On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #26 Autumn 2014

Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #26

Autumn 2014

This is the 26th 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

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1. Community Legal Sector News

More funding cuts to community legal centre programs
Productivity Commission releases draft report into access to justice

2. Community Law

Harmony Day with Central Coast Community Legal Centre
Family law outreach
Homeless Outreach Legal Service at Toukley
Marrickville Legal Centre attends the Goodlife Music Festival
New Community Worker Alert email list
Asian Women at Work Project
Marrickville Legal Centre’s New Youth Outreach Services
Fundraiser for White Ribbon in the Hunter
Regional Legal Assistance Program Update
Maitland Community Cabinet Meeting

3. Human Rights in action

New child protection legislation law reform update
Inquiry into consorting laws
Advocating for Young People in Regional Areas

4. Case reports

Getting his cash back
Telling their stories: Royal Commission into institutional child abuse
Unfairly treated, unfairly dismissed?
Workers Compensation and Disability Discrimination Compensation

5. Media mentions

CLCNSW expresses concerns about new child protection laws
Illawarra LC raises issues around vulnerable tenants in public housing

6. Publications

Women’s Legal Services NSW launches Speak Up website
New Redfern Legal Centre video: “Tidda’s Marumal: A time to heal, take my hand”
Report on women defendants to AVOs released New resources on negotiation
“When she talks to you about the violence – a toolkit for GPs in NSW”

7. Events, commendations and developments

News from South West Sydney
New Principal Solicitor at Hume Riverina Community Legal Service
Deputy Directors at NACLC appointed
National CLCs Conference

8. State Office Update

Aboriginal Legal Access Program
Accreditation Scheme
Advocacy and Human Rights
Sector Development

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

1. Community Legal Sector News

More funding cuts to community legal centre programs

In the December 2013 edition we reported that the Commonwealth had announced funding cuts to CLC and other legal assistance programs.  In brief, the Commonwealth intends to reduce funding by $43.1 million over the next four years for the legal assistance sector, including CLCs, ATSILS, Aboriginal Family Prevention Legal Services and Legal Aid Commissions.  Cuts were made immediately to a number of NSW CLCs, including the EDO NSW and Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) will also not be extended beyond 30 June 2014.

We were further dismayed to learn just recently of further cuts to NSW CLC programs by the NSW Public Purpose Fund (PPF).  Many CLCs rely significantly on PPF funding to run a range of programs, including outreach to remote areas, and information and advice to targeted groups in the community, such as older persons, ATSI communities and GLBTI people. We understand the cuts to range between 10% and 50%.  Programs and CLCs affected include the Children’s Court Assistance Scheme, EDO NSW, PIAC, and TARS.  We also note that our colleagues in the justice sector have also been affected by the PPF cuts.  These include our colleagues at Legal Aid NSW, the Law & Justice Foundation, LIAC, LawAccess and the Law Society.

Regrettably, the CLCNSW Sector Development Program has had its entire PPF funding discontinued effective 1 July.  This will impact on CLCNSW’s ability to provide a comprehensive suite of professional development opportunities to the sector.

The PPF Trustees have advised that the current model of discretionary payments is unsustainable in both the short and longer term as a result of a considerable increase in grants made over the last decade against a declining interest rate over the same period.  This has led to the current round of significant funding cuts.  The Trustees made these cuts with the view to giving priority to those programs that provide legal representation for disadvantaged individuals.  Further, the PPF Trustees have forewarned there may be further cuts in future years if there are no improvements in interest rates and the economy generally.

CLCNSW’s Board and staff are currently planning its 2014-15 budget to take into account the cuts to its Sector Development and Aboriginal Legal Access Programs.  We will also work with our member CLCs to support them as they manage their own PPF cuts.  Further, we will work with government and justice colleagues to continue our work in ensuring sustainability of CLC funding.  Over many years, CLCNSW has taken the position that the NSW Government, not the PPF, should provide core recurrent funding for CLCs.  In these uncertain times for the PPF, we believe it is past time that the NSW Government makes a firm commitment to providing secure funding for CLCs, as they work towards providing equal access to justice to those most vulnerable in the community.

NEWSFLASH: at the time of this bulletin, the Commonwealth has announced further cuts to the CLC funding program.  Further details on these cuts will be provided in the next e-bulletin.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

Productivity Commission releases draft report into access to justice

In previous editions of On the Record, we have reported that the Productivity Commission is conducting an inquiry into access to justice.  The terms of reference for this inquiry are broad and far-reaching.  Amongst the terms of reference are issues that are directly relevant to CLCs.  This include: 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.

CLCNSW worked with NACLC and other State/Territory Associations to provide an initial submission to the inquiry, along with a detailed response to the Issues Paper.  The Commission has now released its draft report, outlining its initial findings on issues around access to justice.  Issues relevant to CLCs include: the demarcation of funding between civil law matters and criminal law matters; the eligibility criteria for access to legal assistance (e.g. whether they should be the same for Legal Aid Commissions and CLCs); and whether funding should be based on legal need.

Once again, CLCNSW is working collaboratively with its national and interstate colleagues on a joint response to the draft report.  CLCNSW will also submit its own response, drawing upon feedback from NSW CLCs.  CLCNSW also understands a number of CLCs are doing their own responses.  All these activities combined demonstrates the commitment that the CLC sector has towards working with government on improving access to justice, particularly for those most disadvantaged in the community.

Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW.  Send him an email

2. Community law

Harmony Day with Central Coast Community Legal Centre

Harmony Day is celebrated on 21 March and carries a strong and clear message that "Everyone Belongs". This Federal Government initiative is a tool used to highlight cultural diversity and promote cultural respect within Australia. It was created to encourage a sense of belonging across all ethnic backgrounds, from the traditional owners of this land to all those who have immigrated from countries around the world.

Leanne Wollins, the Centre Coordinator of the Central Coast Community Legal Centre (CCCLC), and Rebecca White attended a stall at Lake Haven Shopping Centre on Harmony Day to help raise awareness. The day proved highly successful with over a hundred people stopping by the stall, many of whom were interested and engaged in Harmony Day as well as the services that the CCCLC offers. Many referrals were provided for legal and other assistance on the day.

Further information: Sacha Mastras, Acting Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, send her an email

Family law outreach

Kingsford Legal Centre has negotiated with the Legal Aid Commission's Family Law Early Intervention Unit to set up 2 new outreaches in its local area for clients with family law issues.  There is now a fortnightly family law service at the Aboriginal Health Centre at La Perouse aimed at Aboriginal clients and a fortnightly family law service at The Deli women and children's service in Eastlakes aimed at women.  Both services are being used by clients and mean that clients have regular, high quality access to local family law advice and representation.   KLC students are incorporated into both outreaches. 

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Homeless Outreach Legal Service at Toukley

The Central Coast Community Legal Centre (CCCLC) has partnered with Toukley Neighbourhood Centre to provide a Homeless Outreach Legal Service each Thursday. Solicitors from the CCCLC commenced the program on 6 March 2014 and attend the Neighbourhood Centre from 9:30am - 12pm each Thursday to offer free legal advice for those people who often find it difficult to access legal help.

The Principal Solicitor of the CCCLC, Bronwyn Ambrogetti, said: "there is limited access to free legal services in the northern area of the Central Coast so we are very happy to offer this service".

The first three Thursdays of each month are dedicated to legal advice on a range of legal issues including fines and debts, neighbourhood disputes and traffic matters. The last Thursday of every month is dedicated to legal advice on family law matters. Appointments for an advice session with one of the CCCLC solicitors should be made directly through the Toukley Neighbourhood Centre on (02) 4396 1555.

Further information: Sacha Mastras, Acting Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, send her an email

Marrickville Legal Centre attends the Goodlife Music Festival

Marrickville Legal Centre operates a Youth Legal Service. This is a statewide service aimed at assisting young people between the ages of 12 and 24 with civil and criminal law matters. 

The two Youth Legal Service solicitors, Kate Duffy and Liam McAuliffe, worked closely with Victoria Legal Aid to organise a stall on Sunday 9 March 2014 at the Goodlife Festival, an under-18 music festival. The stall was staffed with the extraordinary help of Marrickville Legal Centre staff and volunteers.

The weather was perfect on the day, and the crowd numbered over 15,000 young people. The stall was filled with information regarding online bullying and "sexting", as well as more general information regarding fines, debt, traffic, and criminal law matters. 

Additionally, the Youth Legal Service organised a photo booth with life-size cut-outs of celebrities Ryan Gosling and Jennifer Lawrence. The service also managed to procure a traditional "Polaroid camera" much to the amusement of the festival-goers who were not used to waiting so long for film to develop! Overall, the photo booth was well attended, and it was a fantastic opportunity for the Youth Law Service to have direct contact with over 800 young people from across New South Wales. The service did not provide legal advice to young people on the day, but instead focused on promoting general awareness of the service and also of young people's rights and obligations in the community. 

Further information: Liam McAuliffe, Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, phone (02) 9559 2899 or send an email

New Community Worker Alert email list

This year Redfern Legal Centre is strengthening its engagement with community sector workers. Community agencies are integral to the work of legal centres, not just for referrals in and out, but often as partners supporting the same client.  As well as RLC’s comprehensive Helping the Helpers training program, RLC is coordinating community engagement activities to ensure it is both talking and listening to residents and workers across their full catchment area.

RLC has started a new email list, “Community Worker Alerts”, exclusively for community workers, so they can tailor information to the types of work and geographical location of community workers. Community workers will receive training offers and legal titbits relevant to their work through this new list.  To join the list, email Nick Manning.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Asian Women at Work Project

Kingsford Legal Centre and the Legal Aid Commission further progressed their collaboration arising from the Asian Women at Work Community Legal Education Project which was funded as a partnership project with Legal Aid. The final stage of the project is the publication of fact sheets in community languages. The factsheets were based on the workshops and outline employment law issues, identified by the participants in those workshops with plain English legal information. KLC is working with Legal Aid to finalise the factsheets. KLC will then work to translate the first 5 factsheets and Legal Aid have agreed to publish the factsheets on their website and distribute them through their publications department.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Marrickville Legal Centre’s New Youth Outreach Services

At the end of 2013, the Youth Legal Service commenced three new outreach activities.

First, Youth Solicitor Kate Duffy attends the Reiby Juvenile Justice centre on a monthly basis. At the Centre, Ms Duffy undertakes community legal education sessions. These sessions are specific to the Waratah Unit, which is a unit for young men who are preparing for release. These sessions have been especially productive because participant numbers are limited which allows for the service to focus on up-skilling young offenders, for example, in credit and debt matters.

Second, Youth Solicitor Liam McAuliffe attends the Belmore Youth Resource Centre on a fortnightly basis. This outreach includes giving legal advice, and general legal information to any young person who attends the Belmore Youth Resource Centre. This service has been widely successful because of the assistance and close association with Canterbury Council, Mission Australia and Barnardos Australia. 

Third, solicitors from the Youth Legal Service attend Lakemba Library on a weekly basis. Lakemba Library has recently been identified as an emerging hotspot for youth activity including encounters with the NSW Police Force. The Youth Legal Service has been working closely with the Canterbury Workers With Youth Network and the Inner West Youth Interagency to staff a drop-in service at the Library. This service has been extremely successful and has allowed the youth solicitors and other youth workers to engage with young people from this area.

Further information: Liam McAuliffe, Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, phone (02) 9559 2899 or send an email

Fundraiser for White Ribbon in the Hunter

The Hunter Community Legal Centre celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday 7th March 2014 by holding a morning tea to raise funds in support of White Ribbon. The event celebrated the achievements of women all over the world but also shed light on the issue of domestic violence.

Local businesses in the Newcastle CBD donated prizes for a raffle and food for the event. 25 community workers attended the event which raised a total of $530 for the White Ribbon foundation.

Bryce Gaudry, former Newcastle MP and White Ribbon Ambassador for the event, spoke on the issue of violence in general and domestic violence in particular, sharing his personal experience, and urging attendees to break the silence about violence. The event concluded with the screening of a TED Talk by Leslie Morgan Steiner, Writer and DV survivor, entitled “Why domestic violence victims don’t leave”.

Key links:   TED Talk "Why domestic violence victims don't leave"

      About White Ribbon

                  About International Women’s Day

Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Managing Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

Regional Legal Assistance Program Update

Following the successful launch of Redfern Legal Centre’s Regional Legal Assistance Program in Coffs Harbour, RLC has commenced giving free legal advice to people in Coffs Harbour via webcam in partnership with the Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre. The program is designed to promote greater access to legal services for people in regional Australia using broadband technology and funded by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s office.


Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Maitland Community Cabinet Meeting

On 10 February 2014, the former Managing Solicitor of Hunter Community Legal Centre, Liz Pinnock, attended a Community Cabinet meeting at Maitland Town Hall and met with NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith to raise concerns about the ‘Principles for Funding of Legal Assistance Services’ which the Attorney-General released in December 2012. The funding principles seek to limit the law reform and systemic advocacy work conducted by community legal centres in NSW.

Ms Pinnock highlighted some of the recent law reform and advocacy activities engaged in by HCLC and other community legal centres,  and sought  clarification from the Attorney-General as to the purpose and extent of the funding principles.

Further information: Ruby Taylor, CLE & Law Reform Coordinator, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

3. Human Rights in action

New child protection legislation law reform update

Draft new child protection legislation was introduced to NSW Parliament last year. Concerns with the legislation were identified by CLCNSW’s Care and Protection Working Group and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Working Groups.  An issues paper outlining these concerns is available on the CLCNSW website and was sent to NSW MPs asking for meetings.

Meetings were held with MPs from Liberal, National, Labor, Greens, Christian Democrats and Shooters and Fishers Party.  Meetings were attended by staff from Women’s Legal Services NSW, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre, Western NSW CLC, Far West CLC, Intellectual Disability Rights Service and CLCNSW (Director, Advocacy and Human Rights Officer, and Aboriginal Legal Access Program Community Development Worker).

Discussion occurred at meetings about amendments that could be made to the legislation to address concerns identified by NSW CLCs and CLCNSW.

When the legislation was passed, CLCNSW expressed its concerns in a media release.  More details on the media release are in section 5 of this bulletin.

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

Inquiry into consorting laws

Kingsford Legal Centre drafted a submission for the NSW Ombudsman review of the anti-consorting laws. KLC argued that the laws have a disproportionate and detrimental effect of on vulnerable people in its communities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, and should be repealed or narrowed. KLC Aboriginal Access Worker, Kaleesha Morris, did an interview with SBS Livin' Black on its submission.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email

Advocating for Young People in Regional Areas

In February 2014 the Hunter Community Legal Centre made a submission to the NSW Attorney General about the impact of Banning Notices on young people in rural, regional and remote communities.  Banning Notices are instruments which exclude individuals from shopping centres or other commercial premises for a specified period of time. These notices are generally issued after an individual has breached a rule imposed upon users by the body managing the shopping centre. There are currently no regulations, guidelines or procedures governing the issue of Banning Notices in NSW.

The HCLC is concerned that banning young people from their local shopping centres can cause undue stress and disadvantage. Banning Notices can create significant barriers for young people who are seeking employment in their local area or who need to access to vital government or commercial services that are located in major shopping precincts. The problem is particularly acute in rural, regional and remote areas where individuals may need to travel long distances to access services in alternate locations.

The HCLC submission called for the regulation of Banning Notices, and recommended that flexible, negotiated agreements would be fairer and more appropriate than Banning Notices in many circumstances. The HCLC awaits a response from the Attorney General’s Department.

Further information: Kim Richardson, Solicitor, Hunter Community Legal Centre, send an email or phone (02) 4040 9121.

4. Case notes

Getting his cash back

In 2013 Justice Connect established a new outreach legal service, MOSAIC (Migrant Outreach Services; Advice, Information and Community Education) that uses lawyers to provide pro bono legal advice and assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and recently arrived migrants on civil law issues including fines, debts, tenancy, insurance and employment issues. The service operates every Tuesday morning at Metro Migrant Resource Centre’s Ashfield office.  Refugee Advice and Casework Service has also collaborated on the project and provides advice on protection, humanitarian and family reunion visas every fortnight.

MOSAIC has already provided advice to over eighty clients including Ali, an asylum seeker living in regional NSW who called MOSAIC in November 2013 in relation to the problems he was having at work with his foreman.

Ali was working as a trolley collector at a local supermarket.   However, when he started working at the supermarket he had been told by the foreman that he had to pay $300 of his weekly wage back to the foreman. After a few weeks, Ali queried the arrangement with the foreman but was told he would be sacked if he did not pay the money. With the support of his caseworker, Ali contacted a lawyer at MOSAIC and explained his situation.  While Ali was concerned about these payments, he ultimately just wanted to keep his job and was reluctant to say anything more to the foreman.

The lawyer wrote a confidential letter to Ali’s employer about these irregular payments but the employer ignored the confidentiality and the foreman saw the letter. Ali was sacked by the foreman just before Christmas.

The MOSAIC lawyer then lodged a claim with Fair Work Australia. At the hearing Ali’s employer agreed to reimburse Ali the money he had paid the foreman and an additional $5,000 in compensation. Ali was also reinstated and the employer apologised to Ali.

Further information: Liz Simpson, Justice Connect, send her an email

Telling their stories: Royal Commission into institutional child abuse

The following case study from knowmore refers to a client who has been de-identified, and will for the purposes of this story be referred to as ‘R’ to respect his wish for privacy.

knowmore provided assistance to a client known as ‘R’ (not his real name) who had registered his interest with the Royal Commission and had a date for a private session to tell of his experiences. At the time of contacting knowmore, R had been living in a bed-sit in an environment where he was constantly being harassed; he objected to drug dealing going on around him and as a result was targeted and the garden he had planted had been ripped out.

While R knew he had been in two institutions run by a church - he had very little information, apart from his memories, of what happened in those institutions.

knowmore’s team of lawyers and social worker/counsellors assisted R with the preparation for his private session. On the day prior to the private session, R experienced ill-health, requiring hospitalisation, resulting in the private session being postponed. By this stage, the client had disclosed to our counsellor that his family were not supportive of his decision to tell his story.

Once R was well enough, a new date for the private session was allocated. The client requested that one of our counsellors go with him, to be his support person. R was very anxious that the stress of the private session might again trigger an incident affecting his health. But thankfully he made it through the private hearing and was so pleased that he was able to tell his story; that he was listened to with respect, that he was believed.

After a few weeks, knowmore contacted R to see if he wanted any further assistance, specifically in relation to advice about making a claim for compensation. He instructed us to proceed.

This was harder than it sounded, the church advised there were complex incorporation technicalities and they could consider one of his claims only. The result appeared to be that the client could claim for the abuse which happened in one of the institution, but not the other.

Not to be deterred, and with a great deal of sensitivity (as we did not want to re-traumatise the client) we obtained further instructions from R as to what was happening while he was in the home which was not deemed to be under the control of the church. The client was able to tell us that while he was at this home, the children were taken to a church each Sunday and that as an altar boy at this church, he was sexually abused by the Minister. This information brought his case squarely within the responsibility of the diocese.

The result of obtaining this further information was that the client in fact had two claims – one against the church and the other against the diocese. The client lodged two claims and was interviewed once with the one report being used by both organisations. Within two months of lodging the claims, the client received the news that his claims had been successful. He was awarded a sufficient amount in total to enable him to move into a retirement home complex and escape the persecution of his current living environment.

R has consistently expressed his thanks for the support he has received from knowmore. While telling his story has impacted his health, he carries the very strong conviction that it was a story which needed to be told.

Further information: Anaya Latter, Communications Manager, knowmore, send an email

Unfairly treated, unfairly dismissed?

The Redfern Legal Centre case study that follows demonstrates the day-to-day difficulties international students can experience in the workplace, managing the requirements of their student visa with managers who do not respect basic employment rights.

Suzie (not her real name) was an international student who had been working as a casual bartender at a Sydney hotel for almost three years. There was a change in management and Suzie began reporting to a new boss, Bob.

Bob did not give staff proper breaks. Suzie asked for her breaks and stuck up for her fellow workers, which she believed prompted Bob to become antagonistic towards her.

Bob asked Suzie to perform duties well above that of a bartender, such as event coordination, without any additional pay and constantly pressured her to work more hours each week than her visa allowed. Suzie felt very anxious about this.

Under her previous boss, senior members of staff were allowed to take soft drinks without payment. Bob had apparently stopped this practice, although Suzie was never informed about the change.

Suzie arrived at work one morning and was told by Bob that she was dismissed for stealing a can of Coke the day before. He did not allow her to discuss the matter and told her to leave immediately. He said he would call the police if she entered the workplace again.

At this stage, Suzie believed she was dismissed. She called Head Office who told her they would have to investigate the theft issue, that she was not yet dismissed and asked her to come in for a meeting a few days later. Suzie felt confused about what was going on.

Anxious about her meeting with management, Suzie approached RLC’s International Student Service. RLC advised her to prepare for the meeting by writing down her concerns about her conditions and suggested she take a support person with her to the meeting. RLC advised that if she was in fact dismissed, she had 21 days to lodge an unfair dismissal claim with Fair Work Australia and that RLC could assist her with this process.

RLC contacted Suzie a few days after the meeting. Suzie said that she still had her job and that she felt confident discussing her concerns with management. She asked not to be rostered on when Bob was supervising, not to perform higher duties without an increase in pay and not to be asked to work more than her student visa allowed. These requests were granted.

Suzie knows that if her conditions at work deteriorate once again, RLC’s International Student Service is only a phone call away.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send an email

Workers Compensation and Disability Discrimination Compensation

A recent Redfern Legal Centre discrimination case raised interesting issues about the interaction between federal disability discrimination and workers’ compensation laws in settling matters.

In this case a worker had been injured at work but his employer, on his return to work, provided him employment for less days than he was medically cleared for and made certain decisions about what work he could do. He was already receiving workers compensation and Redfern Legal Centre assisted him to lodge a disability discrimination complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Section 151A of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (NSW) provides that a person who receives damages in respect of an injury from their employer:

As such there may have been a risk in settling the discrimination complaint, in that the RLC client could have lost his entitlement to workers compensation.

In the client’s matter it appeared that her disability discrimination claim could be easily distinguished from damages “in respect of an injury” within the meaning of the legislation, however careful drafting of the deed of release was still considered necessary. Specifically, the part of the agreement releasing the employer from any future claim by the RLC client included wording to the effect that all claims under relevant workers compensation legislation and any work injuries claim were exempt from the deed of release relating to the discrimination matter.

This is an important point for people making discrimination complaints and their advocates to remember when settling a discrimination complaint where the person’s disability is associated with a workplace injury.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send an email

5. Media mentions

CLCNSW expresses concerns about new child protection laws

On 27 March, CLCNSW sent out the following media release in response to the NSW Government passing new child protection legislation:


Community Legal Centres in NSW are concerned that new child protection laws passed last night will see children removed from their family when it may not be in the child’s best interests.

‘The key to keeping children safe is helping parents understand how to keep their children safe’, said Nassim Arrage, Chair, Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW).

‘Community legal centres help families who don’t understand what to do to keep their children safe. We are worried that this law will see more children removed, without families getting the support they need to keep children safe. This can make things worse for future children.’

‘Support services must be available to families before children are removed from their family. There are not currently enough services to help families care for children, especially in rural areas and for disadvantaged groups. More support services are needed to help parents create a safe and caring environment for their children.’

‘Vulnerable parents, with an intellectual disability or struggling with alcohol or drug addiction sometimes need substantial time and support to help protect their children. These laws do not recognise this.’

‘People facing the prospect of losing their children have to be informed that free legal advice and support services are available.’

‘Community Legal Centres wanted this law amended so that families facing children being removed were given contact details for free legal advice and support services. We also wanted the law amended so victims of violence were not prevented from keeping their family together due to the actions of perpetrators of violence.’

‘Without more money for support services, this law will makes things worse for children who want to be safe and be with their family’, concluded Nassim Arrage, Chair, Community Legal Centres NSW (CLCNSW).

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

Illawarra LC raises issues around vulnerable tenants in public housing

The Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Advice Service at Illawarra Legal Centre recently featured in local media over issues raised in its submission to the NSW parliamentary inquiry into public housing.

In its submission to the Public, Social and Affordable Housing Inquiry, the Tenants Service highlighted the failure of Housing NSW to fix a broken public housing system.

ABC radio, Wave FM and local daily and weekly papers interviewed Tenancy Team Leader Warren Wheeler who discussed moves by Housing NSW that have only worsened conditions for vulnerable tenants.

In particular, the Tenants Service condemned last year’s directive by the Minister for Housing not to discount the market rent of properties on the basis that they are used for public housing. This has resulted in rent increases of up to $150 per week for tenants who are not eligible for a rental subsidy due to their income.

The Service used their submission to call upon the government to increase funding for repairs and maintenance of properties, invest in social and affordable housing stock, and ensure that funds from the sale of public housing stock are reinvested into maintaining existing stock or creating new stock.

See the Illawarra Mercury Report at:

For further information or a copy of the Tenants Service submission: Alex O'Donnell, phone (02) 4274 3475 or send an email

6. Publications

Women’s Legal Services NSW launches Speak Up website

In conjunction with International Women’s Day 2014, Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS) launched its new mobile website, Speak Up To End Violence Against Women.

Speak Up is a mobile website at which has the functionality and feel of a phone App without needing to be downloaded onto a device.

Speak Up has dual functions. First, it is a comprehensive Australia-wide service directory where individuals and organisations can find help for women escaping violence. Simply enter your client’s postcode or suburb to find a comprehensive list of targeted and local services that can assist women in need.

All services are broken down into categories to prompt individuals and organisations to turn their minds to the different types of help available to women escaping violence. The directory is being constantly improved and updated, if you wish to add or amend a service, please contact the service.

The second function of Speak Up is to start a national conversation about violence against women to put this issue on the forefront of the public agenda. Individuals or organisations are invited to finish the sentence “we could reduce violence against women if…”

All responses are anonymously published on the website and are collated by WLS. These comments will form a publically available annual report and will inform WLS’s law reform and policy work. WLS aims to make practical recommendations to the government on implementation strategies to reduce violence against women, supported by the input of the Australian public.

WLS encourages all CLCs and other community organisations to utilise this tool and record their ideas and strategies for reducing violence against women.

The Hon. Michael Kirby, Ambassador Natasha Stott Despoja and other well-known Australian figures have contributed to the cause by finishing this sentence. Their video responses can be viewed on the media page of

Visit today to join the conversation or to find referrals for your clients. You can also find Speak Up on social media!



Further information: Alex Davis, phone (02) 8745 6934, or send an email

New Redfern Legal Centre video: “Tidda’s Marumal: A time to heal, take my hand”

In a new video, “Tidda’s Marumal: A time to heal, take my hand”, Redfern Legal Centre’s Sydney WDVCAS Aboriginal Specialist Worker, Charmaigne Weldon, talks about help that is available for women and children dealing with family and domestic violence.

Looking back, she says: “I wish I knew all those services were available when I was experiencing domestic violence. I did it solely. It was hard. I had nobody to talk to.”

Her message is: “Access those services, don’t fear them. You’re not alone. Never think you’re alone.

The video was funded by the City of Sydney. It can be viewed at:

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, Redfern Legal Centre, send her an email

Report on women defendants to AVOs released

Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS NSW) recently published a report based on an exploratory study of its 2010 experience of representing women who were defendants to Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (‘AVO’) proceedings. The study: Women Defendants to AVOs: What is their experience of the justice system was undertaken in order to better understand what appeared to be a growing phenomenon.

The study findings include that over two-thirds of WLS NSW women clients defending AVOs reported that they were the victims of violence in their relationships. Fewer than 40% of these clients had a final AVO made against them when the case came before the court.

In the majority of cases where women were defending AVOs, the other party's complaint related to a single incident only. In several of these cases injuries to the other party could be indicative of self-defence, such as scratching or biting on the arm or hand.

Although further research is needed to determine the frequency with which inappropriate AVOs are pursued against women defendants, it is clear from the study that in a number of cases, the applications initiated against women defendants appeared unnecessary for the protection of the other party.

WLS NSW believes it is important that the NSW Police continues to strengthen their policies and procedures around identification of the 'primary victim' in domestic and family violence incidents and provide continuous training about the nature and dynamics of family violence.

The report also sends a clear message to the legal community that we need to be aware that just because people may have applications for an AVO against each other, this does not mean there is ‘mutual violence’.

The report calls for others to gather data about women defendants of AVOs so there is an evidence base with which to inform policy and legal practice in the area of domestic violence and intervention orders.

With the implementation of the NSW Government Domestic and Family Violence Justice Strategy it is important to keep this issue at the forefront.

Click here for the executive summary.

Further information: Liz Snell, Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator, Women’s Legal Services NSW, ph: (02) 8745 6900, send an email; or Julia Mansour, Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services NSW, ph: (02) 8745 6900, send an email

New resources on negotiation

LawAssist is a website provided by LawAccess NSW. It is designed to help people who are dealing with legal problems in NSW without a lawyer, by providing practical, plain language information on specific areas of law and the legal process.

The website has been expanded to include a new topic on “Negotiation”. This topic provides information for people who are involved in a dispute. It aims to develop their skills and give them confidence to try and resolve their problem by talking to the other party and without going to court.

The Negotiation topic has information about:

You can view the new Negotiation topic in the ‘What you should know’ section of the LawAssist website at:

LawAssist also has information about: Debts – Small Claims, Car Accidents, Fines, Fences, AVOs, Employment Rights, as well as other skills based topics including Mediation, and Reading and writing legal documents.

Further information: call 1300 888 529 or send an email

“When she talks to you about the violence – a toolkit for GPs in NSW”

On 3 April 2014, Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS NSW) launched a Domestic and Family Violence Toolkit and poster for doctors to be distributed across NSW. Australian Medical Association (NSW) President, A/Prof Brian Owler launched the resources together with Kay Schubach, DV NSW Ambassador and author of Perfect Stranger, and Geoff Mulherin from the Law and Justice Foundation, who provided a grant for the project.

It is estimated that GPs are seeing up to five women per week who have experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse by an intimate partner and that over 1 in 5 women make their first disclosure of domestic violence to their GP. The Toolkit gives information and practical guidance to GPs and healthcare professionals about identifying and responding to women and children who may be experiencing family violence.

The Toolkit sets out the key physical and psychological indicators of violence, has advice for GPs on how to document injuries for legal purposes, as well as comprehensive information regarding appropriate communication and safety planning for victims of domestic violence. It also includes information about what GPs should do when both the victim and perpetrator are patients and how to respond to subpoenas.

The Toolkit is accompanied by a poster to be displayed in doctors’ waiting areas to encourage victims of family violence to feel comfortable disclosing to their doctor about any violence they may be experiencing at home. WLS NSW acknowledges the vital role the medical profession has in the detection and intervention of domestic violence hopes the resource will have a positive impact on the reporting and prevention of violence against women. The resources are available in hard copy, PDF and online.

For further information contact: Natalie Neumann, Community Legal Education Coordinator, Women’s Legal Services NSW, phone (02) 8745 6956, send an email.

7. Events, commendations and developments

News from South West Sydney

South West Sydney Legal Centre’s newsletter “AccessUs” debuted in March. The newsletter is designed to educate, inform and engage with local service providers on current issues of concern for their clients and the sector in general.

The first newsletter is available online.

SWSLC’s Legal Team is now providing Family Law advice on an appointment basis in Bankstown. This outreach service was launched in February and is based at the Family Relationships Centre on Jacob Street, every 2nd and 4th Monday of the month. The Legal Team hopes to expand this outreach to include other areas of law in the near future.

South West Sydney Legal Centre very proudly accepted the award for “Exceptional Community Partnership across a Region” at the ZEST Awards held at ANZ Stadium on 26th February.

The ZEST Awards celebrate the innovation and creativity of the community sector across Greater Western Sydney. Now in its 4th year, the ZEST Awards aim to provide recognition, showcase leadership and celebrate capacity building and partnerships that allow the sector to support local communities.

South West Sydney Legal Centre was nominated for the Student Connect project, a project that is a partnership with the University of Western Sydney, Women’s Legal Service NSW and Macarthur Community Legal Centre. Student Connect aims to improve the legal profession’s awareness and understanding of the problem, dynamics and impact of domestic and family violence, and the significance of these to legal intervention and the delivery of legal services.

The project targets law undergraduates, the ultimate aim being to improve the sensitivity and capacity of the legal profession to identify domestic and family violence scenarios and to deliver effective and appropriate legal services.

Further information: Maria Cosmidis, Executive Officer, phone 02 9824 3732.

New Principal Solicitor at Hume Riverina Community Legal Service

The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service has a new principal solicitor, Sarah Rodgers.  Sarah moved to Wodonga in 2004 to work in private practice, and came to the HRCLS in 2010 where she has held various roles including NSW outreach lawyer, FRC/CLC partnership lawyer and clinical supervision of students.

She has succeeded Karen Keegan who has been appointed the political adviser to independent Cathy McGowan, Member for Indi, famous not only for her use of social media both during the campaign and now as sitting member, but also for defeating the Liberal Party’s Sophie Mirabella by a handful of votes. Karen Keegan has now been inducted into the running of a constituent office and will soon become part of the hurly burly in Parliament House in Canberra.  This new position is an exciting career move for a humble CLC lawyer.  HRCLS is also excited about having a contact on the ‘inside’ to assist with issues relevant to North East Victoria.

HRCLS is currently short staffed by a full time position due to these staffing changes and the uncertainty of Federal funding for the CLC/FRC partnership and clinical education positions.

Further information: Alison Maher, Lawyer/Community Development Worker, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service, phone (02) 6057 5000

F: (02) 6056 8557, send an email

Deputy Directors at NACLC appointed

NACLC is pleased to announce that both the Deputy Director positions have been filled.

Deputy Director, Sector Sustainability

Visakesa ('Vissa') Chandrasekaram.  Vissa commenced at NACLC on Monday 3 March.

Vissa has extensive skills and experience in organisational development and improving sustainability in government and not-for-profit sector roles, including in human resources management, policy review, project management and case management, and all aimed at providing high levels of client service.

Deputy Director, Policy & Advocacy

Amanda Alford started work at NACLC on Monday 5 May.

Amanda most recently worked as a Senior Legal Officer at the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), working on a number of Inquiries.

She has extensive experience in undertaking in-depth legal and social policy research including international comparative research; community, stakeholder and individual consultations and producing reports including; evidence-based recommendations for law reform.

For full profiles on each of the Deputy Directors visit:

National CLCs Conference

This year’s National CLCs Conference will be held in Alice Springs from 12-15 August 2014. This year’s theme is Rising to the Challenge. For Twitter users, the hashtag(#) for this year's conference is #naclc14. Using this hashtag it is a good way to comment and interact with fellow attendees or if you are unable to attend the conference you can follow #naclc14 to see what's happening.

For some cities there are limited direct flights in and out of Alice Springs so we recommend you look at booking flights as early as possible.

More information will be announced on a number of different media including; the NACLC website, via email, NACLC Notice Board, Twitter or in the NACLC hardcopy newsletter - noteBook


Venue: Alice Springs Convention Centre, 93 Barrett Drive Alice Springs

Date: 12 - 15 August 2014

Networks Day: Tuesday 12 August 2014



Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)

‘CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day’

The ‘CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day’ was held on Tuesday 25th of March 2014.  The Honourable Judge Mathew Myers, Cheryl Orr (an Aboriginal solicitor), Ricky Welsh (manager of the Aboriginal Men’s Shed), Tiffany McComsey and Uncle Manual Ebsworth (Kinchela Boys Home), Fran Doyle and Eloise Riches (Family Dispute Resolution, Legal Aid), and Alastair McEwin (CLCNSW Director) addressed the participants in regards to what CLCs can do to assist in reducing the huge number of Aboriginal children going into care arrangements in NSW.  At the end of the day, participants and speakers all agreed that the CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day should be an annual event.

February CLC Yarn Up and Training Day

At the February Yarn-Up and Training Day, supported by Gilbert + Tobin, Liz Snell from Women’s Legal Centre, and Meg Small from The Aged Care Rights Service assisted the Aboriginal Advisory Group (AAG) to discuss the terms of reference in the Inquiry into grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren (Inquiry).

In the second session of the Yarn-Up, Jacqui Gunst from the Intellectual Disability Rights Service assisted the AAG to further develop views on the NSW Ombudsman legislative Review of the use of the consorting provisions by the NSW police force.  Ideas developed from this session were used in the submission that was further developed by CLCNSW Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP) Community Development Worker (CDW).

Aboriginal Advisory Group (AAG)

The AAG met in February 2014 at the quarterlies to consult on Inquiry into grandparents who take primary responsibility for raising their grandchildren, and the Review of the use of the consorting provisions by the NSW police force.

Aurora Internship Program

CLCNSW ALAP hosted Aurora intern Ben Christensen for 6 weeks at the beginning of the year.  During his time with CLCNSW Ben contributed a considerable amount of work on the CLCNSW submission on the Review of the use of the consorting provisions by the NSW police force. He also contributed to the running of the State office and the Quarterlies. CLCNSW thanks Ben for his contributions.

CLCs are encouraged to host interns from the Aurora program.

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

Accreditation Scheme

CLCs in NSW continue to make good progress with the National Accreditation Scheme.  All of the 34 centres which are going through the Scheme have prepared for and undergone a Site Visit by Regional Accreditation Coordinator (RAC) Meg Houston based at CLCNSW.  Thanks to all of these centres for their commitment and hard work.

23 of these NSW centres have been granted Accreditation and Certification by CLCNSW for a period of three years and the RAC is continuing to work with the remaining centres to prepare them for the certification process.  A reminder to these centres to return their Workplans urgently.

Centres which have been certified have made good progress in implementing their Workplans and have submitted reports on progress.  Meg is working with the CLCNSW Sector Development Coordinator Greg Dwyer to organise support and assistance with Workplan implementation including training through the CLCNSW Quarterlies.

Nationally there are 178 participating CLCs of which 168 have either undergone or have booked a Site Visit.   90 CLCs have been certified.

The NACLC deadline for certification of all participating CLCs is 30 June 2014.

NACLC has commissioned a review of the National Accreditation Scheme by Lisa Ryan, Principal Consultant, Hecate Consulting.   Lisa has worked in health, human services and community development for the past 25 years. The objectives of this review are to evaluate the operational structure, outcomes, processes and tools of the NAS and to make recommendations regarding the future development, implementation and governance of the initiative, in line with the NAS’ focus on continuous improvement.  Tailored surveys will be developed for key groups, including Board Chairs, Coordinators and the Principal Solicitors at CLCs.  In addition, consultations will be conducted with a representative sample of key stakeholders and key committees.  A final report will be presented in June 2014.

For further information about the review please contact CLCNSW Director via email or NACLC National Accreditation Coordinator Diana Dagg on email

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

Advocacy and Human Rights

Review of Victims Support Scheme

The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer attended a meeting organised by the Domestic Violence and Victims Compensation Committee with the Acting Commissioner of Victims Rights. This was an excellent opportunity to discuss the 12month review of the Victims Support Scheme. This is not a public review. It is an initiative of Victims Services. CLCs are encouraged to write to the NSW Attorney General with their comments on the first 12 month of the Victims Support Scheme in the next month. Input to the review will be discussed further with the Domestic Violence and Victims Compensation Committee.

Child protection legislation

Please see the earlier article in On The Record for the work done by the CLCNSW Care and Protection Working Group and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights Working Group regarding the new child protection legislation. The impact of the legislation was discussed at the CLC Aboriginal Family Law Day organised by the CLCNSW Aboriginal Legal Access Program Community Development Worker.


The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer joined staff from Macquarie Legal Centre, Refugee Advice and Casework Services (Australia) and Environmental Defenders Office (NSW) to speak to Macquarie University law students at a forum they organised about the funding cuts to CLCs.  The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer continues to assist the CLCNSW Director to raise concerns about funding cuts and funding restrictions for NSW CLCs with government representatives.

Foetal Personhood Bill

The CLCNSW Advocacy & Human Rights Officer joined staff from Women’s Legal Services NSW at a community forum at the Australian Services Union on the legislation giving legal personhood status to a 20-week-old foetus. The legislation has passed the NSW Legislative Assembly last year and will be debated in the NSW Legislative Council. CLCNSW continues to work with women’s and legal organisations about the implications for women’s reproductive rights from this legislation.

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

Sector Development


The February Quarterlies and Legal Training Day were very well attended with over 180 registrations for the Quarterlies at ACON and over 75 lawyers joining legal training hosted by the Law Society of NSW. A short review of some of the outcomes will be published to the sector shortly.

Available Quarterlies presentations from 2012 are here.

The 2014 Quarterlies dates are on the CLCNSW website – see Events

Practice Management Course 2014

The 2014 CLC Practice Management Course will be held on 29-31 October and registration is now available.

Completion of the course is a mandatory requirement for CLC lawyers to remove condition 3 from their Practising Certificate so as to act as Principal Solicitor in a CLC.

This course is unique, and has been designed by the College of Law in conjunction with CLCNSW so that while it still meets the Law Society requirements it is particularly relevant to community lawyers, and indeed, has attracted interest from other not-for-profit lawyers, including from outside NSW.

The majority of presenters are from the CLC sector and the course is always very well evaluated.

Further information: Contact CLCNSW or 9212 7333,

9. 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


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