In the 1980s, I worked with others to establish a self-funded legal service, to provide a mix of paid work, and free work to the disadvantaged.
All Australians can now choose who knocks on their door – thanks to the work of a CLC.
Sick of door knocking sales people? The answer now is simple. You can put a “do not knock” sticker on your door, and a salesperson who ignores it could be fined $10,000 – and their boss up to $50,000. Continue reading
Community Law Australia today urged the Coalition to reconsider proposed cuts of $42 million to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (ATSILS) as a major blow to access to justice. Continue reading
Community Law Australia today expressed concern that the two major parties had not released a plan to address access to justice ahead of the Election, despite receiving a written request from CLA three weeks ago. Continue reading
CLCs across the country have written to the major party candidates in their local electorates ahead of Election Day in a quest for more clarity about their plans for access to justice in the community.
Legal problems can crop up at any time – but access to quality legal help shouldn’t depend on your bank balance or where you live.
Despite recent increases in funding to individual centres there is still huge unmet demand for free legal help among Australians who can’t afford to pay for a private lawyer.
Below are some examples of high demand and level of service delivered by CLCs to residents in their local electorates:
Last year SCALES recorded 1,162 requests for legal services they were unable to assist with due to lack of resources.
Gai Walker, Managing Director of SCALES, said: “The issues our CLC helps with are important matters that can have a huge impact on an individual or family’s stability, wellbeing and ability to participate successfully in society.”
Last year Peninsula CLC provided over 7,000 free legal advices, with ongoing assistance given in over 2,000 matters.
Jackie Galloway CEO of Peninsula CLC, said that even with substantial volunteer and pro bono support, they can only partially meet demand for free legal help.
“Sometimes clients are waiting for over a month for an appointment, and less than one in three clients are provided with ongoing assistance,” Ms Galloway said.
Last year Gippsland CLS had to decline a request from the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court to attend an additional family violence intervention order day to provide essential assistance to applicants. The Service is also unable to extend the applicant duty lawyer service to the other courts in Gippsland due to lack of funds.
Jessica Brake, Principal Solicitor at Mackay Regional CLC said that usually they are booked three to four weeks in advance and that local demand for legal help was high.
“Marrickville Legal Centre has been providing free legal help to people who can’t afford a lawyer since 1979. We provide vital legal help to residents cross three electorates, and we are concerned that Access to justice has not yet been addressed in the local area,” Michael Walton, Principal Solicitor of Marrickville LC said.
To read the individual media releases by each CLC see below:
An all too common problem seen by some community legal centres is that of vulnerable – often elderly – people who have been coerced into signing up as co-borrowers or guarantors for loans for their children or other relatives.
Lenders usually benefit financially from the agreements. The lender decides that the borrower is a high risk – and isn’t prepared to take the risk of providing the loan. However, in these circumstances the lender is prepared to see a parent to take the financial risk – often by mortgaging their home. Some of these loans are business loans, and the risk of failure is high. The consequences of failure are that the guarantor or co-borrower will probably lose their home.
Caxton CLC has a specialist elder peoples legal clinic, as well as a specialist credit practice. It is therefore no surprise that these types of problems come to Caxton. Bridget Burton, the credit lawyer from Caxton, says that the centre receives so many requests for help in these types of cases, they are unable to help everyone who seeks help.
Judge Kingham recognised “critical work done by community legal centres” in a recent case where Caxton CLC represented two guarantors.
I’m not aware of the details, and my comments above may not apply in the case heard by the Judge. However, the guarantors had taken many years to purchase their house from the Housing Commission. Their home, adapted to the meet the special needs of the fourth defendant and their disabled son, is no longer at risk of sale.
Judge Kingham said: “The guarantors are not in a position to pay for legal advice. They have been most ably and generously assisted by experienced and capable professionals. This case is an exemplar of the critical work done by community legal centres and by the solicitors and barristers who offer assistance to those who cannot afford their services.”
By Carolyn Bond
Community Law Australia today welcomed the Greens projected policy on the access to justice crisis but called for other parties to reveal their plans to tackle the growing demand for legal help, which is rising out of step with legal assistance sector resources. Continue reading
Community Law Australia has written to Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Attorney-General Senator Brandis and Greens Senator Penny Wright to ask them to outline their plans to address the access to justice crisis.
Community Law Australia campaign spokesperson Carolyn Bond said that despite recent increases in funding, there was still huge unmet demand for free legal help among Australians who can’t afford to pay for a private lawyer. Continue reading
Community Law Australia today welcomed increased funding to ensure that the Eastern community legal centre (ECLC) could service more people in need of legal help. Continue reading
We like to think of ourselves as rational decision-makers, but the power of psychological selling techniques can have a serious financial impact for many. Community legal centres that specialise in consumer and debt issues regularly help people who have felt pressured into expensive contractual obligations they can no longer meet – often when they had little understanding of the product. Continue reading