Story 11: Relieving an Unfair Financial Burden on a Refugee

2020: South Australia

Angelique* first came to The Accessible Justice Project (AJP) in November 2020 on the recommendation of her disability support worker. Angelique came from a refugee background and had some difficulty understanding English. She was unemployed and living with a disability. She was financially supporting her two children with her only income being a disability support pension.

Angelique was being charged excessive fees and treated unfairly under an exploitative agreement she had signed a decade earlier. She was ineligible for free legal help and was unable to afford a private lawyer.

Angelique felt vulnerable, and embarrassed that she had been misled into signing a document that she did not understand. At times, she was unable to purchase food for her two children as a consequence of the ongoing and excessive money being withdrawn from her account without her knowledge or understanding.

As a result, Angelique met with the lawyers at the AJP to discuss her matter, who listened to her story and provided advice as to her legal rights. The AJP were able to assist her by engaging in pre-action negotiation with the other party on her behalf and resolving her matter with a favourable financial settlement. Angelique was pleased with the outcome and was relieved that her financial stress was greatly reduced.

If it wasn’t for the provision of pro bono, or ‘low bono’, services, Angelique may have remained unaware of her legal rights and not otherwise received such an outcome, which removed the unfair financial burden and allowed her to focus more on her family instead. The AJP operates as a ‘low bono’, not-for-profit legal practice, which charges fees at approximately a quarter of the cost of a private lawyer.

The AJP offers assistance in a range of civil disputes for people who are ineligible for publicly funded legal assistance but are unable to afford the cost of a private lawyer, a group sometimes referred to as the ‘missing middle’. Since the AJP launched 18 months ago, it has seen over 200 clients who have experienced their own barriers to obtaining legal advice.

The AJP is proud to be able to contribute to the pro bono community in South Australia, and will continue to provide these services as a contribution to promote access to justice.

*Name changed to protect privacy

This story was submitted by The Accessible Justice Project, which is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide and LK Law.