Entries by hrcls

Free community info session – FV and why early intervention helps

Looking for information about family violence for yourself or someone else? The Ovens Murray Integrated Family Violence Committee will be running a series of free community information sessions in Wangaratta in 2018. The sessions are free, informal and community oriented.

The first session will feature Hume Riverina Community Legal Service family lawyer Jodie Wells. It will be held at Gateway Wangaratta on Wednesday 28 March 2018, from 8am-9am.

Since March 2017, Ms Wells has attended the Centre Against Violence under a health-justice partnership arrangement in Wangaratta and Wodonga to give free legal assistance to women impacted by family violence.

“These clients are particularly vulnerable and are not entitled to legal aid, and they do not have the financial means to get legal assistance from private lawyers,” Ms Wells said.

The legal assistance provided to women in need covers a range of legal issues, including family violence, family law (child contact, property and divorce), debt problems, tenancy issues, applications to Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) and fines and infringements. As part of the evaluation process for the health justice partnership, statistics are recorded. Ms Wells said the top five categories overall have been

  1. Family Law Property in Marriage/De Facto
  2. Family Law Child Contact
  3. Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal applications
  4. Tenancy issues
  5. Fines/Infringements

“These top five issues make up about 40 per cent of my advice, and many people have multiple legal issues,” she said.

Ms Wells said the information session is aimed at support workers and health professionals, as well as victims and their family and friends. “This session will help people understand how this legal process works and how early intervention is important for getting a positive result,” she said.

For more information about the community session, or to register, visit EventBrite at bit.ly/FVinfosessions or call Jasmine Isaacs on 03 5722 3009. If you or anyone you know needs immediate help with family violence call 000 or contact Safe Steps on www.safesteps.org.au or 1800 015 188. 1800 015 188 1800 015 188 1800 015 188

Partnerships helping young people get over life’s hurdles

Giving young people access to free legal advice in a ground-breaking first in regional Australia has resulted in many positive outcomes beyond helping fix legal problems.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers welcomed Federal Member for Indi Cathy McGowan to NESAY on January 11 to meet with all the partners involved in the Invisible Hurdles project. HRCLS has partnered with NESAY, Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre and the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS) to deliver the Invisible Hurdles project from October 2016 onwards.

Ms Rodgers thanked Ms McGowan for showing a strong interest in the project and offering her support in Parliament for community legal centres and initiatives to help young people struggling with life’s challenges.

“We appreciate the support from all MPs who see the value in our work and how we make a difference for people in our communities,” Ms Rodgers said.

Ms Rodgers said it was important to highlight how the partnerships were working to deliver positive outcomes, and everyone agreed co-location, relationship building and trust, and regular access to an Invisible Hurdles lawyer were main ingredients for the project’s success.

“All partners are keen for the project to continue and this is testament to the excellent work everyone is doing,” Ms Rodgers said. “Health-justice partnerships are delivering positive outcomes and it’s important for us to show Government this is a productive service model.”

The Invisible Hurdles health justice partnership project received funding through the Victorian Legal Services Board Grant program, and Legal Aid NSW also provides funding for the project to be run at AWAHS.

Representatives from NESAY, Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre and AWAHS outlined how the Invisible Hurdles was helping young people, particularly in family violence situations, as well as creating other benefits for service workers, such as upskilling and education on the legal system.

NESAY executive officer Leah Waring said the health-justice partnership had created a positive ripple effect and helped enhance relationships, while giving support workers new skills.

“Our staff can now identify a potential legal problem and have the confidence to refer the people they’re seeing to the Invisible Hurdles lawyer, and young people would never make an appointment for help without this encouragement,” Ms Waring said. “Our young people are blown away that they can see a lawyer for free. Without access to the Invisible Hurdles project, the opportunities for them to get legal help are almost non-existent.”

Ms McGowan praised the Invisible Hurdles partners for their collaborative approach to address legal problems for young people in vulnerable situations and encouraged them to continue showing Government how the service model was working.

Invisible Hurdles project partners gather to discuss the success the program has created through helping young people with Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO MP.

Invisible Hurdles project partners gather to discuss the success the program has created through helping young people with Member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AO MP(middle).

 

Family violence legal services gets boost on the Border

Family violence victims living in NSW towns along the border will have the opportunity to access more legal assistance. In a positive move, the addition of a new family law position bolsters Hume Riverina Community Legal Service’s (HRCLS) ability to ensure people living in NSW who are experiencing family violence have access to legal support.

HRCLS principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said the project, funded through Commonwealth funding distributed by Legal Aid NSW, would enable HRCLS to deliver family law and family violence services in the Southern Riverina of NSW, including Albury, Corowa, Deniliquin and Finley.

“Having a dedicated lawyer provide these services will help improve support we can provide to clients in rural communities who face these issues,” she said. “We will strengthen our links with other family violence services in the region. We already have dedicated lawyers providing targeted family violence services on the Victorian side of the border, so this will ensure those living in NSW receive a similar service.”

These services will officially begin in January 2018 and have been funded until June 30, 2020.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman visited Hume Riverina Community Legal Service last week to find out how the legal service was helping people with everyday legal problems, and to hear about a new family law/family violence project targeting people in the Southern Riverina of NSW.

Ms Rodgers said the opportunity to speak directly with Mr Speakman, who made the approach to HRCLS to visit, was a chance for lawyers to explain the day-to-day challenges they face, and provide solutions.

“The Attorney General was interested to learn more about our approach and what was working well, and also what could be improved to help people get access to legal assistance,” she said. “Mr Speakman was very attentive, asked plenty of questions and able to clarify how the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme (NDVOS) will be implemented.”

Ms Rodgers said the NDVOS, which started on November 25, would help people living on the border because they no longer need to manually register their family violence protection order in NSW or Victoria.

“We have been asking for change and highlighting the difficulties for victims of family violence, who up until this point, have been responsible for registering their family protection orders across the Border,” Ms Rodgers said.

 

Family violence a key focus for community legal centre helping Border families

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) is joining the 16 Days of Activism campaign and principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers has welcomed the family violence focus on the Border, with local organisations playing a role to change attitude and behaviour in the community.

Ms Rodgers said it was the important for the community legal service to help promote the 16 Days of Activism and support partners, including The Women’s Centre, Yes Unlimited, Women’s Health Goulburn North East, the Ovens Murray Integrated Family Violence Network and the Centre Against Violence.VAV_A3_Many_hands_poster_V1-page-001

“We want to show the wider community the legal system is responding and we want to play a role to help people,” Ms Rodgers said. “When people separate they need to understand the family law process, and I encourage anyone needing free legal assistance to get in touch with us on 1800 918 377.

“We are seeing an increasing number of clients experiencing family violence and more than half the work we do is in the family law/family violence area.”

People seeking free legal help often experience a number of problems, along with domestic violence. Ms Rodgers said the excellent partnerships HRCLS has formed helped to refer people quickly to the right service to get their problems solved.

“Many people have complex issues, such as housing, fines, credit and debt,” she said. “Often they also have child safety to consider, so we work closely with our auspicing body UMFC and local service providers to get these people help to make sure their families have support and can feel safe.”

Although residents in Albury-Wodonga view themselves as living in one community, Ms Rodgers said the differences in NSW and Victorian family law meant legal issues could be complicated. “This makes it even more critical to help people through the steps in the legal process,” she said.

Getting early legal advice was also important to prioritise the best way forward. “Many people think they need to take certain steps, when in fact they made need to do other things first,” she said.

Making a difference to help people fix legal problems

Partnerships with key community organisations have been crucial for ensuring more people struggling with issues in their life get free legal assistance, according to Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers.

More than 30 people from community service providers attended the HRCLS ‘Report to the Community’ on Thursday, 9 November, to hear the impact HRCLS had in 2016-17. Ms Rodgers said she was proud of the role the service played in helping people access legal assistance.

“Our team’s commitment to link the community with the law has resulted in meeting our strategic aims and beating targets, with an increase in key areas of the service,” Ms Rodgers said.

Ms Rodgers said the strengthening of partnerships was having an impact, and allowed HRCLS lawyers to give more advice to people than in the previous year.

“Our partners such as Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre, NESAY, Gateway Health and Centre Against Violence are having a real impact through the collaborative programs we have established,” Ms Rodgers said. “People trust these services and our referrals are increasing as clients open up about their problems, which include legal issues. With our presence at each of these sites, we can quickly identify how to potentially fix these legal issues.”

Ms Rodgers said the legal service was investigating more projects to further extend its reach into the HRCLS catchment to ensure people needing legal advice on everyday problems. Outreach services are currently delivered from Benalla and Wangaratta to Henty and Holbrook, and west to Deniliquin, Finely and Corowa.

“We are in a unique environment on the Border and we regularly face cross border legal problems,” she said. “People dealing with legal problems often have interrelated Victorian and NSW legal problems and it can be extremely complex to get these issues resolved. These cross border issues problems continue to create confusion and frustration among the community and we will keep advocating for them to be addressed.”

NSW cross border commissioner James McTavish was guest speaker at the ‘Report to the Community’ and told the audience about the role of his office in addressing cross border issues.

Mr McTavish said local knowledge was vital for his work advocating to the NSW Government for resolutions to cross border problems, and he encouraged people to contact his office.

Mr McTavish said the NSW Government had addressed laws that would impact people living on the NSW-Victoria with legislation passed to allow the registration of interstate Intervention Violence Orders. Work is also being done in the child protection area to ensure border living is recognised.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service 2016-17 highlights

Highlight breakout 2016-17

The above statistics are not a full representation of the data for the 2016-17 year. HRCLS will publish more data  when more is available.

The HRCLS Annual Report 2016-17 can be found online here.

NSW Cross Border Commissioner_James McTavish_Hume Riverina CLS team_Report to the Community_Nov_2017

NSW Cross Border Commissioner James McTavish

with the HRCLS team at the Report to the Community 2016-17

 

Help us make a difference – Lawyer (Family Law/Family Violence NSW)

Wodonga
Reference: 3704756

Due to exciting new service developments, an opportunity has arisen for appropriately qualified people to apply for the above part-time position based in Wodonga on a fixed term contact for 30 hrs p.w. Salary Range $78,330 to $82,300 per annum pro-rata.

The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), auspiced by UMFC, provides free and confidential legal advice and information to individuals who reside or work in North East Victoria and the Riverina of NSW, and is the only Community Legal Centre in the region.

Under the direction of the Principal Lawyer/Manager, the primary role of the Lawyer (Family Law/Family Violence NSW ) is to deliver services through Commonwealth funding received from Legal Aid NSW targeting those affected by family violence, with family law and family violence related legal problems. The Lawyer will establish partnerships with family violence service providers in NSW and attend NSW outreach locations, to provide legal advice, information, referrals and ongoing casework to priority clients (including attendance at the Albury Local Court and Federal Circuit Court as required). The Lawyer will also participate in a range of other HRCLS services including community legal education and law reform policy work

For this role, it is essential that you are eligible to hold an unrestricted practising certificate in Victoria as an employee of a law practice.

Further information about the HRCLS can be found at www.hrcls.org.au.

If you are passionate about UMFC’s mission

‘Strengthening families to build vibrant communities’

And strongly identify with our values of

‘Participation, Respect, Excellence, Justice and Honesty’

Then please apply now…

Your application must include:

  • A covering letter with your full name, address and contact details along with the title of the position being applied for
  • A copy of your current curriculum vitae including qualifications, professional affiliations and employment history and the names and contact details of at least three recent professional referees
  • Response to the relevant questions completed during the on line application process.

Enquiries: Sarah Rodgers on 02 6055 8090 or [email protected]

ADDITIONALLY, PLEASE NOTE:

If successful you will be required to undergo and pass a National Police Check (completed and paid for by UMFC), which must be cleared prior to commencement in the role.

If a Working with Children Check (WWCC) is required it will be stated in the relevant Position Description.

  • If the role is in Victoria: you will need to hold a current Employee Victorian WWCC and supply your card as evidence for status checking by UMFC. You will also need to update your employer details on the relevant card.
  • If the role is in NSW: you will need to hold a current Employee NSW WWCC. You will need to supply the WWCC number and your date of birth so that your check can be verified by UMFC.

For further info, Or to apply for a WWCC please visit:

New South Wales: www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

Victoria: www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au

Applications Close: 06 Sep 2017

Download PD_3704756

Exciting job opportunity – Lawyer (NSW Care & Protection – Early Intervention)

Wodonga
Reference: 3705053

Due to exciting new service developments, an opportunity has arisen for appropriately qualified people to apply for the above part-time position based in Wodonga on a fixed term contact – 22.5 hrs p.w. Salary Range $78,330 to $82,300 p.a. pro-rata.

The Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), auspiced by UMFC, provides free and confidential legal advice and information to individuals who reside or work in North East Victoria and the Riverina of NSW, and is the only Community Legal Centre in the region.

Under the direction of the Principal Lawyer/Manager, the NSW Care & Protection Lawyer will provide early intervention assistance to clients with NSW care and protection matters including legal advice, casework and information to clients over the telephone and through face-to-face appointments at the Wodonga office and at outreach locations in NSW. The Lawyer will also establish relationships with key service providers engaging with clients who may be experiencing child protection issues, and build the profile of the program throughout the HRCLS NSW catchment area. From time to time, the Lawyer may also participate in the range of other HRCLS services including litigation support and community legal education.

For this role, it is essential that you are eligible to hold an unrestricted practising certificate in Victoria as an employee of a law practice.

Further information about the HRCLS can be found at www.hrcls.org.au

If you are passionate about UMFC’s mission

‘Strengthening families to build vibrant communities’

And strongly identify with our values of

‘Participation, Respect, Excellence, Justice and Honesty’

Then please apply now…

Your application must include:

  • A covering letter with your full name, address and contact details along with the title of the position being applied for
  • A copy of your current curriculum vitae including qualifications, professional affiliations and employment history and the names and contact details of at least three recent professional referees
  • Response to the relevant questions completed during the on line application process.

Enquiries to: Sarah Rodgers on 02 6055 8090 or to [email protected]

ADDITIONALLY, PLEASE NOTE:

If successful you will be required to undergo and pass a National Police Check (completed and paid for by UMFC), which must be cleared prior to commencement in the role.

If a Working with Children Check (WWCC) is required it will be stated in the relevant Position Description.

  • If the role is in Victoria: you will need to hold a current Employee Victorian WWCC and supply your card as evidence for status checking by UMFC. You will also need to update your employer details on the relevant card.
  • If the role is in NSW: you will need to hold a current Employee NSW WWCC. You will need to supply the WWCC number and your date of birth so that your check can be verified by UMFC.

For further info/or to apply for a WWCC please visit:

New South Wales: www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au

Victoria: www.workingwithchildren.vic.gov.au

Applications Close: 06 Sep 2017

Download PD_3705053

North East renters deserve better treatment to secure safe, affordable housing

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service is one of 54 statewide services today calling on Premier Daniel Andrews to address significant issues in rental laws that make life harder for renters struggling to get fair access to secure housing. The State Government’s current review of the Residential Tenancies Act is underway, and HRCLS principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said the community legal centre joined the Make Renting Fair campaign to add its strong support for key areas of concern around potential reforms.

These include increasing protection for low income and vulnerable tenants, removing ‘no reason’ eviction notices, implementing the Family Violence Royal Commission recommendations, and ruling out punitive measures that would harm tenants, particularly those at risk of homelesssness.

“We know people experiencing family violence are at greater risk of homelessness and will be impacted by unfair tenancy laws,” Ms Rodgers said.

“In 2015-16, 10% of people we assisted with legal casework were homeless or at risk. In Wangaratta, through legal advice in our health justice partnership with Gateway Health, this number was 26%, showing the importance of access to free legal assistance for this vulnerable group.”

Ms Rodgers said the service was committed to assisting this group of people, and there was no sign the homelessness problem in the North East was about to change.  The Open Letter to Mr Andrews came in the wake of Homelessness Week, which was recognised on the Border with a launch in Wodonga last Monday.

Beyond Housing (formerly known as Rural Housing Network) stated that in 2014-15 700 people presented to their service either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Of these 27% were couples/families, 33% were homeless for social reasons including family violence and 29% because of housing affordability.

“With this review, we are at risk of seeing consumer protections for tenants weakened,” Ms Rodgers said today. “If this happens, more vulnerable tenants will be the ones hit hardest. We are already seeing many of these people with multiple legal issues. Their legal protections and their right to safe and secure housing should not be compromised.”

Ms Rodgers echoed the statement from the Make Renting Fair Campaign, saying the groups most impacted would include people who have been homeless, people living with mental illness, people with a disability, older tenants, students, people from CALD backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women and children, and low income households.

“The challenges these groups face are often exacerbated in the country and in cross-border locations such as Albury-Wodonga,” she said.

Make Renting Fair_Open Letter to Premier Daniel Andrews – RTA Review_August 17_2017

 

Happy 18th Birthday HRCLS!

There was cause for celebration (and cake) on Friday July 28 when Hume Riverina Community Legal Service celebrated its 18th birthday, after Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams AM QC MP launched the service on that date in 1999.

From humble beginnings – four staff and a budget of $200,000 – the service has grown to become an accepted and key member of the legal sector, locally and nationally, with 11 legal and five admin/community development staff. The team is also about to grow further, thanks to Legal Aid NSW confirming funding for the NSW Care Partner Program, and a family law/family violence role.

While staff and budgets have changed, the commitment to providing a professional service for disadvantaged and vulnerable people and families in North East Victoria and Southern Riverina of NSW remains as strong as it was on day one. HRCLS provides family violence and family law legal assistance, as well as generalist legal services on everyday legal problems, including fines, credit and debt issues, consumer complaints and motor vehicle accidents.

Being auspiced by UMFC and with strong relationships in the community service sector, HRCLS continues to work together with other services, such as financial counselling and drug and alcohol support for clients struggling with multiple issues in their lives.

From the beginning we have been a voice for rural, regional & remote (RRR) Australia, and we continue to speak up for this sector of our community, with a particular emphasis on the complex issues of living on the border through differing laws in Victoria and NSW.

We are passionate about linking our community to the law, and our involvement in community legal education and law talks has continued to expand as our staff go out and about through our catchment of 17 local government areas, helping people to understand the law and how to access it.

Our commitment to law reform has long been a foundational pillar of our service and we continue to work for a fairer and more just society. Most recently we have been involved in the Access to Justice Review in both Victoria and NSW, the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria and the Elder Abuse Inquiry (Vic).

We are grateful for the community support over the past 18 years and look forward to continuing to make a difference in our region by providing free legal advice to people who otherwise can’t afford a lawyer.

Reaching 18 is worth a celebration and cake! It's been a wonderful journey making a difference with free legal assistance for vulnerable people and families in our community.

Reaching 18 is worth a celebration and cake! It’s been a wonderful journey making a difference with free legal assistance for vulnerable people and families in our community.

 

 

Having legal affairs in order reduces risk of elder abuse

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service marked World Elder Abuse Day on June 15, 2017, by visiting aged care facilities in Wangaratta to raise awareness about the issue. Hume Riverina Community Legal Service principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said elder abuse was generally carried out by a trusted family member or friend, and impacted a person in a number of ways, and legal assistance was needed in most cases.

“Financial abuse is the most common type of abuse reported, and all the evidence suggests it remains underreported in Victoria,” Ms Rogers said. “They can be extremely difficult situations, because the victim may need the support of the abuser to carry out their daily activities.”

Ms Rodgers said HRCLS visited aged care facilities because aged care and health care workers, including nurses, may see elder abuse first hand and can offer support, particularly if they see a negative change in behaviour or learn of financial transactions happening without permission.

“Helping people understand their rights, and ensuring staff at facilities caring for the elderly also identify issues, will help decrease the rates of elder abuse in the community,” Ms Rodgers said. “Elderly people can be reluctant to report abuse, and staff giving them information and support can encourage them to get help.”

Ms Rodgers said it was important elderly people had their legal affairs in order to help reduce the risk of elder abuse occurring. Older Victorians experiencing elder abuse, or family members concerned about an older person, can contact Hume Riverina Community Legal Service for free legal advice. Appointments can be made by calling 1800 918 377.

HRCLS is auspiced by UMFC who also offer assistance for over 65s through their Support Options Program, providing a range of services for the aged and those who care for them. For more information call 02 6055 8000 or 03 5720 0000.

Elder abuse includes:

  • Financial abuse:Using someone’s money, property or other assets illegally or improperly or forcing someone to change their will or sign documents. This is the most common form of abuse seen in Victoria.
  • Emotional abuse:Using threats, humiliation or harassment causing distress and feelings of shame, stress or powerlessness.
  • Physical abuse:Inflicting pain or injury by hitting, slapping, pushing or using restraints.
  • Social abuse:Forcing someone to become isolated by restricting access to family, friends or services. This can be used to prevent others from finding out about the abuse.

UMFC_Ruth Harris_HRCLS lawyer Deb Fisher_UMFC Jan Bence_HRCLS Simon Crase

IMAGE: UMFC manager support options aged and disability support services Ruth Harris, HRCLS lawyer Deb Fisher, UMFC manager Interchange aged disability support services Jan Bence and HRCLS Community Legal Education officer Simon Crase recognise World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Thursday, June 15