Newsletter Issue 27 - December 2012

QPILCH has a new website! See www.qpilch.org.au to keep up to date with all QPILCH's activities.

It has been a busy year for QPILCH, as I'm sure it has for everyone. Most notably we have significantly expanded the Mental Health Law Practice. The Self Representation Service has expanded beyond the State Courts and QCAT to launch a successful pilot in the Federal Court, but sadly the funding is not available to continue beyond the pilot at this stage.

The Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic, Refugee Civil Law Clinic and Referral Service continue strongly with the support of participating firms and barristers. The student clinics with UQ, Griffith, Bond and QUT are going strong and continue to serve clients while educating students about how law works in the context of disadvantaged people.

All at QPILCH extend season's greetings and thank you for your support in 2012.

QPILCH will be closed over the Christmas period from 5pm on Friday 21 December, reopening on Wednesday 2 January 2013.

Save the date - Walk for Justice on Tuesday 14 May 2013

With almost 700 walkers, the 2012 Walk was a great success thanks to member firms, barristers, law students and other supporters, particularly the Chief Justice and Attorney-General.

We're aiming even bigger in 2013, and once again we'll be raising money to help vulnerable Queenslanders gain access to justice.

This year we have a streamlined page for signing up and recording sponsors. More details will follow soon.

HPLC & RCLC Events

Street Soccer

The inaugural Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) & Refugee Civil Law Clinic (RCLC) Street Soccer tournament was held on 25 July 2012 at New Farm Park. We thank the following firms for fielding teams: Herbert Smith Freehills, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Allens, Minter Ellison, McCullough Robertson and Ashurst. Teams from HPLC host agencies, Mission Australia and Micah Projects, also participated and players from the Big Issue Street Soccer program joined each team.

We would also like to thank QPILCH's patron, the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland, for presenting Minter Ellison with the winner's trophy.

We acknowledge the generous contribution of Clayton Utz for providing a BBQ and MurphySchmidt for supplying drinks and the trophy for the winning team. We have received some wonderful feedback from participants, and the event raised around $2,000 for the HPLC/RCLC. On top of this, we donated $1,200 to the Street Soccer program, which they will use to provide food for the Big Issue players at their regular matches for the next six months. We look forward to running an expanded version of the event next year.

National Homeless Persons' Week

The HPLC participated in two events as part of the 2012 National Homeless Persons' Week (6-12 August 2012). On 6 August 2012, HPLC staff and volunteers joined with a number of community organisations to talk about the clinics with commuters in King George Square. On 8 August 2012, HPLC Toowoomba Paralegal Rebecca Rosser attended a similar event outside the Toowoomba City Library.

We distributed postcards at both events celebrating the substantial pro bono contribution of HPLC law firms. We thank Minter Ellison for covering the cost of the postcards' compilation and printing.

HPLC Submissions on Child Protection and Housing

Child Protection Commission of Inquiry

In September 2012, the HPLC made a submission to the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry, together with the Self Representation Service at QCAT. The HPLC provided the Commission with evidence of the correlation between homelessness and the child protection system and recommended collaborative, cross-sector practices in preference to removal of children from disadvantaged families.

Child Protection Commission Submission » - See our submission as published on the Commission's website. A copy is also available on request.

Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Review

The HPLC has recently engaged our clients and other people who live in boarding houses and hostels to respond directly to the review of the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008 (Qld). The review is considering changes to the process for evictions from boarding houses, introducing acceptable behaviour agreements for social housing tenants, and allowing evictions into homelessness. The HPLC has prepared a user-friendly questionnaire, based on the government discussion paper, and will forward complete questionnaires to the Review along with our submission.

Civil Justice Fund

We have embarked on a broad strategy to make QPILCH more financially secure and sustainable. A part of that strategy is to develop a long-term funding base. Accordingly, QPILCH has established a Civil Justice Fund (CJF) to support civil law projects conducted by community legal centres (CLCs), including QPILCH, as a sub-fund of the Queensland Community Foundation. Seed funding was provided by the Public Trustee and Legal Aid Queensland.

It will be a perpetual fund to satisfy unmet legal need though strategies that involve partnerships with others - the private profession, universities and other CLCs and community groups. It will provide funds for practical legal projects and civil casework or support research to assist in formulating a practical legal service. It is not anticipated that funding under the CJF will be available for some time.

The CJF is administered by a sub-committee of the QPILCH management committee chaired by Andrew Buchanan, a member of the management committee, and including two other members of the committee (Robert Reed and Rochelle Carey), Bob Shead, partner of BDO, marketing expert, Kathleen Singleton, and the director of QPILCH, Tony Woodyatt.

QPILCH was fortunate to obtain a small grant from the Queensland Community Foundation to employ a fundraiser on a short-term basis. The sub-committee is develop a marketing strategy and currently recruiting a fundraiser, and will launch the CJF in the not too distant future.

LPITAF Review

In August, the Attorney-General, the Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP, announced a review of the Legal Practitioners' Interest on Trust Accounts Fund (LPITAF). As practitioners are aware, this fund is comprised of the interest on solicitors' trust accounts, and is therefore not public monies. However, it is distributed by the Attorney for important public purposes - legal aid, community legal services, professional regulation and library services. The purpose of the review is "to establish a new model of transparent decision-making so that all [LPITAF] funding allocations are directed and applied in a manner that maximises service delivery to Queenslanders across the state, while ensuring the ongoing viability of the LPITAF". In recent years, the fund has been seriously depleted because of falling interest rates and the use of electronic conveyancing. QPILCH receives the majority of its funding to coordinate pro bono services from LPITAF. We made a submission to the review, which is available on our website and were also invited to join the "industry reference group" and participated in two meetings of this group to discuss proposals for reform of the fund's administration. We supported the main aim of the review that the outcome should be greater transparency of the guidelines and reasons that underpin allocation decisions.

We commend the Attorney for ordering the review and the justice department staff members who conducted it. The department will be making recommendations to the Attorney by the end of December and we look forward to its early implementation in 2013, so that organisations like QPILCH can get on with the job of coordinating and delivering services to people in need.

Magistrates Court Service

The Magistrates Court Service was launched on 16 November 2012 by Chief Magistrate Brendan Butler AM SC in the presence of the Chief Justice, BAQ President Roger Traves SC, QPILCH president Robert Reed and guests. The service will refer eligible applicants to barristers for an initial opinion on prospects. The matter may then be referred to firms or, in limited circumstances, to barristers to assist on a direct brief basis.

We have received two applications through the Magistrates Court Service. The first application was referred to the Caxton Legal Centre, as their assistance will be more appropriate than a referral to our members. The second application has been referred to John Hammond of Counsel and Courtice Neilson Lawyers.

Mental Health Law: Life-changing for clients and volunteers alike

Our clients live extraordinarily stressful lives; lives which most of us can only begin to imagine. And as our students noted on a weekly outreach to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, it could happen to anyone.

We are continuing to do weekly outreach at the PA where we regularly encounter people facing multiple and enormous hurdles in life. Recently, we saw a woman who had been hospitalised for severe depression. She had lost her job (in a professional role) and her home (which she had bought). She had managed to extricate herself from an abusive and controlling relationship but her ex-partner was preventing her from seeing her 10-year-old son, using her mental illness as an excuse. In the midst of all of these major life stressors, she was raped on her way home from seeing her friend in hospital.

It is not surprising that our clients are sometimes overwhelmed and incapable of facing their difficulties. What is perhaps more surprising is how often we encounter clients who show such enormous courage and tenacity in the face of such difficulties. Their path to recovery can be unimaginably difficult. Our service can assist them on this path.

Because our clients have complex and interconnected needs, we take a multi-disciplinary approach in our service, assisting clients to navigate the legal and mental health system but also, where possible, linking them with other service providers. In this case, we gave our client advice about her rights under the Mental Health Act and explored whether there were employment law or other issues we could assist with. Her most pressing issue concerned access to her son so we linked her in with a specialist family law service for her family and with community support and housing services for some of her other issues.

By exposing our volunteer students to the plights of others, we not only can make a difference to our clients but also engender in our students a sense of compassion, a commitment to helping others and a belief that they can make a difference.

Our member firms also help by providing quality civil law services to clients with mental health issues through our referral services and through the Open Minds Legal Clinic.

There is a great unmet need for legal services for clients with mental health issues. In 2013, we plan on expanding our outreach services. If you or your firm is interested in assisting, contact Ann Herriot, Coordinator, Mental Health Law Practice.

Recent training

We recently offered training on dealing with challenging clients, Ombudsman complaints, and assisting self-represented parties with guardianship & administration matters and appeals.

Dealing with challenging clients

On 20 September, we held a CLE to assist HPLC/RCLC volunteer lawyers to deal with our more challenging clients. Cristy Dieckmann, Director of QAILS, Camielle Donaghey, CLE Coordinator at Caxton Legal Centre, and Tetera Tama and Emily Taylor, caseworkers at Roma House, participated in a panel discussion. We thank all of the presenters for sharing with us their experiences and practical tips and acknowledge Allens for kindly providing the venue and breakfast.

Ombudsman complaints

On 22 November, Dr Geoff Airo-Farulla, Queensland Director from the Commonwealth Ombudsman, presented to HPLC/RCLC volunteer lawyers about the role of the Ombudsman and how to best assist clients in framing their complaints. We thank Dr Airo-Farulla for sharing his expert knowledge with attendees and Ashurst for kindly hosting and catering the breakfast session.

Assisting self-represented parties with Guardianship and Administration matters

On 16 October 2012, solicitors who volunteer for the Self Representation Service at QCAT were treated to an insightful discussion about assisting clients with child protection proceedings. Lorraine Dupree, Policy and Research Manager, PeakCare Qld and Jennifer Felton, QCAT Sessional Member discussed the circumstances which lead to a child being placed in care and the internal and external review processes available to people aggrieved by a decision relating to a child in care. Lorraine and Jennifer also provided recommendations as to how best to assist clients of the Service who have commenced, or are considering commencing, review proceedings in QCAT.

Assisting self-represented parties with appeals

On 29 November 2012, Anand Shah of Counsel presented a session on assisting self-represented parties with appeals, including identifying grounds of appeal, errors of law and fact, and thinking practically about bringing an appeal. Thanks to Anand and Norton Rose Australia for hosting this well-attended event.

New members

Law firm Middletons and barristers Anthony Anderson, John Hammond and Penelope Hay are the newest QPILCH members. The continued support of members enables QPILCH to advance access to justice for many Queenslanders in need.

Staff recruitment

With your support, through the membership fee increase this year, QPILCH has recruited a part-time office manager, Nicola Skeggs, to manage the administrative demands that have been growing substantially over the last five years. QPILCH commended in 2002 with a .6FTE solicitor and .6FTE administrator. Before the new appointment, we had a complement of 12.8 legal and legal support staff and 1.4 administrative positions. The new .5FTE appointment helps significantly to alleviate the administrative duties that had fallen on legal staff members. On a pro bono basis, Boutique Legal Recruitment recruited Nicola for QPILCH and is also assisting with the recruitment of a new administrative assistant, to replace Fiona Streit, who is leaving QPILCH to work as a lawyer for the ATO in Brisbane. We thank Maria Cifuentes of Boutique Legal for her generous assistance with this time-consuming task and Corrs Chambers Westgarth for connecting us with Boutique Legal.

Reports from the Services




Report from the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic and Refugee Civil Law Clinic

We have already assisted over 200 new clients through the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) and the Refugee Civil Law Clinic (RCLCMore »

Report from the Self Representation Service

In our last edition of the QPILCH newsletter (July 2012) QPILCH's Self Representation Service reported on the independent evaluation of our 2 day p... More »

Report from the Referral Service

The Referral Service continues to receive strong support from member firms and barristers and participants in the QLS and BAQ Referral Services. As a... More »

Student clinics and volunteers

Clinics have finalised for the year while we continue to host PLT students and some volunteers over the university vacations. Clinic coordinators hav... More »

 
Annual Report 2011-12 available now! » Read our annual report for a complete rundown of the hard work and achievements of QPILCH members and supporters in 2011-12. (Download as PDF 1.73MB)
Self Representation Service Volunteer Profile - Jamon Phelan-Badgery » We cannot thank our volunteers enough for their commitment, hard work, and ongoing support of the Self Representation Service. In this edition of the QPILCH newsletter we profile Herbert Geer solicitor, Jamon Phelan-Badgery, who volunteers at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.