Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) has been recognised for its outstanding pro bono contribution and received the Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Pro Bono Award at the awards night held on Friday 9 August 2019.
AGS’s commitment to pro bono legal services around Australia has continued to grow since it became a signatory to the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s (the Centre) National Pro Bono Target in November 2008.
AGS’s dedication to pro bono was previously recognised at the 2014 ACLA in‐house lawyers’ awards where it won the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility Award.
The Centre was very pleased to support AGS’s nomination noting AGS’s long standing commitment to serving public interest through pro bono legal work. The Centre has worked with AGS on various pro bono projects, including initiatives within the Asian region, and regards the AGS pro bono program as a vital part of the pro bono landscape in Australasia.
AGS’s broad pro bono contribution extends to a variety of initiatives both domestically and internationally. AGS seconds its lawyers to community legal centres and other organisations under its pro bono program. For example, in September 2018, AGS, working with the Consumer Law Centre (CLC) of the ACT, launched a new debt-enforcement clinic to assist low-income and vulnerable clients address enforcement action being taken, or at risk of being taken. The clinic is staffed by lawyers seconded from AGS, as part of its pro bono program. Carmel Franklin, the CEO of Care Inc which operates the Consumer Law Centre noted that:
“The initiative has had a positive impact on the lives of clients facing court action to debt and the lawyers have been successful in assisting to secure repayment arrangements for very vulnerable clients and in some cases, reduction in earnings and redirection orders… Our collaboration with AGS has been very positive allowing the CLC to provide legal advice and ongoing support to many people in the community who are experiencing financial stress. AGS provide an outstanding pro bono service”.
The Centre is also extremely grateful to have had a number of full-time secondees from AGS for the last number of years. The fact that AGS does provide this level and type of support to a number of community organisations in Australia is significant. Remarkably, AGS is one of the largest providers of secondee hours per annum on a pro bono basis to community organisations, another reason why they are a vital part of the pro bono landscape in Australasia.
Other pro bono initiatives that AGS has been involved in include providing community legal education, training and support for clinics and assistance to a range of not-for-profit organisations, charities and community legal centres. AGS’s international pro bono work has a particular focus on assisting Australia’s important partners in the Asia Pacific region, primarily through capacity building with the delivery of well-established training courses.
Congratulations AGS on the well-deserved recognition of its role in promoting access to justice.