Quarterly news – April 2016

A Great Start to the New Year

The start of 2016 has been a busy one with the launch of our new website, the establishment of the Fitzroy Social Club and our involvement in submissions made to the Access to Justice Review. We’ve increased our fundraising efforts with events almost weekly and are excited about partnering with businesses within the community.

Welcome to the new website

In February we launched our brand new website with an updated interface that allows users to read all about us and what we do. Our new online store makes it easier than ever to purchase a copy of The Law Handbook. The Law Handbook is available in hard copy, as an e-book and now you’re even able to purchase individual chapters as pdf documents.

Read about The Law Handbook here or visit our new online store here.

Access to Justice Review

We prepared a submission in February for the Victorian Government’s Access to Justice Review. The submission addressed a number of key issues in the Review’s Terms of Reference and those raised in the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry Report: Access to Justice Arrangements.

We recognise that ‘the aim of the Access to Justice Review is to improve access to justice for Victorians with an everyday legal problem or dispute, and ensuring the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our community receive the support they need when engaging with the law and the justice system.’ We strongly support this aim, but hope to draw attention to the fact that there are thousands of people falling through the cracks of the justice system who are unable to access any legal assistance.

The submission addresses the real financial issues that individuals face in obtaining legal advice and finding legal representation, as well as the financial reality that we, and other organisations, face when providing services. The report also examines why there has been an increase in the number of clients that we see and what this increase tells us about the state of the current access to justice.

The submission can be read here.

Fitzroy Social Club

This year, we established the Fitzroy Social Club and have been hosting events almost weekly with businesses in the community. The Fitzroy Social Club is focused on engaging with the community to help raise awareness about the Fitzroy Legal Service in an effort to increase fundraising and an overall understanding of what our organisation is about.

Fitzroy Social Club would like to thank the businesses we have partnered with this year so far:

La Niche Café
Caz Reitop
Pixel Alley
Union Club Hotel
The 86
Burnside Coffee
Jonathan’s on Smith
Napier Hotel

If you’d like to partner with Fitzroy Social Club to host an event you can contact the team at [email protected].

Keep your eye on our Facebook page here or you can read more about us here.

Easy Tiger

Easy Tiger invite

Fitzroy Legal Service is thrilled to invite all of our supporters to an exclusive dinner at Easy Tiger on Wednesday 13 April.

Fitzroy Legal Service is seeing an increase in demand for our services, and we are struggling to meet that demand. As such, we must raise funds in order to offer advice and representation to as many vulnerable people as possible.

Easy Tiger has generously offered to host an exclusive event for us for this very purpose. This is a rare opportunity to experience a hatted restaurant in a private setting.

Easy Tiger’s modern Thai cuisine has been created by celebrated chef Jarrod Hudson, and is paired with the meticulous service for which veteran restaurateur Simon Kingsley Hall is renowned.

In addition to a three course meal with matched wines, you will also have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, including two signed and framed First Dog On The Moon cartoons.

Tickets are $150 per head and include:

  • ability to book individual tickets, or tables of between two and ten people
  • three course meal with wine match
  • donation receipt for $70 of the ticket price

Seating is limited and the event is sure to sell out. To secure your place please e-mail [email protected] on or before 8 April with your preferred contact details and the number of tickets you wish to buy. We will then contact you with details on how to pay. Your booking will be confirmed once payment is received. If you have any special requests or dietary requirements, please do not hesitate to inform our organising team at [email protected].

We very much hope you will join us for what promises to be a fantastic evening.

Case Study - Infringements Act Interpretation

In 2011 Bob (not his real name) invested in a taxi license. The following year, the Victorian community saw the introduction of Uber, a ride-sharing service which led to a decrease in the value of taxi licenses. Now struggling to make back the money for the license and accruing a number of fines relating to business travel, Bob was making an overall loss from his business.

Acting on behalf of Bob, a lawyer from Fitzroy Legal Service asked the court to dismiss the infringements as is the Court’s power under section 160(3) of the Infringements Act. Unfortunately, the court was not prepared to dismiss 100 per cent of the fines. They then sought to have the fines reduced to $15,167, being the maximum amount to work off as community work.

However, Bob and his lawyer ran into a barrier when the court found that it was unable to reduce the fees to $15,167 as this would require the court to dissolve 75 per cent of the fines. Under section 160(3) of the Infringements Act the court can dissolve either 100 per cent or up to 66.67 per cent being two-thirds of the total amount.

Bob’s lawyer argued that the Court’s power to discharge up to 66.67 per cent of the fines reset at each court appearance, thereby allowing the court to discharge 75 per cent across two separate court appearances. The Court agreed with this interpretation and after adjourning the matter for six months, was able to reduce the fines to $15,167 before converting this amount to community work for Bob to work off.

Stop Selling Junk

Have you recently bought a second hand car?

Maybe you’ve gotten a new credit card?

Or perhaps you’ve taken out a loan?

You might have been sold junk insurance or a rubbish warranty, costing you more money and not helping you at all.

If you think this might be the case visit DemandARefund.com to help you contact the company, make a complaint and demand your money back.

Stop Selling Junk is a project of the not-for-profit Consumer Action Law Centre. Visit the website here.

Volunteer Profile: Gay Miller

Gay Miller

Some people start to think about slowing down at the age of 50. They start planning for their retirement and winding down their hours at work. Not for Gay Miller. At around the age of 50, Gay went to university. It was time to end her work as a secretary, a job that she had loved for so many years, and embark on a new adventure.

Starting with an Arts degree, Gay quickly realized that she was interested in legal studies and decided to pursue a double Arts/Law degree with an extra year for Honours in Law.

During her time at university, Gay knew that she wanted to work in a community legal centre as a volunteer, wanting to give back to the community. For almost a decade Gay has given two days a week to Fitzroy Legal Service. Recently Gay has had to drop down to one day a week with her hobbies and passion for the arts keeping her busy.

Gay has spent her lifetime collecting hobbies and pursuing her interests. With an attitude to try something new every year she has trained in opera singing, worked as an extra alongside Meryl Streep and written a poetry book (with her second book coming out later this year). Gay learned how to play the piano accordion and the guitar; she’s done short courses in child psychology and painting, sewing and pattern making.

At the moment Gay is trying to learn the ukulele. She’s always trying to add something new to her list of skills.

‘I think it’s great to learn new things,’ Gay says.

While Gay tries to keep doing most things she learns, certain hobbies have gotten the better of her.

‘I didn’t keep up the piano accordion because the idea when I learned it was that I would be able to sing to it but it’s too jolly loud and there’s too much to concentrate on.’

An unfortunate event with a freezer left Gay with freezer burns to part of her hand, making it impossible to hold the guitar properly for quite some time.

Having Parkinson’s, Gay says it’s really important to work out both mentally and physically. Between her time at Fitzroy Legal Service and the time she spends writing poetry and learning what she can, her brain gets more of a work out than most people.

Physically, Gay works out with a personal trainer once a week. During the other days of the week Gay likes to put on a bit of heavy rock music and dance around, working out to the music. Anything from Johnny Farnham’s ‘You’re the Voice’ and a bit of Douggie Barnes, Gay gets the music going and gets dancing.

For Gay, it’s important to have fun in life.

‘I think the most important thing, if I could say one thing; the most important thing in your life is to have a sense of humour because you just don’t get by if you don’t.’

Her favourite poems to read at Open Mic Nights are the funny ones. While all poetry gets a good response, Gay says there’s nothing like laughter. She loves to read her funny poems to a room that responds with a good laugh.

For someone with such eagerness to learn and with a positive attitude to life you expect to meet someone with an over the top, big personality. While Gay’s vibrant, red hair makes her hard to miss; her voice is soft and calm. She sits with her hands resting on her lap, one hand inside the other, smiling and laughing as she talks about her adventures and her grandchildren, her husband the painter and of the snake she once locked eyes with and told to get a wriggle on when she found him in her backyard.

While Gay is currently working with her husband to add sketches to the poems for her second book, which she hopes will be out by Mother’s Day, she has already begun her next project – a short human interest story, but with a twist. Gay has no intention of slowing down any time soon.

Where the Heart is Community Festival

We recently were involved in the ‘Where the Heart is’ Festival in the Edinburgh Gardens, Fitzroy, a free community festival that brings together service users and workers from over 30 community agencies. The festival is targeted towards people who are dealing with homelessness or at risk of homelessness in Melbourne and brings people together for a day of fun activities and food for the whole family, along with the ability to access information on services. Fitzroy Legal Service lawyer Natasha Wolan attended on the day, see photo below.

‘Where the Heart is’ Festival