On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #15 June 2011
On the Record – The e-bulletin
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
This is the fifteenth edition of On the Record, the quarterly e-bulletin of Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (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
For more information about On the Record, or any of the activities happening in community legal centres, contact Alastair McEwin, CLCNSW Director, Alastair_McEwin@clc.net.au or phone (02) 9212 7333.
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CLCNSW is pleased to announce the ongoing funding of two of its programs, effective 1 July 2011.
Aboriginal Legal Access Program
The PPF has provided funding for three years for the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP). This funding, managed by Legal Aid NSW, includes program funding for the State Office to run a sector-wide ALAP.
In the past, the ALAP has been funded annually, which has presented many challenges, such as job security for ALAP workers and continuity of ALAP service delivery in local Aboriginal communities. Hence this 3-year funding allocation is welcomed by CLCNSW. We acknowledge the dedication of ALAP staff around NSW who remained committed to serving their communities through the ALAP prior to this current PPF commitment. It is to the credit of CLCs who continued to deliver appropriate legal services, such as outreach programs and relevant community legal education to Aboriginal communities under those circumstances.
The State Office looks forward to building on the successes of the ALAP. Recent initiatives have included: the ongoing delivery of culturally appropriate legal services, CLE in high schools, providing support in the Children’s Court, and the production and distribution of the Welcome to Country/ Acknowledgement of Country Protocols, and the Aboriginal Employment Strategy.
CLCNSW is currently working with a consultancy, Koorimunications, to develop a document that provides modelling and strategies for best practice Aboriginal Legal Access programs. This document will enable CLCNSW and its stakeholders to lobby for the expansion of the ALAP beyond its existing structure and to continue promoting initiatives that all CLCs can adapt to reach out to their local Aboriginal communities.
Further information: Zachary Armytage, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sector Development Program
The newly-named CLCNSW Sector Development Program (SDP), formerly the Learning & Development Program, has secured funding from the PPF for a further two years.
With this funding, the State Office will continue to provide learning and development opportunities, along with signature projects that develop the sector and enable CLCs to improve service delivery and organisational management.
Since the commencement of the program in 2006, the State Office has provided a vastly improved quarterly meeting structure (with over a 100% increase in attendance for some quarterlies), governance training to management committees, an Induction Kit, state conferences (2008 and 2010), and support to RRR CLCs to attend professional development opportunities.
From 1 July 2011, the SDP will continue to provide a range of services and programs as previously, along with a number of new initiatives such as a mentoring program, an induction program for people new to CLCs and working with justice partners to provide improved support to RRR CLCs.
Further information: Contact CLCNSW email@example.com or 9212 7333
Launched in October 2010, the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) accreditation scheme is designed to promote best practice and consistent high-quality services provided by member CLCs around Australia. The process is a joint initiative between NACLC and State/Territory CLC Associations.
To become accredited, a NSW CLC must demonstrate compliance with nationally consistent service standards. The foundation for these standards are the existing Commonwealth Community Legal Services Program (CCLSP) Service Standards and the NACLC National Risk Management Scheme. As part of its introduction and the first cycle, all CLCNSW member CLCs will be required to either comply with the accreditation standards or provide evidence they are working towards compliance.
To assist CLCs with undertaking accreditation, NACLC has developed two user-friendly online tools: the Standards and Performance Pathways (SPP) and the Management Support Online (MSO). The SSP contains the accreditation criteria and online self-assessment process. CLCs can upload documents (e.g. a Client Intake policy) as part of its evidence that it is meeting the standards. The MSO provides a suite of resources, including sample policies, which CLCs can download and adapt for their own internal purposes.
Following the online self-assessment, CLCs will have a site visit, conducted by either the National Accreditation Coordinator or Regional Accreditation Coordinator. These Coordinators will provide a report to the State/Territory Association (or, in the case of a CLC without a State/Territory Association, NACLC) with a recommendation for accreditation of the CLC, with the State/Territory Association (or, again in the case of a CLC without a State/Territory Association, NACLC) making a determination about each CLC’s level of compliance with the accreditation standards.
The process includes the development of an individual CLC accreditation workplan, which is a compilation of the self-assessment, site visit and report. CLCs will be asked to provide regular reports in line with this workplan, with the view to achieving full compliance at the end of a cycle of accreditation. An advantage of the online self-assessment and workplan is that if a task is completed and marked off on either of the tools, the SPP automatically updates the other. A CLC can go back and update these documents at any time before they are sent to the accreditor.
CLCNSW acknowledges that many CLCs in NSW will have questions and comments about this process. To that end, there will be regular online updates on accreditation from the State Office, as well as a face-to-face session, including the process of online self-assessment, at the August and subsequent quarterlies. In the meantime, CLCs are encouraged to contact CLCNSW and/or NACLC to discuss any concerns they may have about accreditation.
CLCNSW: Alastair McEwin, firstname.lastname@example.org
NACLC National Accreditation Coordinator: email@example.com
In August 2010, Alan Kirkland, CEO of Legal Aid NSW, announced new funding of $100,000 per annum from the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services allocation to be directed towards partnership projects between Legal Aid NSW and Community Legal Centres in NSW (that is, CLCs that are members of CLCNSW).
The Legal Aid NSW/ Community Legal Centre Partnership Program ("the Partnership Program") aims to enable innovative and responsive projects conducted in genuine partnership between Legal Aid NSW and Community Legal Centres, to provide access to justice for disadvantaged people in NSW.
The Partnership Program is consistent with the objectives of the National Partnership Agreement, in particular, the priority to increase collaboration and cooperation between legal assistance providers, and the recognition of our mutual interest in working together to improve access to justice for disadvantaged people.
The 2010-11 round of applications for the Partnership Program has been finalised and Legal Aid NSW is pleased to announce the following successful projects:
$20,000 for the Community education through case studies- helping migrant women in the workplace project submitted by Kingsford Legal Centre (KLC) as a partnership with Asian Women At Work (AWAW) and Simon Howard, Employment Law Solicitor, Civil, Legal Aid NSW.
The project aims to educate migrant women workers in low paid and precarious employment about their rights at work through a practical "workshop" approach using case studies drawn from their own experience. The project aims to develop an early intervention approach in workplace issues, allowing women to learn to recognise their employment rights. They will also learn strategies to deal with these issues as they arise (or before hand) in order to avoid them reaching formal legal dispute resolution.
$25,000 for the Visa cancellation on character grounds: meeting the legal needs of prisoners project submitted by KLC as a partnership with Lyn Payne, Solicitor, Civil Litigation, Legal Aid NSW.
The project aims to provide legal assistance to prisoners where they face cancellation of their visa on character grounds. The specific aim is to provide legal assistance to prisoners to challenge decisions at first instance.
$26,750 for the To Tweet or Not To Tweet? project submitted by the National Children's and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC) as a partnership with the Children's Legal Service (CLS), Legal Aid NSW.
The project aims to promote a social media risk management approach amongst children and young people in New South Wales; specifically the project aims to inform, educate and assist children and young people in New South Wales to identify, strategise and manage the legal and privacy risks they are vulnerable to within the social media milieu.
Some applications for projects commencing in 2011-12 are still being processed, but one project that has been announced as successful is:
$28,000 for the Disability and Human Rights Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Package project submitted by the NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre as a partnership with Alexander Grosart, Civil Law Grants Division, Legal Aid NSW.
The project aims to develop an MCLE module and an associated publication on disability and international human rights law and to conduct 4 MCLE sessions at different locations in NSW using the education package.
The CLC Program within Legal Aid NSW welcomes enquiries from either CLCs or Legal Aid NSW staff about the Program or to discuss potential project ideas.
Further information: Bronwyn McCutcheon, Manager CLC Program, 9219 5086, firstname.lastname@example.org
One of Northern Rivers CLC’s projects, Mirrung Ngu Wanjarri, has launched an anti violence campaign “Yoogumbeh Boomaleh”. A TV commercial was produced and went to air on 12 June and will run until June 26, with repeats in October and in January 2012. ‘Yoogumbeh’ means ‘No’ and ‘Boomaleh’ literally means ‘no playing around’ but in this instance refers to violence. The advertisement features a Bundjalung elder speaking the language and urging people to stop the violence, get help and to celebrate life. It has two parts: a 15 second scan of people saying ‘Yoogumbeh’, then a 30 second advertisement follows with the message.
Northern Rivers CLC reports that the advertisement has generated much discussion and that they are very pleased with the first run. The campaign will soon have posters at bus stops, and the words will play on local community radio stations.
Further information: Nancy Walke, Northern Rivers CLC, email@example.com
The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 commenced on 31 January 2011. Five months into its operation, the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAASs) and the Tenants’ Union of NSW (TU) have achieved some good results in the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT), on some of its finer points.
Retaliatory notices of termination
Under the new Act a tenant can make an application to the CTTT to have a notice of termination set aside. The CTTT can do this if it believes the landlord issued the notice because the tenant sought to assert their rights. The Inner Sydney TAAS (Redfern Legal Centre) and the Inner Western Sydney TAAS (Marrickville Legal Centre) have successfully assisted tenants in these kinds of matter – in one case where a termination notice was issued almost immediately after a CTTT challenge to a rent increase; and in another case where a notice was issued the day after an altercation over where the landlord could put his scooter. It is good that the CTTT is taking these matters seriously - many tenants fear eviction in response to standing up to the landlord.
Breaking a lease when the house is listed for sale
New provisions in the Act allow tenants to end a tenancy during a fixed-term without having to compensate the landlord, in certain circumstances. One such circumstance is where the landlord lists the property on the market for sale during the fixed-term, but had not told the tenant at the beginning of the tenancy that they were going to sell. The TU and TAASs are of the view that it does not matter when the landlord forms an intention to sell – the provision applies even when the intention is formed some time after the beginning of the tenancy. Landlords, on the other hand, have argued that they can’t tell a tenant about an intended sale when they have not yet formed such an intention. The TU’s litigation solicitor, in conjunction with the Eastern Area Tenants Service, recently took a case like this to the CTTT, and won. We understand the landlord intends to appeal this matter, so we’ll see if this decision stands.
The new Act provides a number of options for dealing with flatmate related concerns, where the old Act had effectively none. One provision allows a co-tenant to end their own liabilities under a periodic tenancy agreement by giving notice to the landlord and co-tenants, and vacating. The Blue Mountains TAAS has assisted a co-tenant end her own co-tenancy after her estranged ex-husband, who lived elsewhere but had agreed to be her co-tenant on paper so as to assist her into a tenancy after their divorce, sought after several years to assert his right to reside in the rented premises after-all. We understand she had considered seeking to end his co-tenancy, through an application to the CTTT, but ultimately decided it would be better to leave him to it.
Further information: Ned Cutcher, TU, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hawkesbury Nepean CLC has been busy recently with various Community Legal Education (CLE) initiatives, including the following:
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) Event
HNCLC sat on a panel at a community event in St Marys organised by The Open Door, a LGBTI-friendly Christian organisation and MC’d by Julie McCrossin. The aim of the event was to share information about local services, support and fun for LGBTI people and offer positive strategies for addressing key local challenges. The event was well attended and enjoyable.
Lesbian and Gay Rights CLE
The Open Door organised a CLE at Penrith Library on lesbian and gay rights. HNCLC co-presented with Inner City CLC and the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby.
Rights to be Yourself
This CLE aims to educate high school students about anti-discrimination law. HNCLC presented this CLE to students at Baulkham Hills High School on their AAA day (Acceptance, Awareness and Anti-Discrimination) in 2010 and we were invited back again this year to present the same CLE.
Further information: Kellie McDonald, HNCLC, email@example.com
The Hunter Community Legal Centre has commenced a new legal advice clinic at Muswellbrook. The clinic is run monthly on the fourth Thursday of each month. The clinic is held in the QEII Building at the corner of Bridge & Market Streets, Muswellbrook. For appointments clients should contact the Muswellbrook Neighbourhood Centre on (02) 65423555.
Further information: Julie Vitnell, Hunter CLC, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hunter Community Legal Centre is taking part in a pilot project, funded by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, which aims to use the family dispute resolution services at Family Relationship Centres to resolve parenting issues for families impacted by family violence. The project involves multiple agencies (including men’s and women’s services) collaborating in an ongoing case management process so as to improve outcomes for these families, thereby avoiding the need for court proceedings. The role played by HCLC is to provide legal advice and representation throughout the process, including at mediation.
Further information: Julie Vitnell, Hunter CLC, email@example.com
To assist Spanish-speaking recent arrivals in understanding their rights, Redfern Legal Centre hosted an information session on 23 June 2011. The session covered topics such as Australian law and dealing with issues many newly-arrived people commonly experience, such as housing and employment. In promoting the session, Lucy Munevar of the NSW Spanish and Latin American Association for Social Assistance stated: “When people come to Australia either to settle or just for a while as students, they often have problems with money, their jobs, their housing, and buying cars and other goods. Then there are problems with things like traffic laws and other situations where the Police get involved”.
Elizabeth Morley, Principal Solicitor at Redfern LC, stated “Our work shows that people who come to Australia often do not know how or when to ask for legal advice and assistance. This might be because they don’t know legal advice might help in the particular case, they might not who to go to for the advice or they might worry about the cost. Community Legal Centres like ourselves and Legal Aid NSW provide advice and referral in many matters for free.”
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern LC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Earlier this year, Women's Legal Services NSW (WLS) received a request from a remote country town to run a community legal education workshop on cyber bullying at the local high school. High incidences of cyber bullying were leading to other forms of bullying and physical assaults at school. This was an issue for students, parents and teachers.
In May WLS presented its draft cyber bullying presentation to a focus group of high school aged girls in Sydney to get a better understanding of the issues that girls face in relation to access and use of today’s technology.
WLS then travelled to the remote greater western area of NSW and delivered its workshop, with the theme “Think B4 U Click”. The participants were a group of 26 Aboriginal girls ranging from Years 7 – 12. The information was of great relevance, covering the areas of cyber safety, legal rights, the effects and tips on how to deal with being cyber bullied and cyber bullying as a whole. The response was very positive from both students and teachers. Another point that really stood out was that cyber bullying is not gender specific. The girls were requesting the boys take part in future cyber bullying workshops.
In response to that demand WLS is sharing resources with Western NSW CLC at Dubbo to meet regional needs, and to provide the information for both girls and boys.
With access to technology, in particular social networking sites, becoming more accessible to all areas of Australia, it seems that cyber bullying is an issue that is fast expanding with technology even in remote areas. WLS has recently received a grant from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) to further develop and deliver workshops for Aboriginal high school girls throughout NSW.
Further information: Shannon Williams, Indigenous Women’s Legal Program Officer, Women’s Legal Services NSW, 8745 6900, email@example.com
Redfern LC has achieved a measure of success under the Government Information Public Access Act (GIPA) with the release of policy information for no additional cost. The NSW Police Force had requested payment of over $500 in processing fees, which was opposed by Redfern. Submissions were made that the requested information met the definition of mandatory proactive release information under GIPA, and must be provided free. This was accepted without the need for internal review. Redfern is requesting the Office of the Information Commissioner to draw all government agencies’ attention to the mandatory disclosure obligations, as we approach the one-year anniversary of GIPA’s commencement.
CLCs and other justice stakeholders are reminded that Redfern’s Police Complaints practice is State-wide and has been receiving referrals from other CLCs, ALS and Legal Aid. If you think you may have a matter for referral, please contact David Porter at RLC.
Further information: David Porter, RLC, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and law firm Maurice Blackburn have commenced proceedings in the NSW Supreme Court.
‘We believe that there are over 200 children and young people who have been falsely imprisoned in NSW because of a long-standing problem with the NSW police computer system,’ said Maurice Blackburn Managing Principal (NSW), Ben Slade.
‘These young people are being unjustly deprived of their liberty because police are acting on out-of-date information,’ Mr Slade said.
The class action’s lead applicant is 19-year-old Musa Konneh. Mr Konneh was arrested and unlawfully detained in southwest Sydney in August 2010. Acting on the basis of incorrect bail information, police detained Mr Konneh overnight. The next day the court ordered his immediate release.
PIAC Acting Principal Solicitor, Vavaa Mawuli, said Mr Konneh’s experience is all too common. ‘This problem began under the previous NSW Government. It has led to the unlawful detention of far too many children and young people, with devastating consequences.
‘It is fundamental to our justice system that the police rely on accurate information. But the police computer system has been unreliable for some time and vulnerable young people are paying the price,’ Ms Mawuli said.
Ms Mawuli said young people who have been unlawfully detained because of wrong bail information and who wish to join this class action should register their interest by calling (02) 8898 6517.
Further information: Dominic O'Grady, Media and Communications Officer, PIAC, 8898 6532, email@example.com
Hawkesbury Nepean CLC represented a client with a brain injury on a Disability Support Pension in a consumer claim against Visual Arts Imaging Gallery (VAIG). The client felt she was coerced into entering into a contract for $3,225 for 3 photos. After negotiation and a complaint to NSW Fair Trading failed to resolve the dispute, the matter was determined by the Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) and orders were made that VAIG refund $1,200 already paid by the client and she not have to pay the remaining $2,025 owing under the contract.
Further information: Kellie McDonald, HNCLC, firstname.lastname@example.org
In an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 12 April 2011, Redfern LC commented on the legal rights of international students. The article outlined claims by international students that landlords in Marsfield in Sydney's north west were accommodating up to 20 students in converted family homes and were demanding cash in hand to avoid detection by authorities. The NSW Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Victor Dominello, is proposing laws to regulate these types of accommodation.
Extract from article:
“Redfern Legal Centre said students had been propositioned by landlords for sex and stripped of bonds upon moving out.
''We've had a situation where students were requested to have photographs taken of them,'' the chief executive, Joanna Shulman, said. Female students from Asia were pressured by their landlord to pose for photos for a modelling agency three floors above. Once upstairs they were asked to pose for pornographic images.
''They didn't feel as though they could say no,'' Ms Shulman said.
It was also common for intermediaries to rent homes they would then rent to students at inflated prices, she said. Students are not protected by the law if they live with the head tenant and fail to obtain a written tenancy agreement. Even when they are protected by law, students cannot always contact their landlords, she said.
''Most students move into accommodation without necessarily knowing who the landlord is,'' she said. ''We've had numerous situations where students have been given fake names and addresses in relation to the landlords. They decide to leave the property and try to contact the landlord to get their bond back and are unable to do so and are left without recourse.''”
Further information: Joanna Shulman, CEO, Redfern LC, Joanna@rlc.org.au
With the Australian government conducting an inquiry into film and literature classification, the Arts Law Centre of Australia has played a prominent role recently in commenting on the issue of artists having their work classified before being displayed. On 19 April, Robyn Ayres, Executive Director, Arts Law Centre, said in the Sydney Morning Herald:
“… a climate of fear had already been created around freedom of expression and art. Classifying all artworks would create a huge workload for bureaucrats and impose heavy costs on artists who would have to pay for their work to be classified, she said.
''It would create a huge hurdle for artists and it would create a chilling effect. We have already seen it with [the depiction of children in artworks]. Artists just don't want to be there … there has been pressure taken over fairly innocuous work,'' she said, referring to the collapse of a charity auction for the Sydney Children's Hospital because hospital officials did not approve of a photograph of a six-year-old boy naked from the waist up.”
Further information: Robyn Ayres, Executive Director, Arts Law Centre, email@example.com
Resources for people involved in AVO matters have been added to the LawAssist website. There is information about applying for AVOs as well as information for people defending themselves in AVO matters. The site has step-by-step guides to preparing for hearings and appearing in court and includes sample forms, explanations of orders and instructions for preparing witness statements. The site also has links to specialist services that can help people involved in AVO cases.
LawAssist is a website developed by LawAccess NSW. You can view the new AVO materials at:
Further information: Rita Bhattacharya, LawAccess NSW, 8833 3104, Rita_Bhattacharya@agd.nsw.gov.au
The Aged Care Rights Service (TARS) has produced an Emergency Card that has proved a big hit with older people, although it is not just for their exclusive use. The size of a bookmark, the Card then folds down to the size of a business card and TARS suggests that people keep it with their Medicare card in their wallet.
The Card provides for the name of the Attorney under a Power of Attorney, their Guardian, if they have an advance care directive as well as other information that maybe needed if someone collapses away from home. It will not only assist the police and ambulance workers if they are called, but it will ensure that the correct people that the older person has elected be contacted will be contacted ASAP. It will also encourage older people to prepare these important documents.
Copies of the card can be obtained by contacting TARS.
Further information: Margaret Small, Solicitor, The Aged Care Rights Service, 9281 3600, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mortgage Stress Handbook was first published in 2009 by Legal Aid NSW. Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW and Legal Aid NSW have now rewritten and updated the book to reflect the new credit law which came into effect in 2010. This handbook is a plain English guide for people having trouble with their mortgage. It provides guidance in getting a repayment in place with a lender.
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
- Instructions and sample letters for requesting repayment arrangements
- Instructions, checklists and sample complaints for dealing with mortgage Hardship in EDR (the ombudsman services)
- Help with completing court forms to ask for more time to sell or move out once the lender has judgment.
The handbook provides information about government mortgage assistance schemes, financial counselling contacts and other useful services across Australia.
To order copies:
Contact the Legal Aid NSW Publications Unit: 9219 5028, email@example.com
The handbook is available online as a PDF from the Legal Aid NSW website. An HTML version in an accessible format for people who are vision impaired will be released in July as part of the new Legal Aid NSW website.
Further information: Karen Cox, Consumer Credit LC, firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Association of CLCs (NACLC) has employed Steve Womersley from Loddon Campaspe CLC (south of the border) as a Project Worker to develop an accessible online database of CLCs’ community legal education (CLE) and law reform activities from across Australia. Steve was lucky enough to attend the recent NSW Quarterlies, courtesy of CLCNSW, where he had a chance to outline the project and solicit contributions. But for those of you who were unable to attend the CLEWS working group’s meeting…
The database will capture and highlight the great CLE and law reform work being undertaken and will provide CLC workers with an opportunity to promote and share their work with others (hopefully inspiring others and saving us all from reinventing the wheel). The database will be accessible online via the NACLC website (www.naclc.org.au) later this year. After its launch, CLCs will be able to upload and share information themselves about their CLE and law reform activities. However, in the meantime Steve needs to populate the database with as many contributions from CLCs as possible. Hence, he needs you…
It would be greatly appreciated if you could follow the link below and complete the online form (one per project) for CLE and/or law reform projects undertaken by your CLC since July 2010. It will only take a couple of minutes to complete the form for most projects. The project has a broad definition of CLE and law reform activities, so if in doubt… submit.
Further information: Steve Womersley (Mondays – Wednesdays), (03) 5444 4364, email@example.com
With the generous assistance of Macquarie Legal Centre, the Hunter Community Legal Centre (HCLC) has obtained funding through its local CLSD partnership to reproduce the Real Deal Youth Justice playing cards developed by Macquarie Legal Centre. The cards will be used by the Hunter Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (HCCAS), which is auspiced by HCLC, to inform and educate youth attending Broadmeadow Children’s Court about their legal rights and responsibilities.
Further information: Julie Vitnell, Hunter CLC, firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduced as published in the Barrier Daily Truth
Cyberbullying in certain sections of our community has become rife. Youth workers, police and lawyers look on in disbelief at what people are prepared to put in writing on the internet.
Lawyers will tell you that people are increasingly coming forward with print outs of Facebook accounts in relation to their legal matters. It continues to astound me that people would post baseless or defamatory messages on a public site about someone else.
I call such people ‘cyber cowards.’
Looking at the print outs of such social networking sites, and beyond the endless drivel about day to day minutae, there are some who feel it necessary to post hate filled comments or taunts to another person or group of persons.
But watch out cyberbullies – the law is catching up. People who place disparaging posts about another on the internet could find the following:
- That they are prosecuted for stalking – a law that requires the victim to have an apprehension of fear of violence by another person or persons.
- It could damage their family law case – irresponsible posts talking about drinking, the former spouse or how the kids are annoying etc have been used to reject child custody applications.
- If it is in the context of a workplace – they could face a prosecution under criminal provisions in our OHS laws for failing to provide a safe workplace if such conduct occurred at work or was substantially linked to employment.
- Discrimination and equal opportunity cases have been won against people who place discriminatory or hate-filled posts against work colleagues or people in the community
- Prospective employers are known to now search candidates for jobs on the internet to ensure that they are employing the right person. Unfortunately, some people may have comments and photographs on your site which reveal a different sort of person to the ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’ candidate they see sitting before them. And note – such comments and photographs might be kept by others so even if you delete them, they might be a permanent record of you 20 years down the track. Not the best way to start your career – or keep it.
- And, in America, parents have been found to be liable for the actions of their children and teenagers on such sites. It is only a matter of time for the law to catch up in Australia.
Finally, of greatest concern is the safety of children and young people who do not have the highest privacy settings on their personal sites and who have unsaid or said competitions to see how many ‘friends’ that they might gain. A court worker mentioned to me that she had been shown on one young person’s personal site a list of their ‘friends’ and noticed that 3 of those ‘friends’ were people convicted of sex offences. This was in a small rural community too – not unlike Broken Hill. The child did not know that person but had accepted them as ‘friends.’ This means that any time that the child posted anything on their site, that ‘friend’ would be notified and could keep track of what that child was doing. This is highly disturbing and we all, as a community, should be demanding action.
In Broken Hill, a group of concerned school staff, youth and community workers, Court and Council staff recently met and formed an action group after identifying that the issue was a significant problem. There had been a number of instances brought to the attention of these community leaders where hate-filled and vitriolic posts about our local kids and people had been posted without any sense of responsibility or concern. Such sites have since been pulled down but it is a reminder that we all have a duty to remain vigilant. To not act may be lethal.
In Victoria, the State Government introduced ‘Brodies Law’ after a young worker committed suicide after receiving taunts via social networking sites and also whilst at work by workers encouraged by such postings. This law makes it a specific offence to post humiliating and degrading comment about another person on an electronic device. South Australia is thinking about such laws. And, in Federal Parliament, the Attorney General has recently been handed a report by a Parliamentary Committee requesting that an Australia-wide review be undertaken at State and Federal levels for cyber laws identified as woefully inadequate.
I call on all concerned people to write to their State and Federal Members of Parliament in relation to this serious issue to urge law reform. It is time for the law to catch up with the electronic age!
And, if you are a parent reading this, my advice to you would be – put your computer and children’s mobile phones in a central area and monitor what goes on. Tell your children what acceptable is and is not. Lead by example as you are their best teacher. Do not be a cyber bully yourself.
On that note, I would like to end my first article by saying that we all have a responsibility to say ‘no’ to cyber cowards.
Further information: Rachel Storey, Far West CLC, Rachel.Storey@farwestclc.org.au
Justice is easier to access on the Mid-North Coast with the opening of a new community legal centre. The Mid-North Coast Community Legal Centre (MNCCLC) took its first calls and opened its doors in Port Macquarie on 3 June 2011. The MNCCLC is the first new community legal centre in NSW for over 10 years. This region has one of the highest levels of social disadvantage in the state.
Coordinator Nick Comino said the team was happy to finally give people guidance with legal matters. We see ourselves as being a vital backstop for people who can’t afford legal advice. The new centre would provide general advice in key areas of law where people were unable to access other legal services. The MNCCLC would also make “warm referrals” to other appropriate services, and would take on casework in some instances, such as representing people with cognitive impairments.
The service will have a key role for disadvantaged people to give them greater access to legal advice. Jackie Curran, the MNCCLC Principal Solicitor, said a lot of people don't know what their rights are and a little bit of advice can go a long way.
Advocacy Law Alliance (ALA), previously Disability Advocacy NSW (DA), was the successful applicant to operate the MNCCLC after the federal and state government allocated funding. ALA currently provides advocacy support for thousands of people with a disability and mental illness in the Hunter, New England and Mid North Coast regions of NSW.
Advocacy Law Alliance CEO Mark Grierson said he would like to thank Disability Advocacy’s Mid North Coast Regional Coordinator Catherine Peek and a determined group of locals for putting so much work into getting funding for a local CLC. We all believe that the strength of our organisation lies in the combining of the skills and expertise of different professions (lawyers, social workers, disability workers) to achieve the best outcomes for our clients.
The new CLC provides services across the Port Macquarie-Hastings, Greater Taree and Kempsey local government areas, each of which has different needs. Vulnerable communities in Kempsey had issues around family law, domestic violence and criminal law, and a significant population in Kempsey struggled to maintain any level of housing. Taree had a large public housing population and experienced debt and credit problems. The Port Macquarie-Hastings has a significant ageing population and that has many issues, as well as a significant population of people with a disability, and public housing residents.
The centre is based in Port Macquarie but provides regular face-to-face outreach services to Kempsey and Taree. The CLC Coordinator said a significant part of what we are trying to achieve is to be accessible to those communities and in particular to people from an indigenous background. A telephone service is run from the Port Macquarie office. An employment law clinic is planned to start soon, drawing on volunteer solicitors and community legal centre staff to advise clients.
The MNCCLC has four staff: coordinator Nicholas Comino, principal solicitor Jackie Curran, solicitor Kyrie Pattison and legal information and referral officer Melanie Kallmier. ALA staff provide management and administration backup to maximise the time and focus of CLC lawyers.
The Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO) launched its NSW Mining Law policy paper at law firm DLA Piper on Wednesday 29 June.
The policy paper outlines the environmental impacts of mining in NSW, analyses the legal regime and recommends law reform to address three areas – environmental issues, community issues and compliance and enforcement. Copies of the paper were available at the launch and can be downloaded from the EDO website.
Guest speakers at the launch included a representative of a community impacted by mining and a spokesperson from the NSW Farmers Association who discussed the need for law reform in this area.
Further information: Jemilah Hallinan, EDO, email@example.com
The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) welcomes three new faces to its team: Ben Fogarty, Lou Schetzer and Sarah Mitchell.
Ben Fogarty has joined HPLS as its Senior Solicitor. Ben has been a solicitor in the community legal sector since 2004, specialising in disability rights and discrimination law. Most recently, he was the acting director of Pro Bono at Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers.
Lou Schetzer joined the HPLS as policy officer in March 2011. Lou has a 20-year history of working in community legal centres, legal aid commissions and Aboriginal legal services in Victoria, New South Wales and the Northern Territory. Sarah Mitchell is the new HPLS Administrator.
HPLS assists those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. It provides free legal advice at clinics around Sydney and works to identify and reform systemic issues affecting homeless people. The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) is a joint initiative of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) NSW. PIAC receives funding from the NSW Attorney General, through the NSW Public Purpose Fund, to operate the Service.
Further information: Dominic O'Grady, Media and Communications Officer, PIAC, 8898 6532, firstname.lastname@example.org
Environmental Defender’s Office (NSW)
The Environmental Defender’s Office has moved from York Street to a new location in Clarence Street. The new street and postal address is Level 5, 263 Clarence Street, Sydney. The phone and fax numbers remain the same.
Further information: Jemilah Hallinan, EDO, email@example.com
Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre Inc. is leaving its home of some 11 years and moving to new premises at Suite 10b, The Holt Centre, 29 Kinghorne Street, Nowra. The move should be complete by 18 July. All other contact details remain the same.
The need for the move was necessitated through a steep increase in rental at the old premises and whilst we will miss the old place (and the parking availability) the dollar factor won the day but every effort is being made to make the new premises as comfortable and welcoming as possible.
The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW Grants Program supports community projects that improve access to justice, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people. The next round of applications for general grants of up to $50,000 will close on 31 August 2011. The Foundation accepts small grant applications of up to $5000 at any time. To discuss your idea and ensure you’re on the right track, contact the Foundation’s Grants and Legal Information Manager, Jane Kenny on (02) 8227 3210 at least six weeks before the closing date. To apply or view previously awarded grants, visit www.lawfoundation.net.au/grants
Further information: Jane Kenny, Law and Justice Foundation, 8227 3210, firstname.lastname@example.org
Presented by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, the annual Justice Awards acknowledge the efforts that individuals and organisations have made to improving access to justice in NSW, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people.
There are four award categories:
- Justice Medal – for outstanding achievement by an individual
- Aboriginal Justice Award – for outstanding commitment by an Aboriginal individual/group of individuals
- Law and Justice Volunteer Award – for voluntary work by an individual or a group of individuals
- Pro Bono Partnership Award – for a pro bono partnership between a private law firm and community organisation/legal centre
Nominate online at www.lawfoundation.net.au/justice_awards or phone (02) 8227 3200 to request a nomination form.
Nominations close on 29 July 2011.
Further information: Maria Leonardis, Law and Justice Foundation, 8227 3203, email@example.com
RACS has welcomed a new Executive Director to its team. Tanya Jackson-Vaughan commenced in mid June and has been busy acquainting herself with the new position and the staff.
Tanya has a background involving work with refugees and migrants for 10 years through teaching English as a Second Language and then working for a Federal politician assisting residents with immigration problems. Upon commencing at RACS, Tanya stated: “Working for RACS will offer me new and exciting challenges and I look forward to a close relationship with CLCNSW.”
Further information: Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, RACS, 9114 1600, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Phone: (02) 9212 7333