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QAILS Quarterly | Issue 6 | June 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:

Dispute with Centrelink settled for John


In defiance of serious congenital disabilities, John* worked as a taxi driver.John was born with severe physical disabilities, and after thirty years’ work, John‘s arthritis became too painful to continue; he was granted Disability Support Pension and became his father’s carer.
 
After his dad died, John informed Centrelink of his plan and set off overseas, expecting to return in a few months.During his absence, John’s sister told him he’d received a letter about transferring from a Disability Support Pension to an Age Pension. When John contacted Centrelink, he was told his payment had been cancelled.
 
John returned to have his payment restored, but a debt of $28,000 was raised as John had been in a country where there is no ‘international arrangement’. John had been unaware of this rule, and contacted Welfare Rights Centre for assistance.
 
WRC successfully argued at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal for waiver of $26,000 still outstanding on the basis of special circumstance that he did not intend to deceive Centrelink and would have made sure he complied with Disability Support Pension rules, if had known about them.
Photo by Damon Hatchett

Dispute over unfair contract settled

Lucinda* received an unsolicited consumer agreement from a company described as a genealogy and asset research company specialising in locating missing beneficiaries and recovering lost or unclaimed assets.  Lucinda contacted the company, which had located shares and unclaimed dividends belonging to Lucinda’s late ex-husband.  Lucinda’s children signed the agreement as beneficiaries of the estate. 

However, Lucinda then recovered the assets without the assistance of the company.  Despite this, the company sent Lucinda an invoice for payment of the fees, and then an overdue notice where the company sought to pursue Lucinda through legal proceedings

Lucinda sought advice from the Cairns Community Legal Centre about her liability and/or her children's liability to pay the 'outstanding' invoice and the company's likely prospects of success in relation to the proposed legal proceedings.  The Centre made written representations to the company providing reasons why the alleged agreement would be unenforceable. As a result of the Centre's work, the company agreed to abandon the matter and waived payment of the 'outstanding' invoice.

Lucinda was very grateful for the assistance provided, and said "we were really happy with the service, the Centre provides a great service and we achieved a really good outcome."
 

Wraparound service vital for Ben


Ben* had a diagnosed mental illness and had previously been a client of The Advocacy and Support Centre. Ben was charged with a criminal offence, although the evidence proffered was wholly circumstantial and insufficient to sustain a conviction.  Submissions to the Police to that effect were accepted and the charges discontinued. 

While this process was occurring, a lawyer from TASC’s Disability Law Project found Ben sleeping in a bus stop with all his belongings in bags.  Ben told his lawyer that he had been kicked out of crisis accommodation the night before and now had nowhere to go.  Ben was not sure how much money he had in his bank account and his phone was flat.  

The lawyer could have walked away but he didn’t. The legal work was complete but the job didn’t end there. The lawyer made an appointment for the client to speak to one of the TASC Disability Advocates that same afternoon with a view to arranging for the client to secure accommodation, with extremely low rent. This is an example of collaborative and compassionate practice. 

A legal and social outcome was achieved which although to some may be a small victory, to this gentleman was a triumph.

TASC’s Disability Law Project provides legal services to adults with a mental illness, intellectual disability or impairment or acquired brain injury who have been charged by Police and are to appear before the Magistrates Court.  The Project also provides the assistance of a Disability Advocate to advocate and assist the client to address other personal needs that might have contributed to the criminal behaviour so that a holistic response to the client’s needs.

Successful QPILCH out-of-court settlement helps Barry keep his home
 

QPILCH’s Self Representation Service recently assisted Barry* with a general protections claim he had brought in the Federal Circuit Court against his former employer.  After losing his job, Barry was experiencing financial difficulties and was at risk of losing his home.  In three appointments the Service assisted Barry to understand his legal options, to prepare legal documents, such as additional affidavit evidence. The Self-Representative Service was able to further help Barry by preparing an outline of arguments to follow and to also to help in his general preparation for the trial.  Barry was successful in negotiating a settlement mid-way through the trial. 
 
With the settlement sum, Barry was able to prevent the bank foreclosing on the family home and gain some breathing room to find another job.

 
Photo by Damon Hatchett

Support for people with disability facing court

 
The Justice Support Program was contacted by Toni*, an extremely unwell and vulnerable 40 year old woman charged with two counts of serious assault. Toni was on an Involuntary Treatment Order and had never before been in trouble with the law, and was worried by the prospect of going to jail.

JSP ensured that Toni was able to access relevant legal advice and representation. Throughout this process, the JSP was available to provide personal support and encouragement, particularly when Toni was feeling pessimistic about her chances of avoiding imprisonment. Of course the JSP was there to help explain the Mental Health Court roadmap and to help Toni, when well enough, to prepare to speak before the Magistrates Court. The JSP was also there to sit next to and provide support during Toni’s Mental Health Court hearing.

The charges against Toni were dismissed and a forensic order was made.

The Justice Support Program is a Queensland Advocacy Incorporated initiative designed to respond to provide legal and community services to support for those facing issues in the Justice and related systems, to help individuals to remain in the community and prevent any further entrenchment into the criminal justice system.
 
* Names have been changed.

Domestic Violence and Family Law Legal Workshop

 
Women's Legal Service conducted an all-day community education forum to DV and community workers in Mackay on 22 May 2014, by RRR solicitor Phoebe Kahlo, and CLE lawyer Angela Lynch. This workshop provided practical tips and strategies on working with women who have experienced domestic violence and their interactions with both the Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 and the Family Law Act.

Similar forums with be held in Dalby (17 July 2014) and Gladstone (Date -TBA).

HomelessConnect

 
The Brisbane City Council’s HomelessConnect event was held 28 May 2014 at the RNA Showgrounds.  This l event is held for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with community and government providers offering free services such as haircuts, clothing, medical care and legal advice.

QAILS Members the Welfare Rights Centre and QPILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) were in attendance.

Queensland Legal Walk
Tuesday 13 May 2014


The Queensland Legal Walk (formerly Walk for Justice), an initiative of the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH), was a great success again this year. On the 13 May, walkers and runners in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns supported the Queensland Legal Walk this year and raised over $50,000 to support free legal help for those who need it most.

Participants represented a wide section of the legal community, including leaders from government and the judiciary; supporters from national and local law firms; community legal centres; corporate and government legal units; the profession's peak bodies and university law schools. The Queensland Legal Walk is QPILCH's main fundraising event, and is a celebration of the joint effort of the legal profession in advancing access to justice for the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of our society.
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Visit the QAILS website for more information about QAILS or Queensland's community legal centres.

Mediawatch

CLCs in the media

Community solving disputes City North News, 27 February  

Students’ real law practice, Sunshine Coast Sunday, 2 March 

Legal Service up in Air, South West News, 9 April

Eco-warriors Forced to Quit, The Cairns Post, 24 April 2014

Rural Women’s Outreach Legal Service, People and Places, 8 May

Support Centre Continues Residents’ Free Legal Service, Ayr Advocate, 9 May

Vulnerable and Disadvantaged Queenslander's to have Greater Access to Legal ServicesAustralian Government News, 13 May

Attorney-General opens USC Law Clinic,14 May 

Law in the Real Word, Sunshine Coast Daily, 15 May 

Budget slashes Sunshine Coast Legal Service Funds,
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News, 16 May

OK on Funding for Legal Centre,Wynnum Herald, 21 May

Legal Community Steps up in Name of Justice, Maroochy Weekly, 22 May

Celebrating 21 years of legal services, The Cairns Eye, 24 May

 
Caxton's Queensland Law Handbook (12th edition) now available

 

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:

Submission to inform the development of the Second Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22, Women's Legal Service


Environmental Offsets Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Public Guardian Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

Land and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2014, Women's Legal Service,

Family and Child Commission Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

Sustainable Planning (Infrastructure Charges) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Submission to Productivity Commission: Access to Justice Arrangements, NACLC, QAILS

Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

 

... gagged from July


Under new funding agreements provided to Queensland's community legal centres, this important work can no longer be undertaken with government funds. As the submissions above show, this is a vital part of CLCs' work, and contributes to fairer legal systems and institutions.

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:

Submission to inform the development of the Second Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22, Women's Legal Service


Environmental Offsets Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Public Guardian Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

Land and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2014, Women's Legal Service,

Family and Child Commission Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

Sustainable Planning (Infrastructure Charges) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, EDO Queensland

Submission to Productivity Commission: Access to Justice Arrangements, NACLC, QAILS

Child Protection Reform Amendment Bill 2014, Youth Advocacy Centre Inc

 

... gagged from July


Under new funding agreements provided to Queensland's community legal centres, this important work can no longer be undertaken with government funds. As the submissions above show, this is a vital part of CLCs' work, and contributes to fairer legal systems and institutions.
Updates from
Community Law Australia
Federal Budget cuts to community legal centres in the news 23 May
 
Attorney-General wrong in media statement on cuts to community legal centres, says national access to justice campaign 19 May
 
Federal Budget exposes more funding cuts as A-G Brandis stops community legal centres speaking out on unfair laws and practices 16 May
 
Productivity Commission acknowledges unmet legal need, sparks vital debate on action to address access to justice crisis 8 April
 
Tough Budget must not target people unable to afford legal help 3 April

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.

Measuring the impact of preventing eviction


With financial support from StreetSmart Australia, QAILS and Tenants Queensland are investigating the impact of the closure of 23 Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service (TAAS) programs across Queensland. TAAS played a key role in supporting tens of thousands of vulnerable Queensland renter households, in many cases preventing them from becoming homeless.

This project will ensure that CLCs measure and report on the unmet needs for specialist tenancy services that intervene early to maintain housing and prevent homelessness.
Thanks to our partners and supporters:
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