On The Record - Issue 19 June 2012
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
On the Record - Issue #19
This is the 19th edition of On the Record, the quarterly e-bulletin of Community Legal Centres NSW Incorporated (CLCNSW). CLCNSW is the peak representative body for Community Legal Centres (CLCs) in NSW. CLCs are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. To find out more about CLCs in NSW visit www.clcnsw.org.au
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There’s a saying in the English language: “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”. One accepted translation of this phrase is that an employer who pays low wages will have bad staff. Let’s put this in the context of funding for community legal centres (CLCs), which is abysmally low – if you pay a CLC peanuts, do you get a lower quality of service? The answer is a resounding “NO!”
Let’s look at the facts. In 2010-11, CLCs provided 60,222 instances of legal advice. With funding of around $18 million for 40 CLCs, this comes to $300 per advice. Advice that the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in the community wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive. These are people escaping personal or domestic violence, people who are at risk of losing their homes, people who are unable to pay their bills and don’t know where or who to get advice from – the list goes on. National research has demonstrated the benefits of CLCs – for every dollar spent on a CLC, savings of $100 in future legal costs to the community are made. So, for $18 million, CLCs in NSW saved the community around $1.8 billion in potential legal costs.
And as for the quality of the advice and service from the CLC? Our solicitors conform to the highest professional standards, we have a rigorous practice management guide that is thorough and comprehensive, we have annual peer reviews of our legal practices, and we undertake many professional development courses throughout the year.
CLC solicitors and other staff win award after award in recognition of their quality services to legal centres and clients. In the last 7 years, 3 of the winners of the Justice Medal, NSW’s premier award in the justice sector, have come from CLCs.
So, whilst we may be paid peanuts, there’s not a monkey in sight in CLCs.
Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW
Send him an email
CLCNSW hosted its biennial state conference from 8 – 10 May 2012.
The conference commenced with a RRR Day, held at the Law Faculty of Sydney University. This was a closed day for delegates living and working in rural, regional and remote areas. Sessions focused on training and information-sharing for issues that are specific to RRR needs, as well as network building between RRR and Specialist centres. Highlights of this day were an opening panel of speakers who discussed the particular challenges of working in a rural practice and a closing plenary with Helen McGowan, who explored models of justice dialogues for RRR access to justice.
Days Two and Three were held at Rydges World Square Hotel, Sydney CBD. Sessions were open to the whole justice sector and examined a range of current policy, reform and general legal issues. Day Two commenced with Ron Merkel QC’s opening plenary address, which was very well-received and many found inspiring. The Attorney General, the Hon. Greg Smith SC MP also provided a short welcome address, interspersing his points with the odd humorous anecdote, including one where a constituent arrived on his doorstep at home one day. The Hon. Michael Kirby AC was the speaker at the conference dinner which was also very well-received.
Day Three commenced with an inspiring panel of three speakers who discussed current issues in systemic discrimination, including women in the defence force, people with disability and Aboriginal people. The closing plenary saw a panel of speakers from Australian Marriage Equality, Amnesty International Australia and ACCAN, who spoke on the changing nature of activism.
A wide range of topics were covered in the concurrent sessions held throughout the conference. These included animal law, hate crimes against people with disability, innovative approaches in CLC work, and working with the media.
CLCNSW thanks all attendees, conference organisers and sponsors for their support of the 2012 state conference.
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW
Send him an email
The Australian Government has commenced a review of the National Partnership Agreement (NPA) on Legal Assistance Services. The NPA provides Commonwealth funding to public legal services, including community legal centres, legal aid commissions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. The objective of the NPA is a national system of legal assistance that is integrated, efficient and cost-effective and focused upon providing services for disadvantaged Australians in accordance with access to justice principles of accessibility, appropriateness, equity, efficiency and effectiveness.
The Review will consider legal assistance as a national system as well as the progress made by legal service providers towards achieving the specific performance indicators set out in the NPA. Allens Consulting Group has been appointed by the Australian Government to undertake the review.
The first Advisory Committee Meeting of the Review was held in early June. Julia Hall, Executive Director, and Michael Smith, Convenor, NACLC, represent CLCs on this committee. The AG's Department is now producing a newsletter to communicate progress reports including consultation dates.
Further information: see AGD website
The National Association of CLCs (NACLC), along with all of the State/Territory CLC Associations, have committed to undertake a national campaign to improve access to legal help in Australia. A focus of this campaign will be calling for a major increase in CLC funding to extend the impact and reach of CLCs to help our clients and communities. Much research and preparation work has already been undertaken and the campaign will be formally launched in early July, with the title Community Law Australia.
This campaign is a critical opportunity for CLCs to work together to address the chronic underfunding that denies Australians access to the legal help they need. The impact of the campaign will rely heavily on CLCs' practical support.
Further information: Julia Hall, Executive Director, NACLC, send her an email.
On 3 May 2012, Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor of the Central Coast Community Legal Centre, along with Jessica O’Dwyer, a current PLT Student at the Centre, attended the Northern Settlements Domestic Violence workshop for CALD Community Workers. The workshop was offered to several women in the community from a range of cultural backgrounds aimed at providing education on the options available to victims of domestic violence. Bronwyn spoke about the services offered at the Central Coast Community Legal Centre and provided information about how the Centre could assist in obtaining Domestic Violence Orders and claims for Victims Compensation.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, email
Lucinda Knapp has commenced in the solicitor’s role for the South East NSW Women’s Legal Services. Lucinda has experience in the community legal sector in its New Zealand context with her last position being with Bay Wide Community Law Service, Tauranga, New Zealand. Shoalcoast LC is happy to have her on board and no doubt she will provide some sound and perhaps innovative advice to the many clients that come from the outreach area.
Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast LC, email
During May 2012 law students from the University of Newcastle Legal Centre presented a seminar about fines and other driver related matters to participants in the ‘Safe Start Driver Mentor Program’. This program, co-ordinated by Community Activities Lake Macquarie and funded by Family and Community Services, targets young people aged 16-20 who through social or financial disadvantage are unable to obtain a driver’s licence.
The student’s presentation provided information about the possible long-term consequences of fines for non-driving infringements such as using public transport without a valid ticket. Other topics covered included the role of the Office of State Revenue, the applicability of car insurance and driver rights and responsibilities. The University of Newcastle Legal Centre will be continuing their involvement in this valuable project.
Further information: Shaun McCarthy, Director, University of Newcastle Legal Centre, phone (02) 4921 8666, email
The Hunter Community Legal Centre (HCLC) has recently commenced two new services in the Hunter Region. A duty solicitor service for ADVO and APVO matters is being trialled at Newcastle Local Court. This service is available on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
Also a free telephone advice service is being provided to inmates at St Heliers Correctional Centre in Muswellbrook. This service is available in all civil law matters. It is provided on an “as needs” basis with the cooperation of the Welfare Officer at St Heliers.
In response to a recent survey, HCLC has developed a Community Legal Education Program for 2012 aimed at educating community workers on various aspects of the law. The topics covered for 2012 are AVOs, Problem Neighbours, Family Law, Fines & the SDRO, Debts, Employment Law and Tenancy Law. An electronic copy of the Program is available on the HCLC website at www.hunterclc.org.au.
HCLC has also recently produced its Strategic Plan for the period July 2012 – June 2015. An electronic version of the Strategic Plan is available on the HCLC website at www.hunterclc.org.au.
Further information: Julie Vitnell, Coordinator, phone (02) 4040 9121 or email
In May, Bronwyn Ambrogetti, the Principal Solicitor of the Central Coast Community Legal Centre, attended the second annual “Launch Your Legal Career” Speaker’s Night as an invited Guest Speaker. Other guest speakers included the Chair of the Law Society Criminal Law Committee, Thomas Sphor, and Natasha Hammond from the Environmental Defender’s Office. The Macquarie University Students for Community Legal Engagement (MUSCLE) hosted the event. Bronwyn spoke about her experience working within the community legal sector and provided information to the students about volunteer opportunities at the Central Coast Community Legal Centre. The feedback was positive and indicated that many students are keen to pursue a career within the community legal sector. Macquarie Law Students established MUSCLE in 2011 with the objective of increasing the awareness of social justice and community legal engagement. The project aims to build relationships between law students and various community legal centres so that students learn the value of lawyers becoming involved in community and pro bono work.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, email
The Parramatta Community Justice Clinic (PCJC) is a social justice initiative of the University of Western Sydney (UWS) in partnership with Macquarie Legal Centre (MLC), the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney-General and Parramatta City Council.
PCJC, which first opened its doors in November 2009, provides free legal advice and support to vulnerable community members of Western Sydney, who are financially or otherwise disadvantaged. Face-to-face and telephone appointments can be scheduled for clients, covering a diverse range of legal matters such as neighbourhood disputes, family law, debt recovery, traffic offences and motor vehicle accidents. Specialist immigration law advice is also available at PCJC, on a fortnightly basis.
A unique service, PCJC is also part of a legal education clinical program run by the UWS School of Law, where UWS law students are given an invaluable opportunity to attend PCJC, to use and reflect on their law studies via their participation in an interactive legal service environment.
Under the supervision of a practising solicitor from MLC and UWS academics, UWS law students are able to work on advice, casework, and policy/project work, helping to formulate advice for clients with commitment, fairness and empathy. Furthermore, students are able to enhance their understanding of legal ethics and professional responsibility, as well as critically analyse issues of access to the legal system.
Clients of PCJC often express their appreciation and gratitude for PCJC’s services. According to one client:
“[PCJC] has made a world of difference. I commend you for facilitating a positive consultation that I have benefited greatly from”.
PCJC is located on Level 2 of Parramatta Local Court (12 George Street, Parramatta NSW 2150) and is open Mondays to Fridays, from 10am to 1pm.
Further information: Jamal Maroon, PCJC Solicitor, Macquarie Legal Centre, ph (02) 8833 0911 or email.
A recent invitation from Shoalcoast Legal Centre to community organisations and the private legal fraternity of the Far South Coast saw a large turn-up at a meeting in early June at Bega. It was decided that a core committee would be established to promote the establishment of a legal centre for the Bega and South East NSW regions. The next meeting is scheduled for August 2012.
Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast LC, email
A delegation of tenant advocates from Redfern Legal Centre’s Inner Sydney Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS), the
Inner West Tenants’ Service and the Tenants’ Union of NSW met with Jamie Parker, Greens MP for Balmain, to discuss the serious failure by Housing NSW to repair clients’ properties.
Jamie Parker said that his office receives daily visits from public tenants who have repair issues, and that many members of Parliament are also approached about this issue. He is well aware of this issue, and willing to raise the matter in Parliament. Clover Moore MP has also voiced her support and awareness of this problem.
ISTAAS encourages all public tenants who are finding it difficult to get repairs done to visit their local Member of Parliament, so that they are familiar with this important issue before it is discussed in Parliament.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email
The NSW Government has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to review the Victims Compensation Scheme. Kingsford Legal Centre made a submission highlighting the importance of the scheme for its clients, particularly for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and supporting retaining and improving the scheme. KLC is working with other community legal centres to campaign more broadly on this issue as they expect the NSW Government to introduce changes to the scheme following the review. As part of the campaign, KLC has co-authored a short piece for the Alternative Law Journal, written to its local MPs and developed a letter writing kit for other organisations to lobby their MPs.
Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, email
Consumer Credit Legal Centre NSW (CCLC) has received funding from Legal Aid NSW for a joint partnership project with them on short term high cost loans. Short term high cost loans are exactly as the name suggests! The features of the loans:
- Usually for small amounts (under $5000).
- The term is usually under 12 months.
- The name pay day loan is for those loans that have to be repaid on the next pay day. These loans are a subset of this lending.
- The interest rate is usually over 48% p.a. (The lenders use avoidance techniques to avoid the 48% p.a. interest rate cap in NSW.)
- Often use a finance broker so further fees can be charged to the consumer.
The problems with short term high cost loans are:
- They are very expensive and often force the consumer into a debt trap.
- Many consumers are forced to refinance again with the same lender simply because they cannot repay the loan.
- The default fees are very expensive.
- The set up costs are expensive and often include finance broker costs.
The aims of the project are:
- To inform and assist economically disadvantaged clients of their legal rights against lenders of short term high interest loans.
- Work with financial counsellors and other community stakeholders to identify potential clients and lenders who do not comply with current consumer protection legislation.
- To publicise and challenge unlawful business models by undertaking targeted litigation.
- To challenge lenders who do not comply with consumer protection legislation.
- Raise awareness of alternatives to short term high cost credit.
- To participate in a wider debate around short term high cost finance.
CCLC is very interested in assisting as many consumers with short term high cost credit loans as possible! Clients with pay day loans or any short term high cost credit loan can be referred to CCLC for assistance.
Clients can be referred by:
• Calling the Administration Line at CCLC on 92124216.
• Referring clients to the Credit and Debt Hotline: 1800 007 007.
• Emailing Kat Lane
The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms Rashida Manjoo, visited Australia in April 2012. Her visit was part of a study tour rather than an official mission, and had a specific, but not exclusive, focus on violence against women and Indigenous communities. The visit to Australia complements Ms Manjoo’s comparative research and will inform a thematic report and recommendations to the Human Rights Council. Her visit was co-hosted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
During her visit, Ms Manjoo attended a number of specialist and generalist roundtables in Alice Springs, Perth, Fitzroy Crossing, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Women's Legal Services NSW, Kingsford Legal Centre and the NSW Rape Crisis Centre co-hosted the Sydney Generalist Roundtable with the Australian Human Rights Commission at Redfern Community Centre. A Specialist Roundtable for culturally and linguistic diverse women was also held in Sydney.
The Sydney Generalist Roundtable was attended by Aboriginal women, representatives from grassroots communities, community and women's organisations and academics. It covered a range of issues including trans generational trauma, family violence, sexual assault, issues for women in prison, and the challenges for women victims/survivors of violence in accessing justice and services.
The Australian Human Rights Commission will shortly be releasing a report about Ms Manjoo's visit.
Further information: Liz Snell, Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator, Women's Legal Services NSW, phone (02) 8745 6900 or email
Kingsford Legal Centre has identified the problems of Housing NSW housing repairs as a major issue for its clients and has committed to running a major project in the second half of 2012 around the issue. As part of the scoping stage of KLC’s campaign on Housing NSW’s poor response to repairs issues, KLC has undertaken an analysis of its casework, and consulted with a number of key stakeholders and MPs offices. They plan to roll out campaign actions over the next semester.
Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, email
The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) teamed with the Albury & District Law Society (ADLS) and the North East Lawyers Association (NELA) in Law Week to host an acclaimed and international speaker Dr Alex Wodak AM in a community forum titled “The War against Drugs – Is Legalisation the Answer?”
Dr Wodak is the President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and Former President of the International Harm Reduction Association.
A Q&A panel was formed including local Police identities from New South Wales and Victoria, a Senior Counsel and Barrister from the Victorian Bar and a local drug treatment practitioner.
Karen Keegan, the president of NELA, and HRCLS principal lawyer, hosted the event. The event attracted media attention and added to the topical but ongoing debate concerning the use of illicit drugs and the current practices of drug control.
To download a copy of the report by the think tank Australia21 and for more information on drug law reform see http://adlrf.org.au/
In a separate event the HRCLS welcomed Professor Kate Auty, Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria, back to the region to address a group of women from diverse backgrounds in the law. Professor Kate Auty shared her experiences as solicitor, barrister, Magistrate and Mining Warden and asked the group to appreciate their own contributions in the law.
On the border, the bar has certainly been raised for Law Week 2013.
Further information: Alison Maher, Community Development Worker, HRCLS, phone (02) 6057 5000, email
Following Australia’s examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on how the country cares for and protects its children, the international body of experts has now handed down its conclusions on Australia’s performance. The verdict? Whilst the Government has been given credit for a number of initiatives, a quick read through the report gives the clear impression that this is a disappointing “report card” for the government of one of the ‘most affluent economies in the world’, as called by the Committee. If the report was to be graded, it feels like a C plus, where the plus indicates a late burst of effort – namely, the announcement of a National Children’s Commissioner in April – that must absolutely be acknowledged, but still leaves fundamental work to be done.
So what was the outcome? This June, the Committee agreed that most Australian children are well cared for; the standard of living, the health and education outcomes and the freedoms are what you would expect for a developed nation. And yet, in the eyes of the Committee, the Australian Government lacks a clear, coordinated and cohesive national policy framework for the care of children.
The response to many of these challenges in the past has been to blame our federal system that divides responsibility for most of the areas of policy that affect children between the levels of government. But when an issue is seen to be important enough, we find a solution. In the last 20 years we have seen comprehensive solutions developed – for gun control, industrial relations, corporate governance, security and water – but not for kids.
This June, the UN Committee has called us on this shortfall. The establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner, discussed recently by Senate, is an essential first step in addressing this shortfall. So let’s do it properly. Let’s take the first step, create the Commissioner role with adequate resources and mandate, and get serious about providing a national policy framework for all our children.
Authors: Ahram Choi, National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, and James McDougall from Save the Children.
Ahram Choi, Operations and Projects Manager, National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, phone (02) 9385 9590, email
Environmental Defender’s Office NSW (EDO) was recently successful in resisting a costs claim by Ulan Coal Mine in relation to the greenhouse gas emissions issues raised in Class one merits review proceedings in the Land and Environment Court. The proceedings were bought on behalf of the Hunter Environment Lobby Inc, a community group concerned about the impacts of the expansion of the Ulan Coal Mine near Mudgee. The expansion had been approved by the Minister for Planning under the former Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW) (‘EPA Act’). The appeal raised impacts on groundwater, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Court approved the expansion of the Ulan Coal Mine subject to tighter conditions to provide better protection for groundwater and biodiversity. Taking into account the enactment of the Clean Energy Act 2011 (Cth) and related legislation during the course of the proceedings, the Court decided not to impose a condition requiring the mine to offset its greenhouse gas emissions on the basis that the emissions would be largely regulated under the Commonwealth legislation when it commences on 1 July 2012.
Ulan then sought that Hunter Environment Lobby pay all of its costs in relation to the greenhouse gas issue. In Hunter Environment Lobby Inc v Minister for Planning (No 3) ( NSWLEC 102) the Court dismissed Ulan’s application for costs and ordered that Ulan pay Hunter Environment Lobby’s costs of the costs hearing. The Court held that Hunter Environment Lobby had not acted unreasonably in raising and pressing greenhouse gas offset conditions, noting that this was a novel issue for the Court, Hunter Environment Lobby was supported by expert evidence, there was no policy or legislative framework in place for greenhouse gas emissions prior to, and at the time of the hearing, and the substantial economic consequences of the proposed condition for the mine was not a matter that the community group was required to consider.
Further information: Jemilah Hallinan, Outreach Director, EDO NSW, phone (02) 9262 6989, send an email
Laura came to RLC with a complaint about her credit provider, Big
Bank. In March 2011, Laura saw a TV ad for Big Bank’s offer of “zero interest on balances transferred” for new customers transferring their credit card debt to a Big Bank card. Laura thought that this would be a good way to pay off her credit card debt, and so she applied for the card.
Laura received phone calls from Big Bank customer service representatives, who told her that her application had been approved and that she would receive it in the mail. Laura received the card and a letter saying she had been approved for a balance transfer of only $2,500 (not $6,500 as requested). Contrary to the advertisements, Laura was charged interest on this account. Laura contacted Big Bank and received verbal confirmation that a 0% interest rate applied to her account. However, despite requests, she received no written confirmation.
Laura wrote to Big Bank setting out her concerns, and was told that she had not been granted the card for which she had applied, but rather a different card, which did not have the same features as the one she wanted. As Laura did not meet the income requirements for the card she had applied for, she had automatically been downgraded to a different card. A letter advising Laura of this had been sent, but Laura did not receive it until after she had activated the card.
RLC assisted Laura to make a further complaint to Big Bank about its decision to automatically process Laura’s application for one card as an application for a different card, without her knowledge or consent. Big Bank told RLC that their “Privacy Consent” form contained a clause that authorised them to do this. In agreeing to the terms and conditions of the Privacy Consent, Big Bank argued that Laura had consented to this.
Big Bank’s actions appeared to RLC to be a breach of the responsible lending provisions of the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (Cth). It seemed Big Bank failed to assess whether the card granted was suitable for Laura’s purposes, having regard to Laura’s requirements, objectives and financial situation.
RLC assisted Laura to make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman
Service, and managed to negotiate a satisfactory outcome for
Laura. However, it took over a year to resolve this complaint, demonstrating how hard it can be for consumers to fight back against their financial services providers.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email
A recent Sydney WDVCAS case highlights the importance of well-written statements to provide the requisite evidence for an interim or final Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) to be granted. Police had been called to Sally’s house after a domestic violence incident and a Provisional Order was applied for and granted. Sally then went to the police station and provided a statement about the incident. At the station, police offered Sally an early referral to support services through the Yellow Card Project. Sally agreed and Sydney WDVCAS received the referral from police and contacted her. Sally was given procedural information and referrals prior to the first court date for the ADVO. At the first mention of the ADVO the Magistrate did not believe that there was sufficient evidence to grant an interim AVO, and Sally was then without an ADVO to protect her. The Sydney WDVCAS worker spoke to Sally and heard that there had been a long history of domestic violence by the defendant against her. The worker and Sally discussed the original statement she had given to police, which did not adequately convey the history of violence and the defendant’s escalating behaviour. The worker gave Sally information about the importance of reporting the history of violence to police, not just the event that gave rise to the police being called.
Sally returned home and another incident occurred and police were called. This time, when Sally gave her statement to police she told them about all of the events that had occurred during her relationship. She detailed the long history of abuse against her and detailed how the escalating violent behaviour now meant she had fears for her safety. The matter came before the court again and an interim ADVO was granted based on her more comprehensive statement.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email
The CLCNSW State Conference featured in ‘The Diary’ section of the Sydney Morning Herald. The article is replicated in full as follows:
PARDON ME, GOVERNOR
Speaking at the opening of the Community Legal Centres NSW State Conference on Wednesday morning, the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, revealed just how hands-on the government can be with an anecdote about a truck driver who had lost his licence because of traffic infringements, then one morning decided to plead his case with a personal visit … to Smith at home.
''Someone knocked on my front door,'' Smith said. ''He was not supposed to know where I lived. He pleaded with me to help him. He had written a letter to my department - which I had not even seen - warning me he was coming.'' Smith was taken aback, but was more concerned with the news the truckie was heading over to visit the Governor, Marie Bashir, next. So, having listened to his grievances and then said his goodbyes, Smith placed a call through to the police. What happened next? The Governor phoned the man in question and listened to his case, Smith said. ''She spoke to him on the phone. That's the kind of governor she is.'' Eventually, the driver was given help through Legal Aid to contest his infringements and was instead placed on a ''work and development order''. ''He then asked me to get him a pardon for all these things [prior offences],'' Smith said. ''I said, 'Let's just see how you go'. I thought it was a bit rushed.''
Link to article:
Women’s Legal Services NSW is developing an exciting new online resource for community workers.
Ask LOIS will be a secure member only website that will provide an online support network, resources and training for those who are regionally based and dealing with women with legal needs. Its key target audience is rural and regionally based domestic violence and family support service providers in NSW working with women, especially Aboriginal women, who are experiencing or escaping domestic violence.
The site will provide webinars (online workshops) where community workers can participate in real time online interactive workshops and ask the presenter questions. Webinar topics will include legal issues discussing: apprehended violence orders, family violence legislation, child protection and much more. Webinars will be archived on the site and can be watched at a later date or time more suitable to the individual.
Community workers will be able to ask an expert legal advisor a question via the Ask LOIS site. They will be able to access case studies and discuss the case study with the legal advisor. Community workers will be able to submit their own case studies, suggest webinar topics, suggest law reform projects and join discussion forums. In the forums community workers can make connections and network with other service providers who are accessing the site, enabling peer support, warm referrals and working in collaboration.
Community workers will be able to access a resource library on the site, which will include archived webinars where they can watch a past webinar or view the webinar transcript, plain English fact sheets, booklets, tool kits, videos, campaign resources and checklists. They will also be able to search the Ask LOIS site, provide feedback, complete surveys, contact LOIS and receive email reminders to attend real-time webinars for those that have registered.
Further information: Kate Duffy, Women’s Legal Services, phone (02) 8745 6900 or email
A new website reminds families the ‘best interests of children’ is the most important thing to remember when there is a family law dispute.
Legal Aid NSW has released Best for Kids – a new multimedia website featuring four short videos with a wealth of information for separating families. It runs across four platforms: the website, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook. There are 4 short videos on the site which focus on some key areas of family law:
- The 50/50 myth: This has general information about shared parenting and mediation. It explores the common misconception that parents have a right to equal time with their kids
- Using mediation: about making agreements that are best for kids
- The Independent Children's Lawyer: Information for parents
- The Independent Children's Lawyer: Information for children and young people
The personal stories in the videos emphasise that the best interests of children and young people is the most important thing for families to remember when there is a dispute. The videos have captioning for hearing impaired people and subtitling in Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic.
The website has pages for parents and for kids, plus information about family dispute resolution and court processes. Best for Kids is easy to navigate, colourful and gathers diverse information, with links to sites such as the Family Courts, Child Support Agency, LawAccess, Department of Human Services, Family Relationships Online, children's services, family services and domestic violence services.
Link to website: www.bestforkids.org.au
LawAssist is a website developed by LawAccess NSW. It has information to help people who are dealing with a legal problem or representing themselves in a court or tribunal. The materials on the LawAssist website provide information about both law and procedure, and practical tools for people navigating the court process.
New resources have been added to the LawAssist website to help people who have been dismissed from work. There are two separate sections on unfair dismissal and general protections dismissal. The new resources include information on:
- What rights an employee has when they have been dismissed
- What unfair dismissal is, who can apply and how to make an unfair dismissal application to Fair Work Australia (FWA)
- What general protections are, who can apply and how to make a general protections dismissal application to FWA and the Federal Magistrates Court.
LawAssist also has:
- Step-by-step guides to making an application
- Preparing for mediation and conciliation
- Attending the hearing
- Instructions for filling out forms
- Sample forms, checklists and worksheets.
To view the new unfair dismissal and general protections dismissal resources visit:
Other topics available on the LawAssist website include: Debt - small claims, Car accidents, Apprehended Violence Orders, Fines and Fences.
Further information: Suzana Mihic, LawAccess NSW, phone (02) 8833 3159 or email
Federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, launched the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) 2012 HIV and Society Guides in early June at Azuma restaurant in Sydney. A range of guests, including health and social workers from the HIV sector, representatives from Sydney City Council, colleagues from other community legal centres as well as staff and volunteers from HALC, heard the Minister and National Association of People living with HIV/AIDS president, Robert Mitchell, speak of the importance of education and assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS.
The resources launched were:
- Unravelling the Law, a guide for women living with HIV/AIDS;
- A guide to immigration for HIV positive people;
- A guide for probate and estate administration;
- Posters on issues of HIV disclosure for insurance purposes, immigration, wills, discrimination and privacy.
The posters will be distributed to community organisations, clinics and doctors’ surgeries across NSW, whilst the factsheets will be available on the HALC website at www.halc.org.au. Unravelling the Law will be distributed to women’s and other community organisations.
Resources such as these, which explain crucial and often complex HIV–related legal issues in straightforward language, form a valuable part of the response to HIV. They dovetail with the National HIV Strategy 2010- 2013, which identifies people living with HIV as priority populations whose needs and human rights are of central concern in the strategy, and the NSW HIV/AIDS Strategy (2006-2009), which stresses the need for education for people affected by HIV as part of creating an enabling environment.
Further information: HALC, phone (02) 9206 2060, Freecall 1800 063 060 or by visiting the website www.halc.org.au.
Arts Law celebrated the Western Australian government’s commitment to amend its intestacy laws by launching its Artists in the Black (AITB) intestacy kits for families of Indigenous visual artists.
Arts Law strongly advocates artists make wills as it ensures commercial rights and income are passed on to those dearest to them once they die. In the case of no will each state and territory has specific laws on how the estate must be shared. This means that spouses and partners are likely to receive the lion’s share of the deceased estate with the children receiving nothing or very little. If an Indigenous artist makes a will they can specify that all their children, including children adopted under traditional law can share in the artist's estate.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island artists, it is often the case that their most valuable assets when they pass away are their copyright and, for visual artists, resale royalty rights, both lasting 70 years after the artists’ death. This is relevant to all artists as it also impacts on their working life and can be a vital source of income when new works can no longer be created. Arts Law’s AITB program conducts wills workshops for Indigenous artists in remote and regional areas and over 500 wills have been drafted to date.
In Western Australia however intestate estates of Aboriginal persons automatically vest in the Public Trustee. Recently, after protracted lobbying by Arts Law assisted by national law firm Freehills (acting pro bono), the Western Australian Indigenous affairs Minister Peter Collier pledged to repeal the laws which prevent Indigenous families (or indeed anyone other than the Public Trustee) from managing Indigenous intestate estates. Arts Law is continuing to work closely with the Western Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs on the timetable for reform. The Department of Indigenous Affairs has also committed to fund additional AITB wills workshops in Western Australia.
With the generous support of the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund and law firms DLA Piper and Jackson MacDonald, Arts Law has been developing probate and intestacy kits for families of Indigenous artists available at Artists in the Black website.
Further information: Victor Cabello, Communications Coordinator,
Arts Law Centre of Australia, phone (02) 9356 2566 or email
“Speaking Wisely” is a kit aimed at community organisations, that wish to speak publicly about their services, the experience of their members and clients and what may need to be changed to achieve a just or sustainable society and environment. Such organisations do not want to spend time dealing with the fallout from speaking unwisely. The kit has checklists, background explanations, some illustrative case summaries and scenarios as well as suggestions for policy and procedures, and some handy how to guides. The purpose is for community organisations to feel confident they are on solid ground and well prepared to speak wisely and boldly.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email
The National Pro Bono Resource Centre (‘the Centre’) has developed a new research and advocacy tool, socialneeds.net.au. A joint initiative of the Centre and the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), socialneeds.net.au is an online database of key reports and submissions concerning social needs in Australia. The Directory was launched at the ACOSS 2012 National Conference in March 2012 by Simon Schrapel, President of ACOSS.
This easily-navigable and searchable directory includes links to and descriptions of over 600 reports and submissions published since 2007. It can be searched via a number of fields including author, date, topic and also includes brief profile of the author that produced the report.
The Directory was initially developed by the Centre in 2010 only as a hard copy directory with a view to provide pro bono legal service providers with a research tool that could assist them in reviewing and developing their programs, and in prioritising limited resources to address unmet social needs. On the basis of feedback received the Centre decided to convert the report into an online directory and extend its scope. The Directory will be useful for anyone researching or seeking to address unmet social need in Australia, and provides advocates with a tool to help produce evidence-based reports and submissions.
The Centre encourages you to visit and bookmark: socialneeds.net.au and use this resource to be increasingly strategic in your service delivery and advocacy. An update of the Directory will be conducted annually. If you are aware of reports or submissions you would like to see included in the directory, please send the Centre an email.
Further information: Maria Twomey, Policy & Research Officer, National Pro Bono Resource Centre, phone (02) 9385 7775 or email
In a new initiative, the Illawarra Legal Centre (ILC) has produced bar coasters with information about the services it provides. During Law Week in May the coasters were launched and hundreds were distributed to licensed premises in the Illawarra.
The aim of the coasters is to raise the profile of ILC among the wider community, particularly in places where community service information is not usually available.
The service is also trying to reach more men as they are less likely to seek help than women. This is reflected in the Centre’s client numbers, with around 62% of phone advice contacts being female.
Further information: Linda Brazier, community legal education worker, Illawarra LC, phone (02) 4276 1939 or email
Kingsford Legal Centre is delighted to announce that one of its longest serving volunteers, Sue Mordaunt, is the recipient of an OAM award for service to the law through pro-bono support for a range of community organisations. Sue has been volunteering at KLC since 1985 and is a very valued member of its volunteer team. KLC is very excited for her and cannot think of a more worthy recipient.
Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, email
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) has held an annual conference every year since 1979. The conference provides an important opportunity for workers from CLCs to get together and learn from each other, hear from inspirational and interesting speakers and recharge their batteries.
Keynote speakers for the 2012 conference, held in Adelaide, include:
- Providing culturally safe services - Antoinette Braybrook, CEO FVPLS Victoria and Paula Bold-Wilson, Manager and community development specialist, Waitakere CLS, Auckland;
- ‘Small places doing big things' - David Manne, Coordinator and Principal Solicitor at Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre;
- Radical law reform - Professor David Weisbrot AM - former and longest serving President of the Australian Law Reform Commission & currently Professor of Legal Policy at the US Studies Centre at Sydney University;
- Lessons from overseas - Julie Bishop, Director, Law Centres Federation, UK and Cameron Madgwick, Chair of Community Law Centres of Aotearoa.
A draft Agenda is available online.
Further information: send NACLC an email
Applications for the Foundation’s second round of General Grants (for grants up to $50,000) close 5pm, Friday 31 August 2012. Please note that grant applications are assessed against the Foundation’s objects and grant criteria. For this reason applicants must contact Jane Kenny, Grants Manager, at least six weeks prior to lodging an application to ensure the proposed project fits within the Foundation’s guidelines. Preference will be given to applications initiated at the community level or with substantial community input.
Visit www.lawfoundation.net.au/grants to view the selection criteria or download an application form.
Note that grants for up to $5000 can be submitted at any time.
As part of its legal information and referral program, the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW recently organised a half day seminar on ‘User Testing’ for people who are developing legal information resources.
Four speakers presented case studies on the user testing that they undertook when developing a range of resources that they had developed.
- Kerry Wright from Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre presented on the visual resources the Centre had developed to use in workshops with Indigenous women who are experiencing domestic violence. The materials designed for use in the workshop included large posters with key messages and wallet cards for the participants with information on local legal assistance agencies.
- Jackie McMillan from SWOP (the Sex Workers Outreach Project) spoke about the development of the Sex Industry Legal Kit (see http://www.swop.org.au/the-legal-kit-download/).
- Sue Scott from Legal Aid NSW presented on the user testing process for Legal Aid NSW’s new website (www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au), which was designed to reach a broad and diverse audience.
- Alecia Wales, Project Officer for Tobacco Control at the Cancer Institute of NSW presented on the user testing undertaken for the ‘I Can Quit’ campaign and website (www.icanquit.com.au).
Following the presentations, Julie Foreman from the Tenants Union conducted a user testing activity using her organisation’s website, to give participants practical experience of the methods discussed earlier by the other presenters.
Two key messages emerged from the presenters:
- User testing is vital to the development of a good quality product that meets the needs of its audience, and it also helps to promote the final product. A project plan must allow time and budget for doing user testing and doing it well.
- Users of the product (not the developers) come first. That is, the users’ views should guide and influence the final resource, not the preferences of the developers.
Shoalcoast Legal Centre’s new ALAP staff Steven Brandon and Caryn Carpenter have hit the ground running: Steven is linking up with schools, Aboriginal men’s groups and outreaches; Caryn has been supporting the Waminda Women’s Centre. At Hawkesbury Nepean Jo Ravot has been continuing outreach at South Windsor, Kurrajong, Wilbur Falls Caravan Park, Women’s Cottage outreach, and Sam Miguel Family refuge. In the Illawarra Della Chaounne has been working on wills workshop, Reconciliation Week (was a blazing success), Confirmation fact sheet, outreach at Aunty Mary’s Centre and Coomaditchie. Della was also elected on to the Shellhourber Aboriginal Advisory Group and was Aunty Agnes Donovan’s guest on the radio Program Vox FM. In the Northern Rivers region, Aunty Nancy Walke and Karin Ness have worked with legal aid to support the Namatjira Haven healing centre, continued outreaches at Casino and Tweed, and the regular Radio Program on 88.9fm Richmond Valley Radio, holding sessions with younger ones and attending all of the culture days, doing mail outs, supporting Tweed Elders group and Minjungbal. And, finally, at Macarthur Legal Centre, Megan Hughes is working with the court support, giving special help to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, she is in discussion with elders about the priority needs of the community, is supporting Aboriginal clients during advice, and co-presented at the State Conference.
The general issues that the ALAP staff are working with include: Credit and debt, Family law, victims compensation (with some wins), housing, health, Centrelink, homelessness, assault and jail services.
At CLCNSW, Zac Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, has joined the working group and policy sub committee of the “Justice Reinvestment (JR) Campaign for Aboriginal Young People”. The JR Campaign has already gathered significant support, including that of Governor Marie Bashir as a champion. The current focus of the campaign is the development of the high level policy presentation for government in early August to be delivered by Tom Calma. Zac is working with Melanie Schwartz of UNSW on part of the presentation.
Further information and how to subscribe to Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign: www.justicereinvestmentnow.net.au
Zac has also joined the Law Society of NSW’s Indigenous Issues Committee and was present for its inaugural meeting. The issues the committee are looking at include: Income management, Constitutional Recognition, and Native Title Act amendments.
By all accounts the ‘Setting up camp: how CLCs find their place working with Aboriginal communities’ session at the state conference was a success – thank you to all the panellists and participants.
There is an ALAP mini meeting happening on the 25th of July at Macarthur LC with Shoalcoast, Illawarra and Macarthur.
NAIDOC (the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Wherever you live, you can take part in NAIDOC Week celebrations.
Further information: contact your nearest ICC on free call 1800 079 098, except Nhulunbuy (1800 089 148), Kalgoorlie (1800 193 357) and Kununurra (1800 193 348).
Further information: Zachary Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or email
Good progress continues to be made in NSW with the National Accreditation Scheme and feedback on the process so far has been positive on the whole.
9 centres have now undergone an Accreditation Onsite Visit, conducted by Meg Houston, the Regional Accreditation Coordinator (RAC), who is based at CLCNSW. Following the Onsite Visit, Centres received a report from the RAC containing findings and feedback and are in the process of agreeing their Workplan. The process for Certification by CLCNSW is being finalised and will be circulated to Centres shortly.
6 onsite visits are so far scheduled to take place in the next three months. Meg will be in touch with other centres to check their readiness for an Onsite Visit and to book in a date.
Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or email
Submissions on the Issues Paper produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers closed on 30 April 2012. Despite the short period for consultation, many organisations put in a submission, even if it only addressed a few of the questions.
CLCNSW invites organisations / stakeholders to make their submissions public via the Victims Compensation Review page on its website: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/cb_pages/victims_compensation_review_2012.php
So far there are 16 submissions on the webpage, from various legal and community organisations.
The Government should receive the PricewaterhouseCoopers Report on the NSW victims compensation scheme by 30 June 2012. CLCNSW has written to the Attorney General, asking for information about the timeline for any further stages in the review. CLCNSW has called for the Government to make the PwC Report public, and for public consultation (via an exposure draft) if legislative changes are planned. A small working group from CLCs and the CLCNSW office is preparing for further advocacy.
The working group is open to staff from CLCs. Please contact Roxana Zulfacar, Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, if you would like to join – send an email.
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities. CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates. We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems. Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.
Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (CLCNSW) is the peak body for CLCs in NSW. It is resourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund. CLCNSW has 40 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.
Suite 805, Level 8
28 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7333
Fax: (02) 9212 7332