Local lawyer repays community with help for people in need of legal assistance

A strong social conscience drawn out of the caring community he grew up in has driven a local man to volunteer to help locals needing legal advice for a range of issues. In his spare time, Maurice Blackburn lawyer Kip Frawley volunteers at the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) as part of a roster to give free legal advice at the fortnightly evening clinic.

With Volunteer Week being recognised nationally, Kip reflected on his willingness to volunteer, and how his effort has helped double the amount the number of appointments now available at the HRCLS evening clinic every second Tuesday.

Wangaratta-based HRCLS lawyer Deb Fisher said the strong volunteer culture in Wangaratta was helping make a difference for people needing legal assistance. “The evening clinic allows people from outside Wangaratta or those who can’t make daytime appointments, to access free legal advice outside work hours,” Ms Fisher said. “Thanks to the ongoing commitment of a growing number of volunteers, we have capacity to see six more clients than we would otherwise. We are grateful for their help and value their contribution.”

Born and raised in Wangaratta, Kip grew up with four siblings in a close family unit, and the values and ethos of his mother and father, GPs Jenny Murray and Gavin Frawley, had a lasting impact on how their son views the world and his place in it.

“They led by example. My parents are very community minded. Mum ran the school fete for years, and they got involved in the soccer and footy clubs when we started playing,” Kip said. “So the desire to ‘give back to the community’ was instilled at an early age.”

Once he’d settled on law as a career, Kip moved to Canberra to study at ANU. The lifestyle and environment enhanced his social justice conscience where he learnt and developed a particular interest in indigenous law and issues. For his last semester, Kip headed to Vienna after catching the travel bug during a visit to Indonesia.

“A highlight was a subject in mediation resolution with a large Austrian law firm, which had a partnership with the University of Vienna,” he said. “It was a great chance for me to see some of the world while finishing off study.”

Volunteer Kip Frawley is one of a number of local lawyers, including Wendy Couzens (pictured), volunteering on a regular basis at HRCLS.

On his return, Kip’s experience with social justice issues started while completing his Practical Legal Training in Darwin working at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. Then after a short stint as a paralegal in the firm’s Melbourne office and his admission as legal practitioner, Kip joined Maurice Blackburn back in his home town just over 12 months ago.

“I’ve always been interested in social justice, and the no-win, no-fee arrangement Maurice Blackburn offers facilitates access to justice for people who might not otherwise be able to obtain it,” he said. “Growing up in the country, I always wanted to return to a regional area, so coming home was a perfect fit.”

Kip represents people in WorkCover and TAC claims to help people get compensation and medical treatment. “This idea of equality before the law – while it sounds good in theory – it’s not something we always see in practice. So for me it’s about fighting for that and sticking up for people in vulnerable situations,” he said.

Volunteering allows Kip the opportunity to help people as a way of repaying a community that gave him plenty when he was young. Before heading to Darwin, he approached HRCLS about volunteering in the hope he could one day take up a role, and last year reconnected with the service.

“Volunteer work is something I’ve always done, whether that is in the legal, community or sporting space and this is one small way that I can use my training to help people doing it tough,” he said. “I get exposure to different areas of law and it reminds me of why I got into law in the first place. I’d encourage other lawyers if they have the time to get involved at HRCLS, because community legal centres’ resources are thin and you can help people who need it the most.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service can visit the Volunteer page.

Volunteering brings sense of personal satisfaction

About Wendy Couzens – Wangaratta evening clinic volunteer

How long have you been a lawyer? Almost 5 years.

 What is the name of your firm? Morgan Couzens Legal.

HRCLS volunteers Wendy Couzens and Kip Frawley at the Wangaratta Tuesday evening clinic.

 What attracted you to becoming a lawyer? I had worked as a law clerk for several years, and decided that I would enjoy working as a solicitor. I continued working as a clerk whilst undertaking university studies.

 Why did you decide to volunteer with HRCLS? I really enjoy helping clients in a practical sense by talking the client through the legal options available and also pointing out the practical reality of what those options mean for the client’s situation. Whilst working in private practice, the clients that I help are those who already know that they need a lawyer and can afford to pay for a lawyer. Volunteering with HRCLS I can assist people who sometimes aren’t certain what type of help they need and those who, for various reasons, cannot afford to pay a lawyer to act for them.

 What benefits do you get from volunteering as a lawyer? A sense of personal satisfaction and the knowledge that I am helping people in my local community with an expertise that many people don’t have.

 Why would you encourage other lawyers to volunteer? Assisting people outside your usual client group shows you what issues are relevant to other people in your community and what opportunities might be out there to give back. Finding solutions to unusual problems helps to develop lateral thinking skills.

How has volunteering helped you in your day-to-day role? Volunteering broadens my perspective to include issues that people outside my normal client group are facing. My firm writes an online blog which focuses on issues related to employment law and when I write for that blog, I often draw on questions that are asked of me both in private practice and as a volunteer.


Anyone interested in volunteering with the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service can visit the Volunteer page.

Independent umpire as important now as ever – Victorian Ombudsman to visit Wodonga for Law Week Launch 2018

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass OBE will speak about the exercise of discretion in administrative decision-making at a keynote address to mark the beginning of Law Week. Ms Glass is a guest of the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), which is holding a Law Week Launch on Friday 11 May at The Cube Wodonga at 3pm.

Following a distinguished career in London, in several high-profile roles including deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission of England and Wales, Ms Glass was appointed for a 10-year term in March 2014 as the Victorian Ombudsman.

HRCLS senior lawyer Karen Keegan said the office of the Victorian Ombudsman played a vital role in ensuring people had an independent body to approach when issues needed to be resolved.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass OBE

“We are proud to be part of a sector that views access to justice in the highest importance,” Ms Keegan said.

Ms Keegan said the service was pleased Ms Glass had accepted the invitation to launch Law Week to give people on the Border a chance to learn about her role four years after being appointed.

“Our motto is ‘Linking the community with the Law’ and while we do this on a daily basis, Law Week is a chance for us to extend that beyond legal assistance to broader legal education,” she said.

“People expect fair and reasonable decision-making in the Victorian public sector, and this is an opportunity for people to hear how the Ombudsman approaches her work to reach decisions,” she said. “Ms Glass holds a firm belief in public sector integrity and the protection of human rights, and these are values that many people in our region are also passionate about upholding.”

The office of the Victorian Ombudsman is increasing its connection with the community legal sector, and Ms Keegan welcomes any move that strengthens this relationship. “We are looking forward to hearing more about the Ombudsman’s plan to build connections with our sector, and we would welcome any closer ties we could create to ensure the Ombudsman was aware of issues in our catchment in Victoria of 10 local government areas,” she said.

The HRCLS Law Week Launch is open to the public. Tickets are $10 and can be booked through the HRCLS website – http://hrcls.org.au/events/.

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