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On the Record - Issue18 April 2012


 

Community Legal Centres: Community, Compassion, Justice
Issue #18

April 2012

This is the 18th 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

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.

 

Contents:

1. Community Legal Sector News

Editorial: CLCs celebrating 40 years – is there a mid-life crisis looming?

CLCNSW State Conference: CLCs Pushing the Boundaries

 

2. Community Law

Central Coast recent initiatives

Inadequate Police Briefing at Occupy Sydney

Equipping lawyers to run LGBTI discrimination and vilification complaints

New youth legal outreach at Belmore

Shoalcoast opens new outreach facility

Work Development Order Service at Legal Aid NSW

Legal Aid NSW services to sexual assault complainants

 

3. Human Rights in action

Safe in Our Place project comes to an end

Submission on Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution

Raising awareness about rights in share housing

Forced and servile marriage in Australia

Parent’s Project funded for a further three years

“Human Rights Rules!”

Residential tenancies and residential parks law reform

 

4. Case reports

Recent success at the Victims Compensation Tribunal

Discrimination Commissioner takes RailCorp to Court

High Court asked to intervene on ‘unlawful’ Kanangra

Pawnbroker charges man with disability 240% interest

Trustee & Guardianship/Rental Property Matter – Partnership Collaboration

Coronial Inquest – Law Reform & Advocacy

 

5. Media mentions

Jetstar’s “two wheelchair” policy found to be ok

Flood map could hit insurance costs

Drug detection dogs have 80% failure rate

CLCNSW is now ‘tweeting’!

 

6. Publications

New skills-based resources on “Mediation” and “Reading and writing legal documents”

The Housing NSW Repair Kit

“The Immigration News”

Living Without Violence toolkit

Tenants’ Union of NSW staff movements

New-look NLAF Website

Discussion paper: managing pollution

Opportunities to consolidate NSW tribunals

 

7. Events, commendations and developments

PIAC moves: new address, new joint venture

New ALAP workers at Shoalcoast

Redfern Legal Centre volunteer wins award

Redfern LC’s tenancy team wins TAAP awards

 

8. State Office Update

Accreditation Scheme

Police Accountability Project

Victims Compensation Review

Collaborative Agency Induction Project

Leadership Development Project

Mentoring Project

 

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

 

1. Community Legal Sector News

 

Editorial: CLCs celebrating 40 years – is there a mid-life crisis looming?

In December 1972, Fitzroy Legal Centre in Melbourne opened its doors as the first CLC in Australia.  As we approach this 40-year anniversary, it is timely to reflect on how CLCs have evolved over this time and ponder the question: is there a mid-life crisis looming for our CLCs?

Popular culture has it that many people may experience a mid-life crisis in their 40s.  This can take the form of a change of career, buying a new car, taking a long holiday or volunteering in a developing country.  It’s all about re-assessing where they’re going with their life.  Central to having a mid-life crisis is examining one’s sense of identity – what do I want out of life? What do I want to achieve?  And central to the identity of CLCs is the need for them to be relevant to the community they serve.

There is no doubt that CLCs were a force to be reckoned with in the 1970s and 1980s.  CLCs arose in response to a justice system that had created barriers to many in the community whose fundamental human rights were being breached and violated. Following the 1960s with mass rallies, feminism and Aboriginal rights, CLC achievements in law reform and systemic change were groundbreaking, inspirational and radical.  Since the 1970s and 1980s though, CLCs and the landscape they operate in have changed dramatically.

One way that CLCs may have become less relevant and lost touch with their communities is through the way they have set up their physical spaces and offices.  From the cramped and chaotic mess of Fitzroy Legal Centre, and the ease by which clients could drop in, CLCs have evolved into spaces that sometimes emulate the look of a corporate law firm.  Some CLCs still work in cramped spaces, with staff sharing offices, but others operate in more spacious surrounds with a mix of open-plan and enclosed offices.  Developments in occupational health and safety laws and staff requirements, as well as the need for client confidentiality, have driven the development of modern and efficient offices.  In doing so, however, have CLCs lost touch with their communities?  Do clients feel comfortable in coming into an office that may be far removed from their personal circumstances, which can include homelessness and poverty.

That all aside, CLCs do remain relevant to their communities in many ways.  We continue to be a fearless advocate for law reform, being described by our justice colleagues as ‘annoying’ and ‘a constant thorn in the side’.  We are renowned for our outreach work, reaching out to communities in the most remote parts of NSW or going where the clients are, such as hostels for people who are homeless.  Aboriginal CLC workers conduct community consultations under gum trees and in spaces that are meaningful to local Aboriginal communities.  We go into prisons to work with those clients that no other organisations want to know about.  We produce numerous publications to explain the complexities of the law in a way that is easily understood by not only English-speaking people but also those who have come from overseas and speak foreign languages.

The challenge for CLCs to remain relevant may be many but they are not insurmountable.  As long as we continue to reach out to clients and communities in the way they need us to, we will remain relevant. Our mid-life crisis, if indeed we do have one, should be a wonderful opportunity to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we can go from here, all with a sense of optimism and, most importantly, a sense of identity that remains relevant to those we serve.

 

Alastair McEwin, Director CLCNSW

Send him an email

 

CLCNSW State Conference: CLCs Pushing the Boundaries

There are less than two weeks to go before the biennial CLCNSW State Conference.  This year's conference is shaping up to be an excellent opportunity to network and share knowledge and information with your justice colleagues.  We are particularly pleased to see 12 registrations from a Sydney CLC and 8 registrations from a RRR CLC.

 

Registrations for the 2012 state conference will close on Friday 4 May.  To avoid disappointment, we encourage you to register as soon as possible.

 

Highlights:

 

The final program can be found at: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/cb_pages/files/FinalReleaseProgram3(1).pdf

 

 

Full details of the conference and to register can be found at: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/conference2012

 

2.         Community law

Central Coast recent initiatives

The Central Coast Community Legal Centre celebrated Harmony Day on 21 March with a stall at Lake Haven Shopping Centre in the north of the Coast.  About fifty show bags were given out, each containing a variety of goodies and including the Anti Discrimination tool kit.

As part of its Women’s Domestic Violence Outreach program, Central Coast CLC has partnered with Central Coast Community Women’s Health and is now running outreach clinics at Wyoming and southern peninsula, Woy Woy.

Further information: Jenny Collins, Central Coast CLC, email Jenny Collins

 

Inadequate Police Briefing at Occupy Sydney

Redfern Legal Centre has provided advice and assistance to a number of people involved in Occupy Sydney activities since October 2011.  

RLC solicitor, David Porter, attended the rally held on 5 November 2011 as a legal observer, and has subsequently lodged a formal complaint under the Police Act 1990 relating to the inadequate briefing of police dealing with the demonstrations.

The primary ground of complaint is that move-on directions were given to protestors.  Move-on directions cannot be given to people involved in a genuine protest in NSW – it even has a specific section in the legislation – and every officer involved should have been briefed on this prior to being sent to any protest site.

This complaint highlights the reflexive, habitual use of police powers in NSW and the lack of responsibility and accountability in the exercise of those powers.  The NSW Police Force is currently considering the complaint, and RLC awaits news of their investigation of the issues raised.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

Equipping lawyers to run LGBTI discrimination and vilification complaints

Over two days on 1 March and 8 March 2012, the Inner City Legal Centre conducted a CLE program to equip lawyers to run LGBTI discrimination and vilification complaints in the Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) and Administrative Decisions Tribunal (ADT).  Twenty-four lawyers from CLCs and private firms attended the training, which was hosted by Gilbert + Tobin.  The aim of the training was largely to increase the capacity of ICLC to run discrimination and vilification matters by having a trained group of lawyers the Centre can approach from time to time who can assist with such matters on a pro bono basis. 

The training commenced with all participants receiving a kit containing precedents, case studies, pro forma letters and relevant forms.  Everyone also received an electronic version of the kit on ICLC’s funky new USB drives!  Amy McGowan gave an introductory insight into the language that may be used when talking about LGBTI discrimination and vilification.

On day one, Tory Maguire, an ADB Conciliation Officer, took participants through the step-by-step process of lodging complaints, and provided tips about procedure and conciliation.  Following on from this Deputy President of the ADT, Magistrate Nancy Hennessy, led a session about the procedure involved in running discrimination and vilification matters once they are referred to the ADT.  Both speakers gave participants the opportunity to ask questions which contributed to the very engaging sessions.

The second day of the training was run by renowned human rights Barrister, Kate Eastman.  Ms Eastman has been involved in a number of landmark discrimination and vilification cases, including that of the Carter Case, in which ICLC were the instructing solicitors.  Ms Eastman provided a unique insight into the practicalities of the Anti Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW), international cases about hate speech, managing client expectations and also went through some case studies based on past cases.  It was a most dynamic session.

The feedback from the training was extremely positive and ICLC intends to run it again in the future.

Further information: Alana Yap, Project Officer, ICLC, send an email

 

New youth legal outreach at Belmore

The City of Canterbury in south west Sydney is an area with a very high population of young people, a large proportion of which are from non-English speaking backgrounds.  Marrickville Legal Centre recently partnered with Barnardo’s Belmore to provide a new youth legal outreach at Belmore Youth Resource Centre (BYRC).

BYRC houses a variety of youth services that offer a range of programs for youth aged 12 to 18 years of age.  These services include:

These services are proving to be a great source of referrals to the legal drop-in.  The legal drop-in is a great way for young people to ask questions in an informal setting, or to get more specific advice if they need it.

We commonly provide advice and information about fines, minor criminal matters, complaints against police, debt matters, employment matters, discrimination matters, victims’ compensation, and school suspensions/expulsions.

The outreach operates every second Wednesday from 2.30 – 5.30pm at BYRC.

Further information: Emily Muir, Youth Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre, ph (02) 9559 2899, email

 

Shoalcoast opens new outreach facility

Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre recently opened a further outreach facility under ALAP at the Mura Mia Aboriginal facility at Bateman’s Bay.

 

The opening highlights the importance of getting to know the community and Les Farrell our ALAP Solicitor is to be congratulated in developing the relationship with Mura Mia Elders which has enabled our access to their community. Early uptake is encouraging.

 

Further information: Barry Penfold, Principal Solicitor, email

 

 

Work Development Order Service at Legal Aid NSW

Many disadvantaged people are trapped in a fines debt limbo, leading to other problems like loss of driver licence, family stress, mental health problems and homelessness.  Work and Development Orders (WDO) are orders, made by the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO), that allow people who are homeless, have a mental illness, intellectual disability or cognitive impairment, or who are experiencing acute economic hardship, to satisfy their court fine and/or penalty notice debt by undertaking certain courses, treatment or unpaid work with approved organisations and health practitioners.

 

Two new legal aid services will tackle the issue of fines across the State. The new Legal Aid NSW Work and Development Order (WDO) Service will work with organisations and health care providers in regional and rural areas to assist them to become approved organisations so that they are able to offer Work and Development Orders to their clients.  They will also provide legal advice and assistance to clients with fines debt including linking them to approved organisations where appropriate.  This work will be achieved through the efforts of four new lawyers based at Liverpool, Wollongong, Orange and Coffs Harbour.  Profiles of the new team and more about their role will appear in the next edition of Verbals.  The work will also be supported by a number of Field Officers working within the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT.

 

Legal Aid NSW will also be conducting a “fines campaign” across the State, running Bring your Bills and Fix your Fines Days where people can bring along their paperwork and get advice from a lawyer or financial counsellor.

 

The WDO service at Legal Aid NSW builds upon a successful two-year pilot that was actively promoted by a number of CLCs.  In response to a very positive evaluation of that pilot, the NSW Government made the WDO scheme permanent in July 2011.

 

Further information: Andrew Taylor, Legal Aid NSW, ph 9219 5809 or email

 

Legal Aid NSW services to sexual assault complainants

In 1997 NSW became the first jurisdiction in Australia to specifically protect the confidentiality of the counselling records of complainants in sexual assault matters.  A specific category of legal privilege was established to prevent the counselling records of sexual assault complainants from being used in a court unless the court was able to find that it was in the public interest to do so.  The legislation is set out in section 298 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986.

 

Since the commencement of the legislation in 1997 many complainants have relied on assistance from Women's Legal Services NSW and pro bono lawyers to assert the privilege and defend access to counselling records.  During 2009-10 Women's Legal Services NSW, in partnership with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and a number of pro bono law firms, provided limited services to complainants through the SACP Pro Bono Referral Pilot Project.  The Pilot Project operated at Sydney District Court only and assisted a small number of complainants to assert the sexual assault communications privilege.

 

In December 2010, the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 was amended to strengthen the sexual assault communications privilege.  As part of this legislative reform, the Government also announced funding for Legal Aid NSW, over four years, to provide legal advice and representation to sexual assault complainants in subpoena applications.  The legal aid service for complainants in SACP matters began in October 2011.  Legal Aid NSW is establishing a small panel of solicitors who have expertise and interest in this work and grants of legal aid will be available for all matters.

 

Another part of the service is providing information about the sexual assault communications privilege.  Legal Aid NSW is co-ordinating education about the privilege to judicial officers, court staff, government and non-government agencies. Working with the practitioner panel, Women's Legal Services and the Office of the DPP, Legal Aid NSW will also provide ongoing legal policy advice to government regarding the SACP.

 

Legal Aid NSW has established a SACP Reference Group, which includes representatives from District and Local Courts, the Office of the DPP, the Bar Association of NSW, the Law Society of NSW, pro bono lawyers and Women's Legal Services NSW. 

 

Further information: Rosie Lambert, Legal Aid NSW, phone 9219 5632, email

 

 

 

3.         Human Rights in action

 

Safe in Our Place project comes to an end

Women’s Legal Services NSW's “Safe in Our Place” project has sadly come to an end.  The project ran for a 12-month period from 1 February 2011 to 29 February 2012.  Maha Najjarine and Rebecca Frost were the solicitors and project coordinators of this very successful project.

 

The project’s first objective was to provide specifically targeted training to service providers and community advocates who come into contact with newly arrived migrants and refugees in Sydney and in regional NSW.  The second objective was to provide legal information, advice and referrals to newly arrived migrant and refugee women from the community.

 

As part of the first phase of the project WLS held 12 training days in metropolitan Sydney and regional NSW for community workers.  There were 274 service providers and community advocates from 132 services at the workshops offered. WLS held a one-day workshop in the Bankstown, Auburn, Cabramatta, Campsie, Parramatta, Gymea and Blacktown areas.  WLS also provided five workshops in rural and remote areas.  The regional areas they visited included, Albury, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Newcastle and Orange.  The seminars included legal information about domestic violence and the law, family law, immigration law, victim’s compensation and cultural awareness training.

 

The second phase of the project was to work directly with women from newly arrived migrant and refugee communities. There were over 129 women at the 4 workshops offered to women.  The workshops were conducted in a culturally appropriate manner and addressed the issue of family violence thoughtfully.  These workshops were carried out in Albury, Wagga Wagga and Orange.  Each workshop was tailored to meet the needs and interests of the women in that area.  The content included information about safe relationships, Australian Family Law and criminal law.

 

The workshops provided an opportunity for service providers in regional towns to discuss local issues relating to family violence and responding to disclosures.  The workshops were also a great opportunity for workers to focus on local strategies addressing these issues.  The workshops were a successful networking opportunity for service providers to work together to support clients, develop DV network groups and lobby for extra local resources.  The workshops also provided resources to community and settlement workers to better assist their clients.

 

Further information: Maha Najjarine, Solicitor Women's Legal Services NSW, ph (02) 8745 6900, email

 

Submission on Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution

In addition to the detailed and comprehensive anti discrimination submission which KLC coordinated on behalf of the National Association of Community Legal Centres, we also made a submission to the Consultation on Aboriginal Recognition in the Constitution.  Since the report has been released, KLC plans to run a series of workshops with non Indigenous community organisations to educate them and their clients about the issue.

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, email

 

Raising awareness about rights in share housing

The Tenants’ Union of NSW (TU) and NSW Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Network are running a state-wide community education campaign on the rights of sub-tenants.

 

Under section 10 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010, sub-tenants without written agreements are excluded from the Act’s coverage.  The TU and the Network collaborated to develop printed materials – a poster and leaflet – to raise people’s awareness of this shortcoming in the Act.

The leaflet includes a sample sub-letting agreement.  By providing this, the TU hopes to make it easy for sub-tenants in share housing to get their agreements in writing.

 

Many students live in share housing and so the TU started distribution of the materials at universities over orientation week.  The TU drew up a distribution plan, allocating different tenancy services with the universities in their catchment areas.  Each service was responsible for contacting the university and figuring out the best method of distribution.  Distribution methods included organising an information stall, sending the materials to the university and contacting TAFEs and other institutions. Some services ran community education sessions on the issue with local and international students. Others had the issue mentioned in student newspapers.  The universities have enthusiastically received the materials.  Some now want to collaborate with the National Union of Students in their own state-wide campaign around the issue.

 

The campaign need not stop here. The TU will distribute the materials to community organisations and real estate agents.  Further, the TU may develop another leaflet highlighting the benefits of co-tenancy and the possibilities of transfer of tenancy under the Act.

 

The message:
Secure your tenancy

Step 1

Write up your own agreement (or use the sample agreement).

Step 2

Sign the agreement and give it to your head-tenant to sign.

Keep a copy for yourself.

 

You can download the sample sub-letting agreement, leaflet and poster at: www.tenants.org.au/publish/publications/share-housing-agreement.php

 

Further information:  Sarah Drury, Learning and Development Coordinator, TU, phone (02) 8117 3700, email

 

 

Forced and servile marriage in Australia

Over the last 12 months, Women’s Legal Services NSW (WLSNSW) has responded to the Attorney General’s Department Consultation on forced and servile marriage and more recently to the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012 - Forced Marriages.

 

Central to our submissions has been the recommendation that any response to addressing forced and servile marriages must sit within the broader state and federal violence against women strategies and plans of actions. While criminal sanctions may play an important role in outlining the types of behaviour prohibited in the community, WLSNSW is concerned that such legislative amendments should not be made in isolation. WLS NSW believes the primary focus should be on prevention of forced marriage rather than prosecution.

 

Key recommendations include:

 

For further information, email Carolyn Jones, WLS

 

Parent’s Project funded for a further three years

IDRS has received funding from the Law Society’s Public Purpose Fund to continue running its Parent’s Project. The Project aims to improve access to justice for parents who have intellectual disability in their care matters. Families where at least one parent has an intellectual disability are significantly over-represented in care proceedings in the NSW Children’s Court and highly likely to have their children removed from their care as a result of these proceedings. IDRS established the Parent’s Project in 2007 as it became increasingly aware that this over-representation was a reflection of entrenched pessimistic attitudes towards parents with intellectual disability, rather than a reflection of their actual parenting ability.

 

The Project identifies points of disadvantage for parents with intellectual disability within the care and protection system in NSW and strategies for addressing them. IDRS provides legal advice and representation to parents with intellectual disability involved in care and protection proceedings. The Project also employs a support worker who supports parents in Court and in their dealings with Community Services. The Project provides education to disability advocates and care and protection lawyers and is engaged in relevant law reform and policy issues.  In 2008, the Project received an initial three year funding grant from the Law Society Public Purpose Fund.  The funding received in 2011 will allow the Project to run for a further three years.

 

Further information: Marissa Sandler Solicitor, IDRS, ph (02) 9318 0144 or email

 

 

“Human Rights Rules!”

Between 27 September and 5 October 2011 KLC staff and students provided a series of four separate workshops on human rights principles to children aged between 8 and 12 years.  The human rights workshops were presented at Vacation Care programs in the local community and involved games and exercises designed to get the children thinking about basic human needs and how these needs are linked to fundamental human rights.  The workshops were well attended, with between 10 and 28 children at each workshop- quite a feat when they were scheduled against holiday activities like “BMX riding” as an optional activity!  The feedback from the sessions was very positive from both the children and the Vacation Care workers.  The workshops were also a good opportunity for the KLC students to directly interact with the children and participate in the educative activities.  The KLC students were also instrumental in coming up with creative ways to engage the children with the materials.

 

Further information: Anna Cody, Director, email

 

Residential tenancies and residential parks law reform

The Tenants’ Union of NSW has reported on issues arising one year after commencement of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and made a submission to the NSW Fair Trading review of the Residential Parks Act 1998. See:

www.tenantsunion.org.au/index.php/publications/papers-submissions/85-rta-2010-report

www.tenantsunion.org.au/index.php/publications/papers-submissions/83-submission-review-rpa-1998

 

 

 

4.         Case notes

 

Recent success at the Victims Compensation Tribunal

Macarthur Legal Centre received instructions in March 2009 to act for a client who alleged he had been sexually assaulted whilst a year 7 boarder at an exclusive private school.  The sexual assaults occurred in the 1970s and the client had only recently disclosed to a treating psychiatrist.

 

The client was struggling with anger issues, drug and alcohol dependency and depression.  The client was extremely difficult to manage and was very rude to staff. The Centre was able to persuade the client to contact the local police and make a statement.  This took a lot of courage on the client’s part but it was done.  The Centre also applied for counselling for the client through Victims Services.

 

It was a challenge to put together the evidence in support of the two claims but Macarthur Legal Centre persevered.  The client provided a statutory declaration and the police wrote a letter setting out the results of their investigations. The family friends who the client told all retreated and refused to become involved.

 

In January this year the Centre received the determinations and the client had been successful in both claims receiving a total compensation payment of $50,000.  The client has spent the last three months in rehabilitation to overcome quite considerable drug and alcohol issues. The Centre met with the client recently and to see the change was very rewarding. The client put the changes down to the success at the Tribunal – that someone finally believed what had been said.  The client was continuing with the rehabilitation program and was looking to invest the funds to secure a steady income. The client had certainly benefited from the counselling and from the compensation scheme available through Victims Services.

 

Further information: Prue Gregory, Principal Solicitor, email

 

Discrimination Commissioner takes RailCorp to Court

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing Mr Graeme Innes AM who is suing RailCorp for disability discrimination. He alleges that RailCorp has failed to consistently provide audible announcements on trains, in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth).

 

Mr Innes, who has been blind since birth, lodged 36 complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission between March and September 2011 regarding failures by RailCorp to have audible announcements on trains. These announcements are crucial because they allow passengers with vision impairment to know that they are getting off at the right station.

 

PIAC lodged proceedings on behalf of Mr Innes in the Federal Magistrate Court in November 2011.  A mediation hearing on 24 February was unsuccessful.  PIAC anticipates the matter will proceed to hearing in the Federal Magistrates Court later this year.

 

Further information: Dominic O'Grady, Media and Communications Officer

PIAC, email

 

 

High Court asked to intervene on ‘unlawful’ Kanangra

The High Court is expected to hear a special leave application this year in a case involving the alleged unlawful detention of Ms Joanne Darcy.

 

Ms Darcy has a mild intellectual disability.  She was 19-years-old when a Magistrate’s order sent her to the isolated Kanangra Centre, a DOCS-run institution for people with intellectual disabilities located on the mid-north coast of NSW. Ms Darcy entered Kanangra in 1996 and was not released until December 2002.

 

PIAC has acted on Ms Darcy’s behalf since she lodged her claim for false imprisonment in 2007. The matter was heard first in the District Court in 2010, and then the NSW Court of Appeal in December 2011.  The NSW Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of the District Court.

 

The Court of Appeal found that Ms Darcy was detained at the Kanangra Centre because she couldn’t leave without permission. However, the Court of Appeal held that Ms Darcy’s stay at Kanangra was lawfully justified by the tacit consent of the Public Guardian. PIAC believes that the Court of Appeal’s conclusion raises serious questions about ‘tacit consent’ and the way public officials exercise powers that significantly affect peoples’ rights.

 

Fundamentally, Ms Darcy’s false imprisonment claim is concerned with protecting the rights of people with an intellectual disability to live freely within the community, without being subjected to arbitrary detention. The Court of Appeal decision could be extended to adversely affect the rights of other vulnerable individuals, including people who are subject to mental health tribunal orders or elderly people who are subject to guardianship orders.

 

Further information: Dominic O'Grady, Media and Communications Officer

PIAC, email

 

 

Pawnbroker charges man with disability 240% interest

RLC’s client, Paul, is a man with a chronic mental illness.  Although when he was younger Paul was employed full time and got a home loan, he has been on the disability pension for the last 10 years, supplemented with some casual work. Apart from his mortgaged flat, Paul’s only asset was a new car purchased for him by his mother after the death of his father.  

 

Recently Paul has had numerous health problems and hospital admissions, stopping him from doing casual work and giving him additional expenses. Paul got into arrears with his home loan payments, and also with strata levies and utility bills. He could no longer get financial help from his mother as she developed dementia. In 2009 and 2010 Paul got a series of small loans to try and deal with his various debts but it got to the stage where the finance company would not lend any more. Paul could not afford to register his car, and his telephone was disconnected. Paul then contacted a pawnbroker and pawned his one-year-old car, purchased by his mother for $15000, for a loan of $5000.

 

The terms of the pawn broking agreement were that the car had to be redeemed within three months, and the interest rate was 240% pa or $1000 a month. Paul came to RLC when he was unable to redeem his car at the end of the three-month period. Paul’s car was sold by the pawnbroker, and after sale and storage expenses and the interest payments there was no money returned to Paul from the sale.

 

RLC acted for Paul in a claim in the Local Court against the pawnbroker under the unjust contract provisions of the National Credit Code. RLC argued that the pawn broker failed to make any inquiries about Paul’s capacity to repay the loan, and that if reasonable inquiries had been made it would have been clear that Paul had no capacity to repay the loan. RLC also argued that Paul was not reasonably able to protect his interests because of his mental illness, and that the interest and other charges were excessive in the circumstances. The claim was settled with a payment to Paul by the pawnbroker. 

 

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

Trustee & Guardianship/Rental Property Matter – Partnership Collaboration

Far West CLC (FWCLC) was referred two elderly clients, both with considerable intellectual disabilities, by the local NEWTAAS worker.  These clients were living in considerable hardship in a sub-standard ‘house’ in Broken Hill that had not had running water for over a year.  The landlord (who lived next door) would allow them 2 buckets of (cold) water a day and the front door could not be closed which led to issues with trespassers on the property.  A concerned neighbour had brought the clients in to NEWTAAS.

 

Utilising their contacts, FWCLC wrote letters advocating on behalf of the clients to local service providers, Mission Australia, Centrelink, NEWTAAS, Compass Housing, the local Council, the local public mental health service and the local State MP, John Williams MLA.  FWCLC was able to work together to get the clients into a house that was habitable and much more comfortable for these vulnerable members of the community.  FWCLC is also working with the Trustee & Guardianship office in order to liaise about some financial needs of these clients and explaining Trustee/Guardianship matters to them in a manner that they are able to understand.

 

This outcome displays a CLC core belief that not all solutions to legal problems require legal action as a first instance.  Far West and their local partners all found the process very satisfying in its outcome and that they were all able to work together to achieve a great result.  FWCLC thanks everyone for their assistance – especially Compass Housing and John Williams’ office in achieving this success.

 

Further information: Tracey Willow, Far West Community Legal Centre, email

 

Coronial Inquest – Law Reform & Advocacy

The Far West Community Legal Centre recently assisted a local resident who required representation in the South Australian Coroner’s Court.  The client was the mother of a parolee who had died during a siege with the South Australia police just over the border.  Some civilians and police officers were regretfully injured in the event as well.  The client wished to be represented to primarily express regret to the victims of the incident.   

The issues before the Inquest centred on the actions of the Parole Board initially releasing the prisoner and the role of the Department of Corrections in whether it appropriately managed parolees such as the client’s son.  FWCLC, in representing the mother, attempted to highlight the shortcomings of the Department of Corrections in assisting the parolee, and ensuring that he undertook programs recommended by the Parole Board.  A key issue was the adequacy and provision of psychological treatment to prisoners and parolees.  These issues are common themes for those involved in criminal/crimes compensation cases and are matters of great community concern.

 

The Inquest has been adjourned for further evidence to be provided to the Court, however the Coroner is due to make findings on the matter once the case has been concluded.  

 

Through advocacy at the Inquest, FWCLC was privileged to be part of a case which drew attention to possible shortcomings of the legal and justice system, and by doing so, hopefully achieving law reform of benefit to the community.  The case also indicates the role CLCs play in providing a voice to clients who would otherwise not be heard or who would go unrepresented.

 

Further information: Tracey Willow, Far West Community Legal Centre, email

 

 

5.         Media mentions

 

Jetstar’s “two wheelchair” policy found to be ok

Both the Australian Centre for Disability Law and Redfern Legal Centre were quoted in an article about the veteran disability rights campaigner, Sheila King’s unsuccessful court action against Jetstar for its ''two wheelchair'' policy.

Mrs King, a board member of several disability organisations, took the airline to the Federal Court when it denied her access to a flight because two other wheelchair passengers were already booked.

The decision by Justice Alan Robertson outraged many with disabilities.  The director of the Australian Centre for Disability Law, Phillip French, said it had ''disastrous'' implications for the application of discrimination law. The interpretation of the law indicated ''that any commercial operator like Jetstar is entitled to formulate and maintain a business model that discriminates against a segment of the community''.

Nicolas Patrick, the chairman of the Redfern Legal Centre, said the case highlighted a huge weakness in discrimination law which did not allow an organisation to complain on behalf of a group. ''It's left to individuals to run these cases at huge personal and financial risk,'' he said.

Link to full article: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/advocate-to-appeal-decision-on-wheelchair-20120117-1q4sk.html

 

Flood map could hit insurance costs

Kat Lane, Principal Solicitor of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre, was featured in an article outlining fears that a national flood-risk map to be managed by the federal government will be used by insurers as a cover to raise premiums unnecessarily, according to consumer advocates.

Kat Lane said: ''It's inevitable. Some people will just be completely out of the market… I think it's really good that we're going to do that mapping but it will lead to strange results with the pricing … Let's not let them use flood mapping as an excuse not to ensure people have got coverage.''

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/fears-floodrisk-map-will-hit-insurance-cover-20120209-1rxak.html

 

Drug detection dogs have 80% failure rate

In late November 2011, the Minister for Police provided answers to a series of Questions on Notice asked by David Shoebridge, MLC, on police drug detection dog searches.

 

In 2011 (until 30 September) 14,102 people were searched by police following a reaction from a drug detection dog. Of these, 11,248 were found to have no illegal drugs in their possession. The story was covered in print and radio.  

 

RLC wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), emphasising that drug detection dogs are not detecting evidence of any offence known to NSW law. RLC considers that warrantless drug detection dog operations provide no reasonable basis for police officers to perform a search. Even after only one shift working with a drug detection dog, the 80% failure rate means that no reasonable police officer would expect to find drugs in the possession of a person stopped by a dog.  

 

Unfortunately, Acting Deputy Commissioner David Hudson made it clear in the SMH that contact with drugs is the criteria used for exercise of police powers, rather than reasonable suspicion of the commission of a criminal offence.

 

To see Redfern LC’s letter to the SMH:

www.rlc.org.au/news-html/rlc-in-newspapers-journals.html

 

 

CLCNSW is now ‘tweeting’!

CLCNSW is now ‘tweeting’ on the internet.  Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets’.  It was launched in July 2006 and now has over 140 million active users who send over 340 million tweets daily.

 

To follow CLCNSW: www.twitter.com/clcnsw

 

6.         Publications

 

New skills-based resources on “Mediation” and “Reading and writing legal documents”

LawAssist is a website for people representing themselves in courts or tribunals. The materials on the LawAssist website provide information about both law and procedure, and practical tools for people navigating the court process.

Resources to help people develop mediation and legal reading and writing skills have been added to the LawAssist website.

The new resources include:

The new resources can be viewed at:

http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/Lawlink/lawaccess/ll_lawassist.nsf/pages/lawassist_mediation

and

http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/Lawlink/lawaccess/ll_lawassist.nsf/pages/lawassist_readingwritinghome_wysk

Other LawAssist topics include: debt (small claims); car accidents; Apprehended Violence Orders; fines and fences.

Further information: Rita Bhattacharya, phone (02) 8833 3104 or email

 

The Housing NSW Repair Kit

The Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service at RLC has produced a step-by-step guide for public tenants to assist them to get repairs done.  Housing NSW tenants and community workers have been complaining for some time about the difficulties in getting repairs done and see this as a priority issue.

This handy kit comes with sample letters and shows tenants how to take the matter further, such as applying to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT).  As Housing NSW often does not comply with Tribunal orders to do repairs, the kit also advises tenants to request the CTTT Chairperson to refer matters of non-compliance for investigation and prosecution by the Office of Fair Trading.

The kit was printed with a grant from the Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP Salary Trust.  

Download the kit at www.rlc.org.au/publications/tool-kits.html

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

“The Immigration News”

 

The Immigration Advice & Rights Centre produces a quarterly publication titled "The Immigration News".  The most recent edition saw the launch of a new downloadable format, enabling readers to download and print the entire newsletter in one easy to read format.  This edition also features an update regarding recent amendments to immigration law and policy and the ALRC Family Violence paper addressing the family violence provisions within the Migration Act.

 

To read the latest edition please click here or to subscribe simply enter your email address on any page of the IARC website.

 

Further information: Andrea Christie-David, email

 

 

Living Without Violence toolkit

The Living Without Violence toolkit is now complete, and copies have been distributed to relevant CLCs in NSW, as well as the WDVCAS network, and women’s refuges.

The toolkit is a series of information sheets, designed for people in NSW who have experienced domestic violence and are in the process of separating, or have recently separated from their partner. The intention is that relevant information sheets will be provided by community or legal workers to clients.

The information sheets provide practical information about rights in relation to:

There is also an introductory page, with a definition of domestic violence, highlighting relevant human rights issues, including the right to live without violence.  A promotional poster is also available.

The development of the toolkit was coordinated by Community Legal Centre NSW and the National Association of Community Legal Centres, with content provided by a number of community legal centres in NSW. The project also received assistance in the form of:

The information sheets are available to be downloaded and printed from: www.clcnsw.org.au/livingwithoutviolence

 

Tenants’ Union of NSW staff movements

Patrycja Arvidssen and Sarah Drury have been appointed Learning and Development Coordinators.  Carl Freer has been appointed Litigation Solicitor.

Further information: Julie Foreman, TU, email

 

New-look NLAF Website

The NSW Legal Assistance Forum has launched a new-look website.  The updated NLAF website aims to function as a hub for the social justice sector in NSW – a place to go and find out about emerging issues and trends and the work of relevant organisations to address these issues. Currently the website has information and resources relating the NLAF working groups on the issues of:

The website also has links to resources and information about learning and development opportunities in the sector, CLE and legal information and a section devoted to ‘the latest news’ in the sector.

Website: www.nalf.org.au

To publicise information, projects or resources on the NLAF website or find out more about the work of NLAF: Judith Levitan, NLAF Project Manager, email

 

Discussion paper: managing pollution

On 8 August 2011, a hazardous material known as Chromium VI was released on the site of the Orica ammonium nitrate plant at Kooragang Island. The incident gave rise to significant community concern, and was by no means an isolated incident of a facility breaching the conditions of its pollution licence. This and subsequent incidents have shone a spotlight on the inadequacies of the pollution regulation system in NSW.

At the request of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the EDO has prepared a discussion paper to inform the future direction of pollution regulation and the NSW Environment Protection Authority. The paper, entitled ‘Clearing the Air: Opportunities for Improved Regulation of Pollution in New South Wales’, describes the regulatory framework for the management of pollution in NSW, and outlines significant shortcomings of the current system in protecting human health and the environment.

The discussion paper is divided into sections addressing existing pollution regulation; the need for an integrated inter-agency approach; key elements of an effective pollution management system; opportunities for enhancing community engagement; and priorities for effective compliance and enforcement. It proposes an enhanced approach to managing pollution in NSW that:

• Places duties on regulators and polluters to minimise and, where possible, eliminate pollutants from entering our environment

• Sets pollution management on an objective, scientifically based foundation

• Strengthens the role of the EPA in strategic planning and decision making

• Strengthens the pollution licencing system and increases transparency around information relating to polluting activities

• Enhances and broadens the use of existing tools to minimise pollution loads and drive continual improvement

• Strengthens community engagement in pollution management decisions, and

• Enhances the EPA’s role as an independent regulator.

The discussion paper is available at http://www.edo.org.au/edonsw/site/policy_discussion.php

Further information: Zsofia Korosy, Policy Lawyer, Environmental Defender's Office (NSW), ph (02) 9262 6989 or email

 

Opportunities to consolidate NSW tribunals

RLC made a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into Opportunities to Consolidate Tribunals in NSW. On Friday 16 December 2011 Phoenix van Dyke from RLC’s tenancy service and Natalie Ross from RLC’s general legal service appeared before the Standing Committee on Law and Justice to give evidence for the Inquiry.

For the submission see: www.rlc.org.au/about-us/submissions.html

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

7.         Events, commendations and developments

 

PIAC moves: new address, new joint venture

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has moved to its new home on Level 7, 173-175 Phillip Street, Sydney, opposite the Law Courts Building at Queen’s Square.  The move coincides with a new joint venture between PIAC and Sydney Law School.

The joint venture will allow PIAC and the Law School to jointly pursue opportunities in education, law reform and public interest litigation, as well as in research and policy development.

In February this year, PIAC delivered the first annual Social Justice Clinical Summer School.  This is a new course developed by PIAC as part of the joint venture and intended to enhance the Law School’s social justice program.

The summer course included a teaching component focused on public interest advocacy and a clinical placement of up to 15 days.  ‘Through its internship and placement programs, PIAC lawyers and policy officers have long played a mentoring role for students and recent graduates,’ said PIAC Chief Executive Officer, Edward Santow.  ‘This joint venture allows PIAC to expand this role – opening up new opportunities for students and academics to be involved in PIAC’s litigation work.

The joint venture will also enhance collaboration between Sydney Law School and PIAC in policy development and research.  ‘PIAC shares several areas of interest with the Law School, including human rights and homelessness,’ Mr Santow said. ‘PIAC's advocacy on these issues, and on other issues such as discrimination and access to energy and water for disadvantaged consumers, draws very strongly on our experience representing and assisting affected people.

‘While preserving PIAC’s autonomy and its ability to collaborate with other academic partners, this new joint venture will allow us to work more closely with some leading academic researchers. It enables us to strengthen our evidence-based approach in relation to this advocacy, and join with Sydney Law School academics to produce more influential reports,’ Mr Santow said.

PIAC’s telephone and fax numbers are unchanged. Call (02) 8898 6500 or fax (02) 8898 6555. PIAC is online at www.piac.asn.au

Further information: Dominic O'Grady, Media and Communications Officer

PIAC, email

 

 

New ALAP workers at Shoalcoast

Recent interviews for a position of part-time ALAP workers produced two excellent applicants.  In fact, the selection committee could not split the candidates so both now are on board in a shared role. Caryn Carpenter and Steve Brandon are both keen to develop some new community education concepts including sports days and youth competitions.  Hopefully, we will be able to report on the implementation and success of such concepts in the future.

Further information: Kerry Wright, Shoalcoast LC, email

 

Redfern Legal Centre volunteer wins award

International Volunteer Day 2011 was a busy day for Margaret Jones, volunteer at Redfern LC.  She was presented with the 2011 Senior Highly Commended Volunteer of the Year Award at Parliament House by The Hon. Victor Dominello, Minister for Volunteering.  Later she was presented with the MP’s Volunteer of the Year Award by The Hon. Tanya Plibersek.  Part of Margaret’s prize included nominating a not-for-profit to receive $500 which she chose to give to RLC.  This $500 came on top of $200 Margaret had already been able to give to the Centre as a reward for coming runner-up in another volunteer award, bringing the total to $700.

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

Redfern LC’s tenancy team wins TAAP awards

RLC’s Inner Sydney Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Service (ISTAAS) won several awards at the Tenants’ Advice and Advocacy Program Network Meeting. Phoenix van Dyke won the TAAP Policy Award for her contributions to policy work and the TAAPSTAR Award for work at the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.  Natalie Bradshaw won the People’s Choice Award for casework.  Congratulations to ISTAAS!

Further information: Sophie Farrell, Redfern Legal Centre, email

 

8.         State Office Update

 

Accreditation Scheme

The National Accreditation Scheme, in which all CLCs are required to comply with national accreditation standards or provide evidence that they are working towards compliance, is now well established in NSW. 

Good progress has been made in the first quarter.  A number of centres have completed the online self-assessment on the SPP (the online tool), which is the first step in the process, and many centres are working their way towards completion.  6 centres have so far undergone an Accreditation Onsite Visit by the Regional Accreditation Coordinator, Meg Houston, based at CLCNSW.

In preparation for the onsite visits, Meg conducted an external review of the evidence pack uploaded by each centre on to the SPP.  She travelled to each centre and met with and interviewed members of staff, the Principal Solicitor, the Manager and a client (the latter by telephone.)  Meg provided feedback at the end of the visit and will be working with centres to develop a Workplan.

4 onsite visits are so far scheduled to take place over the next two months.  Meg will be in touch with other centres to check progress and readiness for their onsite visit.

Further information: Meg Houston, Regional Accreditation Coordinator, CLCNSW, email Meg Houston: meg_houston@clc.net.au

 

Police Accountability Project

With two police involved deaths in the last month, police accountability has been a hot topic, generating media enquiries to CLCNSW and to individual CLCs. It seems that the CLCNSW website is generating interest. We are gradually adding to this material, available at: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/cb_pages/police_complaints_project_introduction.php

The recommendations for reform of the NSW police complaints system, developed by CLCNSW, have recently been endorsed by:

Further information: Roxana Zulfacar, Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, email.

 

Victims Compensation Review

The Victims Compensation scheme in NSW is under review, with the NSW Government appointing Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct the initial stage of the review.

 

The scope of the review is broad:

 

Price Waterhouse Coopers has released an "Issues Paper", posing a series of questions, to obtain input from stakeholders. The Issues Paper and other information are available at: http://www.clcnsw.org.au/cb_pages/victims_compensation_review_2012.php

 

CLCNSW is preparing a response, which will incorporate the views of the CLC sector.

 

Further information: Roxana Zulfacar, Advocacy & Human Rights Officer, CLCNSW, email.

 

 

Collaborative Agency Induction Project

A number of legal sector organisations have been or are about to review their induction programs, and an orientation to the sector via site visits is a common component.  Accordingly, there may be some efficiencies to be gained, as well as valuable networking opportunities, by developing a collaborative approach.

 

The CLCNSW Sector Development Coordinator and the Law and Justice Foundation met subsequent to that meeting to further develop the idea.  A covering email with a short survey was sent to key contacts in the organisations identified as potential participants in order to gain interest in the project and information to guide the development of a trial program.  It was agreed that it would be useful to trial the program and evaluate it.

 

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

 

Leadership Development Project

CLCNSW is currently preparing to run a Leadership Development Program.  This would involve a series of leadership workshops followed by coaching or mentoring depending on the needs of an individual.  This would provide an opportunity for either existing coordinators or staff identified as future leaders to develop and practice their leadership and management skills while promoting staff retention and succession planning strategies.

 

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

 

Mentoring Project

The CLCNSW Sector Development Program has commenced a pilot of a Mentoring program.  Mentoring is seen as a workforce planning strategy to improve recruitment and retention of CLC staff.  The project will have a particular focus on RRR CLCs, given the professional and personal isolation that many RRR staff experience.

 

The initial stages of the program are to design and produce resources to support the program including background information, roles and responsibilities, the benefits of mentoring, guidelines, policies and procedures, the selection of mentors and mentees, individual mentoring plans and worksheets and evaluation forms.  While these documents are being designed and produced, CLCNSW is in the process of setting up two relationships between a mentor and a mentee, with one of these having RRR mentee.  This relationship is being set up to also help feed back issues to the State Office that may arise in relation to resource development of the project so that the program can be tailor-made to address the specific needs of the CLC sector.

 

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

 

 

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

Community Legal Centres (CLCs) are independent community organisations providing equitable and accessible legal services. NSW CLCs work for the public interest, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalised people and communities.  CLCs not only provide legal advice and assistance, but also encourage and enable people to develop skills to be their own advocates.  We promote human rights, social justice and a better environment by advocating for access to justice and equitable laws and legal systems.  Centres work towards achieving systemic change through community legal education, and through law and policy reform.

 

Community Legal Centres NSW Inc. (CLCNSW) is the peak body for CLCs in NSW.  It is resourced by a small State Office which is funded by the NSW Government and Public Purpose Fund.  CLCNSW has 40 member organisations including generalist and specialist community legal centres.

Further information:

Suite 805, Level 8

28 Foveaux Street

Surry Hills NSW 2010

Phone: (02) 9212 7333

Fax: (02) 9212 7332

Send an email

Website: www.clcnsw.org.au

On The Record

On the Record #15 June 2011
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On the Record #27 Winter 2014
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On The Record - Issue 19 - June 2012
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On The Record - Issue 20 - September 2012
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On the Record - Issue 22 - March 2013
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On the Record - Issue 23 - June 2013
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On the Record - Issue 24 - September 2013
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On the Record - issue 25 - December 2013 / January 2014
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #10 April 2010
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #11 June 2010
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #12 September 2010
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #13 December 2010
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #14 March 2011
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #2 October 2006
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #26 Autumn 2014
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On the Record - The e-bulletin Issue #4 June 2007
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