Issue 30 - October 2013

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

Wonderful donations to QPILCH

Following the Law Week appeal that was made by Roger Traves QC, President of the Bar Association of Queensland and Annette Bradfield of the Queensland Law Society, QPILCH has been very fortunate to receive some wonderful donations. Sixteen Queen's Counsel - John Bond QC, Martin Burns QC, Michael Byrne QC, Bernard Clarke QC, Damien Clothier QC, Peter Davis QC, Richard Douglas QC, Kylie Downs QC, Shane Doyle QC, Peter Flanagan QC, Anthony Glynn QC, Christopher Hughes QC, Rodney Litster QC, Philip Looney QC, Tom Sullivan QC and Roger Traves QC - have donated over $12,000. We thank these donors sincerely for their generous contribution.

We also thank Sean Massingham, senior legal counsel at Energex, for his very generous donation.

Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission has been asked to inquire into "Access to Justice Arrangements" and report to the Government by 19 September 2014. QPILCH is preparing a submission with the assistance of members. The submission is required by 4 November 2013.

Annual General Meeting

QPILCH's Annual General Meeting will be held on Monday 21 October at 6pm at MurphySchmidt. All members would have received the notification in accordance with the rules. Nomination forms must be submitted by 14 October 2013. If you would like to attend, please rsvp by Friday 18 October to director@qpilch.org.au.

Commonwealth Government Funding

We are very grateful for a grant from the Commonwealth Government to expand the HPLC and other services into Northern Queensland. We hope to recruit a solicitor to open a Townsville office before the end of the year. We thank the former Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus MP for this grant.

Secondments and volunteers

Kate McKenzie from Corrs Chambers Westgarth recently finished her secondment with us and was replaced by Kara Firth. We thank Kate and Kara for their contributions and Corrs for this ongoing full-time secondment which greatly assists the Referral Services.

We have welcomed a new secondee from the Australian Government Solicitor - Alex Tate, who is also a former student volunteer.

We are grateful to Herbert Smith Freehills for their ongoing support to the Mental Health Law Practice by providing another secondee lawyer for 6 months. Our first secondee, Christie Jenkins, commenced her secondment in March 2013 and assisted the MHLP until September 2013. Christie made an invaluable contribution to the service during her time at QPILCH. We welcome Christie's replacement Laura Vogler, who will assist the MHLP from September 2013 to March 2014. Laura advocated for a client in an ITO review hearing in the Mental Health Review Tribunal after just one week with the MHLP.

Recently Liam Burke, Eleanor Surajballi, John Dedegikas and Renee Worsfold finished 75-day PLT placements with us. This is a tremendous contribution to make as volunteers. New PLT students Peta Miller, Thomas Baldwin and Alicia Brischetto have taken their places. Sarah Nicol and Jordan Sacco are continuing their PLT placements within our Mental Health Law Practice.

For Semester 2 we recruited a new group of student volunteers: Michael Gee, Carl Tessmann, Jasemine Altinkaya, Damon Hatchett, Erin Tanner, Bianca Mendelson and Kelly Morrow. We thank student volunteers, Ellie Livsey, Xing Lee, Paris Astill-Torchia and Laura-Rose Lynch, for their ongoing work with us.

We welcome new practitioner volunteer Beryl Rachier, and thank Carmel McMahon who continues to volunteer her time.

We thank all secondees and volunteers for their time and valuable contributions, which increase the capacity of QPILCH to help those in need.

Retired and career-break lawyers

Experienced practitioners Brian Bartley, Jan Logan, and Jo Cameron are assisting clients of the Self Representation Service and Referrals Services.

We welcome the assistance of retired and career-break lawyers, so if you can help or know someone who could spare some time, there are many ways to make a contribution. Please contact Andrea de Smidt if you are interested in helping out.

Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic & Refugee Civil Law Clinic News

Since 1 July, the HPLC and RCLC have already assisted our vulnerable clients with over 130 new legal matters. Recent successful casework outcomes include:

  • Allens assisted a disability support pensioner, living at risk of homelessness and experiencing mental health concerns to receive a $90,000 settlement from her step-mother's estate. The HPLC substantively advised the client, attending mediation with her, and she was grateful to have a 'voice' within her family for the first time in many years.
  • Corrs Chambers Westgarth helped a refugee client to negotiate a refund of $650 with a travel company, which had incorrectly advised the client regarding visa requirements and sold him a flight to a country he was unable to enter.
  • Toowoomba volunteers Kathy Walker, Ken Parry and Paul Green, helped a homeless man to recover his lost identification documents and access his government entitlements, which he had lost after moving from inter-state.
  • HWL Ebsworth and Minter Ellison assisted a disability support pensioner experiencing homelessness to obtain a $2,200 debt waiver from a telecommunications company on compassionate grounds.
  • MurphySchmidt and Ashurst assisted a client at risk of homelessness to successfully settle a personal injury claim with a local council for $5,000 and obtain a fee waiver from her treating hospital. After years of uncertainty, the client expressed her gratitude to the HPLC, saying she was "so happy to finally have this issue resolved."
  • Herbert Smith Freehills assisted a client experiencing chronic homelessness to access her personal child safety records, following a longstanding dispute with an inter-state government department. The HPLC also obtained medical records for the client and is providing ongoing assistance with her debt issues.
  • DibbsBarker obtained multiple debt waivers totalling over $4000 on hardship grounds for a young man experiencing homelessness.
  • McCullough Robertson assisted a man at real risk of homelessness and experiencing serious health concerns to successfully review a government decision to cancel his Australian passport, allowing him to return to his family overseas.

Funding for LegalPod project

We thank The Ian Potter Foundation for a very generous grant of $50,000 to fund the HPLC's new LegalPod project. Commencing as a 12 month pilot service, LegalPod will provide intensive, long-term legal support to young people transitioning from care. We are also grateful to StreetSmart Australia for a grant of $10,000 towards the project. The HPLC will be approaching member firms soon to enlist your support for this exciting new project.

SPER report

In July 2013, the HPLC released a discussion paper and snapshot, Responding to homelessness and disadvantage in the fines enforcement process in Queensland. Drawing on HPLC casework data, the paper highlights that an estimated 60% of people experiencing homelessness have fines managed by the State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER), averaging around $5,000 per person. Our paper calls for SPER to implement 10 practical recommendations to ensure that debtors experiencing disadvantage have access to appropriate compliance options.

HPLC presentation at National CLC Conference

In late July, Cameron Lavery and Sue Garlick attended the National CLC Conference in Cairns, networking with colleagues from around Australia and presenting on Sharing the Legal Menu for Homelessness. Cam and Sue's presentation focussed on effectively diagnosing the legal needs of people experiencing disadvantage, previewing our Legal Health Check training videos.

HPLC & RCLC volunteer training

On 29 August, we held CLE training on Negotiation skills and assisting clients with debts. Duncan Marckwald of Corrs Chambers Westgarth and Paul Holmes of Legal Aid Queensland discussed practical steps and scenarios, providing tips for achieving positive debt outcomes for HPLC/RCLC clients. MurphySchmidt kindly hosted, catered and recorded the session.

Self Representation Service News

On 24 July 2013 the then Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus QC, announced that the Australian Government will allocate $4 million over four years for the establishment of self-representation services in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court across the nation.

In his announcement, the former Attorney acknowledged the pioneering work of QPILCH in this area: The successful QPILCH pilot scheme was an excellent example of government funded services working with the private sector to deliver cost-effective legal assistance in response to the needs of the disadvantaged within our community.

We have not yet heard whether the new Federal Government will continue this initiative, but hope the Self Representation Service will soon be operational again in the Brisbane District of the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court.

We congratulate our sister organisation in Adelaide, JusticeNet SA, on the 25 September launch of a 12 month pilot self representation service in the SA superior courts.

Extra help for those who need it

Many self-represented litigants who seek our help are vulnerable due to age, disability or other impairment. In these cases, we tailor our service to meet the needs of our clients. Recently, we have helped two elderly gentlemen in separate cases to secure successful outcomes through the provision of extra help.

  • Volunteers from Minter Ellison, TressCox, MurphySchmidt, DibbsBarker, McInnes Wilson and Cooper Grace Ward provided eight appointments to assist a client with severe depression to respond to a notice of enforcement proceedings for payment of a QCAT judgment of over $20,000 obtained by an ex-partner for various alleged 'debts' incurred by the client during their relationship. The QCAT decision was made in the client's absence. We helped the client seek an adjournment of the enforcement proceedings, obtain reasons out of time, and ultimately, to successfully appeal the decision, which was erroneous on a number of grounds including that QCAT did not have jurisdiction to hear the dispute and that part of the judgment related to a debt owed by the client's son, rather than the client.
  • In the second case, volunteer lawyers determined that an elderly man with whom they met during an appointment would struggle to represent himself in Court of Appeal proceedings commenced against him. We referred the client to Minter Ellison who instructed Gary Coveney of counsel. With this representation, the client successfully defeated an application filed by the appellant in the proceedings for an extension of time in which to bring the appeal.

Training

Brian Bartley, founding partner of Bartley Cohen Litigation Lawyers, once again shared his knowledge with Self Representation Service volunteers over a breakfast CLE session at Cooper Grace Ward on 21 August 2013. The session covered issues volunteers are likely to confront in helping self represented litigants through our service. We thank Cooper Grace Ward and Brian Bartley for a very informative session.

On 10 October, a panel of presenters including QCAT member Patricia Hanly and Registrar Mathew James, will discuss the ins and outs of QCAT over a breakfast CLE session hosted by HWL Ebsworth. The session will cover various aspects of QCAT process and procedure and consider particular client scenarios to help volunteer lawyers better understand the options which may be available to our clients.

On 31 October, Accredited Specialist in Succession Law and Barrister, Sue McLeod, will give an Introduction to Family Provision Applications in a lunchtime CLE session hosted by DLA Piper. The session will cover various aspects of family provision applications, including the relevant limitation periods, establishing a case, the requirements of the relevant Practice Directions and the role of mediated agreements in resolving family provision applications.

Thank you to our supporters

Court and tribunal registry staff and Court Network for Humanity volunteers are now distributing QPILCH post cards advertising the Self Representation Service to make sure those people who need our help don't miss out. We thank court and tribunal staff and Court Network volunteers for their continued support of our service. Their referrals are integral to our success.

We thank all the volunteer lawyers from QPILCH member firms who continue to generously donate their time to advise self-represented litigants. We particularly thank the partners of member firms such as Joanne Rennick, Steven Herd and Matthew Holmes of MurphySchmidt, Graham Roberts of Cooper Grace Ward and Andrew Cardell-Ree from Herbert Geer for taking time from their busy practices to help clients of the Service.

In the words of a client on the work that our volunteers do: The communication was exceptionally top shelf. I was treated as a "real person" and was taken slowly through [the process] step-by-step to gain understanding on my part. I cannot appreciate the help and guidance [enough].

Referral Service News

We have had a busy start to the financial year with 54 new applications just in July. In total we've received 118 applications and have successfully referred out 26 matters, including:

  • Maurice Blackburn and Sarah Scott-Mackenzie are assisting a man in his QCAT appeal against restrictions on his ability to practise in his chosen profession based on his HIV status.
  • K&L Gates assisted two not-for-profit organisations; one facing imminent eviction by the new owner of its office premises and another seeking assistance to obtain Deductible Gift Recipient Status.
  • K&L Gates is also providing advice about a discrimination claim to the family of a boy who has autism and behavioural issues and has been prevented from socialising with other children at school.
  • MurphySchmidt is assisting a man to negotiate with his insurer after he lost everything in the 2011 floods.
  • TressCox is assisting a not-for-profit to update its constitution and is advising a PhD student about several intellectual property issues arising from her research.
  • Minter Ellison is advising a man on his prospects of appealing a decision of the QCAT Appeal Tribunal which raises public interest concerns for tenants.
  • Allens is advising a not-for-profit organisation about its arrangements and liability for volunteers.
  • Alex Nelson of Counsel is advising a man about a possible defamation claim.
  • Maurice Blackburn has offered to assist a woman with a discrimination claim against a government agency for failing to provide an interpreter.
  • Dean Wells of Counsel provided an advice to the a local community legal centre on the prospects of success of a client seeking asylum.
  • Bruce Thomas Lawyers is advising a man from a regional area about a potential professional negligence claim.
  • Ashurst assisted a very elderly woman who had sold her house and given her daughter the proceeds (more than $200,000) to jointly purchase a property. The daughter refused to compensate her mother for her contribution. The client was referred to us from Caxton Legal Centre's Seniors Legal and Support Service. Ashurst issued proceedings and assisted the client to reach a settlement with her daughter, which allowed the client to move back to her home town where she has a support network.

We are grateful to all QPILCH member firms and barristers and QLS and 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 and BAQ Referral Service. For more information, please see www.qpilch.org.au.

Mental Health Law Practice News

Footprints Legal Clinic

The Footprints Legal Clinic commenced in August 2013. The clinic is operated in partnership with Allens and Footprints and will take place on a monthly basis. The first day of the clinic was fully booked. We believe this signifies the demand for civil law advice and assistance from people experiencing mental illness, and we look forward to working with Allens to meet this demand.

Review of the Mental Health Act

In June 2013, the Queensland Government announced a review of the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld). The review will identify and enact improvements in the Act after consulting with stakeholders.

We made recommendations in relation to: Justice Examination Orders; Advocacy; Second opinions; Treatment of children; Enforcement and breaches of the Act; Review of treatment decisions; Making Involuntary Treatment Orders (ITOs) and the role of the Mental Health Review Tribunal; and Advanced decision-making.

We are grateful to Jordan Sacco, who oversaw the preparation of the submission and coordinated a team of volunteer students: Paris Astill-Torchia, Lani Bajracharya, Alicia Brischett, Ellie Livsey, Xing Lee, Laura-Rose Lynch, Sarah Nicol and Juliet Walker for their hard work and commitment to this project.

The submissions can be viewed online here.

Young People with Mental Illness

In August 2013, the MHLP received a funding grant from the Sidney Myer Fund to undertake a research project addressing the legal needs of young people with mental illness in Southeast Queensland.

Young people are disproportionately affected by mental illness. According to the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (2007) approximately one quarter of people between the ages of 16 and 24 had experienced a mental disorder in the previous 12 months.

This project involves researching the legal needs of young people on ITOs in Southeast Queensland so that we can develop and target appropriate legal and advocacy services.

Student clinics and volunteers

The inaugural Access to Justice Clinic (QUT) is being supervised by Catherine Hartley. Students are working on Referral Service and Self Representation Service files, updating the QPILCH website and developing resources relating to the Stolen Generations and elder abuse. We thank students Kurt Wildemuth, Robert Kruger, Daniel Dreghorn, Morgan Stack, Emma King and Alexandra Ganis for their participation in this clinic.

Students are working on reform submission relating the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) in their work with the Administrative Law Clinic (Bond) under the supervision of Jackson Walkden-Brown. We thank students Courtney Meers, Joshua Sanderson, Margaret Lessing, Luke Lovegrove, Gabrielle Morris, Scott Lorback and Jenna Lawry for their participation in this clinic.

Participating in the Administrative Law Clinic has definitely been a highlight of my law degree. The Clinic allowed me to put into practice the theoretical skills that I studied at university in a safe and encouraging environment. The work was unique, interesting and challenging, allowing me to grow and develop both in skills and confidence.(Alexandra Geelan)

The Public Interest Research Clinic (UQ) is being supervised by Andrea Perry-Petersen. Students are reviewing the Queensland Law Reform Commission's 2010 Report on guardianship. They are also preparing case studies which demonstrate legal need, how that has been met by QPILCH and the impact on clients. In August, the students attended the UQ Pro Bono Centre information and awards lunch, which provided them with a broad overview of pro bono opportunities at university and beyond.

We thank students: Kendall Messer, Fiona Annetts, Georgina Wilkinson and Sara Tout. QPILCH has opened my eyes to the abundance of pro bono work being conducted every single day by ordinary lawyers across Brisbane and Australia. It has made me proud to be studying law and eager to become a solicitor so that I can do the same. (Kendall Messer)

The Homeless Persons Legal Clinic (UQ) is supervised by Sue Garlick. The students are helping to establish a new legal service based at Nundah in partnership with the Nundah Community Legal Centre and Minter Ellison, using a hybrid phone /centre based service to assist the agencies that support vulnerable people.

We thank students Trish Lee, Marlowe Mitchell, Keith Sun, Jocinda Wong, Charlotte Campbell and Ariana Harradine for their participation in this clinic. We also thank the following HPLC firms for kindly hosting students this semester: McCullough Robertson, Minter Ellison, HWL Ebsworth, MurphySchmidt, Ashurst and DibbsBarker.

As part of the Mental Health Law Clinic (UQ) students have been assisting in the outreach service to patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on a range of issues including involuntary treatment orders, Mental Health Act issues, right to information applications and making official complaints. Their projects relate to young people and mental health, and capacity to consent to treatment. This clinic is supervised by Ann Herriot. We thank students Luke Dalton, Tony McCarthy, Amisha Patel, Constance McLaran, Ashleigh Kruger and Ella Ma for their participation.

Thank you to our student clinic supporters

We are very grateful to all our guests who have given of their time to speak to students of our various clinics: Justice Roslyn Atkinson, Justice Jean Dalton, Justice David Boddice, Heather Douglas (Professor of Law, Director of Research TC Beirne School of Law), Rachel Ball (Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, Human Rights Law Centre), Peter Cantwell (Queensland Ombudsman), Clare Endicott (QCAT), Michelle Radke (Mental Health Review Tribunal), Mark Plunkett (Barrister), Madeline Brennan (Barrister), Karen Williams (Barrister), Anna McGillivray (Sessional Academic QUT and Solicitor, McCullough Robertson), Marianne Wyder (Post Doctoral Research Fellow at UQ), Richard Denning (Directorate of Mental Health) and Jay Hendricks (Footprints).

International Clinical Legal Education Conference

On 18 July, Ann Herriot and Andrea Perry-Petersen presented at the International Conference on Clinical Legal Education hosted by Griffith University on "The role of the student in the Mental Health Review Tribunal" and "What is current best practice in contemporary legal education?" respectively.

Staffing news

There have been a number of staff movements at QPILCH since July.

Karen Dyhrberg has taken 12 months maternity leave. Her new baby is expected in late October. In Karen's absence, Catherine Hartley will be acting as Referrals Coordinator and Tim Laird will be acting for Catherine as QLS/BAQ Referral Services solicitor.

Andrea de Smidt has been appointed as Deputy Director for 12 months. Elizabeth Pendlebury will be taking on the role of Coordinator of the Self Representation Service from late November and has already assumed the role of solicitor for the Service at our QCAT office.

Stephen Grace has moved into the HPLC solicitor role and Jessica Freeburn has replaced Steve as paralegal for the Self Representation Service at our Court office.

We welcome new staff to the QPILCH team and existing staff to their new roles.

 

Membership renewal

Thank you to all members who renewed their membership this financial year for their ongoing support.

Our members are the backbone, and their contribution the lifeblood, of QPILCH. While we obtain a greater share of funding from government, our members' financial support is as invaluable as their intellectual contribution. It keeps us going and enables us to provide the services when government funding is too slow to respond effectively.

If you have not renewed your membership, please consider doing so. If you would like to discuss your membership with us, please contact Andrea de Smidt at deputy@qpilch.org.au.

New members

Barristers Stephen Byrne (Mackay) and Matthew Williams (Brisbane) are the newest QPILCH and BAQ Pro Bono Referral members. Sunshine Coast barrister John-Paul Mould has also joined the BAQ Pro Bono Referral Service. The continued support of members enables QPILCH to advance access to justice for many Queenslanders in need.

Red Wine for Justice 2013

Red Wine for Justice was held on 23 August at King & Wood Mallesons. It was a great success, raising almost $17,000. We thank our guest speaker, The Honourable Patrick Keane, Justice of the High Court of Australia, the many kind donors of wines for auction and consumption and prizes, and all who attended for making it a very enjoyable occasion. We also thank those who were unable to attend the event, but nevertheless generously donated to the cause.