May 27, 2020 |
West Heidelberg Community Legal (WHCL) operates together with Banyule Community Health as a fully integrated health justice partnership. They have been supporting their local community for 45 years.
The local community in this part of Melbourne has been hard hit by the COVID-19 health crisis and the legal service's work supporting people through financial, housing, health and legal issues has been particularly valuable.
WHCL has also been an important part of advocacy work to secure protections for renters and the suspension of fines, infringements and debt collection during the crisis.
Principal Lawyer Stephanie Price said that they moved quickly to the majority of staff working remotely, but have managed to maintain a physical presence in their office because of its co-location with the health service.
“We initially found less people were seeking help due to the sense of chaos and confusion at the start of the crisis. Then, there was suddenly a large group of people who had lost everything and had no idea where to go for assistance.”
“We realised early on that our big challenge would be to find new ways to reach out to this group and create pathways for assistance that would work in an environment where face-to-face meetings and community events are not possible.”
“The answers for us have been found in our existing community relationships, meaning we’ve reached out through local emergency relief, council services, local MPs, community groups and word of mouth. We have produced videos in community languages and shared them through local networks. Our role in the community is really valued by people.”
“Community legal centres like ours are always on the frontline when communities are under pressure because we spend every day getting to know the people who live here. The biggest challenge right now is meeting unprecedented community need with limited resources.”
You can contact West Heidelberg Community Legal 9am - 4.30pm Monday to Friday on 9450 2002. Visit www.bchs.org.au/services/whclegal/ for more information.