Rebecca Plummer

CEO & Principal Solicitor

Tell us about yourself and how you came to be in your current role

My background includes experiences in various roles within the legal field, with a focus on access to justice initiatives. I began practising law in very advocacy heavy roles, as a solicitor/barrister in private practice and at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency.

This experience led me to become interested in systemic issues with access to justice and I was fortunate to gain court administration experience as a Judicial Registrar and the Principal Registrar with the Northern Territory Local Courts. This provided helpful insights into the justice system and the challenges around equitable access.

Along the way, I was involved in access to justice projects like the Family Law Pilot, Fines Recovery Unit Pilot, and Justice Reinvestment initiatives. My roles in these projects, as well as some academic work at Flinders, allowed me to explore innovations in the legal sphere. This led me to postgraduate studies in development economics and justice, and then a Churchill Fellowship in access to justice enabling me to travel across the world seeing various systems of justice. This interest in innovation saw me working with a LegalTech company, and looking at how access to justice could benefit from the fourth industrial revolution we are currently experiencing.

This combination of practical justice system experience and an interest in innovation led me to my current position as CEO and Principal Solicitor at JusticeNet SA Inc. Here, I can apply my background to further the organisation’s mission of providing pro bono services and improving access to justice, which I find fulfilling because of the proven economics behind it – and my great colleagues in the sector.

Please give us a snapshot of the activities of JusticeNet SA

JusticeNet SA facilitates pro bono legal services by connecting members of the public in need with volunteer lawyers from its extensive member base.

Its members comprise over 500 lawyers across South Australia, spanning private practitioners, barristers, corporate and government legal teams, law firms, and university law clinics. This diverse pool of legal professionals generously donates its time and expertise to assist disadvantaged individuals who would otherwise be unable to afford representation.

JusticeNet SA’s core activities revolve around operating an efficient clearing house to match applicants with suitable member lawyers based on the area of law, location, and complexity of the legal matter. It also supports its member lawyers with training and support for the complexities and nuances of community legal work.

Beyond facilitation, JusticeNet SA engages in advocacy efforts to raise awareness about unmet legal needs in the community. We work closely with community legal centres, social service organisations, and the courts to identify gaps and collaborate on innovative solutions to improve access to justice statewide.

JusticeNet SA’s impact is far-reaching – each year, JusticeNet SA coordinates over $5 million worth of pro bono legal assistance across thousands of cases. With its dedicated members, it strives to be a driving force for a more equitable and accessible justice system in South Australia.

What are some examples of the impact of the pro bono work of your members?

Using Pro Bono Work to Support NFPs (A Pro Bono Connect case study) 

A not-for-profit environmental organisation was fighting hard to support a local community to protect a sensitive nature conservation area. They had nowhere else to turn for legal assistance in a difficult area of planning and environmental law.

JusticeNet’s Pro Bono Connect program was able to secure both solicitor and counsel. The legal matter was complex and the planning application was eventually withdrawn after the pro bono legal team spent more than 50 billable hours working on the matter. The not-for-profit is confident that, because this application was scrutinised by an experienced legal team, in the future people will be on notice that that applications relating to the sensitive nature conservation area will not just be rubber stamped.

Systemic Advocacy and Giving a Voice to Power (A Homeless Legal case study)

Leo’s journey into homelessness began 13 years ago due to a deterioration of his health forcing him to sell his business and home on Australia’s east coast. Battling clinical depression and severe anxiety, Leo moved to South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula, living in a modified van. Constantly asked to ‘move on’ without being offered viable housing alternatives, Leo faces isolation and feelings of worthlessness.

Leo approached JusticeNet’s Homeless Legal Outreach Clinic Service for advice and support. Unfortunately for Leo, there are currently limited human rights protections for people experiencing homelessness in South Australia and no clear obligation on local or State governments to protect people against homelessness or treat people experiencing homelessness with dignity.

JusticeNet SA, through Leo’s story, was able to advocate for better treatment of vulnerable people living on the fringes of society through its recent submission to the South Australian Parliament’s Inquiry into a Human Rights Act.

A Human Rights Act in South Australia would give public servants and decision makers a mandate to protect the rights of homeless individuals, preserve their dignity and address the root causes of homelessness. JusticeNet’s submission amplified Leo’s calls for better treatment by advocating for legislative reforms in South Australia.

Assisting those who would otherwise be self-represented in the Federal Court through the Federal Court Self Representation Service (FCSRS)

The FCSRS provided advice to Georgie* as part of the Fair Work Commission’s Workplace Advice Service. Georgie was experiencing a very difficult time: her husband was in the 4th stage of a cancer diagnosis; they have a young child and Georgie had found out that she was pregnant again. She received three warnings from work over the course of about two months: once because she was absent from work to care for her daughter while her husband was in hospital; two further times because she again took time off to care for her daughter on one occasion and to attend a medical appointment due to her pregnancy on another occasion, and issues arose at work which she would ordinarily would have taken care of, but had been delegated to another person in her absence. Georgie was dismissed about a week after the 3rd warning, which happened to be the day after she had made a workplace complaint. JusticeNet’s volunteer solicitor provided Georgie with advice about making a claim in the Fair Work Commission and talked her through the process and procedure.