Quarterly news

Welcome to the December quarterly news

Fitzroy Legal Service

We have had another busy year with our staff and volunteers continuing to assist members of the community manage many varied legal issues and problems.

We have also seen a number of successes on other fronts with the newly elected Victorian Government having made an election commitment of $200,000 to ensure that The Law Handbook online continues to remain a free resource for the community.

We look forward to working with the new Andrews Government to seek improvements for our clients and the community more broadly.

Many people would be aware that our drug outreach lawyer, Jess Porter, will be taking a year of unpaid leave next year. I would like to thank Jess for her efforts in what is a very challenging and important part of our work in the community.

I would also like to make special mention of two of our lawyers, Jennifer Black and Natasha Wolan, who received accreditation as Accredited Specialists in their respective areas from the Law Institute of Victoria. Congratulations to each of them.

On behalf of Fitzroy Legal Service, I thank you for your support during the year and I wish you the best for the festive season and a safe and happy new year.

Bruce McBain, Chair of the Board

The Law Handbook 2015 now available

The Law Handbook

Put the law in your hands and buy The Law Handbook 2015 today.

Needing a gift idea? Put the law into the hands of a loved one this Christmas. Available directly from us and from leading book and e-book retailers.

The Law Handbook 2015 is the most practical and up-to-date guide to the law in Victoria. It contains updated information on a wide range of legal topics of interest to lawyers and the general public.

Buy the most comprehensive guide to the law in Victoria – including explanations of the legal system, how the law works, criminal, civil and family law, managing your money, tenancy laws, consumer law, employment and discrimination, aged care and dealing with the government.

Victorian election round up

Richard Wynne (L), Corinne Grant, David Grant, Claudia Fatone, Meghan Fitzgerald, Martin Pakula (R)

Richard Wynne (L), Corinne Grant, David Grant, Claudia Fatone, Meghan Fitzgerald, Martin Pakula (R).

The new Victorian Government has made a $200,000 commitment to keep The Law Handbook free online. The commitment was made by (now Attorney General) Martin Pakula and local member Richard Wynne during the launch of The Law Handbook 2015 at the Fitzroy Town Hall on 20 November.

Taxi drivers get crash ourse in legal rights

Ela Stewart provides Community Legal Education to taxi drivers in Preston

Ela Stewart provides community legal education to taxi drivers in Preston

Cab drivers in Melbourne’s north are getting a crash course into their legal rights and obligations thanks to an innovative community education program we are undertaking.

‘The main message is that there is legal assistance available and that people should come to our service regarding their matters before they become big problems’, says Ela Stewart, Community Development Officer.

The training has so far been provided to nearly 1,000 drivers – and there is always strong demand from drivers to know what their legal rights are.

‘This outreach training was initially put together in response to community concerns related to sexual assault. When we went to talk to drivers we found that there were a wide range of other legal issues that were of concern to taxi drivers including rights when dealing with Police, rights when dealing with fare evaders, uncertainty about driver’s employment status as sub-contractors, dealing with infringements and racism.’

Many taxi drivers were not aware that a customer jumping out of a cab and doing a runner is a criminal offence that Police should take action on if reported. Taxi drivers had been incorrectly advised that taxi fare evasion is a civil matter. Similarly they were not aware that cab drivers have access to Workcover if there is an accident on the job, nor their obligations when dealing with accidents and insurance companies.

Cab drivers can do many things to help defend themselves and protect their rights – the first of which is to be aware of what the rules are and what to do if there are problems.’

We also work closely with the Monash Oakleigh Legal Service to ensure that similar sessions are available for cab drivers in Oakleigh.

In addition to weekly outreach sessions in Preston and Oakleigh, the we conducts a specialised legal clinic for taxi drivers on Fridays at our Johnston Street office. This is clinic works in conjunction with the Taxi Driver Legal Clinic that has been operated by the Footscray Community Legal Centre for the past couple of years.

NDIS rights resource launched

The late Stella Young and the team at FLS

The late Stella Young (R), Claudia Fatone, Hollie Golding (top) and Ela Stewart (bottom)

Stella Young was on deck to help launch a new online rights resource.

Three community legal centres from across Australia have joined forces to develop a comprehensive resource for people accessing or wishing to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Fitzroy Legal Service, Hobart Community Legal Service and the Redfern Legal Centre partnered together to develop the new NDIS rights resource to assist people to know their rights and reduce legal uncertainty when dealing with the new scheme.

Stella Young recently died. All have felt the loss of this outspoken community activist.

Volunteer profile: Erwin Reiss

Erwin Reiss

How long have you volunteered with us? I started to volunteer when the Fitzroy Legal Service was in Brunswick Street. At the time I was in my mid 40’s and I decided to go to uni and do a legal studies course and I volunteered then. But then I left it again to do my study and my work and eventually when I had to retire from the Commonwealth Public Service at age 65 I was looking around to where I could best keep my brain occupied so I volunteered with the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre. I think I have been volunteering here about six years. I came back to the Fitzroy Legal Service because I knew it and I liked it, and I felt that I wanted to get involved again.

What is the best thing about volunteering here? Well it’s the people you see that you work with! [Laughing and pointing to Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fletcher] I like the concept; a legal resource for people who cannot afford it. The concept of legal aid appeals to me. I like the organisation, the principles, the work and the people who work in it. It’s a good atmosphere, politically like-minded people that is very important. It is the intellectual and social interaction you get from working here. You also think that you are doing something worthwhile for the community.

Why do you think the service is important? Well there are people – particularly now with the big influx of immigration from Africa and all over the place – they don’t know the legal resources and it is a help to them. It is helping the people who otherwise would not have the help.

What would you say to someone considering volunteering with us? I would say to them that we are a good organisation to do voluntary work to keep your mind occupied – there is always interesting work that is never the same (lots of variation) and you are in the company of like-minded people politically and socially.

Whirlwind year for Legal Trainee

Simona Gory (L), Melinda Richards SC and Hollie Golding (R)

Admission day: Hollie with her two movers, Simona Gory (L), Melinda Richards SC and Hollie Golding (R)

The hardest question I’ve been asked is ‘What has been your favourite part of your year as the Fitzroy Legal Service trainee?’ Those who know me are acutely aware that I am not a person of few words, but for once I’m speechless. There have been so many amazing learning experiences that I am incredibly grateful for, and never imagined that the first year of my law career would be so action packed.

Here’s my top 20, in no particular order:

  1. Instructed in the High Court.
  2. Did an appearance at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in my first week.
  3. Visited and appeared at several suburban and regional courts.
  4. Served documents on a respondent in a County Court civil matter.
  5. Instructed Julian Burnside QC OAM.
  6. Met Stella Young at the NDIS website launch. An amazing woman who sadly passed away last week.
  7. Walked for Justice on National Pro Bono Day and Ran for Refugees (having raised nearly $1,100 for the ASRC).
  8. Instructed in the High Court.
  9. Spent 2 weeks working at Allens (who fund the traineeship) on defamation research for a major client.
  10. Appeared in the Children’s Court at Melbourne and Ringwood.
  11. Cross-examined a police officer during a contested bail hearing at Melbourne.
  12. Had cups of tea made for me by Ron Merkel QC and Melinda Richards SC – me! the trainee!!
  13. Instructed four Counsel in a full Federal Court matter.
  14. Instructed in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal.
  15. Being squashed against the Supreme Court bluestones by news paparazzi.
  16. Instructed in the High Court.
  17. Presented to a group of Melbourne Uni Students on working in the community legal sector.
  18. Attended client visits at Dame Phyllis Frost, Thomas Embling, Metropolitan Remand Centre, Port Phillip, Melbourne Custody Centre, Loddon and Geelong holding cells.
  19. Worked at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre as a duty solicitor.
  20. Worked out of Shine Lawyers for 2 days (and nights) during East-West preparations.

Did I mention the High Court??

Annual report now available

2013-2014 Annual Report

The 2013-2014 Annual Report provides a snapshot of the varied work we have undertaken in the 2013-2014 reporting year.