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Community Legal Centres NSW


On the Record – The e-bulletin


Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #31

Summer 2015/16

This is the 31st 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 that provide equitable and accessible legal services. To find out more about CLCs in NSW visit www.clcnsw.org.au.

If you do not wish to receive future issues of On the Record, please follow the instructions to unsubscribe below.  If you know others who may wish to receive the e-bulletin, feel free to forward this email, and they will be able to subscribe themselves to our list with the link below.  Or you can subscribe by filling out the form on our website.  You can also change which email address the e-bulletin goes to, and update other details, by following the links at the bottom of the email.
 
Editor
Alastair McEwin
Executive Director, CLCNSW
Send him an email
 

Contents:

 

1. Community Legal Sector News

Editorial: Increasing access to justice for people who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.
 
40 years of fighting for justice in NSW
 

2. special section: clcs and aboriginal communities

EDO's work with Aboriginal clients and communities

Artists in the Black (AITB)

Illawarra Legal Centre's new Aboriginal Family Law Project

Shoalcoast - connecting with the Aboriginal Communities of the Far South Coast

Mid North Coast CLC and Aboriginal Communities

Redfern Legal Centre's Aboriginal Health-Justice Partnership

Taking Care of Business: Wills, Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship

3. human rights in action

Justice Connect's Self Representation Service moves into Judicial Review and Human Rights

Kingsford Legal Centre: Willing to Work Submission

Parliamentary Inquiry into Elder Abuse

4. Case reports

Protection of Crown Land public recreational land in Newcastle

CLC Representation of an Aboriginal mother and her family members - Shoalcoast CLC and Women's Legal Services

Animal Defenders Office (ADO): The story of a man and his dog

5. media mentions

'Deadly Consequences' for Government Cuts

CLC ethos permeates industry

New means test for community legal centres could see thousands deprived of crisis legal support

6. publications

Kingsford Legal Centre's Aboriginal Service Provision Manual Updates

Our Dream...Stopping the Violence

7. events, commendations and developments

Youth Worker of the Year Award

TARS Becomes Seniors Rights Services

Children's Court Assistance Scheme - 20th Anniversary

Redfern Legal Centre's International Student Service Saved

Marrickville Legal Centre - Cheers for Social Justice

Centre Update: Knowmore Legal Service

8. state office update

Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)

Accreditation

Advocacy and Human Rights

Sector Development

9. WHAT ARE COMMunity legal centres and what is clcnsw?

 

1. Community Legal Sector News

Editorial: increasing access to justice for people who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent

Research has consistently shown that people who are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent are grossly over-represented in the criminal justice system.  For example, the rate of ATSI women in prison who have previously served sentences in custody is 67% more likely than non-ATSI women (36%) (Source: Indigenous Justice Clearing House, November 2012).  As issues with civil law can often be a pre-cursor to someone becoming involved with the criminal justice system, CLCs aim to provide early intervention services to prevent entry into the criminal justice system.  Since 2006, CLCNSW has provided an Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP) to provide support to CLCs to ensure they can provide these early intervention services in a culturally safe manner for ATSI people and communities.

This edition of On The Record looks at a few of the many examples of CLCs in NSW providing services to ATSI people and communities.  They range from developing guides to assist ATSI people to navigate the justice system to protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage sites to providing advice to Aboriginal artists in very remote places.  These and many other examples demonstrate the commitment CLCs have to ensuring they provide essential services to all in the community, including very disadvantaged ATSI people and communities.

Alastair McEwin

Executive Director, CLCNSW

Send him an email

40 years of fighting for access to justice in NSW

 

This year, Community Legal Centres in NSW celebrated 40 years since the beginnings of the state-wide network of CLCs.  In 1975, lawyers, volunteers, academics, social workers, students, and community activists met in Redfern to discuss the need for community legal centres that challenged unfair laws as well as helping people exercise their rights.  In the 40 years since, a strong robust network of nearly 40 CLCs has developed across NSW, with Redfern Legal Centre being the first self-identified CLC coming into existence in 1977.

To commemorate the beginning of the CLC movement, CLCNSW hosted 3 events over 2 days:

  • An evening cocktail party;
  • A CLCNSW 40-year oration; and
  • An afternoon CLC talent show.

Hosted by Starlady, the cocktail party featured Julian Burnside AO QC, a renowned advocate for the rights of refugees. Julian was preceded briefly by Deng Adut, a refugee from Sudan who is now a refugee lawyer in Sydney. There was a silent auction, with a number of exciting prizes, including a weekend away at a house on the south coast of NSW, the opportunities to meet Graeme Innes and Deng Adut over afternoon tea, and beginner flying lessons. Maha Adbo OAM, the 2014 NSW Human Rights medallist, delivered the 40-year oration. Her speech was preceded by opening remarks from Justice Virginia Bell AC, Justice of the High Court and former staff member of Redfern Legal Centre. The oration was followed by a panel of former and current staff of CLCs who shared some of their memories and experiences of CLCs.  The celebrations ended with a CLC talent show, where CLCs put on acts to commemorate 40 years of fighting for access to justice.

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

2. special section: clcs and aboriginal communities

EDO's work with Aboriginal clients and communities

EDO NSW continues to work to strengthen its relationship with existing Aboriginal clients and promote its legal services to Aboriginal communities across NSW.  In 2014/15, EDO NSW:

  • Assisted the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People (PCWP) in their nomination of Glennies Creek, near Camberwell, in the Hunter Valley, as an Aboriginal Place under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, and for listing the on the State Heritage Register.  The PCWP are a registered Native Title Claimant group with extended familial or clan links to the hills and plains of the central and upper Hunter Valley. Glennies Creek is an ancient songline of high significance to the PCWP.  The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage is assessing the group’s application.
  • Represented Aboriginal Elder, Michael Ryan in his successful challenge to a decision by Lismore Council and the NSW Department of Planning to remove environment protection zones, including Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, from a proposed Local Environmental Plan that would allow the development of the North Lismore Plateau.
  • Acted for the Dharriwaa Elders Group in their objection to the closure of Crown Roads at Walgett, which provide traditional access to the Barwon River.
  • Held workshops for Aboriginal communities in Wagga Wagga, Dorrigo and Gunnedah.
  • Maintained the ‘Caring for Country’ booklet, which provides a snapshot of Aboriginal, rights concerning land and cultural heritage and information on how Aboriginal communities can use the law to pursue their rights.
  • The NSW Government is preparing a draft stand-alone Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill.  In its discussion paper, the Government proposed that Aboriginal cultural heritage should be identified and managed through Plans of Management overseen by Local Aboriginal Heritage Committees, made up of Aboriginal people from the local area.  In its submission on the proposed reforms, EDO NSW recommended that the actions and outcomes of Local Committees and the Office of Environment and Heritage should be overseen by a new Independent Commission and that there should be clear rules for Committee processes.

Most recently, EDO NSW organised a daylong Aboriginal Cultural Awareness workshop for its entire staff.

For more information, see www.edonsw.org.au

Artists in the Black (AITB)

Artists in the Black (AITB) is a legal service for Indigenous artists, communities and arts organisations.  It was established by the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law), the national community legal centre for the arts, in 2004 in response to the needs of the Indigenous arts community.  Arts Law supports Indigenous creators in achieving professional excellence and a sustainable income in a non-exploitative environment through its AITB program which provides culturally appropriate, specialist legal resources to support and strengthen the Indigenous arts sector.

In April 2015, Arts Law’s Deputy Director Delwyn Everard and AITB Coordinator Jacqueline Cornforth travelled to Central Australia to engage with independent Indigenous artists in the Alice Springs area.  This was AITB’s first outreach program targeted at artists who are not affiliated with Indigenous Art Centres.  Research indicated that this group of artists had little knowledge of their rights and were more vulnerable to exploitation so it was important for AITB to connect with these artists and make sure they knew where to get legal assistance in relation to their arts practices.

Many of these Indigenous artists were located in the central mall of Alice Springs selling their artwork to tourists and passers-by. The AITB team were able to engage with these artists through the help of three animations on iPads that were created from a separate project with the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA).  Arts Law and CAAMA produced the three short Indigenous-focused animations relating to copyright, contracts and wills, which provided a casual level of legal education to the Aboriginal artists of Alice Springs. Watch the animations here.

Although a very successful trip, many of the stories the artists told about travelling hundreds of kilometres just to sell their art in Alice Springs and experiencing many financial hardships were disheartening.  These are the artists who are usually exposed to unethical art dealers and carpet baggers, highlighting the importance for Arts Law to continue providing the AITB outreach program. 

For further information on Arts Law’s AITB program contact: Jacqueline Cornforth, AITB Coordinator, Arts Law, phone: (02) 9356 2566, send an email.

Illawarra Legal Centre's new Aboriginal Family Law Project

Artists in the Black (AITB) is a legal service for Indigenous artists, communities and arts organisations.  It was established by the Arts Law Centre of Australia (Arts Law), the national community legal centre for the arts, in 2004 in response to the needs of the Indigenous arts community.  Arts Law supports Indigenous creators in achieving professional excellence and a sustainable income in a non-exploitative environment through its AITB program which provides culturally appropriate, specialist legal resources to support and strengthen the Indigenous arts sector.

In April 2015, Arts Law’s Deputy Director Delwyn Everard and AITB Coordinator Jacqueline Cornforth travelled to Central Australia to engage with independent Indigenous artists in the Alice Springs area.  This was AITB’s first outreach program targeted at artists who are not affiliated with Indigenous Art Centres.  Research indicated that this group of artists had little knowledge of their rights and were more vulnerable to exploitation so it was important for AITB to connect with these artists and make sure they knew where to get legal assistance in relation to their arts practices.

Many of these Indigenous artists were located in the central mall of Alice Springs selling their artwork to tourists and passers-by. The AITB team were able to engage with these artists through the help of three animations on iPads that were created from a separate project with the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA).  Arts Law and CAAMA produced the three short Indigenous-focused animations relating to copyright, contracts and wills, which provided a casual level of legal education to the Aboriginal artists of Alice Springs. Watch the animations here.

Although a very successful trip, many of the stories the artists told about travelling hundreds of kilometres just to sell their art in Alice Springs and experiencing many financial hardships were disheartening.  These are the artists who are usually exposed to unethical art dealers and carpet baggers, highlighting the importance for Arts Law to continue providing the AITB outreach program. 

For further information on Arts Law’s AITB program contact: Jacqueline Cornforth, AITB Coordinator, Arts Law, phone: (02) 9356 2566, send an email.

Shoalcoast - connecting with the Aboriginal Communities of the Far South Coast

Shoalcoast currently runs two specific programs that provide the Centre with the opportunity to connect with the Aboriginal Communities of the Far South Coast.  They are the Aboriginal Legal Access Project (ALAP) and the Indigenous Family Law Project.  The centre’s outreach to Aboriginal Communities involves attending 3 separate communities at Jeringa (Shoalhaven) Murra Mia (Batemans Bay) and Wreck Bay (Jervis Bay).  Wallaga Lake is visited on an as needs basis.  To complement the advice clinics, Shoalcoast holds regular CLE talks at a number of Aboriginal Men’s Groups from Nowra through to Moruya.

In addition to its ALAP Solicitor, Les Farrell, the centre has two Aboriginal Staff who regularly attend the Shoalhaven Aboriginal Community Alliance Interagency (SACAI) and the Shoalhaven Police Aboriginal Advisory Committee (PACC) meetings.

In the period 2014-2015, Shoalcoast assisted 215 Aboriginal Clients.  This was some 17 per cent of its total client base.  The main problem types were: Child Contacts, Child Protection, Child Residency and Parenting Plans, Victims Compensation, Credit and Debt owed by Client, Discrimination – Race, Employment Conditions/Entitlements, Divorce, Family Violence, and Tenancy.

To further enhance the connection with Aboriginal communities and workers the centre initiated the Koori Touch Football Family Fun Day in Nowra with approximately 300 people attending – a very successful means of networking and simply having a fun day.  2016 will see No 4, which the centre hopes to be bigger and better than all previous events.

Indigenous Family Law Project

2014-2015 marks the second year of the Indigenous Family Law Project. Hannah Krieselmaier is the current project solicitor and she is ably assisted by Mary-Jean Kelly, Aboriginal Family Law Project Worker.

In the period of 1st July 2014 – 30th June 2015 the project provided 62 advices – 35 by telephone, 26 face to face and 1 Skype.  There were 27 new cases opened, demonstrating that demand still exists amongst Aboriginal people for flexible, consistent and targeted Family Law Advice and casework assistance.

The case work within the past 12 months has encompassed a wide range of legal issues relating to both family law and child protection – including victims compensation, mediation, domestic violence, parenting orders and plans, divorce and the allocation of parental responsibility and contact.

Shoalcoast has also been able to work in conjunction with Women’s Legal Service in respect to a complex matter that was transferred to the Family Court Sydney. All in all, a successful outcome. 

Further information: contact Barry Penfold or Hannah Krieselmaier at Shoalcoast Legal Centre on phone 02 4422 9529.

Mid North Coast CLC and Aboriginal Communities

Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre provides services to the Dunghutti, Thungutti, Bunyah and Biripi people of the Mid North Coast of NSW.  The centre employs an Aboriginal Access Worker to help connect local community members to the centre, and the centre to them.  MNCCLC has been able to cheer on the local community at the Elders Olympics, spoken at a Women’s Yarn Up camp in Forster, hosted a stall at the Aboriginal Men’s Health Expo and developed key relationships at NAIDOC events in our region.  

MNCCLC is rolling out to Bellbrook (a remote community north west of Kempsey) early next year (with thanks to the help of the Law & Justice Foundation) to trial AVL advice in that context, and are always on the lookout for other opportunities to provide service to Aboriginal people in its region.

Image: Bishoy Elias (MNCCLC PLT student) manning a stall at teh Aboriginal Mens Health Expo in Port Macquarie

Further information: Jane Titterington, Principal Solicitor, Mid North Coast CLC, send her an email.

Redfern Legal Centre's Aboriginal Health-Justice Partnership

In May 2015, Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) launched NSW’s first hospital based Health-Justice Partnership with Sydney Local Health District, based at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPA hospital). The service is partly funded by the Gandevia Foundation.

The service, which operates twice a week, is primarily focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients, women experiencing domestic violence and other vulnerable clients.  The legal service provides assistance with a range of legal issues such as tenancy, welfare, debt, family law, care and protection and in particular domestic violence.  Patients can be referred to the service by their health professional, and are provided direct assistance by an RLC solicitor working on site at RPA hospital.

The Partnership works to address the multiple disadvantage experienced by vulnerable people that can exacerbate person’s health and legal issues.  These ‘social determinants’ of health can be summarised as where you live, how you live and whom you live with. Legal remedies can address and improve these factors.

A recent Law and Justice Foundation report, Indigenous People, Multiple Disadvantage and Response to Legal Problems, found that while Indigenous people are more likely to experience multiple disadvantage – elevating a person’s likelihood of experiencing legal problems – they are also less likely to access assistance.  Further, there is a significant gap between the health status of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It is these factors that the service is working to address.

RLC utilises the relationship that patients have with their health professional by training RPA hospital staff to identify legal issues and referring patients to the legal clinic.  In turn the service assists health professionals by allowing them to focus on their core work, leaving legal issues to RLC’s solicitors.

Further information: Sue-Ellen Hills, Solicitor, Aboriginal Health Justice Partnership, send an email.

Taking Care of Business: Wills, Powers of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship

One of the most important things you can do for your family is to plan for a time when you are no longer around.

Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS), in partnership with the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), NSW Legal Aid and Sydney law firm, Gilbert + Tobin, hosted a Life Planning Workshop for Aboriginal people on 2 & 3 November. This project came about after a discussion of life planning issues with members of the AWAHS Men’s Shed who were concerned for their families when there was no planning for what happens when the unexpected happens and when they die. HRCLS attends AWAHS to give fortnightly free legal advice and often visits the Men’s Shed to chat and cogitate on indigenous legal issues.

To minimise conflict in families during a crisis and after a death, Aboriginal people need the relevant legal documents in place to ensure that their families will be looked after. The need to speak to a solicitor and have legal affairs put in order is important for the peace of mind Aboriginal people who do not usually have the opportunity to do this. This workshop was for the benefit of Aboriginal people on a low income or pension who do not have the means to pay a private lawyer to draft a will, power of attorney, and enduring guardianship.  

The first day began with a talk in the morning about legal planning, which looked at issues that are particularly important for Aboriginal people. Information was given about Wills and the ways you can provide for the person you care for financially, including through a trust. Also discussed was how you can appoint someone to make decisions for you if you can't make your own decisions any longer and about how someone can be appointed to make decisions for the person you care for.  In the afternoon, the lawyers from both Gilbert + Tobin and the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service met with the attendees to take instructions for their Will, Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian for free.  Participants attended the following day to sign and take home their completed documents.

Participants were very grateful for the opportunity to hear about these important legal documents and then have them completed by experienced lawyers at no cost. 44 documents were drafted for 16 participants.

Further information: Sarah Rodgers, Principal Lawyer, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service. Phone: (02) 6057 5000.  Send her an email.

3. human rights in action

Justice Connect's Self Representation Service moves into Judicial Review and Human Rights

People without legal representation who are involved in a human rights matter or judicial review of an administrative decision in the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court now have access to legal assistance through the Justice Connect Self Representation Service.  Human rights matters involve appeals from the Australian Human Rights Commission, while judicial review matters include appeals from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Veterans’ Review Board in relation to administrative decisions (excluding migration).

The Service continues to also deal with bankruptcy and employment law matters. Since its launch on 18 August 2014, the Service has provided over 350 individuals with legal advice and assistance. The Service regularly provides individuals with legal information and has developed fact sheets in the areas of bankruptcy, employment law, human rights, as well as on how to prepare for court as an unrepresented litigant.

The following client story illustrates the work of the Service:

Cleaner owed unpaid wages successfully recovers what he was owed

Max worked as a cleaner in a department store and came to the Service after his employer refused to pay him for his last two weeks of work. Max approached his employer about the unpaid wages and was shocked when his employer responded angrily and told him he was fired. Max felt intimidated and helpless, and was very distressed by the financial pressure he was experiencing.  

Max felt overwhelmed by the prospect of bringing a claim to court, and he contacted the Service, which was able to help Max with his court documents and to identify the entitlements he was owed. As a result of the Service’s assistance, Max was able to initiate a small claims proceeding and eventually settled the matter out of court. Max was able to recover even his money, and this allowed him to pay off some outstanding debts, while also avoiding the stress and uncertainty of litigation. 

Further information on Justice Connect’s Self Representation Service: Call 1800 727 550 or send an email.

Kingsford Legal Centre: Willing to Work Submission

Kingsford Legal Centre made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Willing to Work Inquiry into employment discrimination against workers with a disability and older workers. Drawing on its clients’ experience, KLC noted the prevalence of disability discrimination and the underreporting of age discrimination. They also suggested the operation of the law could be improved to prevent discrimination by:

  • Allowing representative actions
  • Changing the federal courts to a no cost jurisdiction
  • Introducing a reverse burden of proof
  • Introducing civil penalty provisions
  • Introducing protection from discrimination for domestic workers

KLC solicitors Di Anagnos and Maria Nawaz also attended the AHRC consultation in Redfern and spoke to the Age and Disability Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan, and the Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda.  KLC discussed intersectional discrimination, which occurs when someone is discriminated against for more than one attribute, for example, race and disability.  KLC noted that it is often the most vulnerable persons that face complex discrimination on multiple grounds, and that the law needs to be amended to recognise this as a separate form of discrimination.

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

Parliamentary Inquiry into Elder Abuse

On Friday 20 November 2015 Tom Cowen, Principal Solicitor, and Melissa Chaperlin, Solicitor, of the Seniors Rights Service attended the Parliamentary Inquiry Into Elder Abuse conducted by the Legislative Assembly to answer questions regarding the Submission of the Seniors Rights Service.

The Inquiry focused on key factors concerning elder abuse including financial exploitation and domestic violence and neglect in the home.

The Seniors Rights Service received questions regarding regulating the use of Enduring Power of Attorney and providing criminal sanctions in the form of legislative offences under the Power of Attorney Act 2003 for attorneys that do not comply with their obligations under the act and misuse the funds of the older person or engage in conflict of interest transactions.

Seniors Rights Services also discussed with the Inquiry legislative reform in relation to family arrangements where an older person contributes financially to the home of their children in return for the right to reside their for life and receive future care.  The Service discussed potential law reform including model provisions for family agreements prior to entry into such arrangements as well as the establishment of a Tribunal with the power to dissolve such agreements and make awards of compensation. 

Seniors Rights Services also advances the idea of vulnerable person police officers in each area of police command to deal with elder abuse, with officers undergoing specific training in areas concerning elder abuse such as assessing capacity, and assessing non-legal and legal options for clients.

Seniors Rights Services looks forward to the outcome of the Enquiry into Elder Abuse.

Further information: Tom Cowen, Principal Solicitor, Seniors Rights Service, send an email.

4. Case reports

Protection of Crown Land public recreational land in Newcastle

In May 2015 the University of Newcastle Legal Centre was successful in returning to use by the community Crown Land dedicated for the purpose of public recreation to the community.  The win in the Land & Environment Court of NSW in Friends of King Edward Park v Newcastle Council, the King Edward Headland Reserve Trust, the Minister for Primary Industry and Annie Street Commercial Pty Ltd related in part to two sites of major Aboriginal significance, Yi-ran-na-li and King Edward Headland Reserve, and evidence from Aboriginal elders was fundamental to the case.  The applicant group argued that Newcastle Council had not consulted with local Aboriginal people as to the impact of the development, a proposed function centre, on the land.

The Court read evidence from two Aboriginal elders with authority to speak for the land who noted how, in times past, Aboriginal women had taken their newborn babies to the Headland to introduce them to the ancestors, and that Yi-ran-na-li was known to the local Awabakal people as “place of falling rocks”.  Both the Headland and Yi-ran-na-li are the subject of Aboriginal land claims.  For these reasons it should have been and in fact was known to the Council that the land was of Aboriginal significance, and that the relevant Aboriginal communities should have been consulted.  The Legal Centre is indebted to the elders concerned for their assistance.

Further information: Jacquie Svenson, Solicitor, University of Newcastle Legal Centre, phone (02) 4921 8803, send an email.

CLC Representation of an Aboriginal mother and her family members - Shoalcoast CLC and Women's Legal Services

CLCs represented an Aboriginal mother and her family members in a recently reported decision of the Family Court of Australia marking an important decision on Indigenous culture and kinship issues.

Thayer & Caville & Ors [2014] FCCA 3157 involved the application of a non-Aboriginal Father to relocate with his three Aboriginal children approximately 700km from their community. His application was strongly opposed by the children’s Aboriginal maternal Aunt and Great Grandmother (an elder in their community), represented by Shoalcoast CLC who sought orders that the children remain living close to their community and kinship group and live in a shared care arrangement between their community and their Father. WLS NSW represented the Mother in the case.

The case commenced in the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) in Wollongong. When it was listed for hearing in June 2014, the Family Report, which is important evidence in a family law case, failed to adequately address Indigenous kinship issues, and favoured the Father as the primary carer of the children. On the first day of the FCC trial, the Maternal Aunt sought orders that the Family Report was inadmissible on the basis that it failed to adequately address the Indigenous and/or cultural issues that are central to the case.  FCC Judge Altobelli decided that the case could not run because insofar as the Family Report dealt with Indigenous or kinship matters, it would have to be disregarded.  The case was adjourned until April 2015 and a new Family Report Writer was appointed: an expert with sufficient expertise in Indigenous and kinship issues.  

The case was also transferred to the Family Court, where ultimately, the shared care arrangement sought by the Maternal Aunt was ordered. The children live in a week about arrangement with their Father and their Maternal Aunt and Great Grandmother ensuring regular contact with their culture and community and their Mother.

Judge Altobelli’s decision in this case is significant because it increases the accountability of Family Report Writers when writing reports about Aboriginal children.  The case supports a requirement that Family Report Writers must consider the kinship obligations and child rearing practices of the children’s relevant community and must give proper consideration to Indigenous and cultural issues.

Further information: Kirsty Irving, Solicitor, Indigenous Women’s Legal Program, Women’s Legal Services NSW, send her an email.

Animal Defenders Office (ADO): The story of a man and his dog

The Animal Defenders Office’s story is about one Aboriginal man and his dog.  The dog’s name is Chopper, and he and his keeper are inseparable. His keeper is Aboriginal who has mental and other health issues.  On Australia Day in 2014 Chopper came to the defence of his keeper who was attacked at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. For his efforts, Chopper was seized by ACT authorities and spent a record 15 months in a cold, damp, windowless cage in the local pound.  Chopper’s stint in the pound almost came to an early end when his keeper appeared in court in relation to the dog attack several months later.  Just as the court was about to order that Chopper be destroyed, the ADO’s submissions about Chopper’s good character were put to the Court.  After considering the submissions the Court ordered that Chopper not be destroyed.

This dog’s life may have been saved but he still had to be released from the pound.  Several more months passed as the authorities prevaricated over this animal who had narrowly avoided a court‑ordered death.  Eventually the ADO was able to help get Chopper out and back to his distraught keeper. The ADO then helped Chopper’s keeper obtain a dangerous dog licence in NSW so that these best friends could be reunited permanently... or so it seemed.

A few months later Chopper and his keeper moved back to the ACT. The ADO is now once again assisting Chopper’s keeper in dealing with the authorities to get a licence to keep his beloved companion in this jurisdiction.  Chopper is very much an emotional support animal for this man, and ADO volunteers have welcomed the opportunity to help keep man and dog together.

Further information: Tara Ward, Executive Director, Animal Defenders Office, phone 0428 416 857, send an email.

5. media mentions

'Deadly Consequences' for Government Cuts

In an article about the real-world consequences of funding cuts to CLCs, Chair of the National Association of Community Legal Centres Rosslyn Monro stated:

“It is extremely disappointing that the Federal Government has not formally responded to the Productivity Commission’s Report…In fact, despite the very clear recommendations made by the Commission about the need for additional funding, CLCs are facing a funding cliff amounting to a 30 per cent cut nationally from 1 July 2017.”

Executive director of Community Legal Centres NSW, Alastair McEwin also stated:

“In the face of increasing demand for our services, including in the key areas of domestic violence and family law, there has never been a more important time to ensure adequate and secure funding of CLCs and other legal assistance providers”
For the full article, follow this link.

CLC ethos permeates industry

In an article about the social justice ‘ethos’ and influence of Community Legal Centres, the CLCNSW 40th Birthday Celebrations Oration and Panel was discussed, and Clare Petre, the first full-time worker at Redfern Legal Centre was quoted as saying:

“The academics and students from the University of NSW who established Redfern Legal Centre didn’t have a grand strategic plan…All they knew was that they wanted to deliver a legal service that was new and different. Community based shop front, holistic and directed at people who would otherwise miss out on essential legal advice and assistance.”

CLCNSW Chairperson Nassim Arrage was also quoted as saying:

“Although CLCs are now quite institutionalised and quite bureaucratic, at their core values they remain committed to community-based approaches to delivering legal services…There is still a lot of social injustice, and for me CLCs are about creating the structural change or at least trying to hold government to account to make sure that the world is a better place, and sadly there are a lot of things to fight.”

For the full article, follow this link.

New means test for community legal centres could see thousands deprived of crisis legal support

In an article discussing the impact of the Federal Government-imposed means tests on CLC clients, CLCNSW chairperson Nassim Arrage was quoted as saying:

“If [legal centres] don’t provide 85 per cent of their representation services to people in financial hardship, they will not receive funding the next time the money’s meant to flow from the Commonwealth to the state…Our fear is that having to meet this benchmark means that we’re going to have to say not certain groups of people who are quite vulnerable in the community but do not necessarily meet the test of having financial hardship.”

For the full article, follow this link.

6. publications

Kingsford Legal Centre's Aboriginal Service Provision Manual Updates

Kingsford Legal Centre’s Aboriginal Service Provision Manual equips KLC’s volunteer solicitors, incoming students and other service providers with cultural awareness about local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and tips on how to provide effective service delivery to them.  The Manual was developed by KLC’s three Aboriginal Access Workers – Keith Ball, Ron Timbery and Kaleesha Morris - in consultation with KLC's Aboriginal Advisory Group and first published in October 2014.  The publication was hugely popular so KLC has recently updated it. 

The manual is available on the KLC website, or send an email for a hard copy.

Our Dream...Stopping the Violence

Women’s Legal Services NSW has just updated the ‘Our Dream … Stopping the Violence’ information booklet about domestic violence and the law in NSW.  It is designed primarily for Aboriginal women but may also be a useful resource for non-Aboriginal service providers.

It looks at what domestic or family violence is, what you can do about it and what will happen at court if you apply for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO).  It also addresses some common questions about domestic violence and the law, as well as listing services where you can obtain more information.

It is available from the Women’s Legal Services website.

Further information: call Women’s Legal Services on (02) 8745 6900.

7. events, commendations and developments

Youth Worker of the Year Award

Sue Underwood, a worker at both Macquarie Legal Centre (Children’ Court Assistance Scheme), and the Beaches Outreach Program (BOP), was recently awarded the 2015 Youth Worker of the Year Award.

In referring to her work with BOP the citation described Sue as “tireless, patient, caring and passionate in her approach to supporting young people in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. “

In her court support role, Sue was recognised for assisting young people “when they are alone, lacking adequate support networks and (were) vulnerable trying to navigate the justice system.”

Sue’s compassion for her clients was described as ‘life changing’:  “Sue genuinely cares for the wellbeing of each young person she engages with. I have seen Sue reunited with a young woman she had a previous case managed.  The young woman credited her entire survival and current life to Sue, who believed, support and encouragement her in darkest days.  Sue watched this woman share her story, Sue was clearly moved by it and described how proud she was of how far this young people had come.”

Further information: Jake Formosa, Project Development Manager, Youth Action, send him an email.

TARS Becomes Seniors Rights Services

The Aged-care Rights Service Inc. has adopted the business name: Seniors Rights Service.  This better reflects the scope and focus of work that the organisation carries out. As the focus increasingly turns to Australia’s ageing population, preserving not only the human rights but also the dignity of our elderly has become a real issue.  Seniors Rights Service is a proud Community Legal Centre, continuing in the tradition of all community legal centres across Australia in supporting human rights and providing assistance to disadvantaged older people across all cultural groups.

In 2013 people 65 years and older represented about 14% of the nation’s population.  By 2053, this demographic will be about 21% of the population (ABS, 2013).  As the nation’s population of older people grows larger so will the needs for adequate and appropriate services to ensure their rights are upheld.

From a survey of 4,000 older Australians 50% of these people did not seek appropriate legal action when a legal crisis arose in their older life (Law Access, 2013).  Older people are more likely to be disadvantaged due to limited income when seeking appropriate help (Law and Justice Foundation, 2012).  In NSW there are 1.1 million people over the age of 65 (ABS). Of these almost 90,000 receive aged-care services, which is either residential, home or transitional care. There are 900 aged-care facilities in NSW.

Seniors Rights Service launched its new name at a symposium into elder abuse on 24 November 2015.

Hon John Ajaka, NSW Minister for Ageing, was the keynote speaker at the Seniors Rights Service symposium. Mr Ajaka said: “Elder abuse – in all its forms – is unacceptable. We must raise awareness of this issue within today’s society. We must ensure that our elderly are protected and ensure policies and services are responsive to elder abuse so we can protect the vulnerable.”  He also took on board the funding situation of services trying to address the elder abuse issues.

Rodney Lewis, Elder Law Specialist, who also spoke at the symposium said: “The basic rights of older Australians are at stake in the fight against elder abuse. Organisations like the Seniors Rights Service are at the forefront to protect them and their dignity, their rights and property.”

Craig Gear, President, Seniors Rights Service said: “Our concern is that we are only seeing the tip of an iceberg.  Older people need to know we can help and we have been in the business of defending the rights of older people for 30 years. The Aged-care Rights Service has re-launched itself as Seniors Rights Service to ensure that all older people know that we can preserve their rights and dignity as they grow older.”

Nan Bosler, a former Lecturer in the Faculty of Adult Education at the University of Technology Sydney, and now President of the Australian Seniors’ Computer Clubs Association, said: “Breaking the digital divide between generations is essential. Seniors need to be able to access current online information and services to ensure they are aware of their rights and know when and how to act.”

Seniors Rights Service provided 5,571 legal services to older people in 2014/15. Also, the organisation provided individual advocacy services to 2,247 people in NSW receiving aged-care services. In addition more than 22,000 people around NSW were reached through face-to-face education sessions regarding elder rights.

Older people from diverse cultural backgrounds, Aboriginal heritage and the LGBTI community are regarded as particularly vulnerable as they grow older given many services may not be culturally sensitive.  Russell Westacott, CEO of Seniors Rights Service, said: “We’re here for all older people – regardless of cultural background – to ensure everyone’s human rights are protected as they age. That’s our business.”

Further information: Tom Cowen, Principal Solicitor, Seniors Rights Service, send an email.

 

Children's Court Assistance Scheme - 20th Anniversary

On 28 October, Macquarie Legal Centre celebrated 20 years of its Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS). Macquarie CCAS operates at Bidura and Parramatta Children’s Courts.

Over 60 colleagues and friends - from the Central Coast, Illawarra and Macarthur CCASs, CLCNSW, Legal Aid NSW, community agencies and courts - joined the celebration at Deloitte’s Parramatta office.

Uncle Greg Smith, an Elder of the Dharug peoples gave the Welcome to Country.  Stan Small, Coordinator of CCAS, spoke about the valuable work CCAS has done with young people at Court.  Stan was followed by a panel of 3 speakers - Children’s Court Magistrate Sue Duncombe, of the Parramatta Children’s Court and Koori Youth Court, Bill Grant, CEO Legal Aid NSW, and Aaron Tang, A/Solicitor-in-Charge, Children’s Legal Service, Legal Aid NSW - who all spoke about their connection to CCAS, the benefits of CCAS and the future they saw for CCAS.

Both Stan and Magistrate Duncombe made particular mention of the valuable role CCAS workers have played in the establishment of a Koori Youth Court in Parramatta. While CCAS has survived for 20 years, it is worth noting that currently the service is only funded until 30 June 2016.  In the new year, Macquarie will take up the challenge of ensuring that on-going funding is secured.

Once formalities were over there was time for friends to catching up over good conversation, food and birthday cake.  

Further information: Maria Girdler, Manager, Macquarie Legal Centre, send her an email.

Redfern Legal Centre's International Student Service Saved

Redfern Legal Centre (RLC)’s state-wide International Student Service was relaunched in November after receiving one year’s funding from StudyNSW and additional support from Western Sydney University, and law firms Fragomen and McCabes.  The service, which is NSW’s only dedicated international student advice service, faced closure in September after a funding shortfall.

The service advises students across the state on matters such as employment problems and housing issues, and runs regular advice evenings that includes visa and immigration advice, provided pro bono by Fragomen law firm.  All international students within NSW can access the service, which provides free legal advice and community legal education to international Students across the state.

Further information: Sean Stimson, Solicitor, International Student Service, send an email.

Marrickville Legal Centre - Cheers for Social Justice

On 26 November Marrickville Legal Centre held its Cheers for Social Justice! fundraiser at the Lazybones lounge in Marrickville.  The campaign is aiming to raise enough money to continue to keep a domestic violence worker on staff into the 2016 -2017 year.

A fun and fabulous night was had by all, with moving welcomes by Ann Weldon from the Metropolitan Aboriginal Land Council and Marrickville Mayor Sam Iskandar, and powerful words from guest speaker Katrina Wong of Legal Aid’s Children's Civil Law Service. 

MC Zoe Norton Lodge whipped the crowd into a bidding frenzy in the live and silent auctions and much hilarity was had.  Generous donations from alumni and supporters in the lead-up and the event itself have seen over $13,000 raised.  This generosity brings MLC one significant step closer to being able to keep a domestic violence worker on staff next year to continue to support women and young people at risk of violence and homelessness.

For further information about the campaign, or to make a donation contact Tracy Goulding, MLC Funding & Communications Officer on phone 9559 2899 or send an email. Donations can also be made via MLC’s website.

Centre Update: Knowmore Legal Service

In November knowmore legal service completed its work supporting clients in New South Wales prisons who were engaging or considering engaging with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Recognising the high rates of survivors of institutional child sexual abuse among prison populations, the Royal Commission has embarked on a strategy to afford prisoners within all Australian prisons the opportunity to tell of their experiences, through private sessions or providing statements.  In 2015 knowmore has worked with the Commission during the initial roll-out of this strategy across NSW prisons, presenting information to correctional centre staff and prisoners, and providing legal assistance to interested prisoners.  Understandably, many current prisoners are unwilling to tell of their experiences without having the opportunity to seek independent legal advice first.

Given the over-representation of Aboriginal clients in NSW prisons, knowmore’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Advisors have played a key role in ensuring Indigenous prisoners have sufficient information and trust to make informed decisions around engaging with the Commission. knowmore’s A & TSI Engagement Team Leader Dean Bell noted that although the work involved in visiting many of the prisons across NSW was time and resource intensive, a culturally appropriate approach, emphasising client choice and face-to-face engagement, was essential to providing Indigenous clients with the support and safety they needed when thinking about coming forward in a prison environment.

During the first half of 2016 knowmore’s Aboriginal engagement advisors, together with lawyers and social workers will be travelling to Central and Far West New South Wales.  This visit will be over a two week period and will involve travel to Dubbo and then Brewarrina, Broken Hill and Ivanhoe, to meet with service providers (many of whom were visited in 2013), clients and in particular prisoners in regional correctional centres who have requested face to face interviews with lawyers.

Further information: www.knowmore.org.au or call knowmore on 1800 605 762

8. state office update

Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)

Illawarra Legal Centre and Macarthur Legal Centre have new ALAP staff: Rebecca Simon (ILC) and Samantha Alexander (MLC).  CLCNSW warmly welcomes them both to the Sector.

On the topic of staff, across 18 CLCs, there are 30 positions dedicated to meeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal need in the NSW CLC sector.

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and CLCNSW Relationship

Representatives from CLCNSW and Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS) have held three meetings over the past two months to discuss ways of improved collaboration between the two organisations.  Strategies discussed include strengthening local CLC and ALS referral pathways.  For CLCs, this means that making sure that Aboriginal clients who present with criminal law matters are referred to the ALS.  For the ALS, and CLCs, this means developing relationships and mechanisms to ensure that clients who receive a custodial sentence appropriately have their civil law matters, like housing and debts, referred to CLCs.

CLCNSW and ALS are currently developing a ‘Statement of Commitment’, which is expected to be signed in early 2016.

Cultural Safety Standards

CLCNSW is working towards meeting the Cultural Safety Standards required by all CLCs under their Legal Aid funding agreements.  CLCNSW met with Legal Aid NSW to discuss this, and CLCNSW staff have met to discuss strategies for meeting their Cultural Safety obligations.

Cultural Safety Workbook

The Cultural Safety Workbook, which is a guide for CLCs to make their centres more culturally safe, will be launched at the February 2016 Quarterlies.

Aurora Intern

Aurora Intern Tom Vanderveen will commence at CLCNSW for 4 weeks from the 18th of January.  CLCNSW encourages CLC to get involved in the Aurora Program.

Further information: Zachary Armytage, Aboriginal Legal Access Coordinator, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email.

Accreditation

The National Accreditation Scheme (NAS) is designed to support CLCs provide best practice legal services.  The past 3-4 months have been spent getting ready for the launch of Phase 2.  These preparations have been based on the review of Phase 1 of the Scheme, which was completed in November 2014.  This review found that the CLC sector and several government funding bodies were broadly supportive of the NAS, but made a number of recommendations to improve the NAS, particularly in relation to governance, national consistency, and streamlining or simplifying the process as well as the assessment tools.

Phase 2 is expected to roll out nationally in early 2016.

For further information, please contact Alastair McEwin, Executive Director, CLCNSW, via email.

Advocacy and Human Rights

Visiting CLCs

The Strategy and Communications Officer (SCO) visited Central Coast CLC, Financial Rights LC and EDO and attended the Elizabeth Evatt CLC AGM, the launch of the Seniors Rights Service, the opening of the new PIAC and Justice Connect office, and the 20-year anniversary of the Children's Court Assistance Scheme hosted by Macquarie Legal Centre.

Media

CLCNSW now has nearly 1500 followers on Twitter.  CLCNSW issued media releases promoting the 40-year celebration, International Day of People with Disability, family violence funding and victims compensation. CLCNSW also contacted the Law Report on Radio National about interviewing staff from Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre.

Funding

The SCO has been working with NACLC and CLC staff from other States and Territories on how we will campaign together to reverse the funding cliff in 17/18 and see more funding allocated to CLCs.

Out and about

The SCO staffed a CLCNSW stall at the Macquarie University Law School Careers Fair and at the NCOSS conference.  The SCO attended forums at NSW Parliament organised by RLC on Police Accountability and PIAC on the Stolen Generation Inquiry.

The SCO attended the 30-year celebration of the Women in Prison Task Force Report put on by the Sydney Institute of Criminology, Sydney University, and UNSW.  The evening presented a valuable opportunity to speak with former Attorney General Brad Hazzard and others working for prison law reform in NSW.

Further information: Kerry Nettle, Strategy and Communications Officer, CLCNSW, phone (02) 9212 7333 or send an email.

Sector Development

Training Needs Analysis

Every 18 months, CLCNSW undertakes a Training Needs Analysis with the CLC sector to find out what the training and professional development needs of the sector are.  142 people responded to the online survey and CLCNSW conducted face-to-face consultations with the networks at the November quarterlies.  The results have now been compiled to form the basis of the professional development program for the coming 18 months.  We thank all those who participated in this.

February 2016 quarterlies

The Quarterlies in February 2016 will have an Aboriginal Rights theme.  This will include our regular Welcome to Country, sessions on Aboriginal legal access needs and the launch of the cultural safety guide.

Dates are:

Day 1 - Yarn Up, Monday 15 February

Days 2 & 3 - Network meetings and training, Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 February

Legal Training Day - Thursday 18 February

For further information, please contact Alastair McEwin, Executive Director, CLCNSW, via email.

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 39 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.
 
Further information:
Suite 805, Level 8
28 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 7333
Fax: (02) 9212 7332
Send an email
Website: www.clcnsw.org.au
Twitter: www.twitter.com/clcnswnull

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