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, NSWWoman 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.

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).

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