Hume Riverina Community Legal Service is responsible for a number of programs to increase access to legal help for the community. These programs have a particular focus and target groups of people who need legal assistance but may struggle to engage with the legal system for a variety of factors. Programs include the Invisible Hurdles project, the Holistic Assistance and Legal Outreach (HALO) project, Family Violence to Family Law Continuity of Service project, the NSW Care Partner program, the Family Lawyer Service, and involvement in a number of coordinated clinics in NSW and Victoria.
The Invisible Hurdles Project (IH) is a two-year project funded by the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner, aimed at providing better legal outcomes for young people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, family violence in North East Victoria.
A Youth/Family Violence Lawyer works in a health-justice partnership model with three local service providers; the Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre, North East Support and Action for Youth Inc. (NESAY) and the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service (AWAHS). The IH Lawyer spends one day per week at each service, providing legal information, education, advice and assistance to clients, and providing legal information, secondary consults and professional development training to workers.
The project is being evaluated by Dr Liz Curran and Pamela Taylor-Barnett from the Australian National University.
Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre
The Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre is an alternative state school for disengaged students, the majority of which come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The school runs a variety of different programs for students, including a ‘young parents program’, where young mums are able to bring in their kids to school.
Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service
AWAHS is a cross-border Aboriginal health service that provides a wide range of services, including doctors, maternal health nurses, drug and alcohol counsellors, mental health counsellors, psychologist, men’s shed, Aboriginal cultural/language programs.
North East Support and Action for Youth
NESAY is a support service that provides youth and family welfare services to address issues of adolescence, family life and youth homelessness.
Long Term Objectives
The long term objectives of the Invisible Hurdles Project are to:
- Increase the ability of young people to get legal assistance
- Increase the capacity of partner services providers to better identify and referral legal issues
- Create changes in practice that lead service partners and HRCLS to work more closely in an integrated way on health, allied health, educational and justice issues
- Identify and work with partnered services on systemic issues which exacerbate client exclusion.
Impact/findings so far:
- IH lawyer has provided a large number of legal secondary consults to staff at partner organisations
- IH has assisted a number of highly vulnerable young people with a range of legal issues
- The majority of IH clients have experienced some form of family violence, homelessness or other significant childhood trauma, showing that the project is reaching the intended demographic
- Staff at all service providers have reported changes in the ways that they work with clients, and the benefit of having a lawyer on site to discuss matters with or to refer clients to
- The project has allowed collaboration between HRCLS and the service providers, and HRCLS has been able to refer clients back to the service providers for non-legal assistance.
This project receives funding from the Victorian Legal Services Board Grants Program and from Legal Aid NSW.