Story 7: Afghanistan – Rapid Legal Assistance for Those Fleeing the Taliban

2021: Victoria

On 15 August 2021, the Taliban took over Kabul and quickly advanced into other parts of Afghanistan. Watching the Afghan people flee their homes struck a chord with the Australian community and made many of us recognise that we had a part to play in the humanitarian effort. Gadens was determined to apply our resources and skills to support the men, women and children who were fleeing the Taliban.

Assisting asylum seekers and refugees is a key priority area for Gadens under our Pro Bono Policy, so we were proud to work in conjunction with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in their efforts to meet the unprecedented demand for legal advice and casework services from the Afghan community in Australia and overseas.

Within two weeks, Gadens assisted in setting up the infrastructure for a remote telephone advice service. This included conducting training sessions for lawyers across the sector who joined our lawyers staffing the telephone advice line five days a week, responding to email requests for legal assistance and taking initial instructions for onsite legal appointments. The Sustainability and Social Impact team at Gadens supervised legal volunteers and assisted in the drafting and reviewing of fact sheets, while our IT team provided ongoing technical support for the phone advice line and dozens of our lawyers from graduates to partners joined as volunteers.

Our involvement in this project allowed ASRC to respond to approximately 2,500 email requests for legal assistance, complete 185 intake forms and schedule legal appointments for approximately 300 clients onsite at the ASRC. Many of the scheduled appointments included large family groups, including up to eight applicants per appointment.

It was inspiring to be a part of a legal sector coming together, and to know that it resulted in people accessing advice when they needed it.

Kathy Merrick (Gadens Board Member and Partner) taking calls on the ASRC phone line in lockdown, 2021

Our participation in this project also built our internal capacity to broaden our assistance to the ASRC on an ongoing basis, leading to more projects and a more meaningful pro bono partnership.

This story was submitted by Gadens.