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QAILS Quarterly | Issue 5 | March 2014

QAILS Quarterly

 

Highlighting the work of Queensland's community legal centres

Queensland CLCs have over 30 years of service delivery experience providing free information, advice and referral, casework and representation to the community.

Queensland CLC casework

Queensland's community lawyers provide a vital service to clients and communities across the state.  Here are a few examples of recent casework successes:

Deaf man in court without interpreter or support until community lawyer arrives


Adam* is profoundly deaf and has an intellectual impairment, and had previously been convicted for a number of serious crimes. While on bail, he was arrested and detained in handcuffs for some 24 hours.
 
Adam was to be brought before the Court, but there was no interpreter arranged. What was worse was the fact that court staff and police were unable to urgently arrange for an interpreter to attend.  Without an interpreter, Adam could not understand what was occurring, what his rights were, and he was to remain in custody until an interpreter became available.
 
A staff member from The Advocacy and Support Centre, who was fluent in signed English, attended at the Watch House, and assisted Adam by explaining the legal situation and possible outcomes. Adam was traumatised and unable to hear what was going on around him, and his intellectual impairment prevented him from being able to comprehend the implications of his behaviours, or the legal considerations. 
 
TASC made informative submissions to show cause why bail should be granted.  The Magistrate closed the Court to enable the simplistic bail conditions to be explained to Adam, and he was released.
 
There is significant and unacceptable risk to deaf clients within the court system where appropriately qualified interpreters are not provided. In this case, the presence of an interpreter, although not qualified, enabled the Court to be properly informed of the situation, and provided a positive outcome for Adam while reducing the traumatic nature of his court attendance and experience.

Pensioner trying to get roof fixed gets help at QCAT

89-year-old pensioner Patricia* was living in fear of her plaster ceiling collapsing due to damage from water leaking through the aging tiled roof. Patricia initiated a conciliation process within the Body Corporate and Community Management Commissioners office (BCCM), where an agreement was made. This agreement was then simply ignored by the Body Corporate.
 
SunCoast Community Legal Service helped Patricia put together evidence and submissions for a new application to have the property repaired.
 
Patricia was blind-sided by an extraordinary new builder’s report commissioned by lawyers for the body corporate which attempted to dispute that damage to the ceiling was even attributable to water entry into the ceiling cavity, or that there even was more than minimal water entry.
 
Fortunately the adjudicator took into account the timing of the inspection was during the driest three months in five years and accepted reports from tradespeople who had been on site during wet conditions. The adjudicator ordered repair of the roof, replacement of Patricia’s ceiling, and painting.
Photo by Damon Hatchett

Helping ensure support services are available on release from health service


Ron* had an acquired brain injury, a mental heath diagnosis and was confined to a wheelchair. Ron’s condition had deteriorated and he was extremely overweight, bedridden and suffering from poor health, and he wasn’t getting enough support with his general independent living arrangements. While in hospital, Ron had no-one with the authority to support him with finding appropriate accommodation, administration of his financial affairs and finalising his previous accommodation. He was very determined that he did not wish the Adult Guardian or the Public Trustee to be appointed.
 
Ron was supported to find accommodation, initiated by the social workers from Queensland Health. The Seniors’ Legal and Support Service team from The Advocacy and Support Centre investigated the suitability of these offers, which led to Ron settling into a nursing home close to his social contacts, particularly a church where he had some close friends.
 
TASC arranged assistance for Ron to move and clean his previous house, through Ron’s friends/supports from the church. TASC worked with Ron, the Department of Housing, nursing home staff, a community support agency, a financial counselor and the church to finalise the lease and ensure Ron received ongoing support.
 
This was a positive outcome for Ron. From perhaps being transported to a nursing home that would not have been able to accommodate his electric wheel chair and facing a future bedridden in a multi-bed room nursing home, Ron now faces a more positive and enjoyable future.
 

Sorting out debts for dying homeless woman

Sarah* is a woman experiencing chronic homelessness and suffering a terminal illness, who was burdened by a State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) debt of $60,000. A local community agency referred Sarah to the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) for help to address her SPER debt, which primarily arose from several traffic and toll fines incurred in the early 1990’s and subsequent fees.   
 
When Sarah first attended the HPLC, she expressed a desire to go to prison rather than leave her children with the SPER debt after her passing. The HPLC advised Sarah about her rights, and through extensive negotiations with SPER, obtained a full debt waiver of $60,000 on hardship grounds (conditional on her completing a reduced term, good behaviour order).
 
Sarah and her children were grateful, with her son expressing, ‘words cannot tell how much we appreciate the efforts of the volunteer lawyers that helped us at the HPLC. Sarah in particular is extremely relieved that her debt will be waived…as her health deteriorates she can be free of this on her conscience.'
Photo by Damon Hatchett

Residency laws used to assist victims of domestic violence

 
Teresa*, a woman from the Philippines, met Mark* through Facebook in May 2010, and they were married in October 2010. In February 2012, she came to Australia on a partner visa with her daughter from a previous relationship.
 
The marriage seemed happy for a while even though Mark’s moods were erratic. However, Mark soon became violent. He would:
  • yell at Teresa, that she must listen to him and not ask questions;
  • gouge at Teresa’s eyes and eyebrows;
  • hold Teresa by the throat and threaten her;
  • drive at dangerous speeds with Teresa and her daughter in the car, telling them to tighten their seatbelts and that ‘we’re going to die’; and
  • bring a kitchen knife to their bed.
Teresa left Mark and sought shelter in a women’s refuge.
 
Teresa sought assistance from the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS) to apply for permanent residence under the domestic family violence provisions of a partner visa. RAILS prepared a lengthy and detailed statement, and helped Teresa obtain a report from the refuge and a statutory declaration from her treating psychologist. RAILS provided a submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), clearly spelling out how Teresa met the domestic family violence provisions.
 
However, Mark had already contact DIBP, and provided copies of Facebook chat conversations allegedly between Teresa and another man that implied they were romantically involved.
 
DIBP asked Teresa to explain these chats, and it looked like Teresa’s application would be refused.
 
However, in separate proceedings, Mark provided an undertaking to Teresa that included words to the effect that he would not commit any further domestic violence and he would not forge any more Facebook conversations. The undertaking was prepared at Court and sighted by a Magistrate.
 
With this additional evidence, it is likely that Teresa’s application will be successful.
Mai* married Damian*, an Australian citizen, in 2010. One month after the wedding, Mai was charged with prostitution-related offences, and was granted a criminal justice visa until the criminal matters were finalised.
 
In December 2010, Mai and Bill separated and she sought shelter in a women’s refuge. Before the criminal justice visa expired, Mai applied for a partner visa, naming Damian as her sponsor. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) contacted Damian by phone, but he told the case officer to “F… off!”
 
In 2011, the Immigrant Women’s Support Service assisted Mai to obtain a Domestic Violence Protection Order, and referred Mai to the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS) for assistance with her immigration matters. RAILS assisted Mai to apply for a visa under the domestic violence provisions of the Migration Act and Regulations.
 
In January 2012, DIAC refused Mai’s application because the criteria were not satisfied at the time of the application, as she was not properly sponsored and the relationship was not ongoing.  Mai applied to the Migration Review Tribunal for review.
 
While waiting for review, Mai reconciled with Damian; they lived together for more than a year and had an Australian citizen child. Damian continued to be violent and controlling, and refused to provide evidence about his intentions at the time of Mai’s application.
 
In November 2013, the Migration Review Tribunal accepted RAILS’s submissions that Damian’s actions demonstrated an intention to sponsor Mai at the time of the application, despite the lack of evidence and delay in providing information. The Tribunal remitted the matter to DIAC, which granted Mai permanent residency in January 2014, after RAILS provided further submissions.
 
With her new visa, Mai no longer needs to rely on Damian to stay in Australia, and can leave this violent relationship.

Vulnerable older man seeks help to stay safe at home

 67-year-old Ray* began a romantic relationship with a younger woman, Kellie*, who then moved into his public housing home. As soon as she moved in, Kellie’s behaviour changed, with continual verbal abuse and threats of violence which Ray believed was calculated to make him given up his tenancy. Ray felt very unsafe and frightened.
 
With assistance from SunCoast Community Legal Service, Ray obtained a Domestic Violence Order at the Caloundra Magistrates Court to protect Ray and put him back in the peaceful situation he had been in previously, by ordering Kellie’s orderly departure within two weeks.

Sending older mother to an aged care facility


Betty* fell and broke her hip, and was hospitalised.  After her rehabilitation, she was unable to return to living independently, given the assistance she needed with her daily routine.  Her son Rob* and daughter-in-law Joanne* placed Betty in an aged care facility.  Betty understood that this was a respite arrangement for a trial period of 4 weeks.  She assumed that she would have some say in future plans, including the possibility of being supported to return to live at home.

Betty wanted to return home with the assistance of a care package as she felt well enough to manage, but this was refused by family, particularly Joanne, who assumed the responsibility of making decisions for her.

Joanne was using an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPOA) document to manage Betty's affairs. Betty had signed a document in hospital, which she now believed to be the EPOA relied on by Joanne, but at the time she did not understand what the document was. Betty believed she was actually signing a document to allow Joanne to access her bank account to pay for her care.

Betty was distressed as she believed Joanne had arranged for her house to be placed on the market and her possessions had been sold or given away. 

Betty was referred to the Cairns Community Legal Centre by a psychologist from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) as she wanted to know what rights she had, and what action could be taken on her behalf to help her gain some control of her situation. Staff at Cairns Community Legal Centre:
  1. explained the powers and responsibilities of EPOAs, and wrote to Joanne requesting that she provide information about the document signed by Betty, her personal belongings and the sale of her home;
  2. asked Queensland Health what options were available to verify Betty’s capacity to make her own decisions should this be necessary;
  3. collaborated with the psychologist from ACAT who agreed to Betty’s apparent capacity and that an alternative arrangement such as living in a retirement village may enable Betty to regain a sense of independence;
  4. made numerous visits to Betty to discuss her position and options, including discussing options to move into an appropriate retirement village; and
  5. responded to information received about Joanne rejecting a place that had become available in Betty’s aged care facility of choice by liaising with the aged care facility and advocating that the place remain available until discussed with Betty.
Joanne provided the requested information, but was highly defensive of both her and the family’s actions and sought only to justify her position, rather than considering what would be in Betty’s best interests.  In fact, Joanne was suffering from her own health complications and stress, and had limited ability to cope.  Any of Betty’s requests appeared to add pressure which caused Joanne to make decisions based on her own coping capacity, rather than what was in Betty’s best interests.  As a result, Betty was somewhat reluctant to pursue options for her future as she did not wish to cause strain and tension in the family, or inconvenience and upset them by asking for information that would help facilitate change. She became discouraged and somewhat defeated, and decided to remain in and make the most of her current situation as she believed that she would ultimately end up in a facility in the long term.

She is still experiencing difficulties with being unheard, excluded from decisions and anxiety from not be provided with information about her finances and how they are being handled.

Betty is however, grateful for the support that has been provided by the Centre as she has been supported emotionally and given the opportunity to voice her concerns and consider options relevant to her care.  Although things are not ideal, it is hoped that there will be continued improvement in Betty’s adjustment to her situation and that she will experience a sense of empowerment through being heard.
 
* Names have been changed

Expansion of QPILCH Self Representation Service

QPILCH has received funding from the Commonwealth to extend its Self Representation Service to the Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court.  We now accepting applications for appointments in the following areas:
  • Bankruptcy;
  • Judicial review;
  • Anti-discrimination;
  • Competition and consumer;
  • Information privacy;
  • Fair work; and
  • Appeals (including from Federal tribunals). 
People who would like assistance from the Service should complete an application for assistance which is now available online from the QPILCH website. If you have any queries, please contact Elizabeth Pendlebury on (07) 3846 6317.

Specialist Services
Accessibility Project


QAILS is partnering with Queensland Advocacy Inc on a Specialist Services Accessibility Project. The project will develop a plan that can be adapted and adopted by specialist legal services to make their services more accessible through cost effective measures, including the use of technology and information and training practices. This project is funded by the Legal Practitioners Interest on Trust Account Fund, administered by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General.
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Visit the QAILS website for more information about QAILS or Queensland's community legal centres.

Mediawatch

CLCs in the media

Team can help with legal woes, Cairns Sun, 19 February

Debate over the fairness of new 'facebook parties' laws, 4ZZZ News, 14 February

Return or refund? Know your rights, Maroochy Weekly, 13 February

Concerns about changes to environmental laws dismissed, Gladstone Observer, 13 February

Naming and shaming advocates conveniently forget they were once young too, Courier Mail, 13 February

Legal advice on the environment, ABC Capricornia Breakfast, 10 February

Charity chief of cha-cha, MX Brisbane, 10 February

Betty, 87, wins bid to repair her roof, Sunshine Coast Daily, 8 February

Qld government stalls on expunging gay sex convictions, 4ZZZ News, 7 February

Locked out, Gold Coast Bulletin, 5 February

Environmental Defenders Office NQ set to launch push to make Great Barrier Reef its own legal identity, Cairns Post, 4 February

Flat out bidding wars - Renting turns to auction battle, MX Brisbane, 29 January

Redcliffe by-election candidates answer questions from local residents, Redcliffe & Bayside Herald, 27 January

Need-to-spend ways can be nipped in bud, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 January

Help for tenants ends, Fraser Coast Chronicle, 9 January

Disability pensioners do want to work, they just need a chance, Daily Telegraph, 8 January

Curbs on mental patients `harmful', The Australian, 27 December

Warren Mundine raises concern about plans to cut funding to Indigenous domestic violence service, ABC News, 23 December

Funding cut to Environmental Defender's Offices described as 'barbaric', ABC News, 18 December

Coalition on target for $43m saving, The Australian, 17 December

Cuts threaten environmental defender, news.com.au, 17 December

Tenant advocacy office to close, Bayside Bulletin, 13 December    

Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service to close at the end of the month, Brisbane Times, 6 December

Reforming Queensland’s criminal justice system, Right Now Radio (3RRR), 5 December

Web leads to wide world of help for rural women, Queensland Country Life, 4 December
QAILS leading plan for coordinated legal services

QAILS  is currently working with Queensland CLCs to develop a Queensland Legal Services Plan.

The Plan will engage centres in planning better coordinated service delivery for the areas of law and vulnerable client groups that Queensland's community legal centres target.

The Plan will also gather information on the reach of existing services to under-resourced localities which will enable QAILS to develop a formal position on geographic areas of need.

The Plan we be delivered to our project funder, the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, in March 2014.

Systemic advocacy


When assisting individual clients, CLCs see opportunities to improve laws, policies and practices to ensure real access to justice.  Here are some recent CLC policy projects and activities:

Disability Services (Restrictive Practices) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, Queensland Advocacy Inc

Penalties and Sentences (Indexation) Amendment Bill 2013, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

Queensland Competition Authority CSG Draft Report, Environmental Defenders Office of Queensland

Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013: 
Caxton Legal Centre Inc.Youth Advocacy Centre IncQAILS

Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, QAILSCaxton Legal CentreYouth Advocacy Centre IncYouth Advocacy Centre (supplementary submission)

Electoral Reform Amendment Bill 2013: Queensland Advocacy IncorporatedQAILS and ATSILS submission, transcript

Submission to the Review of the Financial Assurance Guideline, EDO Queensland

Debt Collectors (Field Agents and Collection Agents) Bill 2013, Caxton Legal Centre Inc.

Motor Dealers and Chattel Auctioneers Bill 2013, Caxton Legal Centre Inc.

Submission on the Regional Planning Interests Bill 2013, EDO Queensland and EDO North Queensland

Property Occupations Bill 2013: 
Tenants' Union of Queensland Inc.Caxton Legal Centre Inc.

Legal barriers for people with disability(Australian Law Reform Commission): Cairns Community Legal Centre IncQueensland Advocacy IncCaxton Legal CentreWomen's Legal Services AustraliaNACLC, QAILS and others

Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment Program Report, EDO Queensland and EDO North Queensland

Modernising Queensland’s Resources Acts: Discussion paper on legislative framework issues, EDO Queensland and EDO North Queensland
Updates from
Community Law Australia

Broad cuts to legal assistance services will fuel access to justice crisis, 17 December

Defunding of Aboriginal legal services peak a dangerous “economy”, 17 December

Queensland Legal Walk
Tuesday 13 May 2014


Put your best foot forward during Law Week 2014 and join colleagues from across the legal profession, including leaders from government, the courts and judiciary, legal practitioners from national and local law firms and community legal centres, barristers, the profession’s peak bodies and law students, in the Queensland Legal Walk (formerly known as the Walk for Justice).
 
The Queensland Legal Walk will be held in Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns and signals the opening of the annual Law Week.  It is a celebration of the legal profession’s commitment to equal access to justice and raises funds to support the pro bono efforts of the profession in Queensland.
 
Register yourself or your team and start fundraising today!  Great prizes for the top fundraisers kindly donated by sponsors including Mitchell Ogilvie.  Join your colleagues and show your support of this important cause.
 
Tuesday 13 May from 7.00 am – 8.30 am.

Brisbane walkers – please meet in the forecourt of the Qld Supreme and District Courts.
(regional areas TBA)

Registration:  $20 adults / concession $ 10.
 
For more information or to register go to: www.qpilch.org.au/walk

Community education events in Toowoomba


Older Persons’ Action Program (OPAP) Seniors Legal Advice and Support Service – “SLASS and General TASC Services”
Tuesday, 29 April 2014 from 10.00am
Venue  East Creek Community Centre
Kitchener Street
Toowoomba  QLD 4350

 
Bluecare Regional Managers’ Presentation for Managers across South West Region “SLASS and General TASC Services”
Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Venue  Bluecare Regional Offices
Cnr Stenner & Street
Toowoomba  QLD 4350


Registration:  $20 adults / concession $ 10.

QAILS webinars

CLC101
James Farrell
4-5pm, Monday 31 March
Register

Remote and regional service delivery: what makes it work?
Rebekah Bassano
11am-12pm, Friday 4 April
Register

Advocacy-Health Alliances: Better health through legal advocacy
Peter Noble & Nickie King
9-10am, Wednesday 16 April
Register

Identifying clients’ legal needs: QPILCH Legal Health Check
Sue Garlick
3-4pm, Thursday 1 May
Register

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Dr Janet Hammill & Prof Heather Douglas
10-11am, Monday 12 May
Register

Assisting clients with impaired capacity
Rebekah Leong & Scott Lang
2-3pm, Wednesday, 18 June
Register
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