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On the Record - Issue #23 June 2013


Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice

Issue #23

June 2013

This is the 23rd 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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Contents:

 

1. Community Legal Sector News

Editorial: NSW’s reputation for compassion towards victims of crime takes a step backwards

Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice

Royal Commission Legal Advisory Service

 

2. Law reform and policy activities

Adverse changes to NSW Victims Compensation Scheme

Hunter CLC says court fees should be exempt for CLC clients

A consumer response to the Credit Reporting Code

Vulnerable children are left high and dry by our legal system

CLCNSW and Hunter CLC raise CLC issues with our Federal Members of Parliament

 

 

3. Community Law

Kingsford Legal Centre - Kooloora Outreach

New Nowra Court Support Service

Midnight Basketball in Katoomba

University of Western Sydney Student Legal Services

Legal Education for Hunter Schools

Legal Education Takes the Stage

Laneway Street Art helping the revitalisation of Warrawong

#unlockthelaw

 

4. Human Rights in action

Kingsford Legal Centre Human Rights Work

RACS Family Reunion Clinic and Law and Justice Foundation factsheets

 

5. Case reports

Victim of domestic violence pursued for unenforceable debt by Housing NSW

 

6. Media mentions

RLC media

Hunter CLC speaks out about victim compensation changes

 

 

7. Publications

Launch of Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works

LawAssist launches new topic: “Recovery of Goods”

2 new publications by The Tenants Union of NSW

8. Events, commendations and developments

RLC invites you to a special evening with Justice Virginia Bell AC 

Illawarra Region Financial Counselling Service opens three new outreach centres

LexisNexis training at the NACLC National Conference

9. State Office Update

Accreditation

Aboriginal Legal Access Program

Advocacy and Human Rights

Sector Development

 

10. What are Community Legal Centres and what is CLCNSW?

 

 

 

 

 

1. Community Legal Sector News

 

Editorial: NSW’s reputation for compassion towards victims of crime takes a step backwards

 

An indication of how a society shows it is caring and compassionate is through the support it provides to those who have experienced abuse at the hands of others.  Whilst the ultimate aim of society is, naturally, no violent crime at all to anyone, irrespective of age, sadly the daily reality for many in the community is that they experience abuse by others, often extremely violent in nature; such abuse includes child sexual and domestic abuse.  At times, the victims are very young indeed.  We owe it, as a society, to provide adequate and meaningful support to these victims, to help them recover, as best they can, from the pain and trauma they have experienced.

 

NSW’s reputation as a caring and compassionate society took a very large backwards step last month when the NSW Government commenced a new scheme for victims of crime.  This scheme, which is categorised as one of support, replaces the former compensation scheme.  A number of key elements of the new scheme represent fundamental breaches of human rights.  For example, the new scheme will apply to those who had existing claims under the old scheme; this means that victims awards will likely be significantly lower and in cases where the act of violence occurred outside of 10 years, they will likely receive nothing.  The scheme also imposes a 10-year time limit for claims by victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  There is extensive research that demonstrates many victims of such crimes do not disclose or report them for many years, due to such fears of retribution, shame and embarrassment.  The limitation breaches the rights of a victim of crime to come forward and claim reparations when they feel physically and psychologically prepared to do so.

 

It was with a sense of small, and we stress small, relief that our call for the removal of the proposed 10-year limitation for victims of child sexual abuse was heeded by the government; this proposal was removed from the final legislation.  Such a limitation would have been extremely detrimental to the thousands of child sexual abuse victims in NSW, not to mention been at odds with the aims of the current Royal Commission into institutional abuse, which process includes encouraging victims to come forward with their stories, in an attempt to assist them with their rehabilitation through the telling of such stories.

 

These changes, along with others, were met with much dismay by community legal centres.  With such strict and draconian limitations in seeking government support as a victim of crime, NSW can now hardly call itself a caring and compassionate society towards these victims.  Victims of crime are often the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our society; we owe it to them to ensure they have the best means possible to move on from their pain and trauma.  We have, with great shame, taken a giant step backwards with the new government compensation scheme.

 

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW, send him an email

 

Productivity Commission inquiry into access to justice

 

The Australian Government has announced that the Productivity Commission will examine how to improve access to justice in Australia.  Amongst its terms of reference, the Commission has been asked to look into: an assessment of the real costs of legal representation and trends over time; an assessment of the level of demand for legal services; and the impact of the costs of accessing justice services, and securing legal representation, on the effectiveness of these services.  The Commission has 15 months to produce a report and then there will be the ongoing processes that follow from it.

 

Like NACLC, CLCNSW welcomes the inquiry.  Whilst previous editions of On The Record have noted concerns at the number of inquiries into the legal assistance sector over the years, CLCNSW believes that this particular inquiry will provide the sector with a truly independent assessment of the need for more funding for CLCs, as well as the potential for the issue of access to justice to become a truly mainstream one as more and more people become aware of the inquiry.

 

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW, send him an email

 

Royal Commission Legal Advisory Service

 

The National Association of CLCs (NACLC) is auspicing a Legal Advisory Service for members of the public engaging, or considering engaging, with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

 

This service, free to the public, will provide legal advice and assistance, information and referral, and support via a national phone service and face-to-face services in key locations.  The assistance that it will provide includes linking people with specialist counselling and support services and victims’ support groups, preparation of statements and assistance with preparing submissions about needed reforms.

 

The Legal Advisory Service will not provide legal representation but will assist people to find suitable lawyers for representation and funding for representation, if needed.

 

The Legal Advisory Service will include specialist lawyers and other staff trained and experienced in providing services to survivors of child sexual abuse and people who have experienced or are experiencing trauma.  The Service will include a dedicated team trained and experienced in providing culturally safe services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

 

Further information: Julia Hall, Executive Director, NACLC, send her an email

 

2. Law reform and policy activities

 

Adverse changes to NSW Victims Compensation Scheme

 

Community Legal Centres across NSW have been involved in extensive law reform activities following the NSW Government’s announcement on 7 May 2013, that NSW will no longer have a Victims Compensation Scheme. The government instead proposed a Victims Support Scheme that fails victims of some of the most serious crimes, including sexual assault, child abuse and domestic violence.

 

Six CLCs in NSW had previously made submissions to the Government review of the Victims Compensation Scheme.  For some CLCs, victims compensation matters can be the most common legal cases they assist with.  Currently CLCs across NSW are assisting 1076 clients with victims compensation claims that were made under the old compensation scheme.

 

When the new scheme was announced, CLCs and CLCNSW expressed concerns about the reduced payments for victims, that the new scheme would apply to cases that had been lodged under the old scheme, lack of payments for psychological harm and strict 10-year time limits on making claims.  Many of these concerns had been expressed to the government in earlier submissions.

 

Lawyers analysed the new legislation and Government review of the old scheme that was released at the same time, noted that the government had stopped accepting victims’ claims and expressed their concerns to their clients and the local community.  Clients responded with tears, frustration and anger at the failure of Government to protect them from further injustice.  Some clients asked CLCs to help them write to their local politicians and then felt better having expressed their view.

 

An urgent appeal to the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women about the changes to victims compensation was also lodged, supported by over 30 community, human rights, legal and women's organisations.

 

CLC lawyers spoke at community forums.  Lawyers and clients also spoke with parliamentarians and many CLCs were quoted during the parliamentary debates on the Bill.  The NSW government agreed to amend their legislation to remove the strict 10-year time limit for child sexual abuse victims to lodge claims.  This example of the government accepting law reform due to the voices of CLCs and their clients is a testament to the important law reform work that CLCs do, though there is still much to be done.

 

CLCs are now gathering data on the impact of the changes on their clients to feed into the government's review of the legislation that will occur in 11 months.  The government is seeking new appointments to the Victims Advisory Board and CLC staff have expressed interest in applying for these positions.  CLC staff have attended government briefings on the new laws and continue to ask questions about how the laws will impact on their clients.

 

Further information: Kerry Nettle, locum Advocacy and Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send her an email

 

Hunter CLC says court fees should be exempt for CLC clients

 

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recently released their final report on the impact of federal court fee increases since 2010 on access to justice in Australia.  The report draws on a number of submissions by community legal centres across the country that highlighted the fact that increases in federal court fees are a real barrier for low-income clients who are engaging with the legal system.

 

The HCLC’s Managing Solicitor, Liz Pinnock, appeared before the Senate Committee and argued that the clients of community legal centres should be eligible for fee exemptions in the federal courts.  The Committee agreed with this proposition and the final report recommends that court forms relating to fee exemptions be updated to make this clear.

 

Further information:  Georgia Marjoribanks, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send her an email

 

A consumer response to the Credit Reporting Code

 

In May the Consumer Credit Legal Centre (NSW) (CCLC) spearheaded a thorough and critical joint-consumer response to the proposed Credit Reporting Code (CR Code).  The CR Code will be a binding Code under the new Privacy Act (Commonwealth).  The submission was written by CCLC staff, Carolyn Bond (formerly of Consumer Action Law Centre), and Nigel Waters of the Australian Privacy Foundation.  Several other consumer advocacy groups signed on to the submission including: Consumer Action Law Centre, Australian Privacy Foundation, Consumer Credit Legal Service WA, Financial Counsellors of Australia, and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

 

The CCLC had many concerns regarding the proposed code including its accessibility and readability for consumers.  The Joint submission made many recommendations for changes to the proposed code.

 

Some of the Major Recommendations:

1.   The CR Code should include a commitment to fairness.

2.   Default listings must be removed immediately once the debt has become statute barred.

3.   The CR Code should specifically require that all existing listings under $150 are removed on commencement of the amended Privacy Act.

4.   The CR Code must specifically ban:

·      Multiple default listings in relation to one debt

·      Updating the amount of the debt on the default listing

5.   The CR Code should state that the notice of an intention to list a default must be issued between 30 days and 14 days before the default is listed.

6.   The CR Code should provide that consumers have the right to fully complete the application process for a free report online.

7.   The CR Code should specifically state that ALL Credit Providers must be members of an approved dispute resolution scheme that is free for consumers.

8.   The grace period before listing negative repayment history information should be extended from 5 days to 14 days.

 

In December 2012 credit providers were entitled to commence collecting additional information (for example, repayment history, outstanding limits).  Starting in March 2014, lenders will be able to access and list the new repayment history information about consumers.  People that regularly pay bills late might soon find that it will be more difficult to get loans with this information on their credit reports, or that they will be charged higher interest than people who regularly pay on time.  The CR Code will be an important piece of the regulatory regime surrounding the new credit reporting rules, and we hope that the final draft will take the above consumer advocate recommendations on board.

 

You can read the entire submission by visiting the CCLC website at: http://cclcnsw.org.au/cclc-heads-up-a-joint-consumer-response-to-the-credit-reporting-code/

 

Further information: Kat Lane, Principal Solicitor, Consumer Credit Legal Centre (NSW), phone (02) 8204 1350 or send her an email

 

Vulnerable children are left high and dry by our legal system

 

An important legal issue concerning the protection of children was recently brought to the attention of the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) by the Chief Magistrate of New South Wales.

 

In New South Wales, all applications for Apprehended Violence Orders, where an order is sought on behalf of a child or on behalf of an adult person seeking an order for their protection with the child or children to be included, must be made by the NSW police.

 

This has not been the practice in the past especially when the police have referred applicants in personal violence proceedings to court to make a private application.  However, where a child is to be protected as part of that order, the matter can only be pursued by the police.

 

The matter is further complicated when police refuse to make that application.  In such circumstances it is possible to ask for a review by a senior officer but if that senior officer confirms the refusal, there is no further avenue of review or appeal.  In such cases, it means that a private application cannot be made to the court where the order is seeking the protection of children.

 

The result of this dilemma is that vulnerable women in need of protection and wanting to also protect their children, cannot make a private application to the court.  

 

Vulnerable children are left high and dry by our legal system and urgent reform of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, in particular s48(3), is required.

 

In response, the HRCLS has called upon its Member for Albury, the Honourable Mr Greg Aplin, to facilitate amendment to the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) to enable children to be given the full protection they deserve in matters of personal or family violence by ensuring that not only the police, but also parents or legal guardians, can include children on an Apprehended Violence Order.

 

Have you experienced such dilemmas in your area?

 

Further information: Karen Bowley, Hume Riverina CLS, phone (02) 6057 5000 or send her an email

 

CLCNSW and Hunter CLC raise CLC issues with our Federal Members of Parliament

 

CLCNSW Director, Alastair McEwin, and Hunter CLC’s Managing Solicitor, Liz Pinnock, travelled to Canberra last month to meet with a number of federal parliamentarians.  Meetings were held with cross-party MPs and their advisors, including Senator George Brandis (Shadow Attorney General), Mark Butler, Mark Dreyfus (Attorney General), Kevin Andrews, and Shayne Neumann (Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney General).

 

The topics raised and discussed included the restrictive funding principles faced by community legal centres in NSW and the security of ongoing funding for HCLC’s family law programs.  The meetings also provided an opportunity to seek political support for the HCLC’s ongoing law reform campaigns.

 

These meetings were valuable in strengthening links with federal parliamentarians and raising awareness of the important work of CLCs,  particularly ensuring that MPs have a sound understanding of the work that CLCs do for vulnerable members of the community.

 

Further information: Georgia Marjoribanks, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send her an email

 

3. Community Law

 

Kingsford Legal Centre - Kooloora Outreach

 

In March 2013 KLC and the Kooloora Community Centre set up a KLC outreach advice clinic.  Kooloora is uniquely placed in the Bilga social housing estate in Malabar and is also very close to the Namatjira and Mirrabooka housing estates.  The clinic is a drop in service (no need to book an appointment), held every second Friday morning.

 

Further information: Martin Barker, Kingsford Legal Centre, phone (02) 9385 9566, send him an email

 

New Nowra Court Support Service

 

Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre, in partnership with Nowra Local Court, is launching a new service on Monday 1 July 2013.  From this date, volunteer Court Support Workers will be at Nowra Local Court to assist court users, their family and friends with information, direction and referrals to ease the stress out of attending Court.

 

Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre has recruited and trained a team of volunteers who will be rostered on each Monday and Friday at Nowra Local Court.  The volunteers have been trained to assist people as they come into the Court to ensure they understand where they need to go or who they need to speak to, depending on why they have come to the Court.  When they leave the Court the volunteers can also assist court users with referrals to a range of local support services.

 

“We hope this partnership will make the experience of going to Court less stressful for people attending the court as well as assisting court staff and the range of legal and other practitioners working out of the Local Court on these days,” said Kerry Wright, Shoalcoast LC Coordinator.

 

The Court Support Volunteers are all local people with an interest in assisting members of their local community.   They will be immediately recognisable as people enter the Court by their Shoalcoast orange and black shirts.

 

Further information: Kerry Wright, Coordinator, Shoalcoast LC, phone (02) 4422 9529 or send her an email

 

Midnight Basketball in Katoomba

 

On Saturday 22 June, Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre (EECLC) attended the Midnight Basketball program at Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Centre in the Blue Mountains, NSW.  Midnight Basketball is offered each Saturday night to young people at risk, aged between 12 and 18 years, who are referred to the program by local youth services. Participants are given a hot meal, provided by the local Rotary Club. They then play in a basketball competition on condition that they participate in workshops on a variety of topics aimed at being of use to them in their welfare and development.  The program keeps to the motto ‘No workshop, no jumpshot’.  Workshops are offered by representatives of local health, government and community services.  Community volunteers also attend and assist with facilitation.

 

EECLC’s workshop covered young people’s legal rights and focused on how young people can obtain legal assistance with various situations they might encounter.  These situations included what to do in terms of seeking a change to your living arrangements if your parents have split up, who to talk to if you are experiencing domestic violence within your family, and what to do if you are approached by the police or taken into custody.  There was the opportunity for lots of questions and participants were also introduced to the kind of work EECLC does and how community legal centres may be able to assist young people with their legal problems.

 

It was a great night, with lots of positive feedback from the kids who attended.  EECLC is hoping to return for more workshops in the future.

 

Further information: madeleine@eeclc.org.au (02) 4782 4155

 

University of Western Sydney Student Legal Services

 

The Student Legal Services (SLS) was established by Macquarie Legal Centre in February 2013 at the Parramatta Local Court.  SLS is a legal advice and referral service for current students of the University of Western Sydney (UWS).  It is a joint venture between Macquarie Legal Centre and UWS that is funded by a portion of the SSAF-fees of currently enrolled UWS Students.

 

The SLS predominantly advises students on tenancy, debt/credit issues, minor crimes, consumer rights, motor vehicle accidents, traffic offences and employment law.  The service is looking to expand to cover further areas of law over the next few years.

 

In addition to legal advice and representation, the SLS provides all of UWS Campuses (five in total - Parramatta, Hawkesbury, Penrith, Blacktown, Nepean) with free onsite legal education seminars.

 

The SLS has had its doors open for approximately 4 months and has assisted almost 100 clients.

 

Further information: John Rafferty, Principal Solicitor, Macquarie Legal Centre, phone (02) 8833 0920 or send him an email

 

Legal Education for Hunter Schools

 

The Hunter Community Legal Centre delivered a legal education session to students at Newcastle High School on cyber bullying and sexting.

The HCLC utilised the “New Voices, New Laws” presentation, developed by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre. This interactive presentation aims to inform students of the laws that affect their internet and mobile phone use and invites them to comment on the appropriateness of these laws and suggest options for reform.

 

Another session on the laws surrounding mobile phone use and social media was delivered to parents in a P&C meeting at the Hunter School of Performing Arts.

 

Further information: Georgia Marjoribanks, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send her an email

 

Legal Education Takes the Stage

 

The Hunter Community Legal Centre is currently working with CLSD partners and Tantrum Theatre to create an interactive play which teaches high school students about the legal issues surrounding domestic violence, sexting, AVOs and criminal law.

 

The play will follow a day in the life of a teenage girl who is experiencing domestic violence at home and other dramas in her school life.  The performance will be broken up by short discussion sessions, where students can ask questions of a local police officer and a solicitor from the HCLC.

 

The HCLC is currently assisting Tantrum Theatre with the legal elements within the script and with the development of legal factsheets to be provided to the students. The final product will be delivered to Year 10 students at Hunter River High School 30th August.

 

This initiative is a collaboration between the HCLC, Newcastle Local Court, Community Justice Centres, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service, the Hunter Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, the NSW Police, the Samaritans Foundation, Connected Communities Inc. and Family Support Newcastle.

 

Further information: Georgia Marjoribanks, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send her an email

 

Laneway Street Art helping the revitalisation of Warrawong

 

A Melbourne-style street art boost for a graffiti ridden and poorly lit Warrawong laneway is now underway.

 

Wollongong City Council has earmarked a $50,000 grant announced by the NSW Attorney General in May 2013 to revitalise areas of Warrawong, including the Greene Street laneway and areas around the Warrawong Community Centre and Illawarra Legal Centre. 

 

These revitalisation projects are aimed at combating graffiti whilst encouraging foot traffic and natural surveillance by creating an open and inviting space through vibrant murals.

 

A combined artistic effort by three local artists, community members and the two Centres is a giant leap forward for esteem building and community pride.

 

“To be part of the project is a privilege. I like art and to see something permanent that I was a part of,” a community member said.

 

Maxyne Graham from the Warrawong Community Centre and Truda Gray from the Illawarra Legal Centre are pleased that improvements to Warrawong are on Council’s agenda.

 

“There is a negative stigma attached to certain areas of Warrawong such as the Greene Street laneway. We envisage these revitalisation projects including the laneway street art will encourage people to meet and chat in a safe & beautiful area open to everyone”, said Maxyne Graham.

 

The community members and artists are also expecting a positive reaction from the wider community.  “It will bring the area more up to date with what councils are doing with other buildings and projects,” said a community member.  “The murals will be interesting, relevant and vibrant generating a sense of pride and ownership.”

 

Expected completion of the Greene Street laneway street art is for July 2013.

 

Further information: Truda Gay, Coordinator, Illawarra CLC, send her an email

 

#unlockthelaw

Last week the Hunter Community Legal Centre participated in the #unlockthelaw twitter campaign.  This campaign involved CLCs from across the country tweeting about the work they were doing on June 19th. The result was a fantastic showcase of a day in the life of a CLC.

CLCs can continue to update twitter users on the great work they are doing by using the #unlockthelaw hashtag.

 

Further information: Georgia Marjoribanks, Hunter CLC, phone (02) 4040 9121 or send her an email

 

 

4. Human Rights in action

 

Kingsford Legal Centre Human Rights Work

Along with NACLC and the Human Rights Law Centre, Kingsford Legal Centre made a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council for Australia’s mid-term Universal Periodic Review. This statement followed up on the work KLC did coordinating the NGO report to Australia’s review in 2010.  KLC welcomed the introduction of the Children’s Commissioner and the NDIS.  KLC expressed concerns about the limited nature of the Human Rights Action Plan, the government’s deferral of the discrimination consolidation project, the human rights situation of asylum seekers and refugees, the government’s failure to implement adequate consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and the need for an independent monitoring body for the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children.

 

Further information: Martin Barker, Kingsford Legal Centre, phone (02) 9385 9566, send him an email

 

RACS Family Reunion Clinic and Law and Justice Foundation factsheets

 

With over 25 years’ experience, RACS is an independent community legal centre whose purpose is to provide a free, specialist legal service for asylum seekers and refugees. RACS strives to ensure that individuals and families at risk receive fair representation before the law, and are granted protection by Australia, and opportunities to seek family unity, in accordance with Australia’s international obligations.

 

RACS believes that it is important to offer a holistic service to our vulnerable clients, so it has also established a family reunion clinic to assist refugees with applying to bring their families to Australia.

 

With a backlog of 16,300 Special Humanitarian visa applications and only 700 visas in this category available in the current financial year, it is almost IMPOSSIBLE for people to reunite with their families under the humanitarian program.  So RACS has decided to assist people to apply for family stream visas.  The Centre is helping people to apply for spouse visas, child visas and orphan relative visas so that they can bring relatives, usually refugees themselves and languishing in hostile conditions, to Australia on a permanent visa.

 

RACS has a team of 3 full-time lawyers assisting clients with family visa applications - Ali Mojtahedi, Senior Solicitor, Meena Krishnamoorthy and Sharara Attai.

 

Philip Saggers a long term volunteer for family reunion matters has been focussing on assisting unaccompanied minors with their humanitarian visa applications and Katie Wrigley, whose day job is Principal Solicitor of Welfare Rights Centre, has recently joined the team as a volunteer.  RACS is very grateful to its volunteers for their ongoing support as this work is unfunded.

 

On Friday 21 June in Refugee Week, RACS officially launched its Family Reunion Clinic with the help of local Federal Member Tanya Plibersek, Minister for Health.

 

RACS was also very excited to launch our fabulous new website and factsheets that were developed thanks to a grant from the Law and Justice Foundation.  Geoff Mulherin, Director of the Law and Justice Foundation spoke at the launch.  The brochure and factsheets will be translated into community languages and distributed widely.  They cover primary and review protection visa processes, how to write a statement, options for family reunion and what to do if your RRT application is rejected.

 

RACS is very grateful to the Foundation for its grant because not only will the factsheets improve access to justice for asylum seekers but the factsheet development was the catalyst for a “re-design” of RACS’ brand with a new logo and simple but beautiful website being developed thanks to Mitchell Dale of Electric Elephant.

 

Please go to the RACS website for details on how to refer clients to our family reunion clinic: www.racs.org.au

 

Further information: Tanya Jackson-Vaughan,RACS, phone (02) 9114 1600 or send her an email

 

5. Case reports

 

Victim of domestic violence pursued for unenforceable debt by Housing NSW

 

Nadia (not her real name) lived with her three children in Potts Point.  Her middle child has an intellectual disability. Ten years ago, Nadia lived in a Housing NSW property with her partner, Andrew, who was abusive towards her.  Andrew took complete control of her finances and subjected her to physical and mental abuse. She was not even permitted to open her own mail. Nadia fled the relationship and went to live with her mother.  Andrew continued to live in the property after Nadia left but stopped paying rent. By the time he left the property, Nadia had incurred a $3000 debt.

 

Many years later, Nadia wanted to move into a property on her own again and needed space for her children, but still had an outstanding debt to Housing NSW.  The debt was no longer legally enforceable and had been cleared six years earlier, but Housing NSW still sought to enforce it. Nadia’s situation was very different from when she first fled her tenancy, yet Housing NSW tried to deny her access to housing because of her rental history.

 

Appealing the decision to charge her the debt from the former tenancy took over ten months. During that time Nadia was paying off the arrears, on top of her regular rent, while caring for her three children, one of whom had a disability.  This put significant strain on her finances and her ability to independently manage her affairs for almost a year.

 

RLC was successful in having Nadia’s debt waived.

 

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications and Volunteer Manager, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email

 

6. Media mentions

 

RLC media

 

RLC has had its first column published in the South Sydney Herald.  This month, RLC wrote on Changes to Succession of Tenancy policy for Housing NSW tenants.

 

Full article: http://www.southsydneyherald.com.au/changes-to-succession-of-tenancy-policy/#.UbpvylTbJ41

 

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications and Volunteer Manager, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email

 

Hunter CLC speaks out about victim compensation changes

 

The ABC news reported on the impact the NSW Government’s new victims support scheme will have on Hunter CLC’s clients who are victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  The article stated that these clients ‘stand to lose thousands of dollars in potential compensation’.  The Hunter CLC estimates its clients will see a collective loss of more than $176,000 after the new bill was passed last month.

 

Full article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-21/hunter-victims-to-miss-out-on-thousands-of-dollars/4770064

 

Further information: Liz Pinnock, Managing Solicitor, Hunter CLC, send her an email

 

7. Publications

 

Launch of Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works

 

The National Pro Bono Resource Centre launched its new resource, Pro Bono Partnerships and Models: A Practical Guide to What Works on May 2013. It explains how to start, maintain and enhance pro bono partnerships and projects.

 

What Works provides practical information about how pro bono legal services operate in Australia, particularly the models used by collaborative partnerships and highlights the features of effective projects using those models. It offers information about how to attract assistance and maintain an effective relationship with a pro bono provider, and how to get the most out of the partnership.

 

What Works draws on the expertise of a broad range of stakeholders, particularly CLCs with experience in utilising pro bono partnerships to increase access to justice for their clients, as well as enhancing the range of skills and knowledge of their staff. It discusses the role that pro bono can best play to support the work of the legal assistance sector and provides information about what pro bono resources may be available when Legal Aid and CLCs cannot assist.

 

By explaining the practical realities of how pro bono legal assistance operates in Australia, What Works also highlights how a well resourced legal assistance sector is necessary to provide access to justice in areas where pro bono is unable to address the unmet legal need, and to give pro bono providers a link to the needs they are able assist with.

 

It is available free of charge as a highly navigable E-book or as a downloadable PDF file via the Centre’s website at www.nationalprobono.org.au.

 

Further information: Leanne Ho, National Pro Bono Resource Centre, phone (02) 9385 7380, or send her an email

 

LawAssist launches new topic: “Recovery of Goods”

 

LawAssist is a website provided by LawAccess NSW.  The LawAssist website is designed to help people who are dealing with legal problems in NSW, without a lawyer. LawAssist provides helpful information on specific areas of law and the legal process.  These topics include: Debts – Small Claims, Car Accidents, Fines, Fences, AVOs and Employment Rights.

 

LawAssist has now expanded these resources and launched the new topic of “Recovery of Goods”.  This provides information and resources for people involved in disputes over goods.  The topic offers a comprehensive guide for anyone involved in a court case in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court including: 

·      what type of goods can be recovered

·      how to determine ownership and value of goods

·      time limits and the appropriate court to start action in. 

 

“Recovery of Goods” also provides information on: 

 

LawAssist provides step-by-step guides, instructions on filling out forms, sample forms and referrals to other resources and services.

 

You can view the new “Recovery of Goods” section at: http://www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/recovery_of_goods.html,c=y

 

Further information: Christopher Owens, LawAccess NSW, phone (02) 8833 3104 or send him an email

 

2 new publications by The Tenants Union of NSW

 

CLEARING HOUSE

This is the Tenants' Union (TU) of NSW's new blog that will record what's going on in social housing estate redevelopments in New South Wales.

 

Over the last 10 years, estate redevelopment has become an increasingly big thing for Housing NSW – and for the many tenants who have to live with it.  Looking ahead, it's only going to get bigger.

When news breaks that an estate is to be redeveloped, it can be hard for tenants to know where they stand.  Should they go?  Should they come back?  Should the redevelopment happen at all?  Plans get made and revised.  People come and go.  Work starts and stops.  Promises may be made, and broken.

The purpose of this blog is to try to keep track of what's happening with estate redevelopment, on the ground in each estate.  The TU will try to log announcements, events and changes of plans as they happen, and link back to earlier information so it can be seen how things may have changed.

In doing so, the TU will be taking information from official public statements and documents by Housing NSW, the NSW Land and Housing Corporation, and the responsible Ministers, from media reports, and from tenants and workers on estates – so please let the TU know what you know in Blog comments or by email.

Hopefully all of us – tenants, advocates, CLC staff, housing officers, Ministers! – will become a bit better informed, and a bit wiser, about how social housing estate redevelopment is actually going, and how it might go better.

 

BLOG: http://clearinghousetunsw.blogspot.com.au/

 

Further information: Julie Foreman, Executive Director, TU, phone (02) 8117 3700 or send her an email

 

TU e-news

This is the TU’s new semi-regular e-bulletin, providing updates and insights into the ongoing work of the TU.

Subscribe at this link: http://lists.tenants.org.au/lists/?p=subscribe.

 

Link: http://www.tenantsunion.org.au/news-media/e-news

 

Further information: Ned Cutcher, TU, phone (02) 8117 3712 or send him an email

 

8. Events, commendations and developments

 

RLC invites you to a special evening with Justice Virginia Bell AC 

 

Friends and supporters of RLC are invited to join the Centre for evening drinks to hear The Honourable Virginia Bell AC speak and reconnect with RLC.  Attendance is free but the Centre will be asking for donations on the night.

 

RLC has experienced significant funding cuts and it urgently needs to raise money to ensure it can continue to provide access to justice for vulnerable groups in its community. Please come along and support the Centre.

 

Date: Thursday 1 August 2013

Location: Herbert Smith Freehills, MLC Centre, Martin Place Sydney

Time: 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Cost: Attendance is free but the Centre will be asking for donations on the night.

 

RSVP essential, as places are limited. To register for the event visit http://redfernlegalcentre.eventbrite.com.au/#

 

This event is generously hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills.  RLC looks forward to seeing you all there.

 

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications and Volunteer Manager, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email

 

Illawarra Region Financial Counselling Service opens three new outreach centres           

 

The Illawarra Legal Centre’s Illawarra Region Financial Counselling Service has opened three new outreach services in Warilla, Corrimal and Wollongong.  Maroun Germanos, a long time financial counsellor from Illawarra Legal Centre Inc, said, “the need for this service is growing all the time and the new offices are a great step forward in meeting this demand throughout the Illawarra”.

 

As part of the expansion, Lifeline South Coast Financial Counselling Services is contracted by Illawarra Legal Centre to provide financial counselling in Kiama, Nowra and Ulladulla.

 

Further information: Truda Gay, Coordinator, Illawarra CLC, phone (02) 4276 1939 or send her an email

 

LexisNexis training at the NACLC National Conference

 

Do you need assistance to effectively use the LexisNexis online legal resource package offered to CLCs by NACLC?

 

Two training sessions will be held at the NACLC National Conference in Cairns on Thursday, 25 July 2013.

 

·      First session: 11.00-11.45am

 

·      Second session: 11.45am-12.30pm

 

Please check the program for the exact location of the training.

There will also be an information stall on the Wednesday and Thursday.

LexisNexis will be conducing a customer feedback survey amongst our conference attendees. We encourage you to provide feedback and to encourage your response to the survey LexisNexis will be awarding a $500 PrePaid Visa card to one of the respondent’s organisation.

 

If you are interested in attending the training, contact Chantel Cotterell at NACLC on chantel_cotterell@clc.net.au or 02 9264 9595. By pre-registering your interest, this will help give us an idea about the number of people attending.

 

About

 

As most are aware, this package offers over 90 titles, covering nearly all areas of law practised by CLCs. The majority of CLCs have been set up to access the LexisNexis package, but if you still need assistance, you are encouraged to resolve this through NACLC before the National Conference, in order to benefit from the training.

 

More info about the package can be found on the NACLC website:

http://www.naclc.org.au/cb_pages/lexis_nexis.php

 

9. State Office Update

 

Accreditation Scheme

 

CLCs have continued to make good progress with the National Accreditation Scheme in NSW.  To date 26 out of 36 centres have prepared for and undergone a Site Visit by Regional Accreditation Coordinator (RAC), Meg Houston, based at CLCNSW.  12 of these centres have so far been granted Accreditation and Certification by CLCNSW for a period of three years.

 

After a period of leave the RAC is currently working with the third groups of centres which are being put forward for Certification, having agreed an implementation Workplan.

 

The RAC is liaising with the remaining centres to book in dates for their Site Visit in the latter half of the year.

 

Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

 

Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)

 

CLCNSW / Tranby Statement of Cooperation

 

At the May 2013 General Meeting, CLCNSW and Tranby Aboriginal College signed a Statement of Cooperation between the two organisations.

 

This Statement formalised the relationship that CLCNSW has developed over the past few years with Tranby. This relationship has been part of CLCNSW’s strategy to increase professional development opportunities for Aboriginal workers in the CLC sector, with the overarching objective of increasing CLCs' capacity to deliver culturally appropriate services to Aboriginal people and communities in NSW.

 

For more information on Tranby see: http://www.tranby.edu.au

 

Further information: Zachary Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

 

Advocacy and Human Rights

 

Funding Principles

The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer has been working with the CLCNSW Director and other CLC staff to ensure funding for CLCs in NSW was secured for 2013/2014 without the NSW Government’s funding principles being linked to the funding agreement.  This was achieved.  It remains to be seen whether there will be attempts to link these funding principles to future funding agreements for CLCs in NSW.  The Federal Government, with the support for all parties, passed the Not-for-profit Freedom to Advocate Bill in May which prevents the Commonwealth Government from having funding agreements with not for profit organisations that restricting their ability to advocate. The NSW Government has indicated that under the funding principles, CLCs can still engage in law reform. It remains unclear whether they support CLCs engaging in law reform only when they are invited to by government (via inquiries and consultations) or whether they support CLCs proactively identifying issues requiring law reform.

 

Victims Compensation

In the lead up to the NSW Government's abolition of the victims compensation scheme, CLCs across NSW were involved in substantial law reform work pointing out our concerns with the proposed new Victims Support Scheme.  This involved media comment, representations to parliamentarians, an appeal to the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and presentations at community forums.  As a result of this law reform work, the government agreed to an amendment to remove the 10-year time limit for child abuse victims to make claims.  The new Victims Support Scheme reduces payments for victims (in particular domestic violence victims), imposes strict time limits for making claims, requires victims to make police reports and applies to victims with unresolved claims lodged under the old victims compensation scheme.

 

Further information: Kerry Nettle, locum Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email

 

Sector Development

 

2013 / 14 Quarterlies, State Conference and training days

In response to the 2012 evaluation of the SD program, legal training days in 2013 / 2014 are likely to be reduced to 3, with only 2 attached to Quarterlies.  Further, it has been decided not to hold a separate biennial

State Conference in 2014 as in previous years but instead to have a “hybrid” event at the May 2014 Quarterlies, which will include some of the elements of previous conferences.  More details will be announced in the near future.

 

Quarterlies – Sector-wide Discussion Forums

The sector wide forums held on the afternoon of Day 2 in the February and May 2013 quarterlies have been well-attended and well-received.  It is planned for these to continue in August, and November. These are a good opportunity for the Sector to reflect on and discuss some of the “big picture” issues, in the light of the current difficult funding climate, and to help the Board and State Office with their strategic assistance to the Sector.

 

Practice Management Course 2013

The College of Law has scheduled the 2013 PMC for CLCs for 18-20 September 2013.  Registrations are now open, with minimum number requirements for the course to proceed.

 

Further information: Contact CLCNSW clcnsw@clc.net.au or 9212 7333.

 

10.    What are Community Legal Centres and what is CLCNSW?

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.

 

Further information:

Suite 805, Level 8

28 Foveaux Street

Surry Hills NSW 2010

Phone: (02) 9212 7333

Fax: (02) 9212 7332

Send an email

Website: www.clcnsw.org.au

Twitter: www.twitter.com/clcnsw

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