A significant funding boost for Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) will increase free legal services to women who have or are experiencing domestic violence in NSW, and grow the connection with Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS) to assist people experiencing mental health conditions deal with their legal problems.

HRCLS Acting Principal Lawyer Debi Fisher welcomed the funding, which will enhance existing partnerships over the next four years and expand the reach of the community legal service in NSW.

“We are pleased to be given the two streams of NSW NLAP funding to help more people with their legal problems, and excited at the opportunities this presents to continue growing our partnerships,” Ms Fisher said “Our community has been through a lot over the last few years with bushfires, COVID, and border restrictions. All of this takes a toll on people’s wellbeing and makes dealing with everyday legal problems even harder. We know that working in partnership leads to better outcomes for people, as they can be supported with their social, health and legal problems in a collaborative way.

“Our relationship with AWAHS has been running for 12 years and this new program will help expand the assistance we can provide to the community,” Ms Fisher said. “We are looking forward to this exciting new initiative which will help meet the demand for legal assistance and build on the success of the partnership we have had with AWAHS through the Invisible Hurdles project, targeting youth affected by family violence.”

The funding will also enable HRCLS to increase its presence in areas of the Southern Riverina such as Deniliquin, Finley and Corowa. HRCLS will work closely with the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service to ensure women in the region who have experienced or are experiencing domestic violence, have timely access to free legal services.

“We know the benefits early legal intervention have for woman and children experiencing domestic violence,” Ms Fisher said. “This funding will enable us to engage early, and to help tackle the myriad legal issues that women may be experiencing, such as family law problems, debts, fines and housing. It can be very difficult for women to get free legal assistance in these areas, and we are keen to meet clients where they are at and provide that wrap-around, holistic service which is needed.”

Funding for the additional legal service was announced as part of the extra $95 million funding under the National Legal Assistance Partnership Agreement 2020-25.

Bushfire victims in North East Victoria experiencing legal problems now have increased access to free advice.

A full-time Bushfire Lawyer, Harley Dannatt, has been employed in the role with the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS) to deliver the free and confidential legal service.

Mr Dannatt has started visiting Corryong and Bright on a fortnightly basis.

In Corryong, Mr Dannatt is attending the Corryong Neighbourhood Centre and Upper Murray Community Recovery Hub, and in Bright, the Alpine Region Community Recovery Hub, to speak to people about legal problems they have faced after the January 2020 bushfires.

HRCLS Manager & Principal Lawyer Sarah Rodgers said the focus of Mr Dannatt’s role would be to assist people with legal problems as a result of the January 2020 bushfires. He would also be helping people with legal issues arising from COVID-19.

Ms Rodgers thanked the Federal and Victorian governments for funding the position. “People in regional Australia need our support, and we are pleased governments have recognised this need,” she said. “More people are experiencing numerous legal problems when they get in difficulty, and isolation and living in a cross border environment adds another layer to the issues.”

Historically, legal issues have not affected people until months, even years, after the bushfires have wreaked havoc. “From what know, problems don’t appear straight away, so having a lawyer in the role for the next two years is vital for helping people who face issues cropping up long after the fires have passed,” Ms Rodgers said.

Legal problems can include tenancy, fencing and property, insurance, debts, consumer contracts, and family law and family violence.

When people are under stress, it is easy for legal problems to escalate and grow. Ms Rodgers encouraged anyone trying to deal with them individually to get professional help. “Getting early legal advice gives you a much better chance of solving issues before they get out of hand. A lawyer can help get a quicker resolution and better result without the hassle of trying to negotiate the system and processes,” she said.

Mr Dannatt will be working closely with the Bushfire Recovery Hubs, case managers and Gateway Health as the lead agency coordinating the recovery effort. This collective approach and effective referral pathways ensure people have support and do not fall through the cracks. “We encourage people to get in touch with us to get early advice if they find themselves with legal problems,” Ms Rodgers said.

If you need free legal advice as a result of the January 2020 bushfires, please call 1800 918 377 to talk about your issue, or email [email protected]

Corryong

Corryong Neighbourhood Centre or Upper Murray Community Recovery Hub

Bright

Alpine Region Community Recovery Hub

For more information, visit https://www.hrcls.org.au/bushfire-legal-help/

A new full time lawyer will be employed at the Hume Riverina Community Legal Service (HRCLS), thanks to Federal and Victorian governments committing $321,500 over two years to support the delivery of frontline legal assistance services as a result of the public health crisis.

HRCLS Manager & Principal Lawyer Sarah Rodgers welcomed the funding which will boost the service’s capacity to support people impacted by COVID-19.

“It is pleasing to see the Federal Government and Victorian Government acknowledge that people in regional Australia need our support. They face many and varied legal problems which are compounded by isolation, cross border complexities and lack of resources and services,” Ms Rodgers said. “This also comes on the back of legal issues arising out of the bushfires in our region earlier in the year.”

Ms Rodgers said the funding would create a new full-time role to help meet the future demand.

“Our service is already struggling to meet the current demand, and we only expect that to increase in coming months. So this Government funding is really timely. It will definitely help us build more capacity within our team,” she said.

“We have seen an increase in family violence, family law matters and debt issues as a result of COVID, and we expect this demand to continue to rise in coming months. This funding will help us assist people facing these problems.”

Ms Rodgers said it was easy for legal problems to escalate and multiply when people were under stress.

“Getting early legal assistance helps ensure the problems don’t get out of hand and lawyers have more of a chance for a good resolution,” she said.

“The key message for our community is we are here to help. We encourage people to get in touch with us to get advice if they find themselves with legal problems, particularly because of COVID-19.”

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