Quarterly News April 2019

The start of 2019 has been an exciting period at Fitzroy Legal Service (incorporating the Darebin Community Legal Centre). With the initiation of a new Divorce Clinic supported by Gadens, an expansion of our Drug Outreach Lawyer Program and the continuation of our Women Transforming Justice Project; our team is set for a busy year ahead. The amalgamation of Fitzroy Legal Service and Darebin Community Legal Centre became official on 1 February 2019 and our new Board has held it's first two meetings. Read on for more details. 

NEW BOARD AND AMALGAMATED ENTITY

Over the last two years, Fitzroy Legal Service and Darebin Community Legal Centre have discussed combining services into an amalgamated entity to better meet community needs. On 29 November 2018, members met at our Annual General Meetings and voted in favour of the amalgamation. 

Our new Board comprises four members from each of the previous FLS Board and DCLC Committee of Management, plus an additional independent member (yet to be appointed). Therefore, we are pleased to announce the following members of our new Board:

Vera Boston
Catherine Charleson
Tim Christensen
Fiona Delahunt
Claire Febey
Dylan Goldsworthy
Reanna Maloney
Bonnie Renou


DIVORCE CLINIC

In December 2018, Fitzroy Legal Service launched its new Divorce Clinic in partnership with Gadens Lawyers. This new service guides divorce applicants from the start of the application to the final Court hearing. Currently, this service is offered once per month with six appointments available for clients to seek advice from Gadens' Family & Relationship Law Team.

Sessions are held at 1.00pm and 3.00pm for 2 hours.

During each session, clients will receive guidance through the divorce application process. Non-English speakers will receive additional support and we encourage clients at risk of family violence to speak to us about additional support and services. 

Quote from a client of the Divorce Clinic: "There is a lot of people that have been through the same things as me. If I didn't have you I would still be devastated, everything would have been harder. Now I feel free, I was struggling with my life, but now I feel fantastic. I feel like I am a human. I am living and no one can control me, I feel happy."

Clients should be prepared to pay the divorce application fee during their sessions by debit/credit card.  Fees are: $300 concession and $900 full-fee.

Our next Divorce Clinic will be held on Thursday 23 May 2019. To make a booking please call (03) 9419 3744.

WOMEN TRANSFORMING JUSTICE PROJECT

Women Transforming Justice is a two-year pilot project funded by the Victorian Legal Service Board Grants Program and delivered through a partnership between Darebin Community Legal Centre (a program of Fitzroy Legal Service), the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women (LACW) and Flat Out.

Women Transforming Justice was established in response to the increasing number of women in Victorian prisons and provides an integrated, women-specific and community-based response for women in custody on remand. It is a specialised program that can work with women to enhance their prospects of bail and support them to live safely in the community. Women Transforming Justice aims to keep women out of prison by providing women on remand with skilled, integrated and women-specific legal representation and intensive outreach support so they can obtain bail and address the drivers of their incarceration while in the community.

The project team will also seek to build the capacity of professionals working with women in the criminal justice system to understand the links between gender and women’s criminalisation by collecting data and information, developing and delivering training and education and contributing to the development of laws and policies.

Women with lived experience of prison are leading the work of Women Transforming Justice. Our Women’s Leadership Program ensures the views and experiences of criminalised women guide the design and implementation of the project in order to ensure the project meets their needs.

The project is funded to December 2019 and we are actively seeking additional funding to enable this important work to continue.

EMPLOYMENT LAW CLINIC

Our Employment Law Clinic has been assisting clients with international backgrounds since February 2018. Specialising in assisting clients who have been unfairly treated during employment, the Employment Law Clinic has seen an increase in referrals from JobWatch and the Fair Work Ombudsman and is operating every Friday under the guidance of our Senior Lawyer Adrian Snodgrass and Community Lawyer Morgan Nyland.

The clinic assists individuals from overseas who have been underpaid or exploited in employment including:

  • International students (500 visas)
  • People on working holidays (417 and 462 ‘backpacker’ visas)
  • Workers invited to Australia through the Temporary Skills Shortage program (TSS visas)
  • Refugee and humanitarian visa-holders.

Funded by the Department opf Justice and Community Safety, the Employment Law Clinic has secured $95,871.12 in lost wages for clients since commencement in February 2018.

Case study:

Recently, the FLS Employment Clinic has set a new landmark. In the case of Murphy v Rooney (2019) FCCA 547, an employer has been ordered for the first time to pay penalties to a community legal centre for breaches of the Fair Work Act.

Joe Murphy, a young backpacker on a working holiday, answered an ad on Gumtree offering work delivering pamphlets.

Joe phoned up and arranged to meet a man at a railway station, was given a bag of leaflets advertising handyman/building services and instructed to complete a 20km delivery route by the end of each day.

Payment was due at the end of the week. Joe wasn’t paid, the address on the leaflets was fake, the phone number went through to voicemail and was not returned, and emails were not answered.

Joe came to the Fitzroy Legal Service with only the employer’s first name––Danny––and a photo of the employer’s licence plate he had taken with his phone.

Our team applied to the Magistrate’s Court for an order that VicRoads provide the name and address of the plate’s owner - the owner’s name matched the name of the employer and a search showed that Danny was registered as a sole trader with a handyman business.

We followed up with an application in the Federal Circuit Court to claim Joe’s unpaid wages.

The employer was found to have made serious contraventions of the Fair Work Act. He was ordered to pay Joe's claim and $3000 in civil penalties. 

Our Clinic wouldn't be successful without the generous commitment of our staff and volunteers. For this, we'd like to take the opportunity to thank the following people: 

Lawyers:                                 Paralegals:
               
Jon Lasarevic                          Nguyen Dang         
Moira Rayner                          Skye Chapman
Georga Wooton                      Paul Kidd
Elisa Solomon                         Samantha Gonzalez
Thibaut Clamart
Tanya Bannister 

Client Quote: "I am happy not for the money, I'm happy for the outcome. I believe the company won't dare humiliate and exploit any person next time. Congratulations to you guys to work for Justice and to work for vulnerable people."

EXPANSION OF THE DRUG OUTREACH LAWYER PROGRAM INTO CITY OF DAREBIN

For more than 18 years, our Drug Outreach Lawyer Program has assisted the City of Yarra community by advocating on behalf of members with drug-related offences. With a well-established network in the community health sector, and an active member of the Yarra Drug & Health Forum, the success of this program, and with the support of additional funding provided by the Federation of community Legal Centres, has enabled us expand our services to the City of Darebin. 

The program provides community members in Darebin with legal problems (including criminal and infringements) where alcohol and other drug (AOD) use is an underlying factor and who often face complex intersectional disadvantage. The program will support AOD users via an outreach model to varied health and wellbeing services being delivered by Uniting Care ReGen, YSAS and Your Community Health.

We strive to address the links between health, poverty, discrimination and the law through our Drug Outreach Lawyer Program. Our advocacy strategies include: 

  • promoting self-determination of affected communities,
  • promoting respect for the human rights of drug users, and
  • supporting public health approaches over punitive interventions.

EVENTS

Congratulations! to Paul Kidd who was admitted to the bar on Tuesday 12 February 2019. Paul's admission was moved by Ella Crotty, our Senior Family Law and Family Violence Lawyer. Paul began as a trainee lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service in March 2018. His transition to the legal profession comes after many years in public health advocacy. Paul Kidd is driven by a passion for social justice. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate and privileged and want to be someone who stands up for the vulnerable and marginalised.”



Our team attended the Midsumma Carnival in January and provided an information pop-up stall in Alexandra Gardens:

 

And showed our support at this year's Pride March:




And we celebrated International Women’s Day at the East Preston Community Centre where our Outreach Lawyer Beth King presented on our services and engaged with community members


BRIDGES TO HARMONY FESTIVAL

Aimed at promoting social inclusion and human rights, the Bridges to Harmony Festival celebrates the diversity of Fitzroy by encouraging the community to share and participate in activities which transcend cultural boundaries. The festival took off in Fitzroy's Condell Reserve on Napier Street with live music, art, great food and kids activities. 

The festival is attended by people across Fitzroy many of whom are in programs at the Fitzroy Learning Network and who live in the community housing flats across from the reserve. It has become clear that the residents are interested in engaging in sessions run by the Fitzroy Learning Network, so our volunteers hit the ground during the festival to hear what legal education services the community wanted by collecting surveys while raising funds for future education programs.

A huge thank you to our staff and volunteers who attended and supported the festival - Sarah Hellyer, Molly Walsh, Amelia Toohey, Louise Olsen, Odette Shenfield, Mi-Lin Chen Yi Mei, Hannah Bullock, Loxy Luna, Samantha Gonzales and Sophie L'Estrange.

THE LAW HANDBOOK 2019 EDITION IS NOW AVAILABLE!

The Law Handbook is your practical guide to the law in Victoria. Updated by over 80 legal experts, it provides comprehensive information about the laws that affect Victorians in everyday life including tenancy, consumer protection, bankruptcy, anti-discrimination, education, family, internet, environmental, employment and many more. It is a valuable resource for many people: members of the community, community workers, students, teachers and lawyers.


The Law Handbook retails for $140 (hard copy), $70 (eBook) and individual chapters can be purchased for $5.50 from our online store.


CAN YOU SUPPORT OUR WORK VIA A DONATION?

We rely on donations from generous, community-minded people like you. Across Victoria, many people cannot afford the legal help they need. Without that help, they face court without legal representation, are treated unfairly by debt collectors, lose their homes, or live in fear of a violent partner. Our vision is to be an independent and influential voice that empowers and strengthens the community through access to legal services, education, information and law reform activities. Your donation is crucial in helping us to pursue our vision. 

Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible. To donate to Fitzroy Legal Service please click here.