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Community Law News Spring 2011

Small places doing big things: CLCs feature in Law Institute Awards

Victorian CLCs have had a successful year and some of the important work CLCs do has been recognised in the recent Law Institute President's Awards and the Tim McCoy Award (recognising outstanding legal assistance work).

The legal team behind the successful High Court challenges to the legality of the Government asylum seeker processing was recognised with both a special Law Institute President’s Honorary Award and the 2011 Tim McCoy Award. Law Institute President Caroline Counsel said “this team of lawyers devoted countless hours to fighting for the legal rights of asylum seekers and have possibly changed the course of Australian history as a result”. The team were the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, Allens Arthur Robinson and the barrister team (Debbie Mortimer, Richard Niall and others). In accepting the Tim McCoy Award, RILC’s David Manne noted the importance of CLCs, describing them as “small places doing big things.”

Senator Nick Xenophon and Wilma McCoy, Tim McCoy’s mother, with David Manne and Matthew Albert who accepted the 2011 Tim McCoy Award

Peninsula Community Legal Centre won the Law Institute’s Legal Organisation of the Year Award. The significance of this achievement is highlighted by the standard of the other finalists, Blake Dawson and Slater & Gordon. Peninsula CLC has grown from humble beginnings to be one of the largest and most successful CLCs in Australia, providing services to almost 10,000 Victorians each year (read our Justice Profile for more).

Kairsty Wilson of the Association of Employees with a Disability Legal Centre won the Law Institute Community Lawyer Award and was also shortlisted for the Tim McCoy Award. Kairsty established the Association of Employees with a Disability Legal Centre and has worked for more than a decade improving the employment opportunities, working conditions, education and support provided to people with a disability. Lyn Barratt of the Moreland Community Legal Centre won the Law Institute’s Mentor Award for her work mentoring countless young lawyers, clerks and trainees in her current role and formerly as a Victoria Legal Aid deputy regional office manager and principal of Seniors Rights Victoria and the Fitzroy Legal Service.

Congratulations to the other award winners and to the other CLC and partner nominees and finalists for these awards including Human Rights Law Centre, Mental Health Legal Centre, CLC for Goulburn Valley Campaign, James Farrell (PILCH/Deakin Uni), Anna Radonic (Youthlaw), Payal Saraf (ASRC), Nathan Macdonald (PILCH connect), Emrys Nekvapil (Victorian Bar), Sean Selleck (Mallesons) and Filip Gelev, Helen Spowart, Elicia Savvas and Siobhan Mansfield (Victoria Legal Aid).

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CLCs in the News

Tamar Hopkins calls for police search receipts to counter racial profiling

Vindication of Mental Health Legal Centre client's right to drive a taxi

The Age reports on positive outcomes of ISLAC amid funding threat

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Smart Justice for Young People

The Smart Justice project continues to develop with the launch of Smart Justice for Young People - a new section of Smart Justice with a focus on legal and justice issues affecting young people aged between 12 and 25. Judge Grant, President of the Children's Court of Victoria spoke at the launch. While he acknowledged that Victoria has a reputation for ‘leading the way’ in youth justice in Australia, he said that there’s still much to be done, including:

  • a statewide youth diversion program that is available after charging but before a finding of guilt;
  • a statewide intensive bail support program to reduce the rising number of young people held in custody on remand;
  • appropriate and responsive support services for young people with mental health problems or complex needs; and
  • effective programs to assist families in need and to stop them from becoming families in crisis.

Judge Grant’s notes and slides are available on www.smartjustice.org.au together with new and updated factsheets including:

  • Minimum mandatory sentences for young people
  • Updated prisons factsheet
  • Overview of the criminal justice system

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Justice Profile - Helen Constas

Helen Constas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Peninsula Community Legal Centre. She joined the centre in 1982 as a part-time Community Legal Education Worker in 1982. Helen has served as Chief Executive Officer since 2004. Peninsula CLC has grown from a small local agency in Frankston to one of the major community organisations in the region, providing 9744 client activities in the last financial year and with offices in Frankston, Frankston North, East Bentleigh, Cranbourne and Rosebud. Peninsula CLC won the Law Institute’s inaugural Legal Organisation of the Year Award in 2011.

 

How did you get involved in CLCs?

I first approached the Centre (then Frankston North Legal Service) as a university student in need of some legal advice following a car accident. I became a volunteer with the Centre, and then commenced employment in the role of Community Legal Education Worker, writing media articles and running self-help workshops (like the popular ‘Do-it-Yourself’ Divorce classes).

 

How have CLCs changed since 1982 when you started? What have been the good and the bad things about the changes?

Throughout my years working at Peninsula CLC, I have seen the sector become stronger and more sophisticated in terms of addressing barriers to justice, as well as providing high quality free legal services. I am pleased to see the pioneering spirit of CLCs still intact today, with bold test cases being run, fearless advocacy on law reform issues and innovative education and community development projects commonplace. Funding has always been an issue for CLCs, both then and now. It’s disappointing that even now, with a proven track record, CLCs still need to continually justify their work.

 

You’re a true Frankston local. How has your local community changed over the years and how has Peninsula CLC adapted to the changes?

I was born at Frankston Hospital and grew up in the Pines Estate (a housing commission estate, now Frankston North). I’m very proud of my background! Throughout my time at Peninsula CLC, our community has grown and diversified but the demand for free legal services has remained and even increased. Due to community need, and the fact that there are no other CLCs in the area, Peninsula CLC has expanded and now provides services to six local government areas.

Peninsula CLC has always prided itself on being able to respond to local issues in a timely way when they arise. Take for example the Brookland Greens gas leak in Cranbourne in 2008. Peninsula CLC assisted many residents in extreme distress who were uncertain about legal issues affecting them as a result of the gas leak. Peninsula CLC took the lead in organising a community meeting for residents and key stakeholders, enabling the provision of information on a large scale. More than 500 local residents attended the meeting that was organised just days after the crisis became known, to ensure that the information was made available to the community swiftly.

 

Peninsula CLC has always had a vibrant volunteer program and has played a role supporting other CLCs to run successful volunteer programs. How many volunteers do you have and what are the keys to success?

We have an extensive volunteer program with over 120 volunteers including volunteer lawyers, paralegals and management committee. Our volunteers enable the Centre to offer eight extra legal advice sessions each week. Our program, whilst providing assistance to the community, also provides support for law students and newly admitted lawyers. The program encourages informal support networks and provides role models and mentors which are of great benefit for new lawyers and to the legal profession.

We believe in valuing our volunteers and the contribution they make to the Centre and to the local community. We promote the role of volunteers through media releases to coincide with International Volunteer Day every year, we regularly nominate volunteers for awards, we hold volunteer functions and thank volunteers with cards and certificates.

Peninsula CLC also worked with CLCs across Australia to develop and rollout a training package for legal centre volunteers, ‘Valuing Volunteers’. This resource has been expanded and updated and is used by CLCs across Australia.

 

Peninsula CLC enjoys strong support from local government. Why should local government support CLCs?

We believe that local government has a responsibility to provide funding to CLCs as we provide much-needed free legal services to residents in all local municipalities, including advice and education in relation to matters concerning local government.

It has taken Peninsula CLC years and years to reach the point that we are at with our local councils and the key is lobbying, lobbying and more lobbying! We approach the local councils in our catchment for support and use statistics and case studies to demonstrate the level of need in the local community. We invite local councilors to come and see the work of the Centre first- hand and meet the staff. We then publicise these visits in our newsletter, on our website, in the local papers and in council newsletters.

We are active participants in our local communities through involvement in local projects and steering committees and we have worked very hard over the years to become one of the key stakeholders in our catchment area.

 

You lead a successful organisation that has grown substantially from its humble beginnings. Do you have any tips for CLC managers and management committees?

I cannot emphasise how important planning and goal setting is for CLCs. At Peninsula CLC, we take the time to plan strategically on a short-term as well as long-term basis. This has enabled us to work towards opening new branch offices, offering specialist programs and employing new staff. We value our staff, volunteers and committee of management and we work very hard on our community partnerships. We keep track of community need and we keep knocking on doors…..and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer!!

 

Congratulations on reaching 29 years in CLCs! What’s kept the fire burning over that time?

Thank you! Social justice and providing services to my local community is my passion and that’s what keeps me coming to work every day. I work with a dedicated team of staff, volunteers and management as well as colleagues across the sector (both past and present) who share the same desire for change that I do. We are all privileged to work in a sector that actively opens doors to justice whilst trying to make society a fairer place to live.

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Sector Development Update

The Federation works with its members and stakeholders to build a stronger and more effective community legal sector. Resources and information on our sector development work are available at www.communitylaw.org.au. For more information, contact Claudia Fatone.

NACLC Accreditation Scheme

The NACLC Accreditation Scheme is underway. CLCs have been undertaking the first step in the accreditation process – the online self-assessment process using the Standards and Performance Pathways resource. Federation Sector Development Officer Claudia Fatone is available to assist CLCs as they undertake the Accreditation process. The Federation is also pursuing resources for a dedicated Regional Accreditation Coordinator for Victoria. 

Fair Work Australia Equal Remuneration Case

The Federation continues to monitor the progress of the Equal Remuneration Case and is advocating to both Federal and State governments the importance of fully funding the outcomes of any Equal Remuneration Order so that CLC services are not compromised.

Professional development

The Federation continues to offer professional development opportunities for CLC staff and volunteers, recent sessions covered tenancy, infringements, victims of crime compensation and more. We are currently developing a 2012 training calendar to allow CLCs to better plan staff professional development. Video of some past CLC training sessions are now available for viewing on the www.communitylaw.org.au intranet’s “Toolkit” under “Training Materials”. Sessions include the Introduction to the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act, Neighbourhood Disputes and the Tenancy Training Day.

Where to advertise CLC jobs and other CLC resources

The Federation’s toolkit contains a range of resources and information to support CLC operations. We commonly receive requests for advice on where to advertise jobs – there is a factsheet on this on our Toolkit, as well as sample position descriptions, information on pay rates and much more. The Toolkit is on the www.communitylaw.org.au intranet. Contact the Federation if you don’t have your login and username handy. You can now rate the resources on the Toolkit so that the Federation and others can see what has been helpful.

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CLC Law Graduate Scheme future secured

The CLC Law Graduate Scheme has recently secured major grant funding from the Legal Services Board of Victoria. The new funding will allow the Federation to provide one CLC Law Graduate position each year from 2013 – 15.  This will give us a solid foundation on which to build the scheme into the future.

Our current two graduates, Bonnie Renou and Peter Nannery are well into the first part of their training as new CLC lawyers. They have been attending relevant parts of the VLA New Lawyers training program while working at CLCs; Peter at Barwon CLS and Bonnie in her first placement at the Environment Defenders Office (EDO).

Bonnie is enthusiastic about the program. “The Law Grad scheme is a fantastic opportunity to experience three differently focused CLCs, and therefore three perspectives on ‘access to justice’”, she said, “At the EDO I have been really impressed by the skills and dedication of the staff.  I have enjoyed being exposed to an area of law that’s new to me, but nonetheless within the broader definition of social justice lawyering. I’m looking forward to going to the country (Mildura) – I imagine it will be quite a different vibe from a metro centre. I also look forward to learning new skills at Eastern CLC and possibly doing some appearance work and CLE.”

Nick Hudson (Manager, Barwon CLS) spoke at the recent NACLC conference about Barwon’s positive experience in recruiting a new graduate through the CLC Law Graduate Scheme.  Barwon sponsored Peter Nannery’s practical legal training course while employing him as a paralegal, and now employ him as a first year lawyer while he undertakes the training program of the Law Graduate Scheme. This arrangement is funded entirely through Barwon CLS, with the Federation providing the training component.  This arrangement is open to other CLCs in Victoria, so if your CLC is looking to recruit the best and brightest law graduates, contact the scheme manager, Jane Staley, at jane.staley@fclc.org.au.

For more information please contact the scheme manager, Jane Staley jane.staley@fclc.org.au.

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Building a fairer justice system – law reform highlights

The Federation structure ensures that the client-driven work of CLCs across Victoria informs our law reform and policy activities. CLC workers collaborate on common justice concerns in law reform working groups supported by Federation staff. Federation law reform submissions, articles and media releases are available on www.communitylaw.org.au. For more information contact Chris Atmore, Lucinda O’Brien, Michelle McDonnell or Jacqui Bell at administration@fclc.org.au.

 

Recent initiatives include:

  • New project: Advancing community justice - creating fairer outcomes through law reform & policy work
    The Federation successfully applied for a Legal Services Board major grant to undertake proactive law reform work in the areas of family violence, civil law and police accountability. The grant will also allow us to produce a resource to assist CLCs and other NGOs to engage in effective law reform and policy work (like our “Community Legal Education Made Easy Kit” but for law reform). The resource will be accompanied with a training program and we will be consulting with various law reform and policy workers about developing the kit in the near future. For more information see current projects.
     
  • Making Rights Reality – sexual offences against people with cognitive disability
    The Federation has now raised the budget for this two year project which will establish a specialist multidisciplinary advocacy service for sexual assault victims with cognitive disability or communication difficulties. The service will operate as a 2 year pilot in Melbourne’s South East region and will involve our project partners South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault and Springvale Monash Legal Service, as well as local disability services. The project will be launched in early 2012. For more information see current projects.
     
  • Submission to the inquiry into a Commonwealth Statutory Cause of Action for Serious Invasion of Privacy
    The Federation supports the Commonwealth Government’s proposed statutory cause of action for serious invasion of privacy.  The proposed reform could have significant benefits for disadvantaged people, who are disproportionately affected by surveillance in public places.
     
  • Submission on Issues for Australia’s 5th Report under the Convention Against Torture
    The Federation submitted that the Australian Government should include detailed information on its progress to respect, protect and fulfil women’s right to be free from family violence, including how it is addressing the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and the need for effective and ‘joined up’ family/domestic violence death reviews across Australia.
     
  • Submission on the Regulatory Impact Statement: Should the Government regulate to control weapons?
    The Federation made some brief comments on the Regulatory Impact Statement: Should the government regulate to control weapons? The Federation submitted that the most effective solution to knife carrying is to address the causes of knife carrying through early intervention and education campaigns. The Federation recommends that further accountability measures be incorporated into the new regulations including requiring police officers to record further details about the search.
     
  • Feedback to Infringements System Oversight Unit on revocations process
    The Infringements Working Group was invited to provide feedback to the Infringements Oversight Unit on ways to improve the revocations process. We noted our continued concerns about the unfair operation of the infringements system on our client group and the need for structural change. We provide 16 specific recommendations to improve its operation in the shorter term.
     
  • Submission to the inquiry into access to and Interaction with the Justice System by People with an Intellectual Disability and Their Families and Carers
    The Federation believes that the Victorian justice system is failing people with cognitive disabilities, and calls for a paradigm shift toward a social model of disability which the Victorian Government can use as a framework to review and further develop inclusive legislation, policies and procedures that facilitate access to justice by all members of society, irrespective of any ‘impairment’. In addition, the Federation together with partner agencies made a joint submission focusing on the need to provide a safe path of access to justice for women with cognitive disabilities who experience violence and abuse.
     
  • Submission to the inquiry into the Opportunities for Participation of Victorian Seniors
    The Federation’s Elder Law Working Group recommends measures to improve older Victorians’ access to legal information and advice, raise community awareness of elder abuse (including in the legal profession, the police force and the banking industry) and address age discrimination in the workplace.
     
  • Submission to the inquiry into failure to Protect Laws
    The Federation joined Women’s Legal Service Victoria and four other partner organisations in strongly opposing the introduction of the proposed failure to protect laws. We agree that rates of child abuse are unacceptably high in Victoria and that more needs to be done to protect vulnerable children, but the proposed laws will not protect children from violence and abuse. The submission has been endorsed by 29 community agencies.
     
  • Joint letter to Victorian Attorney-General on Jury Directions in Sexual Offence Trials
    The Federation, Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault, and eight other legal, health and community welfare agencies wrote to the Attorney-General expressing our strong concern about the impact of recent appeal decisions on future reporting of sexual assaults, and urging the Victorian Government to implement as soon as possible the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s Jury Directions: Final Report (2009).
     
  • Submissions to the National Human Rights Action Plan Baseline Study Consultation
    The Federation’s submission addresses gaps in the Baseline Study concerning the right of women to be protected from domestic/family violence homicides. The Federation also authored a joint submission from a number of organisations with expertise in women’s issues and domestic violence, and a submission on behalf of the Australian Inquest Alliance, advocating coronial law reform.

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The importance of volunteers: CLC Fellowship

My Victoria Law Foundation Community Legal Centre Fellowship is focusing on the volunteer cycle and how community legal centres use volunteers.  A short time in Canada and the United States reinforced how important volunteers are to the community legal sector.

In Canada I visited the Simcoe-Kawartha Lakes Community Clinic, the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, the HIV-AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) and the Downtown Legal Service, in addition to the Volunteer Legal Services Program of the Bar Association of San Francisco. While each organisation had a different client group and different scope and priority for their work, all had a shared view on the importance of having proper structures in place around the use of volunteers, be it position descriptions or volunteer coordinators dedicated to managing the recruitment, retention and administration of volunteers.

For some centres, such as HALCO, the use of legal volunteers was not a priority due to heightened issues of confidentiality around their clients and the risk this posed. However, HALCO used volunteers in other ways, such as for fundraising and administration. On the other hand, the Volunteer Law Services Program engaged volunteer lawyers on a large scale. One of their most effective uses of lawyers was on a limited scope basis through their Housing Advocacy Program. In collaboration with San Francisco’s Eviction Defence Collaboration, this program engaged lawyers for one afternoon a month to conduct a negotiation for tenants facing eviction. The retainer is confined to this one negotiation and supervised by an experienced housing lawyer at all times. Whilst the negotiation session was chaotic, it provided busy lawyers an opportunity to volunteer their skills in a meaningful way without infringing on their commercial practices.

The opportunity to attend a forum hosted by Volunteer Canada also provided an excellent overview to the volunteering space. This forum brought together leaders and Volunteer Centre Managers from across Canada to discuss notions of volunteer engagement, engagement with business and how volunteerism is changing in the face of social media, emerging technologies and a new workforce demographic.

Whilst developing a social media presence was on participant’s minds, what remained constant though the forum is what Canadians call the “Three Rs” of the volunteering cycle - Recruitment, Retention and Recognition and how this is changing for organisations that use and rely on volunteers.

One only needs to turn to the “Get Volunteering” site (www.getvolunteering.ca) and the conversation series on Facebook to see how social media can be a powerful tool for engaging and recruiting volunteers. This site is a venture of Volunteer Canada, Manulife Financial, a large underwriter, and The Mark, an online Broadsheet publication. It stimulates and promotes conversations around volunteering by involving volunteer leaders across all sectors in an open forum. Their Facebook page and website enable volunteers and volunteer organisations to match their skills with opportunities in the sector.

Discussions were held around the challenges of recruitment and retention of volunteers as the workforce becomes decentralised and more flexible. Engagement of volunteers outside of traditional staffing roles will be an issue in the coming years as the workforce changes. One notion that was tossed up was the concept of micro-volunteering. This idea has volunteers perform a discrete task remotely from the Volunteer Centre on the premise that it will not take a large amount of time. For a community legal centre, this could take the shape of research to support a submission or a campaign or other work that the centre is undertaking.

I was fortunate to spend the remaining week with Volunteer Canada in Ottawa, working with the staff to follow up the experience from the Forum. I would like to thank Ruth McKenzie and Volunteer Canada for this great opportunity and the connections they made for me.

Michael McKiterick, Victoria Law Foundation CLC Fellow

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“Wish list” public tenant wins compensation from Office of Housing

West Heidelberg is home to more than 700 public housing properties. Most of these homes were originally part of the 1956 Olympic Village and, despite never being intended for long term use, after the Games the village was turned into a public housing estate. These homes are now well past their intended life span and many are in an incredibly bad state of disrepair. West Heidelberg Community Legal Service frequently assists the residents of the former Olympic Village in getting their properties repaired by the Office of Housing.

Paul* came to the legal service in June 2011 seeking assistance in getting some repairs done to his West Heidelberg public housing property. Since he had moved into his home eight years ago, the toilet had never functioned properly. Waste leaked from the rear of the toilet and had rotted away the toilet floor. Mushrooms were growing at the base of the toilet. Paul told us that he was embarrassed to have anyone over to his home because of the smell coming from the toilet. The Office of Housing had repeatedly inspected his home over the years and told him that his toilet was on their “wish list” for repairs. Frustrated by the many promises given by the Office of Housing but a complete lack of action, Paul eventually sought the help of a local housing support service. By the time Paul came to our centre he had already been successful in getting three VCAT orders that repairs be done to his toilet. However, the Office of Housing had still failed to fix his toilet within the timelines ordered by VCAT. At one stage, due to a contractor cancelling at the last moment, Paul had no toilet at all for 32 hours and had to use the toilets at a nearby fast food outlet.

West Heidelberg Community Legal Service represented Paul at a compensation hearing at VCAT for the repeated failure of the Office of Housing to fix his toilet. We argued that Paul had not been allowed quiet enjoyment of his property for almost six months because of the faulty toilet and the inconvenience of having so many tradesmen enter his house. The Office of Housing argued that a change in the contracting company they used resulted in some repair jobs being delayed. They also argued that Paul had at times refused to allow contractors in when they had come to carry out the repairs. We argued that often these contractors either didn’t make an appointment with Paul, or they cancelled their appointments at the last moment. The tribunal member was not swayed by the Office of Housing’s arguments and ordered that Paul be compensated 10% of his rent from the date that the Office of Housing became aware of Paul’s faulty toilet.

Paul was ecstatic over receiving compensation and explained that he felt as though he had finally received some form of an apology, albeit a monetary one, for the time he had endured an unsanitary and faulty toilet. Paul told us that if the legal service had not been there to assist him, he wouldn’t have been able to adequately explain to the tribunal member why he should be compensated. It may have been a small win, but it was an incredibly satisfying one, and Paul’s toilet is now well and truly fixed.

Megan King, Housing Rights Lawyer, West Heidelberg Community Legal Service

* Names and some details have been changed to protect the anonymity of individuals.

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The Environment Defenders Office turns 20!

In the countdown to our celebration in 2012 of 40 years of community legal centres in Australia, we profile the history of some CLCs. More info on CLC history is now on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Legal_Centre

This year one of Victoria’s more esoteric CLCs, the Environment Defenders Office (EDO), celebrated its 20th birthday. The EDO provides legal advice and representation to individuals and groups who are trying to use the law to protect the environment – whether by advising community groups and farmers how to stop mines in their local communities, or by representing peak environment groups in VCAT to oppose a new coal-fired power station in the La Trobe Valley.  The EDO also has a powerful law reform team that make submissions, and appear at Committee hearings, for all levels of government.Former MP Richard Thwaites addresses the EDO 20th birthday celebrations

The EDO officially opened its doors in 1991 with financial support from the Victoria Law Foundation. This followed several earlier, unsuccessful attempts to establish an environmental legal service accessible to the Victorian community, some of which were stymied by a hostile legal profession. In its early years, the EDO only had a couple of paid staff and relied very heavily on volunteer solicitors, barristers and law students to perform its work.

A small amount of Commonwealth funding through the Community Legal Services Program commenced in the mid 1990s, and saw EDOs established in all states around Australia. Limits on this funding included the notorious litigation restriction, which prevented any Commonwealth funds being used for litigation of any kind.  This restriction was finally lifted a couple of years ago by Attorney General Robert McClelland.

Today, the EDO is bigger than ever, with two office staff, three lawyers working full-time on case-work and advice, a four person law reform team and a large squad of volunteers. Highlighting its now expanded capacity, in mid-2011 the EDO launched an appeal in VCAT on behalf of Environment Victoria and locals against the Victorian Environment Protection Authority’s decision to approve a new brown-coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley. The EDO, with barristers Adrian Finanzio and Rupert Watters, are arguing that in the context of climate change, brown-coal fired electricity generation cannot be the best available practice. The appeal, which has recently adjourned after an epic four week hearing, is set to become a landmark in Victorian environmental law.

The EDO celebrated its birthday like any 20 year old would, with a party!  Around 200 people came along. The guest speaker was John Thwaites, the former Minister for the Environment and one of the prime movers behind the EDO’s establishment. The EDO marked the occasion with the announcement of the first ever EDO Awards. The Awards recognise individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the environment by working with and supporting the EDO.  The recipients were:

  • Pro bono contribution award: Adrian Finanzio and Rupert Watters, the barristers involved in the VCAT appeal against the new brown-coal fired power station, mentioned above.
  • Valuable volunteer award: law/engineering graduating student Anthony Kung.
  • The environmental justice award: Harry van Moorst, one of Victoria’s most determined and resilient environmental campaigners.

The EDO has reached its strength perhaps when it is needed most. Victoria’s environment is still in a state of decline, facing threats from mining, logging, inappropriate development and a State government failure to act on climate change. The EDO is looking forward to fighting on through its twenties, and beyond!

Nicholas Croggon, Lawyer, Environment Defenders Office (Victoria)

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Disaster Legal Help to continue

Victorians affected by disasters can continue to receive free information and referrals from Disaster Legal Help. Disaster Legal Help is the new name for Bushfire Legal Help which was formed to provide free legal support for people affected by the February 2009 Victorian bushfires.

Legal fact sheets and referrals for legal advice can be accessed at www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au.

The site contains information on the most common legal concern for those affected by disasters, including fencing, property, destroyed wills and documents, and dealing with insurance and mortgage problems.

Bushfire Legal Help was a collaboration between Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Law Foundation, Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) and the Victorian Bar.

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