Community legal centre service update: COVID-19

 

Community legal centres are working hard to balance our commitment to providing legal services to our communities with our responsibilities to protect the safety of employees and contribute to national efforts to reduce transmission. We take the wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, clients and communities seriously.

In keeping with the best public health advice on COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus), community legal centres across the state are adopting new safety measures with implications for the delivering of some legal services (for example, the temporary discontinuance of face-to-face consultations in many cases).

Below is a list of changes to specific community legal centres in NSW.

At the bottom of the page there are links to other useful information and resources on COVID-19, including State and Federal Government health information and translations, information about Centrelink payments, mental health, renting, changes to court operations, relevant legislative changes and general information for community organisations. 

We will update this information as further details come to hand and circumstances change.

Generalist community legal centres

Central Coast Community Legal Centre has suspended all outreach services, including its Wyong and Gosford Local Court Outreach Duty Lawyer services. This also extends to their Children's Court Assistance Scheme program running out of Woy Woy, Broadmeadow, and Wyong Children's Courts.

The service remains open for telephone advice.

Please feel free to contact them on 4353 4988 should you require assistance.

Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre's Katoomba office is closed from Friday, 20 March 2020, with all staff working from home for the time being.

All face-to-face outreaches in Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Bathurst have now been changed to phone or video conference advice.

Their legal advice line (phone 02 4704 0207) will still operate on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and Wednesday afternoon. Callers can leave a message.

The tenancy advice line for Blue Mountains residents only is available as usual on Monday and Tuesday mornings on 02 4704 0201.

For updates, follow the centre on Facebook or Twitter.

Far West Community Legal Centre remains open, with all legal advice being provided via phone.

Limited court representation services being provided, as required.

SHLV program services are being provided face-to-face in some circumstances, with other services being provided remotely.

Outreach services are suspended.

For phone advice, call (08) 8088 2020 or 1800 300 036.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service has closed its office doors to the public, but are still taking phone calls and booking new appointments.

Changes to their legal advice appointments are as follows.

  • For enquiries from the general public (not through a partner):
    • They will not be booking any new appointments for the public for the next seven days. All enquiries from the public will be referred to LawAccess NSW.
    • They will continue to deliver appointments if the booking has already been made.
  • For enquiries referred from a partner:
    • They will continue to book appointments if clients have been referred by a Partner, where possible (Partners include all agencies where they usually attend and deliver outreach).
    • All enquiries from Partners will be dealt with by the relevant lawyer.

They will not be taking on any new cases for the next 14 days. The centre will continue to assist existing clients where the file is already opened.

Where an existing client has to attend the office because that is unavoidable, they must contact the service via telephone first and answer three screening questions.

Note that the centre currently has reduced capacity to deliver services due to the departure of their NSW outreach lawyer and the cancellation of their Tuesday night volunteer clinic.

Hunter Community Legal Centre remains open, with phone advice .

All advice by phone continues on (02) 4040 9120 or 1800 650 073.

Face-to-face appointments, outreach services, and community legal education are all suspended until further notice.

Court attendance continues, as permitted by the Chief Magistrate's memo.

Illawarra Legal Centre continues to provide legal advice by telephone. Some face-to-face services are being offered at the centre's discretion. 

The Children's Court Advocacy Service continues to operate. 

The office is shut to the public.

Inner City Legal Centre continues to provide the usual services, but via phone.

You can contact the centre via phone (0466 724 979) or email (iclc@iclc.org.au).

Kingsford Legal Centre will not be staffing phones.

  • Clients with urgent matters who have access to the internet are directed to visit www.klc.unsw.edu.au and complete a webform.
  • Clients who don't have access to the internet are able to leave a message on their phone.

The best way to get in touch with the centre at this time is by emailing legal@unsw.edu.au or using the webform for new enquiries.

At this time, they are prioritising urgent legal need, including:

  • being sacked or not being paid;
  • evictions;
  • people experiencing violence;
  • people not receiving their Centrelink;
  • urgent Court and Tribunal listings; and
  • COVID-19 discrimination.

For health workers at Prince of Wales Hospital, centre solicitors are no longer attending the hospital, However, HJP telephone line and email address (hjp@unsw.edu.au) are being staffed and telephone advice is being given to clients in need.

Macarthur Legal Centre is continuing to provide advice and assistance by telephone.

However, the centre is closed to the public and staff are not doing face-to-face work until further notice.

Contact the centre by phone (02 4628 2042) or email (macarthur_admin@maclegal.net.au).

You can also follow the centre on Facebook for regular updates here.

 

Marrickville Legal Centre has closed the doors of its offices to the public.

All advice and outreach clinics have been moved to telephone advice and call-back services.

Staff will only provide face-to-face services in exceptional circumstances, and where clients have been screened.

The centre remains committed to prioritising the needs of the community and so does not expect a significant disruption to its services.

If you need support, please submit an online enquiry at www.mlc.org.au/contact.

You can also reach Marrickville Legal Centre by telephone on 02 9559 2899 or (02) 9137 4000.

Mid North Coast Community Legal Centre has closed the physical offices in Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour , however they are providing legal advice and assistance by phone.

Residents living between Nabiac and Coffs Harbour can call the centre on Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm on 6580 2111 – (or leave a message on that number and they will return the call). You can also email the centre via info@mncclc.org.au, providing your best contact number. The centre's intake officers will return the call to complete the process.

All outreaches, face-to-face appointments, community legal education, and community engagement activities have been suspended. Their Facebook page remains active and people with enquiries can also contact them that way.

Clients with ongoing casework matters will be contacted individually.

North and North West Community Legal Service has closed its offices in Armidale and Moree to the public.

The Tenterfield Court Liaison Service, all face-to-face outreach advice clinics and community legal education have been cancelled until further notice.

The Centre continues to operate the following services:

  • Telephone advice appointments  throughout the entire catchment
  • Face-to-face services in exceptional circumstances and where clients have been screened
  • Armidale Court Liaison (until further notice)

People in the catchment who need legal assistance can call the office 1800 687 687 and leave a message.  The centre will return every call as soon as possible Monday to Friday and between 9:00am and 5:00pm. 

People can also contact the centre by email to arrange a phone appointment via nnwcls@gmail.com.

Regular updates will be posted on the centre's Facebook page.

Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre is now providing all advice by telephone (no face-to-face appointments).

All outreach appointments have been changed to over-the-phone and they are not attending any outreach in person.

The office is shut to the public.

Some staff are working from home, while others are still working from the office, with a view to all staff soon working from home. Volunteers continue to attend and work in the office, however the centre will suspend its volunteer program once everyone is working from home.

Tenancy and WDVCAS assistance continues to be provided primarily by telephone. NCAT and court attendance continues on a limited, as needed basis.

Ongoing service updates will be made on their Facebook page and website.

You can contact the centre by phone on:

  • Legal – (02) 6621 1000
  • Tenancy – (02) 6621 1022 or 1800 649 135
  • WDVCAS – 1300 720 606

 

Redfern Legal Centre is continuing to provide all legal services remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For all legal and non-legal (professional and administrative) enquiries, please contact the centre via its website rlc.org.au/contact.

Redfern Legal Centre’s usual legal service intake criteria applies. If they are unable to assist, they will refer enquires in to other appropriate services.

If online access is not possible, please call Law Access on 1300 888 529, who will assist you to access the centre.

Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre continues to provide legal advice via telephone (4422 9529 or 1800 229 529).

The centre is closed to visitors.

Outreach and face-to-face appointments have been temporarily suspended from Monday, 23 March. All advice is still being provided to clients by phone, either at the same time as a planned appointment or at another time.

All community legal education and events have been cancelled.

South West Sydney Legal Centre is offering restricted services.

  • Highly restricted in-person services. If you're referring a client to the centre, please advise them to call before attending the office.
  • The Driving Offences Legal Service at Bankstown and Fairfield Local Courts will continue to operate for the time being.
  • Legally Assisted Family Law Mediations will only be conducted via telephone.
  • Fair Work Commission Mediations will continue to be conducted via telephone.
  • Telephone advice intake and advice will be conducted on a daily basis.
  • Their scheduled Tuesday and Thursday telephone legal advice sessions will continue, but on a restricted basis due to phone redirection limitations.
  • The online Client Referral Portal for community workers will continue.
  • Direct client referral protocols with partners will continue to be conducted.

Due to the evolving nature of the situation, the above arrangements may change on short notice.

Phone: (02) 9601 7777

 

Western NSW Community Legal Centre is continuing to provide advice and assistance by telephone. They are closed to the public, however some face-to-face services are being offered at the centre's discretion..

Outreach to jails is being conducted via video-conferencing (AVL).

Outreach appointments will be conducted by phone.

Community legal education events have been suspended.

Western Sydney Community Legal Centre is committed to supporting clients accessing all programs and is exploring ways to meet clients' needs through the crisis.

The centre is no longer offering face to face services, including walk ins, legal clinics and face to face legal advice, at any of its offices (Parramatta, Penrith, Rooty Hill) until further notice. It will continue to offer phone legal advice and provide regular updates via their website.

The centre continues to provide:

  • Telephone legal advice services
  • Court Support at the Children’s Court of NSW at Parramatta and Surry Hills Courts
  • Home Building telephone advice services
  • Tenancy telephone advice services
  • Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service telephone support and referral services at Parramatta.

The University of Newcastle Legal Centre remains open. 

Service delivery will transition to phone appointments only from the week starting 29 March.

To contact the Older Persons Legal Clinic, please refer to the numbers below.
Newcastle Clinic: 02 4921 8666
Gosford Clinic: 1800 314 792 (free call)

 

Specialist community legal centres

All Arts Law employees are working remotely as of 20 March 2020 and until further notice.

All legal services will continue to be delivered during this period.

Currently, the centre has limited capacity to answer phone enquiries. While they work to set up their phone system, legal enquiries can be made via the online Legal Query Form. All other enquiries can be directed to artslaw@artslaw.com.au

Outreach services for the Artists In The Black program have been suspended.

The Australian Centre for Disability Law remains operational, with all staff and volunteers are working remotely until further notice.

The telephone Advice Line is open and being monitored.

However, the Centre's preferred method of communication is via email at adviceline@disabilitylaw.org.au; or via our ‘Send us a message’ form.

Regional outreach and community legal education has been suspending until further notice.

The Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) has closed its offices around Australia and are undertaking all operations remotely and online.

People will still be able to access the EDO by phone, email and our website (contact details here).

All outreach workshops, seminars and other educational programs that can be reformatted and offered as online webinars will be. Those that cannot be will be postponed.

Financial Rights Legal Centre delivers all its services by phone or online. These services remain open as usual.

Services may be difficult to reach at times because of the number of people trying to contact us, general network congestion, and our own staffing challenges. People who cannot get through or do not receive a reply within stated time frames, should keep trying to contact the centre.

For people with urgent issues with their bank, lender, insurance company or other financial services provider, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority has set up a significant event support hotline for the COVID-19 pandemic: 1800 337 444.

People experiencing problems with their energy provider should contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman of NSW (or equivalent in other states and territories).

The HIV/AIDS Legal Centre (HALC) office will be closed to the public from Monday, 30 March 2020. 

HALC will continue to deliver advice and representation services via telephone and email but will not provide face-to-face services unless exceptional circumstances require them.

Immigration, Court and Tribunal representations will also continue by phone or electronically where possible.

Adjournments will be sought for those matters where face to face attendance is necessary in line with Court/Tribunal COVID-19 measures.

The Human Rights Law Centre's offices in Sydney and Melbourne have been closed and all staff working remotely since 17 March 2020. All work-related travel has been cancelled and activities moved online. 

While physical offices are closed, the Human Rights Law Centre's work protecting and promoting human rights continues unabated.

In the face of so much change and uncertainty, fighting injustice and defending human rights – particularly the rights of the most vulnerable in our community – is more important than ever.

All legal advice appointments at the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre (IARC) will now be conducted by telephone. In-person appointments will resume as soon as possible based on the advice of health authorities.

IARC expects an increase in enquiries as travel restrictions continue and evolve. All appointments will be prioritised according to urgency and need.

The IARC Information Line has been directed to voicemail and all calls will be returned as soon as possible. Clients who are able to access the internet are asked to complete an online enquiry at www.iarc.asn.au/advice rather than call if possible.

From 23 March 2020, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service (IDRS) office is closed to the public. But the service is still open for business!

IDRS continues to provide services by telephone:

Ability Rights Centre (ARC) services – 02 9265 6350

The Ability Rights Centre can:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Help parents with intellectual disability
  • Support with an appeal about an NDIS decision
  • Support with submission or contact with the Disability Royal Commission 
  • Provide education.

Justice Advocacy Service (JAS) – 1300 665 908 or 02 9265 6300

The Justice Advocacy Service can provide support:

  • with police or court matters
  • if a person with cognitive impairment has been arrested – 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Cognitive Impairment Diversion Program (CIDP)02 9265 6300

  • The CDIP helps people with cognitive impairment with criminal cases in Penrith or Gosford courts.

News and updates will be posted to IDRS' Facebook page.

The International Social Service Australia office is closed but the centre continues to provide services remotely.

You can contact the service via phone (1300 657 843) or email (issnsw@iss.org.au).

Justice Connect continues to provide a wide range of legal services. 

Detailed information about Justice Connect's special response to COVID-19 is available online

People seeking legal advice can apply online here. Legal information and resources for not-for-profit organisations related to COVID-19 is also available online here.

The Justice Connect Health Justice Partnership and court programs are being delivered by telephone.

Online training videos and webinars continue to be delivered. 

Staff at Public Interest Advocacy Centre are working remotely.

Since 17 March, all Homeless Persons’ Legal Service clinics have been operating as phone clinics. Phone advice will be available at all regular clinic times. As the situation is rapidly changing, you can also call them on (02) 8898 6545.

 

The team at Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS) will be working on a rotation basis, alternating between their outreach/office locations and working from home.

  • RACS legal outreach face-to-face services in Auburn, Parramatta and Westmead are now closed.
  • Telephone support services will be increased to deal with a higher volume of calls and a lower number of volunteers at our face to face services.
  • All RACS fundraising events will be placed on hold or postponed.

Welfare and food bank support are still available at the Jesuit Refugee Service and Asylum Seekers Centre. These organisations will refer people needing legal support to RACS.

People not receiving support from these organisations can contact RACS on (02) 8355 7227 or via admin@racs.org.au.

Seniors Rights Service (SRS) is continuing its services during this time – providing support for some of the most vulnerable older people in NSW.

SRS solicitors and aged care advocates continue to provide legal and advocacy services by telephone to clients across NSW.

Aged care advocates are working in the safest possible way – if face-to-face, then with social distancing and hygiene protections in place.

Education sessions have been cancelled until the end of June 2020. Cancelled sessions will be rebooked later in the year. 

SRS can be contacted on 1800 424 079 between 9am and 4:30pm.

 

The Tenants' Union of NSW closed from 23 March but they are still working for tenants.

All staff will be working remotely from home for the time being.

For tenancy advice, go to tenants.org.au and enter your postcode to get the details of your local service who can provide advice.

Alternatively, on Mondays they have a Tenants Advice Line: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm on 1800 251 101.

To contact the Tenants' Union, call 8117 3700 and leave a message. We will get back to you. Alternatively, email the staff person you wish to speak to.

Visit tenants.org.au for the latest info on tenants and COVID-19.

The Welfare Rights Centre office is closed to the public. However, the centre continues to provide legal advice by telephone and is extending its telephone advice service to respond to increased demand from people who are trying to access a Centrelink payment for the first time.

People needing advice should call:

  • 02 9211 5300 (from Sydney metro areas) or 
  • 1800 226 028 (toll-free from outside Sydney metro area)

At the following times:

  • Monday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
  • Tuesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm (NEW!)
  • Wednesday: 9:30 am - 12:30 pm

Economic Justice Australia, the peak community organisation advocating for a fair social security system, has also developed a Centrelink & COVID-19 factsheet.

Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women's Legal Centre continues to operate the following services by telephone:

  • Legal advice service: 10am - 4pm Monday to Thursday
  • General information service: 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

These services can be accessed via (02) 9569 3847 or 1800 686 587 (free call).

Due to high demand for services, calls and messages might go straight to the answering machine. Staff will return calls as soon as possible. Clients should note that return calls may come from private numbers (with no caller ID).    

The Centre can also be contacted by email at: info@wirringabaiya.org.au.

Wirringa Baiya is working to ensure its ability to deliver high-quality services as quickly as possible. However, there may be some delays due to operational and technological changes. The centre asks people to please be patient: as your matter is important to them and they will try to respond to all calls and emails as quickly as possible.

Women's Legal Service NSW remains open to assist women as best they can in the current circumstances.

Their evening advice lines are suspended until further notice.

All other advice services and outreach clinics will be conducted by phone. Outreach telephone appointments can be made through their outreach partners, women’s health centres, family relationship Centres and Women’s Domestic Violence Advocacy Services.

Phone (02) 8745 6988 or 1800 801 501.

Their telephone advice lines are operating as normal.

Women’s Legal Advice Line: 8745 6988 or (rural) 1800 801 501
Free confidential legal advice and referrals for women in NSW with a focus on family law, sexual assault, victim’s support, care and protection, and discrimination.
Tuesdays 1.30pm–4.30pm
Thursdays 9.30am–12.30pm

Domestic Violence Legal Advice Line: 8745 6999 or (rural) 1800 810 784
Free confidential legal advice and referrals for women in NSW with a focus on domestic violence and Apprehended Domestic Violence Orders.
Mondays 1.30pm–4.30pm
Tuesdays 9.30am–12.30pm
Thursdays 1.30pm–4.30pm

Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line: 8745 6977 or (rural) 1800 639 784
Free confidential legal advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in NSW with a focus on domestic violence, sexual assault, victims support, care and protection, family law and discrimination.
Mondays 10.00am–12.30pm
Tuesdays 10.00am–12.30pm
Thursdays 10.00am–12.30pm

Working Women’s Legal Service: 8745 6954
Free confidential telephone advice for women experiencing discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of pregnancy, carer’s responsibilities, gender or marital status, and those experiencing sexual harassment.

Youth Law Australia  provides online and technology based legal services to children and young people. These services continue to be delivered as normal. 

The Youth Law Australia website includes specific information for children and young people on the impact of COVID 19 on schools.