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/