Issue 29 - July 2013

See our website, www.qpilch.org.au to keep up to date with all QPILCH's activities. Please distribute this newsletter to staff members and other colleagues.

Upcoming event - Red Wine for Justice - 23 August 2013

On 23 August 2013, King & Wood Mallesons will host Red Wine for Justice, a biennial event for lovers of wine and justice alike. We are pleased to have guest speaker The Hon Patrick Anthony Keane, Justice of the High Court of Australia. Please contact Tony Woodyatt on 3846 6317 or director@qpilch.org.au if you can donate wine for drinking or for auction, or any other auctionable items.

Space is strictly limited so book your place now to avoid disappointment.

HPLC & RCLC Street Soccer

The second annual Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) & Refugee Civil Law Clinic (RCLC) Street Soccer Tournament was held on 17 July 2013 in partnership with the Big Issue.

Teams from HPLC & RCLC firms, Allens, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Herbert Smith Freehills, McCullough Robertson and Minter Ellison joined Big Issue players, community organisations and the QPS in the social soccer tournament. Thanks to participating firms, the event raised almost $4000 for the Big Issue and the HPLC/RCLC. The Big Issue plans to use this money to buy food for their homeless persons' Street Soccer program.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth took out the competition after a hard fought final against Clayton Utz. Minter Ellison were awarded Best and Fairest. We thank the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland for attending and presenting the trophies. We also recognise the generous small grant from the Lady Bowen Trust and Clayton Utz for supporting the event's BBQ.

Law Week Events

QPILCH and our partners were particularly busy with events for Law Week.

Walk for Justice - 14 May 2013

On Tuesday 14 May, QPILCH held the 6th annual Walk for Justice. Over 900 people registered to walk in Brisbane and around 60 turned out in Townsville, raising close to $36,000. In Brisbane, the Walk was led by the Chief Justice, and to add to the day's joyous spirit the Attorney-General announced continued funding for QPILCH's Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic. The Townsville Walk made the ABC North Queensland news.

Collaborating to Enhance Access to Justice - Planning for the Future - 10 May 2013

On Friday 10 May, QAILS, QPILCH and Griffith University hosted Collaborating to Enhance Access to Justice - Planning for the Future, which started a fruitful discussion about how to improve the avenues for communication among stakeholders in the legal assistance sector to allow for effective collaboration and efficient and best-practice delivery of services.

Partnerships in Pro Bono - 13 May 2013

On 13 May, the UQ Pro Bono Centre, the BAQ and QPILCH presented Partnerships in Pro Bono, held in the Banco Court. Professor Pascoe Pleasence, University College London, and John Corker, Director, National Pro Bono Resource Centre, provided a snapshot of international and national perspectives on legal need and pro bono service delivery. This was followed by a panel discussion with representatives from firms, barristers and QPILCH which generated a lively discussion.

New Footprints outreach clinic

We are very pleased to confirm the establishment of a new outreach clinic through the Mental Health Law Practice. The clinic will be a partnership between Allens, Footprints and the Mental Health Law Practice at QPILCH. The new clinic will initially operate once a month at Footprints' new premises in the Valley and will be staffed by volunteers from Allens. This is our second civil law mental health outreach clinic. Our civil law clinics aim to provide a valuable service to our clients who often face multiple social, legal and medical issues. Timely, free legal assistance can make an enormous difference to our clients who face many hurdles on their path to recovery. This new clinic joins the Open Minds Clinic at Woolloongabba, operated in conjunction with DLA Piper. We are grateful to our law firm partners for their contribution to this service.

Fundraising

Members and supporters would have seen our recent ONE HOUR APPEAL inviting lawyers to donate the equivalent to one hour of their professional fee to QPILCH. We have had some very generous contributions and we thank all who donated.

This appeal was launched just before the end of June and we are conscious that it came on top of our request to members to renew their membership in 2013-14 and other recent fundraising activities. However, in order to maintain our current level of service and to provide for some growth, we will be continuing a high level of fundraising activity. We appreciate that you receive a constant barrage of requests for charitable assistance, but we hope that you will forgive QPILCH's approaches and appreciate that we are doing this to ensure that we can grow to meet increasing legal need.

We hope that as QPILCH is a valued part of our profession, you will look on us as your charity of choice. If you haven't done so already and would like to donate to our current appeal please go to www.qpilch.org.au/donate and accept our sincere thanks.

Civil Justice Fund

Later this year, we will also be launching the Civil Justice Fund, an initiative to secure long-term funding for civil justice services. This perpetual Fund will be managed by the Queensland Community Foundation under the auspices of the Public Trustee.

The Civil Justice Fund to facilitate equal access to the civil justice system. Often the legal problems experienced by low income Queenslanders are caused by, or exacerbated by, homelessness, poverty, serious health issues, age, mental health problems, social disadvantage or disability. These problems are not addressed comprehensively or equally across the state. Legal representation for some Queenslanders can mean the difference between having shelter and being out on the street. In different ways, access to civil justice can mean freedom from hardship for many people and enable them to return to being a productive and contributing member of society. The Civil Justice Fund is designed to support QPILCH and other community legal centres to develop projects and services to address the needs of people facing such difficulties in the longer term. We ask our member firms with clients who are looking to make a charitable bequest in their will to alert them to QPILCH as a possible recipient. Template bequest clauses are on our website.

Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic & Refugee Civil Law Clinic News

Funding update

We are grateful to the Queensland Attorney-General, The Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP for funding the HPLC for 2013-14 from LPITAF. We thank all of the HPLC & RCLC firms and host agencies for their substantial, on-going support and backing.

We also greatly appreciate the Federal Attorney-General, The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP who recently provided the HPLC with triennial funding, which will allow us to assist more homeless Queenslanders, particularly in regional and remote areas.

We recognise the Brisbane City Council for generously awarding the HPLC recent grants from the Housing Support and Community Development & Capacity Building Programs. These grants will enable the HPLC to implement the use of our Legal Health Check and related caseworker training at new locations.

In other HPLC funding news, we acknowledge StreetSmart for kindly providing us with a grant to develop a Legal Mentors Program for young people transitioning from state care. We also thank Legal Aid Queensland for a Community Legal Education Collaboration Fund grant to develop and evaluate our Legal Health Check online tutorial videos.

Recent success stories

It was a busy financial year for the HPLC & RCLC, addressing the complex, multiple legal needs of over 500 new clients. Our recent success stories include:

  • Corrs Chambers Westgarth successfully obtained a debt reduction of $36,000 from a major bank for a refugee client. Following extensive submissions, the RCLC had the client's debt of $40,000 reduced to $4,000 (to be paid off interest-free, in manageable instalments).
  • Allens represented a man at risk of homelessness, who speaks English as a second language, and successfully had an unsubstantiated peace and good behaviour order dismissed.
  • HWL Ebsworth and Minter Ellison obtained a debt waiver from a telecommunications company for a homeless man experiencing financial hardship. The company had previously refused to negotiate with the client, assigning the account to a debt collector, but following substantive negotiations by the HPLC, they agreed to a full waiver.
  • Herbert Smith Freehills represented a homeless man in an urgent tenancy hearing at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The HPLC has since assisted the client to make arrangements for the return of his bond and potentially receive further compensation regarding lost possessions.
  • Clayton Utz assisted a homeless man to have a debt of $18,000 written off by a bank. The bank had commenced court proceedings against the client. The HPLC secured an agreement that the debt would not be pursued if the client consented to judgment. In thanking the HPLC, the client stated that "clearing my debt will go a long way in getting me back on track and living a fulfilling life."
  • HPLC staff assisted a single mother at risk of homelessness, who was escaping domestic violence, to obtain a debt waiver of over $1,500 from a creditor. The HPLC made several submissions to the creditor's hardship department and obtained a 'zero balance' for the client.

Homeless Connect

On 29 May 2013, HPLC staff and volunteer lawyers from McCullough Robertson, Clayton Utz, Minter Ellison, MurphySchmidt and Herbert Smith Freehills attended Homeless Connect at the RNA Showgrounds. We gave one-off advices and connected with potential new clients by distributing HPLC location postcards kindly printed by Allens.

HPLC & RCLC volunteer training

On 30 May 2013, the HPLC & RCLC held a lunchtime CLE session on the Queensland Courts Referral (QCR) and assisting clients with criminal matters. QCR is a new diversionary mechanism in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, following on from the closure of the Special Circumstances Court in late 2012. We are grateful to Melanie Keating from QCR and Laura Rouse from Legal Aid Queensland's duty lawyer service for presenting and to Herbert Smith Freehills for hosting and catering.

Self Representation Service News

Stage one of evaluation well underway

We are evaluating the effectiveness of the Self Representation Service at the Supreme and District Courts and Queensland Court of Appeal. Phase one of this evaluation is well underway. Judges and court staff have returned surveys about their knowledge, understanding and experiences of the Service, and the next significant part of the evaluation, surveying clients of the Service and other self-represented parties, is about to commence. The surveys will be conducted over the next 6 months. Researchers Dr Blake McKimmie of the University of Queensland and Professor Jeff Giddings of Griffith University hope to obtain responses from approximately 100 self-represented parties.

We are grateful to the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration (AIJA) for providing funding for this research so that we can better understand the needs of our clients and target our service accordingly.

Recent success stories

Recent examples in which the Service provided help include:

  • The Service assisted an intellectually disabled couple who had commenced proceedings in QCAT to review a decision by the Department of Communities (Child Safety Services) to cease all contact between them and their three children. The QCAT proceedings settled during the most recent conference with a clear plan established for the couple to re-connect with their children. We thank Brian Cronin of Counsel for representing the couple on a direct brief basis.
  • A client suffering from severe depression was referred to us in 2010 by social workers from the Seniors Legal and Support Service after the client's children had taken steps to evict him from the home that he had occupied for twenty years. We thank Slater & Gordon and Richard Lilley QC and David Chesterman of Counsel who most recently assisted the client to negotiate a settlement agreement with his children to bring this long running dispute to an end.

Client feedback

Here is some recent feedback from clients:

I really want to thank you for what you have done for me. Your office has been a godsend. Without you and your volunteers, I could not have done anything. All of the people I saw were amazing. Thank you so much. (Supreme Court client)

Your volunteers' compassion and non-judgment truly gave me hope - they were wonderful! I cannot thank them enough. Their knowledge of the law was most useful. They found an easier way for me to solve my problem. (QCAT client)

I found the appointments I had with the solicitors most helpful. I would have never made it this far without their help. The documents they wrote were amazing to say the least. (QCAT client)

Self Representation Service volunteer training

In the last month we have held two continuing legal education sessions.

  • On 3 June, Kerrie O'Callaghan, QCAT Senior Member, provided an informative presentation on QCAT's jurisdiction to review decisions made by various entities including government departments and professional boards.
  • On 19 June, Steven Hogg of the Queensland Bar provided a presentation to volunteers who staff appointments at the QEII Courts of Law on helping clients deal with defective pleadings.

We thank Clayton Utz and Allens for hosting these training sessions and our presenters for contributing to the knowledge bank of our volunteers.

Referral Service News

Recent referrals

Many firms and barristers have recently taken on pro bono referrals or are continuing work on QPILCH matters. We particularly appreciate the contributions of some of the smaller and regional firms which take up referrals when they have capacity and expertise. Some recent referrals include:

  • Allens assisted a man to negotiate a settlement after he worked for several decades as a live-in caretaker and was never paid, then suddenly lost his job.
  • Mark McCarthy and Jens Streit of Counsel are assisting a single mother who is at risk of homelessness and is undergoing treatment at a drug rehabilitation centre. Counsel is representing the applicant at a QCAT hearing where the Department of Housing and Public Works is seeking to terminate her tenancy and obtain compensation.
  • Bruce Thomas Lawyers is advising a 65-year-old man about his prospects of claiming an equitable interest in a property which was held on trust by his brother.
  • Minter Ellison and Gary Coveney of Counsel are assisting an unwell elderly man (a client of the Courts Self Representation Service) who is being sued by his brother for $100,000, in a case that has progressed to the Court of Appeal.

Please contact us if you're interested in becoming a QPILCH member or participant in the QLS and BAQ Referral Service. For more information, please see www.qpilch.org.au.

Volunteers and secondments

Kate McKenzie from Corrs Chambers Westgarth commenced her secondment from Corrs on 4 March 2013, taking over from Stacey Parker.

Daniel Ryan from the AGS completed his 3-month, 1 day per week secondment. We thank Daniel for his contribution to QPILCH. We have since been joined by Alex Tate to continue the AGS's contribution to QPILCH.

Renee Worsfold and Liam Burke continue their PLT placement with us, and Eleanor Surajballi and John Dedegikas have started their 75-day placements.

We acknowledge the contributions of our volunteers Joey Chan, Susan Hogarth, Terry Slight, Kelly Staunton, Carmel McMahon, Nel Jayasinghe, Patricia Cabrera, Megan Window, Suzanne Webcke, Allira Thompson and Jane Whipps.

Rural, Regional and Remote Casework

In 2012-13 we received 96 applications from RRR areas and made 28 referrals. Just some of the matters taken on recently include:

  • Paddy Cullinane of Counsel is advising the family of an Aboriginal man who died in police custody;
  • TressCox Lawyers is providing advice about amending a constitution for a not-for-profit organisation which aims to reduce homelessness;
  • Bartley Cohen is advising an environmental group facing potential defamation action over comments about a controversial project in a protected area.

Mental Health Law Practice News

We have assisted more than 130 clients since 1 July 2012, primarily with issues arising under the Mental Health Act but also with a range of civil law issues, through the Open Minds Clinic run with the support of DLA Piper and our volunteer advocacy service and student clinic.

Student Advocates

Our student advocates play a critical role in ensuring that our clients get a fair hearing at the Mental Health Review Tribunal. With less than 3% of people on involuntary treatment orders under the Mental Health Act having any representation, our advocates are helping to fill the gap in legal services. The advocates ensure clients understand the role of the Tribunal, help them to prepare for their hearings and present relevant information to the Tribunal.

Feedback about the service from clients, from the Tribunal and from mental health agencies continues to be overwhelmingly positive. The service is also proving to be a valuable opportunity for students to interact with clients, get advocacy experience and to use their legal training to make a real difference to our clients. Thanks particularly to our advocates Sarah Nicol, Terry Slight and Jordan Sacco who have been willing to assist clients on very short notice. We conducted our second student advocacy training on 11 and 12 May 2013 at the University of Queensland. We trained an additional 24 advocates to assist and advocate on behalf of our clients at their MHRT hearings. The training covered clinical issues, the human rights framework, the Mental Health Act and practical advocacy skills. We have now trained a total of 48 advocates.

We thank the guest speakers: Helen Webster (former psychiatric nurse and now mental health nurse educator at Queensland University of Technology); Gordon Kay (Senior Social Worker, Queensland Health); and Michelle Radke (Legal Officer, Mental Health Review Tribunal). Thank you to the University of Queensland for hosting this event.

Mental Health Caseworker Training

The MHLP held its first Mental Health Caseworker Training on 30 May 2013 to assist mental health caseworkers in welfare organisations to identify legal issues and to develop and improve referral pathways. As we were overwhelmed by the amount of interest in the training and reached capacity well in advance of the RSVP date, we are aiming to make this an annual or bi-annual event.

We thank the guest speakers: Paul Holmes (Consumer Protection Unit, Legal Aid Queensland); Andrea de Smidt (QPILCH Self Representation Service) Wendy Herman (Tenants' Union Queensland) Rebekah Leong (Queensland Advocacy Incorporated); Kristy Neilsen (Community Engagement Team, State Penalties Enforcement Registry); Bryony Walters (Welfare Rights Centre). Thank you to Ashurst for hosting this event.

Staffing

We are grateful for the wonderful contributions of: Stacey Parker, a secondee lawyer from Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who assisted the MHLP from March 2013 until her return to Corrs in May; Christie Jenkins, a secondee lawyer from Herbert Smith Freehills, who will continue to assist the MHLP until September 2013; Sarah Nicol and Jordan Sacco - the MHLP's first PLT students; and our long term student volunteers Paris, Xing, Tim, Laura and Ellie and our student advocates.

Student clinics and volunteers

All student clinics apart from the Administrative Law Clinic have finished for this semester while we continue to host PLT students and some volunteers over the university vacations. Student Clinic coordinators Andrea Perry-Petersen, Ann Herriot, Jackson Walkden-Brown and Sue Garlick continue to share ideas about best practice in clinical legal education. Andrea Perry-Petersen and Ann Herriot will speak at the International Clinical Legal Education Conference hosted by Griffith University in July.

In Semester 2 we will start a new Access to Justice clinic in conjunction with QUT. These students will support the Referral Service in assessing applications for assistance, referring successful applicants to members, and helping to advise applicants who aren't eligible for referral.

Administrative Law Clinic (Bond University)

In Semester 2, the students assisted in a range of files, including judicial review applications in refugee matters, assisting a client with a large Centrelink debt for non-fraudulent overpayment of child support and advising on breach of privacy by a government department.

The students are also currently working on a research project relating to the victims compensation regulatory framework. We thank students: David Brown, Rhys Larsen, Taz Mohanathas, Alex Geelan, Tim Karfs, Aaron Beck, Alex Medrana, Emily Brown; and guests: Mark Plunkett (Barrister), Peter Cantwell (Qld Ombudsman's office), Nicole Franklin (AGS), Matt Black (Barrister).

Mental Health Law Clinic (University of Queensland)

In semester 1, the outreach service we provide to patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital assisted with a range of issues including involuntary treatment orders, Mental Health Act issues, right to information applications, making official complaints, medical negligence, privacy law, preparing a power of attorney, tenancy and guardianship and administration matters. The students also presented seminars on fitness to plead in Court, DSM-5, Human Rights and Mental Health: exploring the tension between the legal and clinical frameworks, and Justices Examination Orders.

We thank students: Aaron Brooks, Lani Bajracharya, Vivien Boyd, Sarah Brown, Juliet Walker; and the guest speakers who shared their wisdom and experience through our lunchtime seminar program: Karen Williams (Barrister), Michelle Radke (Mental Health Review Tribunal), Marianne Wyder (Post Doctoral Research Fellow at UQ), Jay Hendricks (Footprints) and Richard Denning (Directorate of Mental Health).

Social Justice Lawyering (Griffith University)

The students did casework, presented seminars and prepared reports on their projects, giving them the opportunity to practise letter writing and oral communication and gain a real idea about the limitations on access to legal services.

They also undertook updating last year's clinic report on employment law issues (needs and service delivery gaps) and researching the prevalence of abuse and the need to monitor Powers of Attorney.

We thank students: Boba Djordjevic, Stephanie Gribbon, Dale Mitchell, Matthew Scott, Katherine Stacey, Skye Trevanion; and presenters: Neil Watt (former QLS Ethics Solicitor), James Farrell (Acting QAILS Director) and Cristy Dieckmann (QAILS Director).

Public Interest Research Clinic (University of Queensland)

Two of the students assisted in preparing for an event held during Law Week "Partnerships and Pro Bono" which was attended by over 100 guests. The students prepared a brochure specifically for the event about pro bono which will now be distributed to the profession via the QLS Access to Justice Committee, Bar Practice Course and the QPILCH website. Other students researched legal and social issues relating to the integration of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands with Australia in 1984.

We thank students: Thomas Baldwin, Lindon Cox, Joseph Fam, June (Kay Hey) Loh, Alice Teague, Portia Tyle; and guests Cate Banks (Consultant) and Dick Whittington (Former cultural advisor to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands) for presenting to the students.

HPLC Student Clinic (University of Queensland)

The HPLC Student Clinic worked on a report about the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) and a manual to assist homelessness agencies to become registered as SPER Fine Option Order supervision sites, which will be completed shortly.

One of our students reflected, "I really think that all law students should be encouraged to undertake work like the HPLC, as it gives a completely different perspective of the legal profession and opens your eyes to the disadvantaged people who are living in our community. I have learnt so much over the semester".

We thank the following HPLC firms for kindly hosting students this semester: McCullough Robertson, Ashurst, DibbsBarker, Herbert Smith Freehills, HWL Ebsworth, Minter Ellison and MurphySchmidt. The participating students were: Alicia Brischetto, Fleur Hopkins, Sian Littledale, Carin Mattar and Lisa Palmer.

 

Membership renewal

Notices for QPILCH membership renewal were sent to all members in early June. Please renew your membership of QPILCH. QPILCH's structured services could not exist without your pro bono and financial support.

New members

Law firm Hemming + Hart and barristers Mal Varitimos and Steven Forrest are the newest QPILCH members. Cairns barrister, Laura Neil, has also joined as a participant in the BAQ Pro Bono Referral Service. The continued support of members enables QPILCH to advance access to justice for many Queenslanders in need.

QPILCH president Rob Reed in the Sunday Mail » Rob Reed, QPILCH president and coordinator of Minter Ellison's Community Investment Program, was profiled in the Sunday Mail. Rob has also done long-distance runs to raise awareness of domestic violence and environmental sustainability.

Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic celebrates 10 years

It was great to see partners, team leaders and long-term volunteer lawyers from all HPLC & RCLC firms at our 10 Year Acknowledgment Event on 22 April 2013. Generously hosted and catered by Ashurst, the event marked the 10 year anniversary of the HPLC. The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland kindly addressed the evening and formally recognised the firms' tremendous pro bono contributions.

A highlight of the evening was the sharing of client stories, illustrating the impact of pro bono legal assistance in helping disadvantaged Queenslanders to get back on their feet. We thank Kelly and Julie from Mission Australia's Roma House for sharing the story of Shelly who was assisted by Herbert Smith Freehills to resolve a dispute with the police and secure housing. We also thank Joice who spoke about the help she received from Corrs Chambers Westgarth to obtain substantial victim's compensation.

We appreciate King & Wood Mallesons, MurphySchmidt, Allens and Minter Ellison assisting with the HPLC postcards, clinic posters and refugee and homeless client artwork featured on the night.