On The Record e-bulletin Issue # 21 December 2012
Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
This is the 21st 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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As readers of this edition of On The Record will soon see, reviews of Community Legal Centres seem to be the hot topic of the day. The articles following this editorial report on reviews taking place at both State and national levels.
In general, we welcome reviews. They can be an opportunity to reflect on achievements of CLCs and be a close look at the many things we do well. Past reviews have commented on how CLCs work together effectively and are a united, strong and collegiate sector. Reviews can also be an opportunity to identify parts of our programs that need improving; CLCs after all work within a continual quality improvement framework, as we work to ensure that clients are not denied slow access to justice.
We are not afraid of reviews if the purpose and methodology are fair, transparent and do not require CLCs to spend inordinate amounts of time responding to review questions, only to see reports considered by governments and then put on the bookshelf so to speak with no further reference to the recommendations contained within these reports.
What concerns us is the constant and, arguably, annual, stream of reviews of CLCs. This week, the NSW Attorney General announced yet another review, this time of the funding CLCs get through the NSW Public Purpose Fund. Full details of this review are yet to be revealed. With this announcement, one could almost hear a collective sigh across the sector at the prospect of yet another review. As a Centre Coordinator wryly observed, surely we must be close to a chance of a Guinness Book of Records entry for the number of reviews conducted on a funding program, if such a category exists.
The timing of this review is also questionable. We are currently undergoing a national review of CLCs, along with Legal Aid Commissions, ATSI Legal Services and Family Violence Prevention Legal Services. This review is expected to take over a year to complete, is being conducted by a large consultancy and involves a great deal of consultation including, once again, a request for CLCs to provide extensive information on the work they do.
The 2006 Commonwealth and NSW Review of CLCs found, unsurprisingly to many in the sector, that CLCs are cost-efficient and effective. Many of its recommendations remain valid to this day, yet they remain to be implemented.
With this week’s announcement of the PPF review, whilst we see the opportunity to assess the program’s effectiveness, we also wonder whether this review will join many past review reports on the bookshelves, their recommendations being ignored.
Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW
Send him an email
This week, the NSW Attorney General, the Hon Greg Smith SC MP, announced new guidelines and funding principles for the NSW Public Purpose Fund (PPF). He also announced a review of the CLC program. CLCs across NSW are recipients of funding from the PPF; for some CLCs this funding is up to 75% of their total income.
CLCNSW responded to this announcement by stating that it welcomes the Attorney General’s statement that funding for legal services should be directed to those who cannot afford legal advice and for matters which are in the public interest. For over 40 years, Community Legal Centres (CLCs) have been providing services to people who have been shut out of the legal system. People who are experiencing housing issues, have a disability or are attempting to escape family violence have all benefitted from the work CLCs do.
Alastair McEwin, Director of CLCNSW, said: “The Attorney General has said the new funding guidelines for the NSW Public Purpose Fund (PPF) will enhance the focus on CLC services for those who are disadvantaged. CLCs are at the forefront of working with those who are most disadvantaged in the community, as well as taking on matters in the public interest. They provide a holistic service, which includes free legal information, advice and strategic casework. They provide legal information in plain English to members of the community to help them better understand the law. CLCs are able to give a voice to the voiceless and empower the disempowered.”
CLCs also undertake law reform work and provide, when requested, advice to government on laws and policy; for example, CLCs have worked with government to develop a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children. This collaborative work is vital and helps ensure that the barriers to justice experienced by many of the most vulnerable members of our community are addressed.
In 2011-12, CLCs in NSW provided 56,000 instances of legal advice. Even with this high volume of work, the demand for the services of CLCs is so great that many centres report having to turn people away.
Mr McEwin went on to say: “Funding from the PPF enables the already poorly-resourced CLCs to provide essential services. This funding is used, for example, to provide court support at Children’s Courts, outreach clinics for homeless people and for people living in remote and regional NSW, and supports the Aboriginal Legal Access Program. I am greatly concerned that any loss, reduction or diversion of this funding would jeopardise these and other PPF-funded programs.”
Further information: Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW, send him an email
The Attorney-Generals Department has put out its latest NPA Review Updates.
There are two main points to note.
- The evaluation framework has been finalised and is available at: www.ag.gov.au/ReviewofNPAonLegalAssistance
- The Allens Consulting Group has launched the data collection phase of the NPA Review. Data is being collected from mid-November to the end of December 2012, via a data request, in three parts, addressed to the CEO of each organisation. Responses are strictly confidential and completely anonymous. AGD encourages employees to have a say to ensure there is as complete a picture as possible. It is still useful and no problem if a centre can only answer some parts of the surveys. If a centre requires an extension of time, they can contact the reviewers to request this. Please also note that the Review relates only to those CLCs funded through the Commonwealth CLSP.
For more information on the Review visit: NPA Review
The Board and staff of CLCNSW extend their very best wishes to its member CLCs and NSW and national justice sector colleagues for a safe and relaxing holiday season. We have very much enjoyed working with you in 2012 and look forward to continued collaboration as we meet the opportunities and challenges a new year always brings.
Redfern Legal Centre’s ISTAAS attended the annual Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Program (TAAP) conference in Ballina. Advocates attended workshops on drafting re-hearing applications, coal seam gas mining and tenancy in NSW, and no-grounds evictions and Land Councils – the Koori perspective.
Experienced tenant advocates conducted a mock Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal hearing, including examinations in chief and cross-examinations. The Network discussed the new Boarding Houses Act 2012, and its implications for case work and community education.
Penny Carr, Coordinator of the Tenants Union in Queensland spoke about the Queensland state government de-funding 22 tenancy services. Similarly to NSW, Queensland tenancy services are 50% funded by the interest on tenants’ bond money. The Federal Government has provided emergency funding for Queensland services until June 2013. It is uncertain whether tenants in Queensland will have access to any free advice services after this date.
ISTAAS Advocate Tom McDonald won the 2012 TAAPSTAR People’s Choice Award for Best performance in a conciliation, negotiation, or behind-the-scenes machination.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, RLC, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email
A recent travelling roadshow of CLE’s within the Shoalhaven Region has highlighted the benefit of partnerships with other government agencies both State and Federal.
Together with the Department of Veteran Affairs and NSW Fair Trading, Shoalcoast undertook a series of six Community Legal Education sessions across the Shoalhaven Region. Each session was well attended with an average attendance of some 50 people and covered a wide range of topics with Shoalcoast highlighting the importance of wills, power of attorneys, enduring guardianship and advance care directives. The feedback to the Department of Veteran Affairs has been excellent and has assisted our exposure in the Region.
Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast CLC Manager, phone (02) 4422 9529 7277 or send an email
In conjunction with Illawarra Tenancy Service and Law Access Shoalcoast ran a successful Community Legal Education session for the Deaf Society of NSW at the Kiama Leagues Club. Some 18 Attendees were presented with information through Auslan Interpreters on the availability of Tenancy advice and Legal advice within the South Coast region. All in all a very successful event and more will be planned for 2013.
Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, Shoalcoast CLC Manager, phone (02) 4422 9529 7277 or send an email
The Inner City Legal Centre (ICLC) has received a grant from the City of Sydney for an exciting new project. The Sex Workers Legal Service (SLS) is a part-time position that will initially run for one year until November 2013.
As you may know, ICLC is located in Sydney’s Kings Cross, an area that is recognised for its vibrant sex industry. Over the years sex workers have continued to make up a proportion of our clients. ICLC has also provided some outreach work to clients through an organisation called SWOP (Sex Workers Outreach Project) based in Surrey Hills. Our experience has shown that sex workers face significant and complex legal needs as a result of the marginalisation they often experience.
The Sex Workers Legal Service will work together with organisations in the Sydney City area to provide access to legal advice for sex workers. These organisations include the City of Sydney, Kings Cross Police, SWOP, Scarlett Alliance, Kirkton Road, Wayside Chapel and the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. Whilst our work will be focused on the Sydney City area, we are interested in working together with other CLCs in New South Wales who are advising sex workers.
The legal service will not be limited to providing legal advice relating to sex work. Sex workers experience a range of legal issues such as family law, housing, discrimination, criminal matters, wills, employment, AVOs and personal violence. We will also be providing community legal education sessions for community workers and sex workers from time to time.
Further information: Alana Yap, phone (02) 9332 1966, send an email
In October 2011, Redfern Legal Centre launched an advice service for international students studying at universities and colleges throughout New South Wales. This expanded the Centre’s existing services for international students offered by our solicitors at the University of Sydney Post Graduate Students Association (SUPRA) and Sydney Institute of TAFE.
Stories about the mistreatment of international students in Australia are common in the media, with accounts of racism and violence, overcrowded share accommodation, and poor quality private colleges receiving publicity in recent years.
Whether because of unfamiliarity with the local legal system, of language difficulties or fears about the immigration consequences of making complaints, international students face heightened barriers to accessing legal information and advice. RLC identified a need for free legal advice services for international students, particularly those at private colleges.
The RLC Wednesday night International Student Advice service is run with the assistance of volunteer solicitors, tenant advocates and law students. They also have a pro bono partnership with international migration firm Fragomen so that a registered migration agent is also available to advise students on problems related to their student visas.
A large number of students seek assistance with issues about accommodation and return of rental bonds. Students who enter into informal relationships with landlords or head-tenants often have difficulty claiming their bonds back, especially when their departure from the country is imminent.
Another common area of advice is the treatment of international students in part-time employment. Employers can intimidate international students into accepting unlawful conditions, hours and rates of pay by threatening to dismiss them or report them to immigration authorities if they refuse.
Other common problems experienced by international students are:
- Discrimination and sexual harassment
- Complaints about education providers and their agents
- Scams (flights, accommodation, international money transfers)
- Motor accidents and fines
- Domestic violence
RLC is working on an evaluation of the effectiveness of the international student advice service with pro bono assistance from social researcher Erol Di Guisto.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, RLC, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email
In October the Hunter Community Legal Centre (HCLC) hosted a ‘Bring Your Bills’ Day, in which people experiencing difficulties with penalties, fines and bills were encouraged to bring them into the HCLC for free legal advice. A financial counsellor from Lifeline was also in attendance. Managing Solicitor Liz Pinnock was interviewed in regards to the ‘Bring your Bills’ day by local radio stations 2NUR FM and 1233AM ABC Newcastle, generating great exposure for HCLC locally.
HCLC’s third and fourth seminars in its Community Legal Education Program (CLEP) were held in October and early December, presented by Kim Richardson, Judy Stein and Liz Pinnock. They covered the topics of Fines and Debts, Tenancy and Employment. Feedback received from attendees was extremely positive.
At the request of ACON Kim Richardson and Jessica Willis also presented a Community Legal Education seminar to sex workers on various legal topics in October.
HCLC has welcomed three new staff members this quarter. Michael Giles joined HCLC in October as a Solicitor and Coordinator of the Outreach program. HCLCs new outreach clinics will be announced early next year.
Ellie Ryan also joined as the CLE and Law Reform Coordinator assisting with the planning and delivery of CLE and the coordination of Law Reform projects.
Amy Stewart commenced in December as Marketing and Funding Coordinator. Amy is aiming to generate greater awareness of HCLC in the Hunter community through increased publicity and marketing of its activities and services.
In November Hunter CLC’s new website went live. This important new initiative will help to promote the services and activities of HCLC to the wider community. The new website address is www.hunterclc.com.au.
In December HCLC will be relocating to more suitable and accessible premises at: Level 2, 116 Hunter Street, Newcastle, 2300.
Further information: Julie Vitnell, phone (02) 4040 9121, send an email
Over the past 18 months, Macarthur Legal Centre has been running workshops in the local high schools targeting cyber-bullying and managing social media. As a result of these workshops, the Centre realised that a lot of the kids really wanted to talk about issues facing them. However, the Centre records were showing that the kids were not coming to the legal centre nor to one of their existing outreach clinics.
In discussion with the local youth service providers, the Centre started monthly outreach clinics at Youth off the Streets at Macquarie Fields and Traxside in Campbelltown. Both of these centres are dedicated youth service providers. These outreach clinics started in January of this year.
Even though, the kids were slow to come to the outreach clinics at first, Macarthur LC is now in the position that all of the available appointments, at both sites, are taken each month. The kids and the workers now know that a solicitor will be there each month.
The Centre has learnt some important lessons from this project:
- When a need is identified such as providing legal information and advice to young people, think outside the square in terms of finding a solution.
- Consult with existing service providers to see whether you can work with them and access their site.
- Make sure you are prepared to make the commitment to be at the outreach site, even if there is no-one booked in for an appointment – you will be surprised who ‘drops in on the off chance you are available’
- Always be prepared to take the ‘urgent’ appointment – it takes a lot of courage for a kid to acknowledge there is a problem and making an appointment for the following session may just be the excuse they need not to do anything about it.
Further information: Prue Gregory, Principal Solicitor, Macarthur Legal Centre, send an email
On Tuesday 27 November 2012 the inaugural meeting of the Parramatta Region Family Law Interagency (PRFLI) was held at Anglicare Parramatta. The Interagency evolved out of the Greater Sydney Family Law Pathways Network and aims to connect people working in family post separation services in the Parramatta area. Macquarie Legal Centre, Legal Aid NSW, Unifam, Anglicare and the Parramatta Family Relationship Centre are integrally involved in this exciting new project.
The inaugural meeting was a great success. Around 50 people attended including many private solicitors, legal aid solicitors, mediators, family advisors and people working with children post-separation. FM Louise Henderson gave an engaging keynote address and talked about how far Parramatta has come in providing services in the area of family law.
What became apparent to all the participants on the day is that we all share a passion for the Parramatta region and a strong desire to provide services to our clients who are going through the difficult process of sorting out parenting arrangements post separation. The Interagency is working towards increasing collaboration between service providers and to sharing information about the different family law pathways in the Parramatta area.
The next meeting of the PRFLI will be held at 9.30 am on 19 February 2013 at Unifam Parramatta. The meeting will include a panel discussion on the legal obligations in regards to the recent family violence amendments to the Family Law Act. At this stage the confirmed panel will include; Tara Houseman (Unifam), Katy Jenkins (Macquarie Legal Centre) and Lynda Dunstan (Anglicare). Everyone is welcome to attend what will be an informative discussion on an important area of family law.
Further information: Jenny Dawson, Project Officer for GSFLPN, send an email
The Illawarra Legal Centre hosted an animal law event on 22 October to raise the profile of animal law, with resounding success. The event featured a photo exhibition comparing historical treatment of people with the current treatment of animals, begging the question ‘how will history judge us?’
Angela Pollard, convenor of the national animal law network, addressed an audience of approximately 20 staff and board members of the Illawarra Legal Centre about the importance of animal law to the CLC sector. “CLCs have always been at the cutting edge of law and the struggle for justice, and animal law is the next frontier” commented Angela. Whilst the event was sumptuously catered with vegan delights, Angela explained that the issues of animal law were about the humane use of animals rather than banning the use of animals altogether. She demonstrated this with a graphic discussion of the way that poultry chickens are produced, which prompted a handful of staff members to change their eating habits forever! The event also prompted the Centre to get in touch with the local university to organise workshops and CLEs, and encouraged caseworkers to think more broadly about how to incorporate animal law in advices and casework.
Further information: Angela Pollard, Animal Law Network, ph (02) 66211 005, or send an email
The Youth Legal Service at Marrickville Legal Centre (MLC) has been funded by the Legal Aid NSW/CLC Partnership Program to pilot a new civil law outreach at Parramatta Children's Court.
The project aims to identify the civil law needs of young people who are in contact with the criminal justice system, and to link them in with MLC's Youth Legal Service for advice and case assistance.
The outreach operates every Thursday from 9am to 1pm and is staffed by the Youth Solicitor from MLC who works closely with the duty solicitors, as well as the Children's Court Assistance Scheme staff, to identify young people who are in need of civil law advice.
The types of civil law matters that young people may need assistance with includes:
- Debts such as unpaid fines, mobile phone debts and uninsured motor vehicle accidents;
- Employment law issues such as unfair dismissals or unpaid entitlements;
- Social security issues such as difficulties accessing Centrelink payments; and
- Restitution orders from Victims Services, or applications for victim’s compensation.
This pilot is an important opportunity to bolster the legal services available to address young people’s civil law needs which unlike criminal, care and family law needs are often left unaddressed.
Further information: Emily Muir, Youth Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, ph (02) 9559 2899, send an email
White Ribbon Day is a campaign to stop violence against women. It originated in Toronto, Canada in the early 90s after a high school massacre and was adopted in Australia in 2003. The national prevention campaign is run every year.
Sacha Mastras and Michael Johnson of Central Coast Community Legal Centre, Wyong, recently attended a public awareness information session held at Terrigal Beach on Friday 23 November in support of the nationally recognised day. Organised by the Central Coast Domestic Violence Committee, the session comprised of various community and non-for-profit organisations promoting their services in relation to violence against women.
Dressed in white, and displaying a white ribbon on their shirt, about 300 supporters then took to the pavement walking from the Beach to the Haven in a round trip. Among the walkers were the Domestic Violence Committee and officers from Brisbane Water Local Area Command, Federal Health Minister Tanya Plibersek and Member for Robertson Deb O'Neill.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, phone (02) 4353 4988, send an email
The NSW Minister of Fair Trading formed the Expert Committee in June 2011. A Solicitor from The Aged-care Rights Service Inc (TARS) was appointed as a Member of that committee. It is comprised of industry representatives, two retirement village residents and TARS. The committee is now reaching the end of its work as the standard contract is being finalised. So far there have been 21 meetings convened and there has been one public consultation period.
TARS has worked hard to represent the rights of older people who live in retirement villages and those who are thinking of moving into such a complex. All too often, profit reigns over the rights of older and more vulnerable people.
Hopefully the creation of the standard documents will allow for prospective residents to compare the costs and conditions between villages before entering into a contract. The document is drafted in Plain English, with key terms clearly listed at the front.
At the moment, there are six (6) main types of village contracts including long-term registered lease, loan/license arrangements, strata title and rental arrangements. The agreements are usually complex. Additionally, there are very few private solicitors in NSW who have specialist knowledge of retirement village laws.
The project was expanded in late 2012. The Committee is drafting standard disclosure documents for retirement village residents, with the hard work and assistance of Policy Lawyers at the Office of Fair Trading. There will be two documents. The first ‘General Inquiry Document’ will be required to be given to a prospective resident by the village operator when they show interest in a particular village. The standard ‘Disclosure Statement’ will be provided to prospective resident(s) when they show interest in a particular unit at the village. It will provide details of ownership, services and facilities at the village.
The commencement date for the Retirement Villages Amendment (Standard Contract) Regulation is expected to be 1 September 2013.
Please contact TARS Retirement Villages Legal Service if you would like to provide comment. TARS will provide a link on its website to the draft documents early next year. See: www.tars.com.au
Further information: Kim Boettcher, Solicitor, TARS, phone (02) 9281 3600, send an email
The Tenants’ Union of NSW (TU) and Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS) have started a campaign to highlight the value of TAAS to tenants in New South Wales.
A key message is: “For just three cents a day, each renter household in New South Wales can access a network of professional and committed tenant advocates and a website full of information about our renting laws and how to apply them.”
The campaign uses social media, including the TU’s blog, to gather and share stories about how TAAS have assisted tenants. Tenants and other support services are asked to include stories on their social media pages, send their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet using the hashtag #my3cents.
Further information: Ned Cutcher, Policy Officer, Tenants’ Union of NSW, ph (02) 8117 3700, send an email
Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLS NSW) welcomes the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This is a serious issue which has had a detrimental and long-lasting impact on victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and must be addressed.
It is important that this inquiry is grounded in a human rights framework. The abuse of children is a violation of human rights. It involves a grave abuse of power and should also be understood within the continuum of violence against women.
Under international human rights instruments, states are required to act with due diligence to prevent, punish, investigate and redress harm as a result of acts of violence. It is important that all elements of due diligence are present in the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. It will not be enough to look only to preventing such abuse happening again in the future. Perpetrators must be held to account and compensation must be included.
WLS NSW submits that impediments and barriers to the making, investigating and responding to allegations be included as part of the systemic failures as well as organisations and institutions responding to the abuse, such as police and family law courts.
Information about the Royal Commission should be developed and available in plain English, in languages other than English and in accessible formats. Information should include where to access free counselling, support, legal and other services.
Barriers to participating in the Royal Commission also need to be identified and addressed, including: removing barriers to victims/survivors or their legal representatives giving evidence where litigation is on foot or where confidentiality deeds have been signed.
To read Women’s Legal Services NSW’s submission in response to the Consultation Paper on the Establishment of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, click here.
Further information: Liz Snell, Law Reform and Policy Co-ordinator, WLS NSW, send her an email
Kingsford Legal Centre is part of a working group convened by NLAF to look at Housing Law. Also on the working group are representatives from other community legal centres, Legal Aid, Law Access, Mental Health Coordinating Council, PIAC, PILCH and a private solicitor. The working group met in early December to work on the Terms of Reference and set a 12 month term of operation. We hope to engage positively with representatives from Housing NSW on a number of issues relating to our client’s experiences of social housing in NSW.
Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford LC, send an email
The Illawarra Legal Centre facilitated a public gathering of ten representatives that focused on the human rights of children and young people.
Community, academic and Local Government advocates representing and advocating for the social, cultural, educational, legal and welfare needs of children and young people gathered for a public conversation about the human rights of vulnerable young people.
Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery was joined by Professor Brian Martin (professor of social sciences at the University of Wollongong), award winning film maker Phil Crawford, Kerry Stratton (TAFE Teacher Association), Sharralyn Robinson (CEO Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council), Helen Backhouse (Policy Officer Southern Youth and Family Services - SYFS), Annette Hodgins (Counsellor West Street Centre), Hadijat Lawal (Youth Worker with SYFS), Monique Bolus (Youth Programs Facilitator with Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families - SCARF) and Sharon Callaghan (Coordinator Children’s Court Assistance Scheme – CCAS, a project of the Illawarra Legal Centre).
There was a call to make radical reforms that protect children from institutional abuse. Moreover, there was a call for legislative changes as well as funds for support services that provide the essential needs of our youngest community members. The group noted that as well as the vital work to keep a young person safely housed, learning and on a path to wellbeing, young people require creative opportunities that showcase their talents, build confidence and strengthen their community ties. Illawarra residents have previously enjoyed and been inspired by the young filmmakers working with Beyond Empathy to explore their lives and struggles.
This gathering made clear that human rights includes access to life-long learning and employment opportunities as well as the need for a strong accountability mechanism to protect children and young people’s right to housing.
The community and civic leaders noted the importance of making our human rights declarations active references for suggested actions that bridge the gaps.
Further information: Sharon Callaghan, Coordinator Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS), a project of the Illawarra Legal Centre, phone (02) 4276 1939
On 23 October 2012, the NSW Government’s Boarding Houses Act 2012 was passed by Parliament. The Act has not commenced operation yet. The Tenants’ Union of NSW understands that the government intends for it to commence in early 2013.
This is a landmark reform. Residents of registrable boarding houses will have, for the first time, an enforceable entitlement to written agreements and receipts.
They’ll also have, for the first time, agreements that must comply with certain basic occupancy principles. These include entitlements:
· to live in premises that are in reasonable repair
· to know the house rules before moving in
· to quiet enjoyment – use of the premises without interference
· to know why and how the occupancy may be ended, including how much notice is to be given
· to get reasonable notice of termination.
Residents will also have, for the first time, straightforward access to dispute resolution in the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.
The Act also:
· establishes a Register of Boarding Houses that anyone can check
· directs local councils to inspect premises for compliance with building and fire safety requirements.
· revamps the regulatory regime for licenced residential centres – now called ‘assisted boarding houses’.
The Act improves on the government’s earlier draft Bill. In particular:
· the names of boarding-house proprietors will be included on the register
· proprietors will be required to provide a written occupancy agreement at the start of an occupancy
· standard forms of occupancy agreements for different classes of agreements, persons or premises may be prescribed by regulation
· the occupancy principles are effective – it is a term of every occupancy agreement that the occupancy principles apply
· a wider range of remedies is available in the tribunal, including compensation.
· new occupancy principles:
o prohibiting penalties for breaches of house rules
o allowing utility charges to be levied on a reasonable basis only
o limiting bonds to two weeks rent.
Further information: Chris Martin, Senior Policy Officer, Tenants’ Union of NSW, ph (02) 8117 3700, send an email
Jacinta (not her real name) had very limited English skills. At the start of 2011, Jacinta entered a contract with a telco for a “$29 cap” plan covering mobile and broadband services and a handset. At the time she signed up, Jacinta had not read nor understood the terms of the contract. Over the course of the contract, Jacinta was not a heavy user of her phone, typically paying just $22 a month on her plan.
At the start of this year, Jacinta went on a trip to China for just under a month with her son. Upon returning to Australia, she experienced severe bill shock when she received a mobile phone bill requiring her to pay $2591.76. Jacinta could not understand why she was being charged so much.
Following further enquiries, Jacinta learned that the enormous fee comprised charges for international roaming – a feature that Jacinta never knew she had on her phone and did not personally use on her China trip. Jacinta also did not receive any notifications on her phone when she was approaching her “cap” or when she had exceeded the “cap”.
It turned out that Jacinta’s 14 year-old son had used the phone whilst they were in China, having sent two international texts and used the internet on her phone on two occasions. To do these things, the international roaming function on Jacinta’s phone had to be activated and used. Jacinta had only allowed her son to use her phone to listen to music that was already on the phone. Jacinta, herself, did not make any calls on the phone, thinking that her phone was not capable of doing so.
Jacinta received a letter of demand from the provider’s debt collectors, demanding she pay, or else further action would be taken against her. Jacinta was completely incapable of paying off the charges. Jacinta was a single mother who relied entirely on the pension to support her and her family.
RLC assisted Jacinta to file an online complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and by negotiating directly with the telco. RLC argued that the provider fully waive the charges on the basis that:
· Jacinta was unable to read or understand the contract she entered into;
· Jacinta was not aware that her phone had a global roaming function;
· Jacinta was not aware of the cost of using a global roaming function;
· Jacinta was not financially in a position to pay off the charges and relied entirely on a pension of just $300 a week; and
· The charges were, in any event, inaccurate as her son stated that he only used the phone four times.
Following a number of rounds of negotiation, RLC was successful in coming to a settlement that Jacinta was happy with. The telco waived all the international roaming charges and Jacinta was required to pay a final fee of $59, being the final payment for her handset and one month’s mobile and broadband usage. Further, Jacinta’s case was not referred to credit rating reference agencies, which was a consequence that Jacinta was worried about.
RLC Tip: On 1 September 2012, the Australian Communications and Media Authority launched its revised Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code (Code), which includes a number of mandatory measures telco providers must comply with. Arguably, these measures would have assisted Jacinta had they been in place at the time. Some of the important changes that should directly benefit consumers include the fact that:
- All key product features and pricing information must be given before a sale or a contract is entered into so that consumers understand the plan and can compare different offers before they sign up;
- Telcos can only use the term “cap” for new plans if it is a true cap that cannot be exceeded;
- Telcos must send consumers a usage notification when 50%, 85% and 100% of the allowance of a mobile or broadband plan has been used;
- Cost and usage for previous bills for plans with included value for calls and data will be displayed on each bill and any charges that exceed spend limits or included value limits must be displayed;
- Consumers will be able to track their complaint and be given a timeframe for resolution and a unique reference number for each issue. Telcos must acknowledge all complaints within two working days and resolve them within 15 working days from the day the telco receives the complaint (or as soon as practicable).
As the various measures of the Code will gradually take effect over the coming months, it will be interesting to see how the telcos change their processes to comply. Watch this space.
Further information: Sophie Farrell, Communications & Volunteer Manager, RLC, phone (02) 9698 7277 or send her an email
Fan is an international student from China who came to Australia to study English. On a Chinese language website she found an advertisement for a room for rent in a suburban house. When she inspected the room she found that six other students lived in the house, as some larger rooms had been partitioned into smaller rooms.
Fan was asked to sign an agreement in English that she could not read, and the landlord refused to give her a copy of the agreement. When Fan’s mother contacted the landlord to request that Fan be given a copy of the agreement, she was told that there was a fee of $300 to get a copy of the agreement.
After Fan moved in she found there were many house rules that she found oppressive. For example, the students were not allowed to use the kitchen, and were forced to wash their clothes together in the one load of washing at specific times of the week.
After a short period at the house Fan gave the landlord four weeks notice that she was moving out. When she left the landlord refused to return her bond. RLC advised Fan that she was not a tenant covered by the Residential Tenancies Act. However, as the landlord appeared to be in the business of letting rooms to students she could make an application to the General Division of the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to recover her bond. RLC helped Fan complete the CTTT application form, and she successfully recovered her bond.
The free, confidential service runs each Wednesday evening from 6:30 pm. Face-to-face and telephone appointments can be booked by calling Redfern Legal Centre on (02) 9698 7645. Free interpreters can be provided.
NACLC recently put out a Media Release welcoming the introduction of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill 2012 into Parliament. NACLC sees this as important step closer to recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution.
Open the link to view the full release: NACLC welcomes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill 2012
In November, RLC Police Powers Solicitor, David Porter, spoke to AM’s Will Ockenden about police taser use. “What has come out of the Curti inquest is that we have police officers who are too quick to use force in general. So we see the less experienced officers being predominantly responsible for the use of tasers. More experienced officers don’t need to use tasers because they find other options,” said Mr. Porter.
For the full story, see:
RLC Police Powers Solicitor, David Porter, told Alternative Media Group that the right to remain silent is a key protection individuals have against the resources of the state. “This [new] legislation makes an uneven playing field even less even,” he said. “To take away the right to silence means that the accused person is forced to assist the prosecution in their own conviction.”
For the full story see: http://www.altmedia.net.au/presumption-of-innocence-at-risk/65936
The 9th edition of The Immigration Kit is now available to purchase in a new online subscription format.
The new online version allows subscribers to enjoy enhanced functionality of the text, with user friendly search and bookmark features allowing information to be located easily and saved for future reference and live links to legislation allowing interaction with relevant legislative provisions. A print function also allows subscribers the flexibility to print information in hard copy.
The 9th edition provides for an enhanced interactive experience with an up-to-date and relevant text, and at only $185 per annum makes The Immigration Kit an indispensable tool to all those interested in Australian migration law and policy.
Click here to subscribe now
Further information: Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, phone (02) 9279 4300 or send an email
Women’s Legal Services NSW has launched its new legal online information service Ask LOIS.
Ask LOIS is a secure member only website for community workers who are responding to women experiencing domestic and family violence.
Ask LOIS provides:
- online training through weekly webinars on legal issues and practical skills;
- access to solicitors for advice and support through LOIS is IN;
- access to case studies, resources, discussion forums and a DV services in NSW directory.
All the webinars are recorded and are uploaded onto the site. Members can catch up on missed webinars by watching the recordings in their own time.
Past webinars include:
- Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women;
- Children’s Views in Family Law;
- Apprehended Violence Orders: Basics;
- Working with LGBTIQ Clients;
- Family 101: Parenting Arrangements;
- Client Files and Good Record Keeping;
- Mediation in Family Law
Ask LOIS is FREE and workers from Community Legal Centres NSW are strongly encouraged to become members.
To apply to become a member click on the link: http://www.asklois.org.au/user/register
Further information: Kate Duffy, Solicitor, Women’s Legal Services NSW, phone (02) 8745 6900, send an email
EDO NSW (Environmental Defenders Office) has released its latest plain English guide to the law called ‘Mining Law in New South Wales: A guide for the community’.
With mining and coal seam gas (CSG) activities expanding rapidly throughout the State, and encroaching into areas that have traditionally been dominated by other industries, the community is in urgent need of reliable information on how mines and CSG developments are regulated. This booklet therefore seeks to educate the community about the law and what rights and obligations they have under it.
This booklet will help the people of NSW to understand how to engage effectively with the various decision-making processes and assist them to use the law to the fullest extent possible to protect their interests and those of the environment. The booklet has been funded by the NSW Government through the Environmental Trust.
To order free copies: phone EDO NSW on (02) 9262 6989 or send an email.
The booklet is also available to download from the EDO NSW website: http://www.edo.org.au/edonsw/site/publications.php#mining
The National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc (NACLC) has released two new publications in the Working collaboratively series focussing on the partnerships CLCs have developed with volunteers and pro bono workers. These partnerships greatly enhance CLCs’ operational capacity and extend their services.
Using data from a NACLC survey undertaken in June 2012 where 106 CLCs responded, these publications highlight the fact that 3,637 volunteers contribute 8,369 hours per week to these CLCs across Australia, while pro bono partners contribute 56,949 hours per year.
These publications also highlight the significant investment made by CLCs in training and supervising volunteers and pro bono workers to provide relevant high quality legal assistance.
NACLC encourages CLCs to use these brochures and the figures and examples within them, to demonstrate to stakeholders the unique partnerships CLCs develop to increase their capacity, and the corresponding investment by CLCs in supporting these partnerships.
NACLC, Community Law Australia (CLA) and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (NPBRC) all put out Media Releases about these statistics. To view the releases open these links:
CLA Release: Volunteers vital to community legal centres
NACLC Release: Pro bono partners working collaboratively with CLCs
A limited number of hard copies are available through NACLC. Telephone (02) 9264 9595 or send an email
You can also download copies from the NACLC website:
NACLC is pleased to advise that we have found funding to extend the LexisNexis online legal resources package offered to CLCs until 17 March 2013 - at no cost to CLCs.
With this extension, CLCs will have had access to the resources for an additional six months beyond the original arrangement, which was set to end in September 2012.
NACLC cannot guarantee that we will be able to secure additional funding to take out a further extension, so CLCs may like to make provision for resource purchases themselves in their budgets. CLCs are encouraged to check with NACLC before any purchases.
NACLC will update CLCs in early 2013 about the future of the current arrangement. NACLC thanks the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Victoria) for their financial contribution, which assisted with securing this extension.
Please feel free to send an email to Kym Duggan or Joan Jardine about what the availability of these resources means to your CLC, its workers and clients. You may like to mention how much it would cost your CLC to pay for these resources, if the package could not continue beyond 17 March 2013.
Further information: Te Raehira Wihapi, Communications Manager NACLC, send him an email
NACLC has released its Reconciliation Action Plan 2012 - 2015 (RAP). The RAP has been developed through consultation with internal and external stakeholders and has been approved by Reconciliation Australia.
The RAP expresses NACLC’s commitment to being guided by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and working with them to achieve access to justice. It sets out a three year plan of actions to strengthen relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and services, to develop employment opportunities, to improve support for cultural safety in the CLC sector and to increase support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and businesses.
Further information: Te Raehira Wihapi, Communications Manager NACLC, send him an email
Refugee Advice and Casework Service held a 25th Birthday party in Hyde Park last week. At RACS, asylum seekers who arrive by boat or plane have been able to access free, independent and specialised assistance from dedicated migration lawyers.
RACS’ legal team is led by Chris Yuen, who has over 10 years’ experience in migration law. His wisdom and guidance is highly appreciated by our wonderful lawyers.
Fittingly, this has been RACS’ busiest year ever. This year, we have:
· Doubled our advice days – 2 days a week for face to face advice as well as 2 days of phone advice;
· Provided advice to over 1000 people;
· Opened over 600 new files;
· Established a Family Reunion clinic, assisting former asylum seekers to apply to bring their family to Australia;
· Started to develop best practice guidelines for working with children seeking asylum;
· Employed 4 extra staff members;
· Painted our office with the help of 30 volunteers;
· Provided 62 volunteers with internships;
· Kept sane.
Prior to the Houston Report’s release on August 13, asylum seekers were being fast tracked out of detention centres onto Bridging Visas and having assistance provided in the community. This welcome change resulted in our office opening its doors to families and individuals who previously would have languished in detention.
We do not know what the future holds for asylum seekers in Australia, but certainly assisting them in an office rather than a detention centre is a vast improvement. Clients are less traumatised and more able to talk about their reasons for seeking asylum when not surrounded by barb wire.
Political leadership on this important human rights issue is needed more than ever. As for RACS, we will strive to ensure that individuals and families at risk of persecution or other forms of significant harm gain access to equal and fair representation before the law, and are granted protection by Australia, and opportunities to seek family unity, in accordance with Australia’s international obligations.
Further information: Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, RACS, phone (02) 9114 1888, send an email
At this year’s Justice awards, Central Coast CLC won the CLCNSW award for its Domestic Violence Legal Outreach Project.
The Central Coast CLC project provides one-on-one legal advice and information to women and children who are affected by, or at risk of, domestic violence in the areas of Victims Services, Family Law, Tenancy and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders. The project also conducts community legal education sessions to community groups on Domestic and Family Violence and its impact and legal implications.
Highly commended was Women's Legal Services NSW for its Safe in Our Place project. This is a community legal education project for women from emerging Culturally and Linguistically Diverse communities and community workers showing how to provide culturally appropriate services that address family violence. Its focus is on the most disadvantaged areas of NSW and regions with recently arrived communities. The workshops are also an opportunity for participants to meet local domestic violence service providers
Other nominees were:
· Hawkesbury Nepean CLC: Domestic Violence & Renting
· Kingsford LC: Education through Case Studies
· Redfern LC: RLC Unfair Dismissal Representation Scheme
· University of Newcastle LC: Law on the Beach - Taking the Law to Young People
The CLCNSW award is awarded to a project in a CLC that demonstrates outstanding commitment to improving access to justice in NSW, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people.
CLCNSW congratulates Central Coast CLC for its win and WLS for its high commendation. We also congratulate and acknowledge all nominees for the award.
The Law & Justice Foundation Pro Bono Partnership Award was presented to the 20 year partnership between Kingsford Legal Centre and Freehills Foundation (part of Herbert Smith Freehills). Herbert Smith Freehills provide the Kingsford Legal Centre with a secondee solicitor on a 6 monthly rotation. This partnership has modelled pro bono services to future generations of lawyers, delivered long term benefits to Kingsford Legal Centre in their provision of clinical legal education and services to disadvantaged clients, and set a benchmark for the evolution of pro bono work over the past twenty years. The secondee program is a key one for KLC and we are very grateful for Herbert Smith Freehills’ support for the past 20 years.
Further information: Anna Cody, Director, Kingsford Legal Centre, send her an email
The Central Coast Community Legal Centre has recently been recognised for its innovative work in the community. The Centre extends its warmest congratulations to Sacha Mastras for winning the Law & Justice Foundation of NSW CLCNSW Award 2012 for the Domestic Violence Legal Outreach Project, and to Olenka Motyka for winning the NSW 2012 Young Lawyer of the Year Award for her work with homeless people on the Central Coast.
Further information: Bronwyn Ambrogetti, Principal Solicitor, Central Coast CLC, phone (02) 4353 4988, send an email
Legal Aid NSW provides a range of legal services to assist economically and socially disadvantaged people to understand and protect their rights in the legal system. Apart from providing legal advice, minor assistance and representation to eligible people, community legal education plays a key role by reaching socially excluded people, improving access to justice and providing preventative legal services that inform and build individual and community resilience.
Legal Aid NSW's training aims to build the capacity of community sector workers to assist clients. Workshop topics range from the criminal justice system, domestic violence, employment law, family law to young people and the law. In 2013, workshops are delivered in 19 locations across NSW. To find out more information and download the training calendar for your region, visit http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/education.
Requests for ad hoc and tailored community legal education are also welcome. To enquire about organising a training workshop for your staff or an information session for your clients, call 02 9219 5921 or send an email
There is a range of legal publications and online resources available on Legal Aid NSW website. To order hard copies or download electronic copies of these resources, visit http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications.
Further information: Joe Wasuruj, Coordinator, CLE, Legal Aid NSW, phone (02) 9219 5921
This poem was written by Tom de Zwart for his mother, Karen Bowley. Karen is the NSW outreach lawyer for the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS).
Karen had the privilege of mentoring Tom during his practical legal training placement at the HRCLS. Tom was recently admitted to the Supreme Court of Victoria. His admission was moved by his father, Dirk de Zwart, who is also a lawyer and volunteer at the HRCLS. Brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it!
Each CLC, particularly those in RRR centres, will appreciate this poem. It is spoken along the lines of “Clancy of the Overflow”.
“Karen of the Outreach”
’Twas Karen of the Outreach who strode right into town
The local folk on Dean Street did stop and form a frown
A lawyer here? In Albury? She must be lost? But no!
It’s New South Wales Outreach day, let’s go and say hello!
As quickly as she did arrive, the lawyer, she has gone,
To help the clients in, dare we say it, class-ee, Lavington.
The library is her base of choice, it’s quiet and civilised,
Karen of the Outreach, is here to legalise! (your problems, not your habits)
Next stop Howlong, no jokes required, but Corowa there’s a challenge,
No clients? Oh well. To the op shops, it’s time for a little scavenge.
For Outreach is a gruelling trek that leads some men to snap,
For those without the stamina may have to take a nap.
Let’s go she shouts! To Finley! The people need advice!
Past Finley, driving onwards, towards the fields of rice
Deniliquin! Deniliquin! The end in sight at last,
With lots of clients to see today, she needs a light repast.
New South Wales is safe from harm again (at least the legal kind),
Karen of the Outreach, a paragon of womankind!
By Tom de Zwart
Further details: Alison Maher, Hume Riverina CLS, phone (02) 6057 5000, send her an email
Redfern Legal Centre was very lucky to be nominated for several awards for this year’s Justice Awards, run by the Law and Justice Foundation.
RLC Principal Solicitor, Elizabeth Morley, was nominated for the Justice Medal, RLC’s collaborative project with Clayton Utz, the “Unfair Dismissal Scheme” was nominated for the Community Legal Centres NSW Award and RLC volunteer, Penny Broekhuizen, was nominated for the Law and Justice Volunteer Award.
RLC would like to congratulate the winners of these awards, respectively: Theodora Ahilas, Principal, Dust/Diseases, Maurice Blackburn; Kingsford Legal Centre and Freehills Foundation; and Elizabeth Gilmore who has volunteered at Penrith Court for 11 years.
On 26 September Steven Brandon and Caryn Carpenter planned a Koori touch football competition and family fun day as a way to bring together local legal and community services with the Aboriginal community of the Nowra area. The event was held in Nowra at a local football field in an area where many Aboriginal families live. Teams were fielded by the local community as well as service providers. Some of the services also brought along information to share with community members.
After months of planning the day and all of the attractions that came with the event such as the Lions Club Food van, Rural Fire Service providing First Aid and of course the jumping castles and games for the children – as was held in the school holidays. The teams slowly turned up on the day, so did the community. We hadn’t expected such a large turn-out but as it was a lovely day (weather wise) we had approximately 200-300 people attend. The day went very smoothly and there were no issues throughout the event (beside the stress felt by Caryn and Steven).
As Shoalcoast could not field a team full of employees we asked the young community members to help out and the team was full within minutes. As fate would have it after all the games were run it came down to Team Shoalcoast against the South Coast Aboriginal Medical Service in the grand final game, which Team Shoalcoast won in great fashion and was then awarded the winners trophy! The event was a hit with all of the community and they have told us they would like more events such as this in the future.
The services that attended were Shoalcoast, South Coast Aboriginal Medical Service, Waminda Aboriginal Women’s Health Service, Oolong House, Nowra Local Court, Habitat Employment Service, Aboriginal Legal Service, Nowra Youth Centre and the Nowra Police which fielded two teams on the day. Overall the day was a success; we were able to bring together the services of Nowra with the Aboriginal community. We are looking forward to the 2013 carnival fun day to be even bigger and better.
Further information: Kerry Wright, Coordinator, Shoalcoast CLC, send her an email
The Aged-care Rights Service Inc (TARS) provides free, confidential advocacy, advice and legal services in New South Wales.
TARS’ aged care advocates assist residents, and prospective residents, of accredited aged care homes, recipients of Community Care Packages and home care services their carers and family members to understand their rights under the Aged Care Act 1997 and to advocate for them to resolve issues and complaints with aged care providers.
TARS’ services include the Older Persons’ Legal Service (OPLS) which provides legal advice, assistance and legal education for older people.
TARS’ solicitors also provide assistance to the residents of self-care units and serviced apartments in Retirement Villages about issues arising from the Retirement Villages Act (NSW) 1999.
TARS is also funded to provide information sessions to residents of aged care homes and recipients of care at home, their relatives, as well as carers’ groups and seniors’ community groups.
TARS advocates and OPLS’ solicitors welcome contact by older people. The Centre will listen to older people’s concerns, provide information or speak up for the clients if permission to do so is given.
If any CLC would like TARS to attend their office and provide an inservice training on assisting older clients and on the common issues that they raise please contact TARS.
Further information: TARS, phone (02) 9281 3600 or 1800 424 079 (country callers)
Yarn-Up and Training Day
Following the Quarterlies, CLC Aboriginal staff held a ‘Yarn-Up’ and Training Day at Gilbert and Tobin. The first half of the day consisted of sharing stories, successes, challenges and solutions that Aboriginal workers encounter in their roles. The 2013 AAG Strategic Plan was discussed and a draft is currently circulating between attendees. Information was gathered to create an induction kit of Aboriginal CLC staff, as well as the beginnings of a check list for CLCs that want to engage with their local Aboriginal communities. As the numbers of Aboriginal men working in CLCs has grown, next year there will be an action around White Ribbon Day. There was also training on consumer debt. The day was so successful CLCNSW will be running it next to every quarterlies, most likely on the Monday, before the quarterlies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With help from CLCNSW staff the ALAP Community Development Worker made a submission the ‘Closure or Downsizing of Corrective Service NSW Facilities Committee’. There are several other inquiries running at the moment, for which CLCNSW is considering responses, including child protection legislation changes and the federal inquiry into Justice Reinvestment!
CLCNSW is currently hosting another highly capable Aurora Project intern. If you have not already done so, we strongly recommend your centre takes on interns through the Aurora Project, they are deadly!
Further information: Zachary Armytage, ALAP Community Development Worker, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
Good progress continues to be made with the National Accreditation Scheme in NSW. 19 centres have now completed their online self assessment and have undergone a Site Visit by Regional Accreditation Coordinator (RAC), Meg Houston, based at CLCNSW.
Feedback from centres on the Scheme and the online resources has been positive overall and centres find the Management Support Online template policies and procedures very useful.
7 Site Visits are so far booked in for early 2013 and the RAC is liaising with the remaining 10 centres to finalise dates for their Site Visit.
After the Site Visit the RAC prepares an External Assessment Report for each centre and liaises with them to develop a Workplan. Recent improvements to the online SPP (Standards and Performance Pathway) system have supported this process. Centres will report to the RAC 6 monthly until June 2014 on progress made in implementing their Workplan.
CLCNSW will be moving onto the Certification stage in early 2013 for the centres which were early engagers with the Scheme.
Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
The CLCNSW Victims Compensation Group continues to be active in this space and are still concerned by possible changes to the NSW Victims Compensation Scheme. Eighty leading legal, human rights, health, community and women’s organisations signed an open letter to the NSW Attorney-General to retain and strengthen the scheme. A media release also raised awareness to the campaign.
The online tool and template letter has also been updated to help individuals and organisations write to their local member about their concerns. Act now and write your own letter.
Rachael Martin, Principal Solicitor, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre, send her an email
Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, send her an email
Police Accountability Project
To support our work on police accountability project, CLCNSW commissioned Charles Sturt University to conduct research on a survey of the experiences of solicitors’ and client advocates perceptions and experience in relation to the police complaints system. The survey received 378 responses. Some of the key findings of the survey were that the time it took to resolve a complaint was between 1 – 18 months, 76% of users were dissatisfied with the complaint process and 75% of users were dissatisfied with the outcome. The report found consensus that the NSW police force with relation to complaints do not apply the law in an even-handed manner, treat members of certain vulnerable groups more harshly than others, lack integrity and trustworthiness, protect their colleagues before being honest about the incident, and display low levels of neutrality and respect in dealing with the public. These findings strongly support CLC NSW’s recommendations for reform.
To read the findings in more detail have a look at the CLC NSW webpage
CLCNSW is working on some next steps with this project, including meetings with senior staff in relevant areas, co-presenting at a conference on policing and human rights, and potential publication in various journals. If you would like to get involved or get more information about the project, email the locum Advocacy & Human Rights Officer at CLCNSW.
Further information: Gayatri Nair, locum Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email
RRR Day in December
Following discussions at quarterlies in 2012, the Sector Development Program worked with the RRR Committee – and new convenor Kim Richardson from Hunter CLC – to coordinate a RRR day on December 11th, with the venue generously provided by Gilbert & Tobin. As well as three training / discussion forums on Governance and your relationship with your Management Committee, Current Social Media Trends, and Services from the Law Society, the nine participants also had the opportunity for some worthwhile “brainstorming” on RRR centres and the Sector Development Program, an update from CLCNSW Director Alastair McEwin, and on funding and networking strategies for RRR centres. Further RRR days (including at least one hosted by a RRR centre) are planned for 2013.
The mentoring pilot was unofficially “launched” at the November Quarterlies, and the mentor / mentee pairs are now embarking on (or continuing for the initial trial pairs) their relationship over the next six months. Three of the four mentees are from a RRR centre. CLCNSW will be liaising with the participants in the coming months to get their feedback in order to assist with evaluation of the Pilot. The outcomes will be reported to the CLCNSW Board in June 2013, and the ongoing practicability (and ideally extension) of the program will be assessed.
Practice Management Course 2013
The CLCNSW Sector Development Program has confirmed with the College of Law that subject to the usual caveat of there being sufficient participants that CLCNSW and the College will conduct a Practice Management Course in 2013. The course is tailored to lawyers in the community legal sector. Completion of the 3-day course is a requirement of the Law Society of NSW for solicitors who wish to act (or act up) as a principal and / or solicitor on the record for a community legal centre. As in 2010 and 2011, the course was well supported by presenters from the Sector and in 2012 received very positive evaluations. The proposed dates for 2013 are 18-20 September. The usual course fee (around $1700 in 2013) is discounted around 30% for CLC staff.
CLCNSW are also at the early stage of further discussions with the College about extending the relationship to link relevant sections of websites, and extending the discount to other College CLE offerings, including online and web-conferenced programs.
Further information:Contact CLCNSW email@example.com or 9212 7333.
Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities. CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates. We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems. Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.
Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (CLCNSW) is the peak body for CLCs in NSW. It is resourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund. CLCNSW has 40 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.
Suite 805, Level 8
28 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7333
Fax: (02) 9212 7332