Quarterly news

Season’s greetings and happy new year

Fitzroy Legal Service

Welcome to our new quarterly newsletter. As many of you are aware, the new rules were passed at our recent AGM and, I can happily say, have now been approved by Consumer Affairs Victoria. The new rules were developed to provide a robust structure for the Association, which will hopefully guide us through the years to come.

Some of the key changes focused on: structuring a Board that is empowered to focus on effective and strategic decision making for the organisation, which allows for extended terms and appointed members; updating proxy voting, quorum and membership provisions that ensure procedural fairness and effective membership participation; and recognition of life membership.

I’d like to thank Andrew Conley, Bruce McBain, the outgoing Management Committee, and the staff and members who contributed to the development and drafting process.

The new Board this year consists of Adrian Kennedy (Chair), Andrew Conley (Secretary), Bruce McBain (Chair of Finance, Audit & Risk Committee – previously Treasurer), Fiona Delahunt, Corinne Grant, Sandra McKay and Tim Farhall.

As we all madly rush to get everything done by the end of the year, I’d like to thank everyone for their ongoing commitment and dedication that has got us through another year, and will hopefully provide us with the structure to launch us into a long, successful future.

Adrian Kennedy, Chair of the Board

The Law Handbook 2014

Naomi Saligari

Naomi Saligari, The Law Handbook Editor, with The Law Handbook 2014

The Law Handbook 2014 edition was launched in November by the Honourable Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, who spoke engagingly about the role of community legal centres and the value of resources like The Law Handbook, both here and overseas. The launch was, as always, an enjoyable evening and a great opportunity to thank the contributors, without whose amazing work the book would not exist. 

This 36th edition of The Law Handbook features a new design that gives it a fresh, modern look. Another notable element of the 2014 edition is the glossary, which has been comprehensively revised by Peter Alderson, the author of the Legal Dictionary for Australians.

Volunteer profile: Tim Farhall

Tim Farhall 

Tim has been a volunteer with us for over five years. He’s volunteered as a paralegal, lawyer and a member of the Management Committee. A graduate of Melbourne University, Tim is employed by Allens and specialises in commercial litigation and public/administrative law, but at night time he is a champion of social justice and a strong believer in access to law for the whole community. 

Tim says that it is this passion that has made him such a committed volunteer along with having a wonderful night coordinator in Adrian Snodgrass. ‘Adrian is a great supervisor, is knowledgeable and has a strong commitment to the clients, as well as being highly approachable and patient.’

The social aspect is also appealing to Tim who believes this is another key to a happy volunteer. The Tuesday night team is a great bunch of people with a broad range of expertise, who also enjoy catching up after the night service for something to eat. They even have their own Facebook page to keep in contact when necessary.

When Tim isn’t solving legal problems, he is a keen basketball player, and also likes to cycle. Getting out to concerts is at the top of Tim’s list of activities. A current favourite band is English indie rock band, Gomez.

Social Action, Policy & Law Reform

Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed Hassan faced a charge of disturbing the good order of a jail after spilling blood on the floor of his cell. Mr Hassan was represented by us and high-profile barrister, Dyson Hore-Lacy SC. Read more in The Age

LGBTIQ Legal Advice

In December 2012, we launched the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex & Queer) Legal Advice Clinic. The clinic provides free advice in family law, discrimination law and other legal matters affecting the LGBTIQ community, and operates on a weekly basis every Thursday evening at our Johnston Street office.

Common family law issues arising at the clinic include: separation, parenting, property, and child support.

Common questions arising at the clinic involve the traditional concept of the ‘primary care giver’ where parenting duties are quite equitably shared and what arrangements will be deemed to be in a child’s best interests.

We are also enthused to be providing advice on a range of issues affecting community members identifying as transgender, including to parents whose children identify as transgender.

Lawyers at the clinic have expertise in legal issues arising around artificial conception and surrogacy procedures, an issue that is common to same-sex couples starting families. We will be holding a public forum in March 2014 to enhance legal understanding around these concerns.

The Law Handbook Online now has four new fact sheets that cover issues of parentage arising out of artificial conception procedures, co-parenting arrangements, and surrogacy arrangements involving same-sex couples.

The extension of the clinic to provide discrimination law advice coincided with new federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTIQ which came into effect on 1 August 2013. Under these provisions, working alongside existing protections under Victorian law and the Fair Work Act, it is now unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status and to discriminate against a person in a same-sex relationship under the new definition for ‘marital or relationship status’. 

Since the discrimination law advice service was launched we have assisted on a range of matters. They include complaints against police, employers, government agencies and service providers. These complaints have mainly been in relation to the attributes of sexual orientation and gender identity.

We are grateful for community and sector support in the development of this clinic. For an appointment at the LGBTIQ Legal Advice Clinic, please call 9419 3744.

Taxi driver legal education program

 Taxi driver legal education session

Taxi driver legal education session

Over the past year, in partnership with Monash Oakleigh Legal Service, we have been providing weekly legal education to taxi drivers working with 13CABS.

The project was initiated in recognition of the specific vulnerabilities of taxi drivers as workers, and the role that increased legal understanding could play in empowerment and prevention of disputes.

More than 400 taxi drivers have participated in the program, which covers legal areas such as; insurance, infringements, bail agreements, fare evasion, sexual assault, self defence and victims of crime applications.

Evaluation of the program has been overwhelmingly positive, with the vast majority of participants reporting enhanced understanding of their rights and responsibilities after the seminars. Providing these sessions and working with 13CABS has enhanced our understanding of the specific needs and challenges of those in the taxi driving industry. 13CABS is developing strategies to continue to work beyond the scope of our program through internal reporting and legal education tools.

The evaluation process also allowed us to identify areas of law affecting taxi drivers in need of significant reforms such as taxi fare evasion, fines and infringements, driver exploitation, insurance disputes and police issues. In 2014, we will be looking forward to law reform work in this area and will continue to monitor the rollout of reforms from the Fels Inquiry (Taxi Services Inquiry 2012), due to be implemented mid-2014, and expected to address these issues.

The legal education sessions at 13CABS will also continue in 2014.

We thank our partners Footscray Community Legal Centre and Monash Oakleigh Legal Service for their ongoing support and participation in this project.

Jessica Porter and Natasha Wolan

Jessica Porter, Drug Outreach Lawyer and Natasha Wolan, Solicitor Advocate

Neighbourhood Justice Centre

After operating for seven years, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) this year secured recurrent funding from the Victorian Government.

Consequently, the NJC instituted a ‘search process’ including a ‘search conference’. Similar to a strategic planning process, the aim of this conference was to ‘seek to create the future that will sustain the centre’s life and work’.

This process was a democratic one, where almost all staff members, justice employees as well as agencies (including us) actively and equally participated in the contribution of ideas. After three intense days of discussion, six strategic goals were set and participants developed tentative action places to facilitate these goals.

The action plans present exciting opportunities for our future involvement with the NJC, including assisting in the development of pilot projects at the NJC, as well as influencing the broader justice system.

Alongside this big picture work, the NJC lawyers have been working hard for our clients in the criminal, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Family Violence lists.

Lynne Thomas, Community Lawyer, has also been busy delivering community legal education on fines as well as contributing to the Infringement’s working group who this week will deliver ‘Fines: a changing landscape’ training at Melbourne Town Hall.

We are also excited to welcome our new Legal Trainee, Ella Crotty, to the team. Ella will be based at NJC for two months and will hopefully complete her first plea in mitigation during that time.