The pro bono aspect of Community Footprint enables our lawyers to utilise their legal expertise to help address some of the many unmet legal needs in Australia. Through our partnerships with organisations like Justice Connect, LawRight, the Refugee Advice & Casework Service and Refugee Legal our lawyers participate in a wide variety of pro bono matters and assist many vulnerable members of our community.
Many at Wotton +Kearney are passionate supporters of refugee rights and it is an area we have been involved in since the inception of Community Footprint, initially assisting clients seeking asylum with judicial review applications, and volunteering at the MOSAIC legal clinic operated by Justice Connect, providing assistance to newly arrived migrants.
With cuts to legal funding and increasing unmet legal need, in 2016 we set out to increase our capability to provide pro bono support to refugees and asylum seekers. This has led to lawyers across our offices being involved in the following projects:
- the Justice4Refugees project run by the Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS), assisting ‘Fast Track’ clients with judicial review applications;
- volunteering at the Fast Track Corporate Clinics run by Refugee Legal, helping clients that form part of the legacy caseload to complete visa applications; and
- partnering with the Human Rights Law Centre to help refugees and asylum seekers who were previously detained in offshore detention but transferred to Australia for medical treatment. We are working with those clients to lodge applications in the High Court to prevent their transfer to offshore detention in circumstances where that transfer would be harmful to the client.
In 2016 Wotton + Kearney established a Refugee Rights Focus Group which is open to any member of staff to attend. Every few months we get together, often with a guest speaker, to learn more about the political and legal climate, and consider how we can best assist.
We were honoured to have Madeline Gleeson, Senior Research Associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law speak to us at our inaugural meeting in December 2016.
In March 2017, we welcomed Simon Lewis, Humanitarian Lifeguard and Australian of the Year – Victorian Local Hero Finalist 2017. Simon was the first Australian Lifeguard to conduct rescues of Syrian refugees in the waters off Lesvos Greece in January 2016 and then became the first Australian Lifeguard to conduct rescue operations off the coast of Libya in December 2016.
Wotton + Kearney proudly joined as a sponsor of the Kaldor Centre’s annual conference in November 2016 and will again sponsor the conference in 2017. The theme for the 2017 conference is ‘The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants’, to be held at UNSW Law on 24 November 2017. Further details about the conference are available here – http://www.kaldorcentre.unsw.edu.au/event/save-date-annual-conference-2017
Self Represented Litigants
Lawyers in our Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney offices participate in a legal advice service for self represented litigants in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court registries. Volunteer lawyers attend Court to help people who are involved in, or who are considering commencing legal proceedings, and who are unable to afford private legal assistance and are ineligible for legal aid.
If you are unrepresented in a bankruptcy, Fair Work (employment), human rights/discrimination or judicial review issue in the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania or the ACT and would like free legal advice and assistance, contact the Justice Connect Self Representation Service on 1800 727 550.
If you would like assistance from the State Courts Self Representation Service in Queensland, you can contact the LawRight Self Representation Service on 07 3247 9222.
Elder Abuse and Seniors Rights
Elder abuse is an area of increasing unmet legal need. Our Sydney office has partnered with the Senior Rights Service to assist vulnerable older people, particularly where they have been subject to abuse. Our lawyers assist with a pro bono Telephone Advice Clinic. The clinic assists with a range of legal issues including wills, power of attorney, guardianship and elder abuse.
Elder abuse is any act within a relationship of trust which results in harm to an older person. The most common forms of elder abuse include physical abuse (assault, sexual assault), emotional abuse (isolation, deprivation, psychological abuse), financial abuse (exploitation) and neglect. With an aging population and rising numbers of people with dementia, the incidence of elder abuse is likely to increase.
For more information about elder abuse or seniors rights, you can contact the Senior Rights Service on 1800 424 079.
Wotton + Kearney is working with Justice Connect to assist members of the Stolen Generation access documents held by agencies, government authorities and churches. The documents detail the individuals’ histories and experiences of being forcibly removed from their families which, together with the subsequent abuse they suffered in care, has negatively affected their lives. This project also helps individuals obtain advice on the prospects of any potential redress against the government for their treatment.
In addition to providing advice to individuals, Wotton + Kearney also provides legal advice and assistance to not-for-profit organisations. These organisations offer a range of important non-legal services to the vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalised within the community, and address issues of public interest and importance through awareness, advocacy and education.
Matters we have acted on include:
- providing advice on the extent of the liability faced by directors of not-for-profit organisations when discharging their duties as directors;
- assisting a community organisation that provides medium term accommodation to homeless women who are the survivors of childhood sexual abuse with its defence of a claim in the CTTT; and
- reviewing unincorporated associations’ constitutions for compliance with new regulations.
If you are a not-for-profit seeking legal assistance, a good starting point is the Justice Connect Not-for-profit Information Hub – click here to access the Information Hub.
|Heidi Nash-Smith, Head of Pro Bono & Corporate Social Responsibility|