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/.

Family Court system on menu for Women in Law Breakfast 2018

NSW Woman Lawyer of the Year for 2017 Kylie Beckhouse will be the special guest speaker at the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) Women in Law Breakfast on Thursday 17 May. This popular event brings together women from the legal profession on the NSW-Victorian border, as well as women with an interest in the law.

Ms Beckhouse’s distinguished career has spanned more than two decades. She is currently Director of Family Law at Legal Aid NSW, overseeing the largest family law practice in Australia. As an accredited specialist in family law and an independent children’s lawyer, Ms Beckhouse is passionate about the delivery of family law services to the most vulnerable in our society, particularly children and victims of domestic violence.

The Women In Law Breakfast topic this year is ‘The rise and fall of the Australian family court system’, with Ms Beckhouse speaking about how the pioneering system has evolved since its inception.

Kylie Beckhouse Woman Lawyer of the Year 2017

“When the Family Law Act was passed in 1975, it was heralded for its new approach to resolving family law disputes post-separation,” Ms Beckhouse said. “For decades after, our family law system was considered a showpiece of how a modern and innovative jurisdiction deals with some of its most vulnerable clients. Leap forward 40 years and the gloss has disappeared.”

Ms Beckhouse said the family law system was “under siege”, and  the current Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry could pave the way for change.

“The family law system is being criticised for being painstakingly slow, prohibitively expensive, and overlooking the rights of victims of violence and children,” Ms Beckhouse said.

HRCLS senior lawyer Karen Keegan said hosting Ms Beckhouse as part of Law Week 2018  was important for the service to fulfil its aim of keeping people informed about the legal system.

“We pride ourselves on educating the community about key aspects of the law, and Law Week is an opporutnity for us to bring quality speakers to talk on topics relevant to our area,” Ms Keegan said. “Law Week is another chance for us to link our community with the law. We value the partnerships we’ve created within our community and this event helps increase the strength of our relationships.”

The Women in Law Breakfast will be held at the Hovell Tree Inn, Albury. Bookings are limited and tickets are $25 each. Please register at Eventbrite.

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