Issue 42: July 2008
Welcome to the July 2008 edition of the e-Newsletter of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre (the Centre). We welcome your feedback/contributions/ideas. In this edition, read about:
National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference
The Law Council of Australia and the National Pro Bono Resource Centre have teamed up again to host the second National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference, to be held 13–15 November 2008 in Sydney. The program is now online at www.a2j08.com.au/program.html.
The conference’s theme of “Working Together” sees a program that brings together judges, magistrates, law students, barristers and solicitors, law firms, legal aid and community legal centre workers, government officers and politicians to discuss a range of issues from the effectiveness of the Federal Magistrates Court to serving the legal needs of the homeless and the elderly.
Thursday 13 November will provide two optional pre conference streams one on managing self-represented litigants and the other on increasing law student involvement through better links between the profession, government and law schools.
Anyone interested in sponsoring the conference, specific events or sessions should contact Robbie McWilliams, Marketing Manager at the Law Council, on (02) 6246 3715 or mail to: [email protected].
Commonwealth Legal Service Directions incorporate Conflicts Protocol
New clauses 11.3–11.5 of the Commonwealth Legal Services Directions came into force on 1 July 2008 and now require the Chief Executive of a Commonwealth agency to ensure that the agency, when selecting and retaining legal services providers, does not adversely discriminate against legal services providers that have acted, or may act, pro bono for clients in legal proceedings against the Commonwealth or its agencies unless there is an actual conflict of interest.
The amended legal service directions can be found on the A-G’s department’s website.
Canadian Pro Bono on the March
Canada is to have its first National Pro Bono Week from 15–20 September 2008 with events being held across Canada. The week will culminate in the 2nd Canadian national pro bono conference to be held in Vancouver on 18–19 September. See the program at http://www.probonoconference.ca/. This month also sees the launch of Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, the fourth province to have an organised pro bono centre.
See the international links on our Centre’s website for details of all Canadian pro bono centres http://www.nationalprobono.org.au/page.asp?from=5&id=69
Case law — new website feature
The Centre’s website now has a collection and analysis of key cases in Australia where there is a mention or judicial ruling on pro bono, including cost cases.
A Hunger for Justice
University of Queensland law lecturer, Paul O’Shea, was chuffed when the course he established won the UQ Vice-Chancellor’s Equity and Diversity Award.
“We were up against engineers who had gone and built housing in third world countries,” he says.
O’Shea’s course offers clinical legal education through four clinics: consumer law; a homeless persons’ clinic; a public interest research clinic; and, a Legal Aid clinic. The first three are run in collaboration with QPILCH.
“When we are running all four, 28 students are placed. This is the most number of different clinical opportunities for students in any of the Queensland Law Schools,” says O’Shea.
“Clinical experience satisfies the students’ hunger for justice. We have a duty to foster and satisfy that. There are many studies which show that lawyers have low job satisfaction and, interestingly, that this is not attributed to salaries. In California, where they have mandated pro bono work, studies have found that this is the part of the job that gives the most satisfaction to the lawyers. The desire to help people achieve justice seems to be innate in our students and in most lawyers. It’s why they do law.”
“Students love it and say it’s the best experience. We have twice as many applicants as places,” says O’Shea, who assesses students for participation in the program based on a written application which addresses criteria including “demonstrated commitment to social justice” as well as grade point average.
“The clinics are resource intensive because the students have to be closely supervised. We often have to get industry partners involved.” O’Shea is hoping to use the V-C’s Award money of $10,000 to employ someone to assist with clinical supervision and industry liaison.
As much as the students enjoy the clinics, they were developed in response to a community need. “The closure of the Financial Counselling Service in Brisbane where I’d been the consumer law solicitor meant that there was a gap in the provision of advice and assistance for consumers, particularly in the area of consumer credit.
“I was lamenting that loss with Tony Woodyatt, the Director of QPILCH and Randall Dennings, a partner with Clayton Utz,” says O’Shea. From that discussion, the clinical legal education course LAWS 5180 was “born”.
“Clayton Utz supported the program for two years with a seconded solicitor and they still provide training. Their assistance has been crucial,” says O’Shea.
The V-C’s Award is not the first award that his clinical legal course has garnered. In 2005, the consumer law clinic won the Excellence and Consumer Protection Award bestowed by the Minister for Fair Trading. It is estimated that the consumer law clinic alone has assisted 400 clients and helped save $50,000 in fees since it began in 2004.
Not Just Empowering People… Fighting for Them!
When Allens Arthur Robinson solicitor, Ruth Greenwood, would argue with friends about the Stolen Generation, she had read a lot about the issue and strongly supported the cause. But it wasn’t until she came to work as a secondee with PILCH NSW that the issue became very real and compelling.
“I had met plenty of Aboriginal people in my work at the Wayside Chapel, but I had never met anyone from the Stolen Generation,” says Greenwood. “Just to hear the stories first hand makes it come alive.”
“Some people say that members of the Stolen Generation idealise the life they would have had if they hadn’t been removed, and that it really wouldn’t have been so good. But I met one woman who, before she was taken away, had been the best student at school and her father had been an Aboriginal activist. She’s now an Elder near Bomaderry. She feels uncomfortable doing the welcome to country there, and will only do it at La Perouse, which is where she is really from,” says Greenwood.
Greenwood considers herself honoured to have attended an Aboriginal women’s coroboree event at Warnervale on the NSW central coast where she assisted in the promotion of the Stolen Wages Project.
Assisting with the Stolen Wages Project is just part of the work that Greenwood undertakes at PILCH. When asked what else she does, she responds: “Everything! You have to know a little bit about lots and lots of areas of law.”
She then reels off a list of things: “There’s administrative law; we also have a Predatory Lending Project so we deal with credit and consumer rights; mental health and whether someone is being detained in breach of the law; and a lot of council matters, which I wasn’t expecting. We have residents’ groups who want to be involved in the process of decision making on everything from roads and trees to fire hydrants.”
Undertaking such a wide variety of work has increased Greenwood’s confidence about what she can do. She talks about the on-the-job training sessions in unfamiliar areas of law, such as the Consumer Credit Code, which have allowed her to take on more and broader matters.
While she says she has been involved in “lots of really interesting matters”, most have not yet seen results. She refers to one of which she is particularly proud.
“On my very first day, the third call I received was from a woman who had suffered from sexual harassment at work for a long time. She’d gone to her HR department to complain and they had put her on less and less shifts. I love getting a big law firm to respond with a letter on their letterhead. She was so timid and delicate and she came to trust us and the lawyer we found to assist her. Now her employers won’t take advantage of her because they can’t. It is not just empowering people but actually fighting for them.”
Throughout her time at PILCH, Greenwood has kept in contact with the firm. “I get to go back for functions and see all the gang. My brother also works there. I had a special leave immigration matter in the High Court that I’d started before moving to PILCH and I went to the hearing for that. We didn’t get the special leave but it was a good result because the Minister conceded a number of points.”
Greenwood is nearing the end of her six month secondment, and says that she’ll be sad to leave. “It has been fantastic working here, but it is not something you can do forever. It is high intensity and you are always on the go. We get matters up to speed then give them to a lawyer and I’d love to go back to Allens and take them on!”
Court of Appeal decision welcomed by Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic
Queensland’s Court of Appeal set aside judgements of the District and Magistrate Courts when it ruled in favour of Mr Bruce Rowe, who had been found guilty of obstructing police and contravening a police direction in the lower Courts.
Coordinator of the QPILCH Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic, Andrea de Smidt said, “Today’s decision highlights the vulnerability of members of the homeless community to misuse of police power. How we treat these most marginalised members of our community is a reflection on our society as a whole and goes to the heart of our justice system.”
Mr Rowe approached the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic for assistance after an encounter with police in the Queen St Mall in July 2006. Mr Rowe, then aged 65, had entered a toilet block to change his clothing when he was approached by a cleaner and asked to leave. When Mr Rowe did not immediately respond to the cleaner’s request, the cleaner approached police for assistance. Four police officers entered the toilet block and told Mr Rowe to gather his belongings and leave. The ensuing verbal exchange between Mr Rowe and the officers culminated in Mr Rowe’s arrest for failing to comply with a formal move-on direction.
Under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 the Queensland Police have authority to issue move-on directions to any person in any public space, effectively removing that person from an area and preventing them from re-entering the area for up to 24 hours.
In a unanimous decision, the Court of Appeal found that the law relating to how and when police can exercise move-on directions was not adhered to and therefore rendered the move on direction, and subsequent arrest for contravening that direction, unlawful. The court said, “Police officers have the sometimes difficult task, for which they are extensively trained, of exercising tolerance and patience so that an individual’s liberty is only curtailed when plainly necessary and lawful.” In Mr Rowe’s case, this did not occur.
“People experiencing homelessness are disproportionately affected by public space laws because they conduct more of their private lives in public than the rest of the community. An unavoidable consequence can be that they attract the attention of the authorities and, when charged by the police, have a propensity to plead guilty when others may not,” Andrea de Smidt said.
Jobs in Pro Bono
PILCH (Vic) is seeking a manager for the Public Interest Law Scheme which provides assistance to individuals who cannot afford a lawyer with matters that raise issues of public interest. The ideal candidate will have a commitment to improving access to justice for marginalised and disadvantaged people, and an excellent understanding of the legal profession and pro bono sector in Victoria.
Applicants should read the recruitment pack at www.pilch.org.au. Applications are due on 22 July and should be sent to: Executive Director, PILCH, PO Box 13121 Law Courts, Melbourne 8010, or by email to [email protected]. Enquiries about the position to Penny Morrow on 03 9225 6672.
The Aurora Project works to strengthen the capacity of Native Title Representative Bodies around Australia. The Project seeks to appoint a Deputy Director to take responsibility for leading and managing these capacity-building initiatives, developing and overseeing learning and development programs and managing a range of organisational development projects (eg, mentoring and coaching programs).
Experience in a law practice or in the community or public sectors, particularly in connection with Indigenous issues and/or organisations, is desirable but not essential.
The Project’s offices are currently based in Coogee (Sydney) and interstate travel (including to rural and remote areas) may be required.
QPILCH is looking for a Student Clinic Supervisor for 2 days a week for 12 months. They would prefer an experienced legal practitioner with teaching experience or a strong interest in imparting practical legal skills to law students. For position description phone 3012 9773 or e-mail [email protected].
Applications close 10 July 2008.
The Kingsford Legal Centre is currently looking for more volunteer solicitors, particularly for their Thursday night rosters at Maroubra Junction. If you have a current NSW Practising Certificate and minimum 1 year experience, please contact Denise Wasley for more information on 9385 9566 or [email protected].
Marrickville Legal Centre is a Community Legal Centre servicing the Inner West currently looking for lawyers and assistants to join their team of volunteers providing free legal advice during evening clinics. Advice clinics are held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 6:30pm.
Email Lisa at [email protected] to receive an Expression of Interest form. New volunteers are required to attend an orientation session prior to joining the evening advice roster. Volunteer solicitors and barristers must hold a current NSW Practising Certificate.
Pro Bono in the News — JULY 2008
The fight to save La Mama (The Age, 1 June)
Shortlist of 10 in hunt for judicial positions (The Australian, 30 May)
Nude teacher wins job back (Courier Mail and the Australian, 7 June)
Man in detention centre for six years sues Philip Ruddock (The Australian, 10 June)
Driven to make a difference (The University of Melbourne Voice, 9 June–13 July)
Arrested for witnessing a police raid (The Australian, 12 June)
Hulls announces five new judicial appointments (A-G media release, 10 June)
Firms find free advice pays for itself (The Australian Financial Review, 13 June)
Boom in work short changes women in Bar (The Australian, 13 June)
Panel firms excel on pro bono (The Australian, 13 June)
Disadvantaged reap government pro bono benefits (Vic A-G media release, 11 June)
Man accused of killing toddler now a dad (The Australian, 16 June)
From the Tamworth Community 2 You (CBOnline, 12 June)
Top UK firm takes a punt on pro bono (The Australian, 20 June)
Health care for all of us: World Refugee Day 20 June (The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners media release, 20 June)
Ex-premier Peter Dowding attacked on lobbying work (The Australian, 24 June)
Working hard for the needy (The Age, 24 June)
Jigalong calls in lawyers on State ‘neglect’ (The West Australian, 25 June)
Complex and essential role to fill (The Australian Financial Review, 27 June)
Glass ceiling still firmly in place (The Australian, 27 June)
Universal theme in Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man (The Courier Mail, 28 June)