship agreement will also allow RLC to continue the UNSW Police Powers Clinic. Operating since 2012, the Police Powers Clinic is an experiential learning program conducted within the Police Powers practice, in which UNSW Law students gain practical experience of law and policing in action, based at RLC. Students are encouraged to critically analyse the effect of law and police practices on disadvantaged clients.
The partnership will also see UNSW Law and RLC combine their expertise to further effect improvements to policing policy in NSW. UNSW Law and RLC jointly hosted a symposium on the Tink review into police oversight in July 2015.
The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service is a cross-border service providing free legal advice to clients in the north-east of Victoria as well as the Riverina of NSW. In NSW this covers 14 Shire Councils and over 175,000 people. Its NSW Outreach lawyer, although based in Wodonga, provides telephone advice (Law By Telephone) specifically for NSW clients and provides face-to-face appointments in Albury, Lavington, Deniliquin, Corowa and Finley on a regular basis. Apart from a Legal Aid office in Wagga Wagga, the centre is the only free legal advice service that is available for people in these regions.
HRCLS also has a productive partnership with the Albury-Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service which enables it to provide free legal advice on site every fortnight. This has proved very successful in providing access to justice to those who might not otherwise contact our service. The outreach to Deniliquin and Corowa is part of the Co-operative Legal Service Delivery Program, co-ordinated by Legal Aid, where HRCLS joins with non-legal services, such as Financial Counselling Services, Disability Advocacy & Information Service and the Family Relationship Service at Intereach which enables better referrals and leads to a more holistic approach to clients’ issues.
Recently this meant HRCLS was able to provide legal advice to a client with mental health issues in one of these rural towns, and subsequently liaise with him and his social worker to begin the process of resolving a fine/debt. HRCLS is excited by the extension of the Co-ordinated Clinics into Finley from 1 July.
There are many challenges in providing a cross-border service over such vast areas but HRCLS is committed to continuing to provide free legal advice, particularly to those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable and who have no other free legal services available to them. As the centre heads into a new financial year, and a new funding model, it will continue to explore new ways of providing legal advice to these regions, looking at its use of technology to enhance its capacity, as well as collaboration with other service providers.
Further information: Sarah Rodgers, Principal Lawyer, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service. Phone: (02) 6057 5000. Send her an email
The NSW election in March brought with it a commitment from the Government to review police oversight in NSW. The emphasis of the review by former shadow Attorney General Andrew Tink is to improve police accountability by streamlining the current system of police oversight. With Mr Tink’s report due to be released in August, NSW awaits to see if significant changes will be made to how police are made accountable for their conduct.
UNSW Law and Redfern Legal Centre hosted a forum on 30th July at NSW Parliament House on the current system of police oversight and the Tink review. This forum debated the systemic problems with the current system for addressing police misconduct and considered solutions from diverse perspectives.
Questions included: Should police continue to investigate themselves? Is independent investigation of the police on the horizon? What powers should a potential single civilian oversight body have?
Chaired by Robert Debus AM, Professorial Fellow UNSW Law and former Attorney General of NSW, the panel included:
· Assistant Commissioner Peter Gallagher APM, Commander, Professional Standards Command, NSW Police Force
· The Hon. Trevor Khan MLC, Deputy President and Chair of Committees, Parliament of NSW, (National Party of Australia)
· The Hon. David Shoebridge MLC, Parliament of NSW (The Greens)
· Mr David Porter, Senior Solicitor, UNSW Policing Practice at Redfern Legal Centre
· Mr Alan Beckley, Adjunct Research Fellow, University of Western Sydney and former senior police officer, West Mercia Constabulary, England
· Dr Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law
We farewell Meg Houston
Meg Houston, our Capacity Building Coordinator (formerly known as Regional Accreditation Coordinator), left CLCNSW in October to take up the role of National Accreditation Coordinator at NACLC.
Meg came to CLCNSW in October 2011 as the first Regional Accreditation Coordinator for the National Accreditation Scheme (NAS). Originally from Scotland, Meg had worked in public legal services in the UK, namely the Scottish Legal Aid Board and Legal Services Commission in London.
Meg played a critical role in developing the NAS to its current form, both for NSW and nationally. It is due to her credit that NSW CLCs have worked well within the NAS framework and that we have a positive and constructive relationship with all stakeholders, including CLCs themselves, NACLC and Legal Aid NSW.
Amongst her achievements are: supporting CLCs to achieve accreditation in the first cycle of the NAS; providing additional support to those CLCs who requested it; contributing to the CLCNSW professional development program; and assisting NACLC to develop the framework for Cycle 2 of the NAS.
We thank Meg for her significant contributions to CLCNSW and the NSW CLC sector. We wish her the very best for her new role at NACLC and look forward to continuing to work with her on the NAS.
We welcome new staff to CLCNSW
Sector Relations & Administration Officer (SRAO)
The SRAO, based on the former Administrator's position, is responsible for a high level of engagement with the CLC sector to meet their needs, in addition to maintaining the operational and administrative components of the CLCNSW state office. Holly Brooke commenced in early November as our new SRAO.
Holly comes to CLCNSW with a strong background in administration and commitment to social justice. Amongst many roles, she has been an intern at UNICEF, where she organised a grassroots campaign to engage with the Australian public on issues surrounding Australia’s Foreign Aid budget. She was a Mensa LEAP (Leadership Exchange Ambassador Program) participant, where she travelled to Mensa conferences and events in North America and Europe to speak about Gen Y engagement and adding social purpose to the organisation. More recently, Holly was a volunteer in Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon’s office.
Capacity Building Coordinator (CBC)
The CBC, based on the former Regional Accreditation Coordinator's position, is responsible for coordinating, at the NSW level, the National Accreditation Scheme and for the provision of learning and development activities, primarily through the quarterly meetings of all NSW CLCs. Laurel Draffen has been appointed to this role, commencing on Monday 30 November 2015.
Laurel will come to CLCNSW with extensive experience across quality assessment procedures and delivering professional development opportunities. Laurel has had a number of roles in the NGO sector, including the NSW Association for Youth Health and the NSW Federation of Housing Associations. More recently, Laurel was General Manager with Matrix on Board. Whilst there, she developed and delivered capacity building projects with over 60 NFPs; projects included governance, leadership, strategic planning, stakeholder facilitation, and policy and procedure development to meet accreditation standards.
We at CLCNSW are delighted to welcome Holly and Laurel to their new roles. We look forward to them joining the team as we strive to provide optimal services to our members.
Hawkesbury Nepean CLC and CLCNSW ALAP programs participated in the Riverstone Men’s Health Week Event. Participants were offered information about where to get health and wellbeing assistance, as well as offered support from community organisations by way of powerful presentations, community connections, good food and music, and a friendly and safe environment.
Shoalcoast CLC undertook locally provided Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training at Booderee National Park. Wreck Bay Elder Auntie Julie Freeman, shared stories and insights into the history, people and her Tradition Country on which the meeting took place. The training was well attended by Shoalcoast staff and the CLCNSW ALAP Coordinator.
CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day
The 2nd Annual CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day was held on 7 August 2015 at Gilbert + Tobin. The target audience was legal and non-legal frontline staff from CLCs, Legal Aid and the ALS.
Judge Matthew Myers, solicitor Cheryl Orr, Ricky Welsh of the Men’s Shed, and representatives from Cootamundra Girls Home were amongst the presenters.
The day was designed to assist the ‘legal assistance sector’ to support vulnerable families who may be at risk of having children removed.
Cultural Safety Standards
The Cultural Safety Standards have been provided to both NACLC and Legal Aid. The Standards were developed in partnership with CLCNSW Aboriginal Advisory Group, NACLC’s Accreditation Program and CLCNSW’s ALAP. Developed in NSW, the Standards underwent a national consultation process and will be rolled out nationally through dovetailed Legal Aid and NACLC mechanisms.
CLCNSW and other bodies have a range of resources to assist centres in meeting (and surpassing) the Standard.
Cultural Safety Workbook
The Workbook is designed to assist centres to develop culturally safe relationships with local Aboriginal organisations, communities and people. We expect to launch this in early 2016.
Further information: Zachary Armytage, Aboriginal Legal Access Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
The NAS is a sector-led initiative which provides certification for CLCs that are providing services in compliance with the NACLC National Accreditation Criteria. The first Cycle of the NAS commenced in 2011 and all full members of CLCNSW were certified by June 2014. CLCs are certified for three-year periods.
Consultation on proposed changes to the NAS for Cycle 2
An external review of the NAS was completed in November 2014 (available on the NACLC website). NACLC and State and Territory Associations then consulted on changes that might be considered as a result of the review, to make improvements to the NAS for Cycle 2.
Consultation papers were circulated and CLCs were encouraged to send feedback to CLCNSW through the Capacity Building Coordinator. The consultation process has now been finalised and plans being put in place to commence Cycle 2.
The Capacity Building Coordinator continues to support CLCs to implement their improvement workplans and monitors 6 monthly progress reports. A number of CLCs have now completed the actions in their workplans and are to be congratulated for all their hard work.
The HRPO attended the RRR Roadshow in Broken Hill and presented a paper on working with Conservative Governments. The HRPO attended the launch of the Mount Druitt Area Community Legal Centre website. The HRPO visited North and North West Community Legal Service, Mid North Coast CLC and Hunter CLC.
The HRPO attended a Reconciliation Week morning tea at the Tenants Union and the Federal Court in Parramatta.
The HRPO has been assisting the Executive Director with CLC funding matters.
Review of Police Oversight
The HRPO has met with other CLCs (PIAC, Redfern, ICLC, Women's and Marrickville) and community organisations such as NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Shopfront, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby and ACON to discuss preparing a submission to the NSW Review of Police Oversight. The CLCNSW submission is available online.
Further information: Kerry Nettle, Human Rights Project Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
Practice Management Course
At the end of October 2015, CLCNSW, in collaboration with the NSW College of Law ran its sixth CLC Practice Management Course. This 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.
Held over three days, over 25 people participated in modules delivered by a range of presenters including specialists who work in CLCs or have experience in community-based organisations. Participants had the benefit of learning directly from their peers and colleagues in the sector, and 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.
October Legal Training Day
In October, CLCNSW held its last Legal Training Day for 2015. Held at Ashurst, over 40 people attended sessions including:
· Welcome and brief update on CLCNSW activities (Alastair McEwin, Executive Director, CLCNSW)
· Running a consumer complaint matter (Grant Arbuthnot, Principal Solicitor, Tenants Union; Geoffrey Meadows, Senior member, NCAT)
· Advising and acting for clients eligible for re-assessment of their victims compensation claims (Pip Davis, Assistant Principal Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services; Rachael Martin, Principal Solicitor, Wirringa Baiya)
· Practice management issues arising from the Victims Compensation scheme re-assessment process (Pip Davis, Assistant Principal Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services; Rachael Martin, Principal Solicitor, Wirringa Baiya)
Following these sessions, participants had the opportunity to visit a CLC. A new initiative by CLCNSW, this was an opportunity for those working in the CLC sector to learn more about that CLC and its work. The CLC that hosted this first ‘Visit My CLC’ was EDO NSW. This centre specialises in public interest environmental law, assisting people who want to protect the environment through law.
CLCNSW is grateful to Ashurst Lawyers for their generous support of the day in providing a venue and catering. We also thank EDO NSW for their willingness to host a visit.
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 39 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.
Suite 805, Level 8
28 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7333
Fax: (02) 9212 7332