Issue 28 - March 2013

See our new website, www.qpilch.org.au to keep up to date with all QPILCH's activities.

With around 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.

Join us on Tuesday 14 May for the 2013 Walk for Justice, the biggest and best so far.

The 5km Walk will start and finish at the new Queen Elizabeth II Courts building. Led by the Chief Justice and Attorney-General, we will walk along George Street up to the Goodwill Bridge, across to South Bank, then back across the Kurilpa Bridge to enjoy a light breakfast in the forecourt of the Supreme Court building, the first event to use it.

The Walk will start at 7am on what will be another beautiful Brisbane autumn morning.

The Walk in Townsville will occur again this year and we extend our thanks for the support of Townsville walkers.

The Walk is QPILCH's main fundraiser for the year, and this year you can help us raise money, not only by walking but getting sponsored.

It's easy to register your team and to start a sponsorship page, then get your friends and colleagues to sponsor you. Now even those who like a sleep-in can contribute!

Follow the links on the right or go to the Walk for Justice page to get started. If you've walked before, someone from QPILCH might give you a call shortly to help you get your team registered and start getting sponsors.

This will be the biggest Walk yet. We are aiming for 1000 walkers, so please encourage your colleagues to Walk for Justice, to register teams and to sponsor you and your colleagues.

Fundraising for civil law

QPILCH has embarked on a broad strategy to make QPILCH more financially secure. The strategy aims to raise funds for immediate use to sustain and increase our services and to develop a long-term funding base.

We are very fortunate to have obtained the assistance of Theresa Scanlan, who has been appointed as QPILCH's first fundraiser. Theresa comes from a background as fundraiser for the QIMR and other notable Queensland public charities. We welcome Theresa, who has a blank slate to work with.

We are indebted to the Queensland Community Foundation for a small grant that has enabled Theresa's appointment. We are also very thankful to Kelly Howard Recruitment (particularly Kelly and Rachael Dwyer) for so ably recruiting a fundraiser of Theresa's calibre and experience.

We have reached this point after much work by staff members (particularly Andrea de Smidt), Kathleen Singleton of Eliquent Business Consulting (whose advice has been instrumental in understanding how to proceed and its implementation), and to the QPILCH Fundraising sub-committee, comprised of Andrew Buchanan (chair), Robert Reed and Rochelle Carey (management committee members), Bob Shead of BDO and Kathleen Singleton.

The long-term part of the strategy has involved the establishment of a Civil Justice Fund (CJF) to support civil law projects and casework conducted by community legal centres. Seed funding was provided by the Public Trustee and Legal Aid Queensland. Grants under the CJF will not be available for some time. The CJF will be launched in the not too distant future.

A consequence of establishing the CJF is that it is necessary to further amend our rules, which requires a majority decision at a general meeting. The Management Committee has therefore asked the Secretary to call a special general meeting to coincide with the next Committee meeting at 6.30pm on Monday 15 April 2013 in order to put the rule changes to the membership.

With thanks to:

Disbursement Fund

The proceeds of past Walks for Justice have been deposited in a separate bank account that is available for firms, barristers and CLCs to access for clients who have insufficient means to afford disbursements in pro bono matters. It has been used to fund medical reports, transcripts, filing fees and travel costs. The fund is not large and so is managed by the Management Committee and in relation to law firm clients, is limited to matters undertaken by QPILCH members and members of our Queensland Law Society and Bar Association of Queensland schemes. If you would like to apply for funds for your client, please contact Tony Woodyatt at director@qpilch.org.au.

Self Representation Service

Keane on the Self Representation Service

The Honourable Justice Patrick Keane, the High Court's newest appointment, recently encouraged renewed funding for continuation of the Self Representation Service in the Federal Court. In articles published in the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 February 2013, the then Federal Court Chief Justice noted: "Funding shortages put judges and administrative staff under pressure and curtailed community programs.…an important pilot program with the Queensland Public Interest Law Clearing House was cut because of shortages. Volunteer lawyers from QPILCH helped self-represented litigants either to clarify their cases so they had a better chance of winning, or explained why a case would never be successful. This kept unnecessary and time-consuming cases out of the court, a useful outcome given a recent survey of judges' workloads found more than half of magistrates and 15 per cent of judges reported their time was ''often or always'' taken up by unrepresented litigants. When money is not so tight it should be one of the first things we should renew and I would hope it is something that we will look at in the other cities". Read the full article.

The Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada recently asked the legal community to create a network of pro bono duty counsel to assist self-represented litigants in his court. The QPILCH Self Representation Service is clearly a model that has been shown to work in our Federal Court, addressing the needs of litigants, but also the Court, which like other courts around the world, is facing pressures from a significant number of self-represented litigants.

Submission on QCAT Act

QAILS (including QPILCH's Self Representation Service) with the support of Clayton Utz Lawyers submitted a response to the review of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009. We called for reforms to the Act and Tribunal practice and procedure which were informed by our direct experiences in seeking to assist clients to assert their rights in this vast and significant Queensland jurisdiction. We provided practical recommendations to enable prioritisation of justice over efficiency and procedural fairness, strengthening of the right to legal representation for vulnerable clients, and improvement in the consistency and quality of decision making, particularly in rural, regional and remote Queensland. We are hopeful that some of our recommendations will be acted upon. You can read our submission here.

Induction and refreshers for Self Representation Service

Now that the dust has settled for new graduates who have started with firms which support the Self Representation Service, we are holding induction and refresher training sessions for new graduates and any others who want to start volunteering at our State Courts and QCAT offices. Guest presenters, The Honourable Justice Roslyn Atkinson and QCAT Deputy President, Judge Horneman-Wren, are supporting our training endeavours this year by providing their thoughts on self-representation in their respective jurisdictions. In addition to skilling-up new volunteers, the training provides an opportunity for existing volunteers to hone their skills and for senior practitioners, including partners who do not volunteer themselves, to gain a better understanding of the QPILCH Self Representation Service and what their firms' involvement means. As noted in the results of the 2012 National Pro Bono Resource Centre survey, partner and management support was nominated as the most crucial factor in the success of a pro bono program. If you would like to register your interest in attending the final session, which is occurring over breakfast on 27 March 2013, please contact us.

Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic & Refugee Civil Law Clinic

HPLC & RCLC Update

It has been a busy few months for the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) and Refugee Civil Law Clinic (RCLC), having already assisted well over 300 new clients in 2012-13.

We have also recently developed postcards for use by clients and community workers, with the HPLC locations listed on the back, or with some key questions about legal need adapted from our Legal Health Check, such as "Is someone chasing you for money?" The design and initial printing of the postcards has been generously supported by Allens and Minter Ellison, and Clayton Utz kindly printed 300 for our stall at the recent Mates Helping Mates Event for the Homeless. We are currently adapting this resource for each HPLC and will be contacting firms soon about printing arrangements.

New Pilot HPLC at Bric Housing

Under1Roof (U1R) is a collaboration between several homelessness service providers in the Fortitude Valley and Spring Hill area, with the aim of providing easier access for their respective clients to other services in the area.

U1R has commenced a pilot drop-in space at bric housing, a social housing provider in Spring Hill, in which bric housing's 70 tenants can access a range of in-house services. Services on offer include mental health support, drug and alcohol counselling, family reconnection and general health services.

Herbert Smith Freehills, which operates the HPLC at Roma House, has generously agreed to extend their commitment to providing a weekly HPLC at the drop-in space. We thank Herbert Smith Freehills for their support and contribution, and look forward to reporting on the outcomes of the pilot.

HPLC Caseworker Training in Legal Basics

On 14 March 2013, the HPLC coordinated our third annual Caseworker Training in Legal Basics for around 65 community workers from the homelessness sector. The training was delivered free of charge thanks to the Ombudsman's office hosting and Herbert Smith Freehills sponsoring catering.

Clients experiencing chronic disadvantage regularly seek help with legal issues from community workers. However, these workers are often unaware of what issues lawyers can assist with and where to make a referral. The HPLC seeks to bridge that gap through our Caseworker Training in Legal Basics.

Lawyers from Tenants' Union of Queensland and Welfare Rights Centre joined speakers from Legal Aid, the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office, State Penalties Enforcement Registry and QPILCH, presenting on topics such as debt, housing, mental health law and disability support programs. All sessions were again met with positive feedback from attendees.

The HPLC is currently seeking funding to deliver a similar caseworker training program in regional areas.

HPLC & RCLC Annual Induction/Refresher Training

In March and April 2013, we will be conducting our annual training for new and existing volunteer lawyers from all Brisbane-based HPLC & RCLC firms.

Each firm will receive a targeted training session tailored to their particular clinic/s, which will focus on practical legal skills and the context of homelessness and other forms of disadvantage. The annual sessions have received consistently positive feedback, offering new graduates an accessible opportunity to get involved in HPLC/RCLC and providing existing volunteer lawyers with a timely refresher. Volunteer lawyers who attend will also receive 1 CPD point.

If you would like more information, please speak to your firm's HPLC/RCLC team leader or contact us.

Mates Helping Mates Event for the Homeless

On Sunday 17 February 2013, HPLC staff and volunteers ran a stall at the donation-based, Mates Helping Mates BBQ Event for the Homeless and Flood Victims in Musgrave Park, West End. Mates Helping Mates was set up by a former Big Issue vendor, Grant Richards (pictured right with HPLC staff). Grant was homeless for many years and is well known in Brisbane for blogging about his experiences (grantthepoliteguy.blogspot.com).

We talked to potential clients and community sector stakeholders, giving out HPLC Postcards and actively connecting people to the legal clinics. Despite the rain, the event was held in great spirit and we look forward to participating again in the future.

Mental Health Law Practice

Secondee from Herbert Smith Freehills to support the Mental Health Law Practice

Many thanks for the wonderful contribution of Freehills in supporting the QPILCH Mental Health Law Practice. Freehills has very generously provided our first Mental Health Law Practice secondee. We welcome Christie Jenkins to QPILCH. Christie brings a wealth of practical experience to QPILCH and has particular expertise and interest in mental health and employment. Christie will be undertaking casework, as well as organising training for lawyers and mental health caseworkers and working on mental health law policy and law reform submissions. We are sure that the secondment will be an enjoyable and exciting learning experience for Christie. It will certainly be of enormous benefit to our clients and to the MHLP.

MHLP Successes

Since the new year our case load in the MHLP has been steadily increasing.
We have a roster of wonderful volunteer law students who assist with the casework and advocacy.

Some of our February successes include:

  • An advocate assisted a client at his MHRT hearing and the Tribunal revoked the involuntary treatment order after hearing submissions that the criteria under the Act were not satisfied.
  • Another advocate attended a meeting with the client, his wife and the treating psychiatrist (at the client's request) and the doctor was persuaded to revoke the involuntary treatment order so a Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing was no longer necessary.
  • We assisted 2 clients at Mental Health Review Tribunal hearings to determine applications for treatment with Electro Convulsive Treatment (ECT). In one hearing, the Tribunal accepted that the client had capacity and rejected the doctor's application.
  • Another client had his Involuntary Treatment Order changed from inpatient (hospital) to community after assistance from the MHLP.

Many thanks to our dedicated volunteers.

Referral Service

Successful Referrals

So far this financial year we have received over 300 applications, and we successfully referred 89 matters.

Matters referred through the QLS Pro Bono Referral Service have included:

  • Bruce Thomas Lawyers is assisting a 51-year-old illiterate man to pursue an action against a franchisor for breaches of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth).
  • Cronin Litigation Lawyers is assisting a 22-year-old unemployed Turkish man whose mother-in-law allegedly misappropriated $95,000 of his young family's savings.
  • BarryNilsson Lawyers is assisting a 22-year-old intellectually disabled woman to recover a small debt from a friend who accessed the applicant's online account and made a series of purchases without the applicant's permission.

Matters referred to members of the Bar Pro Bono Referral Service have included:

  • Hugh Scott-Mackenzie is providing advice on a woman's prospects of pursuing her mother for misappropriating trust funds.
  • Chato Page is providing an advice on a man's prospects of appealing several enforcement notices relating to the development and use of his property. The man says that all changes were made many years ago before he owned the property.

Matters referred to QPILCH member firms and barristers through the Public Interest Referral Service have included:

  • Justin Carter is assisting a man who has been ordered to reimburse the State nearly $30,000 for a victim's compensation payment for a crime that he committed 14 years ago.
  • Ashurst is assisting a 96-year-old woman whose daughter is threatening to sell her home.
  • Darryl Rangiah SC is assisting a man who has been found to be a genuine refugee to challenge his continued detention.
  • Clayton Utz is assisting a wheelchair-bound man with a dispute against an accommodation provider who failed to provide him with suitable accommodation after informing him that they could do so.

We also acknowledge all of the other QPILCH member firms and barristers and QLS & BAQ Referral Service participants that have accepted referrals this financial year or are currently working on pro bono matters.

Please contact us if you're interested in becoming a QPILCH member or participant in the QLS & BAQ Referral Service.

Secondments

Corrs Chambers Westgarth secondee Matthew Hodgson-van Daal finished his secondment with QPILCH on 30 November 2012. We thank Matthew for his contribution to QPILCH. We are lucky enough to have two secondees from Corrs - Stacey Parker commenced her secondment on 3 December 2012 and Kate McKenzie commenced her secondment on 4 March 2013. We thank Corrs for their continued great contribution.

We also thank Ashurst for providing solicitor David Morgans full-time for 5 weeks to fill in for QLS/BAQ Scheme coordinator Catherine Hartley while she was on leave.

Volunteers

Vanessa Kirkegaard and Rene Pergomet have completed their PLT placements with us. Renee Worsfold, Venecia Bachee and Liam Burke will complete their PLT placements in the coming weeks or months.

We acknowledge the contributions of our summer student volunteers:

  • Alasdair McCallum
  • Ben O'Brien
  • Carmel McMahon
  • Christina Zhong
  • Claire Campbell
  • Claire Fraser
  • Dylan Hans
  • Emma Fleming
  • Jessica Hoey
  • Juan Blanco
  • Katelyn Rennick
  • Keeghan Silcock
  • Kelly Staunton
  • Naomi Delaney
  • Randalph Lai
  • Reimen Hii
  • Tamara O'Raha
  • Tom Gardiner
  • Venecia Bachee

Rural, Regional & Remote Casework

This financial year, 24 additional referrals have been successfully made through the RRR Project. Just some of the matters taken on recently include:

  • Dean Morzone of Counsel is advising a farmer from regional Queensland in relation to a potential action against a property valuer.
  • Rostron Carlyle is assisting a ex-servicewoman with a dispute against a builder she engaged to repair her house after the 2011 floods.
 
You and your lawyer » QPILCH has recently updated our guide to the lawyer-client relationship. It has information about how to resolve disputes & what is involved in taking action against a lawyer.

New online payment system

QPILCH has set up our new online payment system. We would appreciate your feedback on the utility of the online payment facility and our new website. Please contact us with any comments.

Walk for Justice 2013 »