Issue 32 - June 2014

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.

Queensland Legal Walk celebrates goodwill and raises critical funds

Thank you to everyone in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns who supported the Queensland Legal Walk on 13 May.

We are very pleased to announce that the Walk was a resounding success with 1,027 registered walkers taking part - this included 70 very energetic and committed teams representing Queensland's law firms, barrister chambers, courts, law schools and government and corporate legal departments. Thanks to the efforts of all walkers and the people who supported them, we raised $51,231.35. The proceeds will be directed to the QPILCH Disbursement Fund, the operation of our regional offices and to further the efforts of the Mental Health Law Practice.

We congratulate and especially thank:

  • The highest fundraisers: The North Quarter Lane Chambers, Clayton Utz, Carbolic Group Chambers and Bernadette Farnell.
  • Our sponsors: The Queensland Law Society, the Bar Association of Queensland, the Brisbane City Council, The Coffee Club (Supreme Courts complex and Cairns Esplanade) Fitness First, Mitchell Ogilvie, the Far North Queensland Law Association, the Townsville District Law Association, Clayfield Markets Fresh and Simon George & Sons.
  • Our lead walkers: The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland, The Hon Jarrod Bleijie MP, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, His Honour Judge John Robertson, The Hon Fiona Simpson MP, His Honour Judge John Coker (FCC), the Honourable Justice David North and the Honourable Justice James Henry.

We all came together with a shared commitment to making a difference in the lives of fellow Queenslanders who are facing real adversity and hardship.

Townsville office launch

(L to R) Ewan Jones MP, Mayor Jenny Hill, David Maunsell and The Honourable Justice David North

On 19 May 2014 The Honourable Justice David North hosted the official launch of our service in Townsville at local venue 'A Touch of Salt'.

85 guests attended, representing a broad range of stakeholders. The Federal member for Herbert Ewen Jones launched the service on behalf of Senator the Hon George Brandis QC before guests including Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, former Lord Mayor and Queensland Parliamentary Speaker Mike Reynolds, various Townsville city councillors, Regional Coordinating Magistrate Ross Mack and Magistrate Steven Mosch, His Honour Judge John Coker (FCC), Ian Brown President of Queensland Law Society and John Corker, director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. Also present were local leaders of a number of key organisations including the Red Cross (Homelessness), SOLAS (Mental Health Recovery), the Court Network, North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, James Cook University and representatives of other CLCs, along with QPILCH president Lucy Bretherton and past president Robert Reed. Pleasingly the local legal profession, which is our volunteer base, was also very well represented and we are hopeful that will lead to an even closer partnership between QPILCH and the local profession in the months and years to come. In particular, Diane Ruhl, President of the North Queensland Law Association and Michael Brennan President of the Townsville District Law Association attended the launch.

The success of the evening was due in large measure to the great organisation of Danielle O'Connor, our Townsville paralegal.

Farewell to QPILCH patron

The Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Chief Justice of Queensland, QPILCH patron since its inception in 2001, takes up his new position as Governor of Queensland on 29 July 2014. We thank the Chief Justice for his championing of pro bono and for his great support for QPILCH over the last 13 years.

Can you spare an hour?

The QPILCH President, Lucy Bretherton, has just launched the ONE HOUR APPEAL to help raise much-needed funds for the provision of QPILCH's essential services.

The end of the financial year is just around the corner, so we are asking all members of the legal profession to consider QPILCH as the recipient of their charitable donation this financial year and to show their support by donating one hour of their professional fee to our appeal.

You can donate online at www.qpilch.org.au/donate.

Your support will help QPILCH continue to provide meaningful help to vulnerable people, many homeless and some facing serious mental health issues, and to ensure they have access to the justice system in the face of real adversity. We are hoping to be overwhelmed with support so to ensure you receive your receipt for taxation purposes before 30 June, please donate as soon as possible and accept our heartfelt thanks.

Public Interest Address

The Public Interest Address (PIA) will be held at the Customs House in Brisbane on Thursday 7 August 2014 from 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm.

The PIA is held each year to raise awareness about an important social or human rights issue. This year we aim to shine the spotlight on mental illness, our mental health legal services and the role of lawyers.

Our speakers are Professor Brett McDermott, Executive Director of the Mater Child and Youth Mental Health Service and board member of Beyond Blue, and Allan English, Chair and Founder of the English Family Foundation.

Tickets will be available shortly.

Launch of the Federal Courts Self Representation Service

(L-R) Elizabeth Pendlebury, Federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC, His Honour Judge Burnett and Lucy Bretherton (QPILCH President)

On 23 April 2014 the Federal Attorney-General, Senator the Hon George Brandis QC, launched a new arm of the Self Representation Service at the Federal Circuit Court and Federal Court in Brisbane. The launch was hosted by the Federal Court of Australia and attended by many distinguished members of the judiciary including The Honourable Patrick Keane Justice of the High Court and the Honourable Justices Dowsett, Collier and Rangiah of the Federal Court.

In addition to noting the benefit the service will have on those who cannot afford a lawyer, the Attorney-General also commented on the benefit the service will have on the course of justice.

"It [the service], at least, takes some of the weight off the judge's shoulders because the litigant has a somewhat better idea about how to go about presenting their case" the Attorney said.

The Attorney also noted the current push to achieving optimal arrangements regarding access to justice and that the close link between organisations such as QPILCH and the private profession was key to achieving those arrangements.

Justice Dowsett welcomed the service to Brisbane and commented on the benefits of the service for the Federal Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

We thanks all attendees, particularly Heather Baldwin, registrar, and member firms supporting the reinstated service - Allens; Ashurst; Clayton Utz; Corrs Chambers Westgarth; Hynes Legal; K&L Gates; McCullough Robertson Lawyers; Minter Ellison Lawyers; Norton Rose Fulbright; Piper Alderman; and TressCox Lawyers.

State funding secure for three years

We are grateful to Queensland Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie for renewed funding of QPILCH services for 2014 - 2017. For the first time, services dependent on the Legal Practitioners Interest on Trust Accounts Fund will be secure for a period of three years and will also receive indexation on funding from this income stream.

Importantly, this includes funding for the Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) over the next three years. We are grateful for the Attorney's generous support, which will allow us to continue assisting those most vulnerable in Queensland through our pro bono legal clinics.

Unfortunately, this positive news was countered by the news that funding for Commonwealth civil law services will be cut. Whilst QPILCH services will not be immediately affected by the proposed cuts to Commonwealth funding, cuts to services by other community legal centres and legal aid will have a significant negative impact on the delivery of civil law services in Queensland.

Response to Productivity Commission's Draft Report

On 21 May we submitted our response to the Productivity Commission's Draft Report into Access to Justice Arrangements.

While our response addressed a number of the issues raised in the draft report, we particularly noted our concern that a competition-based approach in the legal assistance sector would be strongly at odds with recent attempts to improve the system through greater cooperation and coordination, a long strived for goal. We urged the Commission to make recommendations that are implementable, not just relying on government to do so, but also trusting stakeholders to participate in implementing solutions. In our experience, recent improvements in collaborative processes are generating efficiencies in service delivery.

We thank the following lawyers from QPILCH member law firms for their assistance in the preparation of our response: Ashurst (Joel Moss); King&Wood Mallesons (Hannah Lalo, Evelyn Peter); McCullough Robertson (Richard Hundt) and MinterEllison (Robert Reed and Katie Clark). QPILCH staff members Andrea de Smidt, Catherine Hartley, Iain McCowie, Raquel Dos Santos, Elizabeth Pendlebury, Sue Garlick and Tony Woodyatt and consultant Michael Carey also contributed to the response. We also thank McCullough Robertson for its financial support in preparing our response.

Townsville Office Operations

HPLC Townsville

The Townsville HPLC has been growing steadily since our presence on the ground in Townsville. 68 new files have been opened since 5 March 2014 and our volunteer solicitors are seeing an average of 4-5 clients per session. We are currently in discussions with the Townsville Red Cross about the option to extend the Wednesday clinic hours or to add an additional day for the HPLC clinic to run.

Townsville office solicitor David Maunsell has met with local organisations within the Homelessness sector to strengthen partnerships and increase referral pathways to the clinic. We have been approached by the Women's Centre to run a new HPLC from its centre once every month and this will commence on 15 July 2014.

The success and growth of our service would not be possible without the support of our local volunteer law firms, Connolly Suthers, BCK Lawyers and CBC Lawyers, and the Townsville Community Legal Service. With their support we are able to assist more vulnerable clients to access justice in a range of legal matters. One success story involved a client with a tenancy dispute where the real estate was about to issue a notice to leave due to unpaid rent arrears. Through negotiation with the agent we were able to make an appropriate payment plan for the client that was within their budget and this enabled the client to stay living their home.

If you are interested in supporting the new Townsville office, please contact David Maunsell at northqld@qpilch.org.au.

Self Representation Service Townsville

The self representation service has continued on Tuesday and Friday mornings at the Townsville Court House. 12 new files have been opened since 12 March and most of those have involved between 2 and 4 attendances.

We now have approval to set up a working office within the room we are using with a dedicated telephone line and computer/internet connection with printer and copier. This will enable us to utilise the bank of volunteer lawyers to operate the service.

We have assisted:

  • a disabled pensioner to execute an order through the Magistrates Court.
  • a group of local residents wishing to be respondents in a planning appeal in the Planning and Environment Court.
  • co-owners of a property in trying to overturn an injunction restraining them from accessing their home on the property.
  • a tenant in her QCAT application to recover her bond following termination of her tenancy.
  • a pensioner in preparing a claim in QCAT to recover money owing under an agreement.

Mental Health

We have met with a number of different community mental health organisations in Townsville including SOLAS and Headspace and have received a warm reception to the ideal of a QPILCH mental health clinic in Townsville. We plan to have that clinic operating in coming months.

Premises

The Townsville office will be co-locating with the Women's Legal Service and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Legal Service.

Media

We have been fortunate to get some media coverage including being featured in a WIN TV segment on Homelessness, radio interviews with local ABC and community radio and an article and picture in the Townsville Bulletin.

Secondments and volunteers

We are grateful to Minter Ellison for providing our Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) with a full-time secondee lawyer, Lisa Saunders (pictured right at HomelessConnect). This continued, tremendous support has enhanced the HPLC's ability to meet rising demand and effectively address the legal needs of so many disadvantaged clients.

Ben Tuckett commenced his secondment from Corrs Chambers Westgarth on 14 March 2014. We thank Ben and Corrs for their ongoing full-time secondment which greatly assists the Referral Services.

Referral Services has also been very fortunate to secure two short-term secondments to back-fill staff while they are on leave in the coming months. We thank Georgia Hinds and Norton Rose Fulbright for offering to back-fill Tim Laird and Melissa Bice and Ashurst for offering to back-fill Catherine Hartley.

Referral Services has recently received an influx of solicitors and barristers volunteering their time to our service. This has benefited the Referral Services in the last few weeks and we look forward to their ongoing assistance and the specialised legal knowledge they bring. In particular, we would like to thank Julian Gillespie, Patricia Gray, Shane Connor, Ruth Kennedy and Damien Manganaro.

Referral Services has also recently recruited PLT students Kisa Rajapakse and Darren Williams and we thank our semester 1 student volunteers, including Emma King, Daniel Dreghorn, Erin Kelly, Brad Gallant, Madeleine Murphy, Tricia-Ann Lee, Erin Tanner and Eleanor Surajbali, PLT students Will Macintosh and Thomas Baldwin and our continuing volunteers and PLT students, including Carmel McMahon, Peta Miller and Michael Gee. Referral Services has also started recruiting new student volunteers for semester 2.

Mental Health Law Practice News

The MHLP has continued to assist a growing number of clients to achieve positive outcomes at their Mental Health Review Tribunal hearings. The MHLP has also recently assisted a number of clients to achieve positive outcomes in relation to their debt liabilities and to voice their concerns about their health care providers.

Notably, the MHLP assisted two clients to have their bank and telecommunications debts waived on compassionate grounds. Both clients had experienced severe mental health concerns and incurred considerable debts, totalling approximately $8,000, while unwell. The financial and telecommunication service providers recognised the clients' special circumstances and waived the debts, which not only eased the clients' financial burden but also relieved them of considerable stress.

Review of the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld)

The Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld) ("the Act") is currently under review. In September 2013 the MHLP made submissions on the review of the Act proposing numerous amendments. The submissions are currently available on QPILCH's website.

In May 2014 the Mental Health Act Review Team released a discussion paper on the review of the Act. The discussion paper has been informed by stakeholder's submissions and research undertaken by the Review Team. The discussion paper is available online at here.

The discussion paper provides another opportunity for stakeholders to make submissions on the review of the Act. The MHLP is currently working on further submissions in relation to the discussion paper and will be consulting other stakeholders in the coming weeks. Submissions on the review of the Act can be emailed directly to MHA.Review@health.qld.gov.au before 25 July 2014.

Funding and staffing

We are grateful to Herbert Smith Freehills for providing financial assistance to the MHLP. Herbert Smith Freehills previously provided a secondee to the MHLP but is not currently in a position to continue the secondment. The MHLP is continuing to seek a secondee from another firm. If you would like further information about secondment opportunities please contact Ann Herriot at mhlp@qpilch.org.au.

Ann Herriot, coordinator of the MHLP, will be leaving QPILCH at the end of June to take up a new role as part-time member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Ann has worked in other roles at QPILCH, but since 2012 has lead the development of the MHLP, expanding the civil law service, introducing the advocacy service, developing the caseworker training program and coordinating the MHRT representation service. Ann will be missed for her insight, understanding of mental health issues and hard work in growing QPILCH's services for people experiencing mental illness and as a close member of the QPILCH team.

Jordan Sacco, who has helped Ann through the recent demanding times of growth, is also leaving from the end of June to expand her family. Jordan has added strength and depth to the MHLP and will also be missed. All at QPILCH wish Ann and Jordan well in their future activities.

HPLC News

Clinics and casework

The Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic (HPLC) is now operating 19 legal clinics in Brisbane, Cairns, Toowoomba and Townsville, including 14 HPLC locations, a Refugee Civil Law Clinic, 2 Mental Health Civil Law Clinics, an Outreach Legal Clinic and LegalPod. With a full-time staffed Townsville office and a new part-time office in Cairns, our ability to assist homeless people in regional Queensland has been enhanced.

Through the HPLC, our partner firms have been representing and advising more vulnerable clients than ever before, opening over 950 new files in 2013-2014 to date.

The HPLC is always looking to increase our capacity to deliver direct pro bono assistance to the most disadvantaged Queenslanders, so please contact us if your firm would like more information about getting involved.

Success stories

Holding Redlich and King & Wood Mallesons negotiated with a local council to have over 50 Infringement Notices withdrawn for a young woman at real risk of homelessness. She was wrongly held responsible for numerous speeding fines and toll infringements which had been incurred by her former employers. Through substantive submissions to the council, the HPLC achieved a debt waiver of over $10,000.

Corrs Chambers Westgarth helped a single, refugee mother to amend the birthdates of her two children that had been incorrectly recorded on their arrival from Eritrea in 2013. The mother has very limited English and through close collaboration with her caseworker, the Refugee Civil Law Clinic helped her gather the necessary supporting evidence and successfully applied to the government for the children's records to be amended.

Minter Ellison and HWL Ebsworth attained a withdrawal of prosecution and a conditional grant of non-pursuit from a government agency regarding a $55,000 debt attributed to a formerly incarcerated man experiencing chronic homelessness and mental health concerns. The HPLC also facilitated the man receiving pro bono accountancy assistance from BDO, which included the lodgement of his outstanding tax returns from 2006-2013.

Allens assisted a woman experiencing homelessness and seeking refuge in crisis accommodation to obtain a debt waiver of over $6,500 from a telecommunications company on personal and financial hardship grounds. McCullough Robertson is also making effective progress towards a positive resolution for the client with her $30,000 personal loan dispute involving a bank.

HPLC staff in Cairns provided advice and support to a partially blind pensioner at real risk of homelessness, which enabled him to positively resolve his tenancy dispute. The HPLC informed the pensioner of his tenancy rights and helped him to appear at a QCAT hearing, where he successfully recovered his bond and had further claims regarding property damage dismissed.

Events

HomelessConnect

On 28 May, HPLC staff and volunteer lawyers attended the Brisbane City Council's HomelessConnect event at the RNA Showgrounds. HomelessConnect is a biannual event for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, with community and government providers offering free services and supplies, including clothing, medical care and legal advice. The HPLC has been involved with HomelessConnect since it commenced, and it was again held in great spirit, facilitating a valuable referral pathway for new clients and an opportunity to further our collaboration within the homelessness sector.

We acknowledge the generous support of Herbert Smith Freehills, McCullough Robertson, Minter Ellison, Clayton Utz and MurphySchmidt and the firms' volunteer lawyers who attended the event.

Darkness2Daylight Challenge

On 8 May, HPLC staff volunteered at the Darkness2Daylight Challenge, an event raising awareness of the fight against domestic violence. The event, which was organised by Minter Ellison and the Australian CEO Challenge, involved a 110km run throughout the night, representing the 110 domestic violence victims who are reported to be killed each year in Australia. Our HPLC team was proud to be involved in such an inspiring event and congratulate all those who made it a success.

LegalPod

LegalPod, our innovative new pro bono legal clinic for young people transitioning to independence from state care, commenced service delivery in late March. We have already referred 12 clients for on-going pro bono legal representation and advice. Following on from extensive sector engagement and training, we are now receiving new client enquiries each week.

Each of our partner firms has taken on at least one client referral and we are now looking to increase the number of Pods registered. We thank Allens, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, Herbert Smith Freehills, HWL Ebsworth, King & Wood Mallesons, Minter Ellison and MurphySchmidt for kindly partnering with us to date in delivering LegalPod.

Training

Annual induction/refresher training

From February to April, we ran induction/refresher training sessions at each Brisbane firm involved in the HPLC program, along with training for volunteer lawyers in Toowoomba and Townsville. The sessions covered key HPLC processes and practical skills to address the legal needs of homeless, refugee and mentally ill clients.

Caseworker training

A LegalPod caseworker training event was held on 30 April in collaboration with PeakCare and Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak , the umbrella organisations for community agencies in the child protection and indigenous sectors. Twenty caseworkers from six different agencies learnt about the legal needs of their clients and how LegalPod can assist.

Training has now been delivered to over 50 workers from 14 community and government agencies about LegalPod and has had a very positive response, both in terms of feedback and immediate client referrals.

HPLC in Cairns

We have seen a continued increase in demand through the HPLC in Cairns since commencing service delivery earlier this year, with a particularly large number of clients facing tenancy disputes. As well as our part-time lawyer and part-time administrator, we now have two student volunteers who have been a welcome addition and provided additional capacity. We are in the process of approaching local firms to get involved with the HPLC to assist our homeless clients pro bono, and we are planning an event as part of this process. If you can assist in Cairns, please contact Renee Lees at cairns@qpilch.org.au.

We have also been actively engaging with representatives from the community services sector, government and the police in supporting positive protocols around two new initiatives in Cairns, the Police Intervention Initiative and Queensland Court Referrals, both of which may substantially impact on our disadvantaged client group.

Referral Service News

The QPILCH Referral Services have received 431 new applications since 1 July 2013. We have successfully referred out 80 matters, including:

  • Maurice Blackburn advised a 50-year-old disability pensioner who was a victim of an assault on her prospects to pursue a personal injury claim on a speculative basis.
  • Rodgers Barnes & Green Lawyers and barrister Dianna Worrell are assisting an 85-year-old pensioner lodge a caveat and commence proceedings to establish his interest in a property.
  • Ashurst Australia is assisting an elderly pensioner with significant health issues to recover the interest in her property.
  • Barrister Ben Kidston urgently assisted a 63-year-old man experiencing severe financial hardship successfully defend an application for summary judgment which was brought by his body corporate.
  • Holding Redlich is providing advice to a not for profit organisation about its obligations and requirements under a liquidation process to which they may be a claimant.

We also thank all other QPILCH member firms and barristers and QLS and Bar Referral Services participants that have accepted referrals this financial year or who 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 Bar Referral Services. For more information, please visit our Get Involved page.

Working with others for broader-reaching impact

Catherine Hartley attended the Australian Securities and Investment Commission Consumer Law Forum with Elizabeth Pendlebury on 27 May. The aim of the forum is to discuss issues that impact on consumers in the Queensland marketplace. It is attended by regulators such as ASIC, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Office of Fair Trading. Catherine Hartley and Tim Laird will also be meeting with the Dispute Resolution Centre in early June to discuss effective referral pathways. The Dispute Resolution Centre provides a free, confidential and impartial mediation service to the community. This meeting follows an earlier meeting in 2013 where we discussed the process for referrals between QPILCH and the Dispute Resolution Centre. We are now following up to ensure that the referrals to date have been appropriate.

John Farren of Counsel with assistance from Simon Hamlyn-Harris of Counsel recently provided advice to a refugee facing deportation on his prospects of judicially reviewing an Independent Protection Assessment recommendation. Unfortunately for the applicant, the advice was that he did not have prospects of success in reviewing the recommendation. QPILCH worked together with several community organisations to ensure that the applicant could be given this message in a supportive environment. While the applicant did not get a positive outcome in his legal matter, it demonstrates the collaborative approach adopted by community organisations to provide social support for our applicants.

Self Representation Service News

Much attention has been given to the challenge courts and tribunals face as the number of self-represented litigants apparently increases. Australia's Productivity Commission recently released a draft report on Access to Justice Arrangements, part of which considers the effectiveness of current measures to assist self-represented litigants. The draft report notes that "there are legitimate concerns about self-representation in higher courts" and that "unbundled legal services can efficiently assist self-represented litigants where most needed, such as in complex disputes in formal settings, like superior courts."

QPILCH's Self Representation Service at the state courts, QCAT and now in the federal courts, provides such unbundled legal services. The Service plays a critical role in assisting not only a self-represented party, but also the courts and the other party to the dispute.

Welcome to new firms

We were pleased to welcome Ashurst, Corrs Chambers Westgarth and McCullough Robertson to the federal courts roster and K&L Gates to the QCAT and federal courts rosters. Firms on the Service's roster staff up to three appointments once a month for clients of the Service. QPILCH assesses all applications for assistance and ongoing assistance is subject to applicants meeting a means test and legal merit assessment. Participation in the Service also provides a great opportunity for young lawyers to work directly with clients involved in litigation.

Please contact Elizabeth Pendlebury at fed@qpilch.org.au or on (07) 3248 1278 if your firm is interested in participating in the Service.

QCAT casework - residential tenancy applications

The QCAT arm of the Service has recently experienced a spike in applicants seeking assistance with residential tenancy disputes. We attribute much of this increase in demand to the defunding of the Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service network, which closed on 1 January 2014.

Between 1 January 2014 and 31 May 2014, 40% of applications we received concerned residential tenancy disputes. In comparison, for the same period in 2013, 24% of applications related to residential tenancy disputes.

The demand for tenancy assistance has challenged our ability to focus our service on QCAT's Human Rights Division (guardianship and administration, child protection and discrimination). While access to a home is an important human right, the increased demand demonstrates the need for tailored specialist services that have the ability to provide advice and advocacy support at earlier stages of residential tenancy disputes than the Service is able to provide. We urge the government to rethink its decision to defund the specialist Tenant Advice and Advocacy Service network, which provided help that is not available through any other program or service.

Unfortunately, the Service is not able to continue to absorb this increased demand and, to ensure that it remains focused on assisting those in our community who are most vulnerable and for whom assistance is not available elsewhere, has recently changed its eligibility criteria to exclude assistance with bond disputes and minor compensation claims.

Assistance for a terminally ill woman to resist a QCAT appeal

Shine Lawyers, McInnes Wilson Lawyers, Minter Ellison Lawyers, Clayton Utz and CBP Lawyers (formerly known as Hemming+Hart Lawyers), assisted Emma*, who is terminally ill, to successfully respond to QCAT proceedings brought against her by a service provider in 2013. This month the client informed us that she successfully resisted an application for leave to appeal or appeal the decision of QCAT dismissing the originating application against her. Emma commented about the help she received from the QCAT Service:

I write to thank you all on the finalising of this matter…I want you to know just how much you helped me and how much I appreciated your kindness, advice and support in all your dealings with me during the last months of one of the most difficult periods of my life…Simple words cannot express my gratitude.

Disability pensioner saved from homelessness

QPILCH recently went on the record to assist John*, a fifty-nine year old disability pensioner with serious depression. Ten years ago, John had provided one third of the purchase monies for a house that was registered in the name of a (now former) friend. Since that time, John lived in the house and paid the mortgage. John approached the Service at the state courts after receiving one day's notice that bailiffs intended to execute an enforcement warrant obtained by an equitable mortgagee over the home, in proceedings against the former friend. John was not a party to these proceedings, even though the mortgagee had notice of his equitable interest in the property.

Given that John was faced with the prospect of being homeless the next day, QPILCH staff, including volunteer solicitor Jo Cameron, acted quickly to obtain a stay of the enforcement warrant. The Service solicitor at the state courts, Iain McCowie, was then able to instruct Stewart Webster of counsel over a number of hearings, ultimately resulting in the equitable mortgagee consenting to District Court orders that set aside the orders (and enforcement warrant) granting the equitable mortgagee possession of the home.

John now has an opportunity to bring a claim to assert his interest in the home and QPILCH is now trying to refer this matter to one of our partner firms for pro bono representation. If your firm would like further information about this matter, please contact QPILCH's Referral Service at referrals@qpilch.org.au.

Successful settlement out of court for client at risk of losing his home

Minter Ellison Lawyers and Hynes Legal recently assisted Barry* with a general protections claim he had brought in the Federal Circuit Court against his former employer. After loosing his job, Barry was experiencing financial difficulties and was at risk of loosing his home. In three appointments the Service assisted Barry to understand his cause of action, prepare additional affidavit evidence, draft an outline of argument and prepare for a trial. Barry was successful in negotiating a favourable settlement with the respondent mid way through the trial. With the settlement sum, Barry was able to prevent the bank foreclosing on the family home and gain some breathing room to find another job.

* All names have been changed.

Fair Work Settlement Conference Service

At the request of the Federal Circuit Court, the federal courts service is coordinating a Settlement Conference Service for small claims matters commenced under the Fair Work Act 2009.
The Service has created a roster of accredited mediators and members of the bar who are willing to conduct settlement conferences on a pro bono basis when the parties attend court on the first return date.

We are grateful to the following solicitors and barristers for agreeing to take part in the program: Anand Shah; Andrew See; Cate Banks; Chris Lenz; Elizabeth Gaffney; Farley Tolpen; George Kalimnios; Grace Lawson; Jens Streit; Jim Brooks; John Farren; Joseph O'Hare; Kelly McIntyre; Keyon Bayani; Leigh Bernhardt; Lynette Vanderstoep; Mark McCarthy; Michael Halliday; Michael Labone; Patricia Feeney; Patrick Wedge; Paul Flintoft; Rob Stevenson; Roman Krumins; Shane Connor; Stephen Lee and Sue McLeod.

Training

On 28 May 2014 the Service provided training for all volunteers of the Service on Interviewing Skills and Discrete Task Assistance, kindly hosted by Allens.

We assembled a panel of presenters including Tim Baumann, solicitor at MurphySchmidt, Chris Curtis, barrister and former volunteer and Murray Belcher, Deputy District Registrar at the Federal Court of Australia. Panellists provided attendees with tips and tricks to help them provide assistance to self-represented litigants in a discrete task assistance context.

Student Clinics

The Social Justice Lawyering Clinic (Griffith University) has been supervised by Andrea Perry-Petersen with assistance on casework review by Ben Tuckett, Catherine Hartley and Tim Laird of the Referrals team. Students have been working on Referral Service files and developing factsheets to assist the Federal Court Self Representation Service.

We thank students Tahli Cavanagh, Sarah de Wit, Yasmin Davis, Liam Hanlon, David Shields and Georgia Stuart.

We are very grateful to our guest speakers Cristy Dieckmann (QAILS Director), Corin Morcom (Allens Lawyer) and Gillian Hallam (Adjunct Professor QUT) for sharing their knowledge with the students.

The Public Interest Research Clinic (UQ) was also supervised by Andrea Perry-Petersen. In pairs, students worked on 2 projects; 1 investigating the correlation between seeking asylum in Australia and homelessness, and the impact on offenders of the Victims of Crime Assistance Act 2009 Qld.

We thank students Lucy Barnes, Sven Eisner, Jane Symons, Kathryn Thomas, Calvin Wilkinson, Holly Woodcroft. Holly said she "enjoyed having the opportunity to use (her) legal skills to research the particular effects of asylum seeker policies rather than simply the legal mechanics of their application". Jane felt "although a research clinic, we still had an indirect sense of responsibility to clients, since the advice or courses of action provided in our factsheet could substantially effect our clients e.g. bankruptcy".

We thank the presenters who so generously gave their time to the students: Tukie Balanzategui (Prisoners' Legal Service), Kristy Neilson (State Penalties Enforcement Registry), Jo-Ann Daley and Tim Draper (Multicultural Development Association), Keir Daley (Red Cross), Miryeong Lee (Uniting Care), Karene McCarthy (Offender Debt Recovery) and Stephen Keim SC.

The Administrative Law Clinic (Bond) is being supervised by Jackson Walkden-Brown. The students have been working on Referral Service files that contain administrative law issues and undertaking research on two significant public law reform issues. An excursion to the city has been planned for later this month in which students will visit legal professionals with expertise in public law. We thank in advance Gavin Handran and Scott McLeod of Counsel, Bernie McCabe (Senior member AAT), and Dominic McGann (McCullough Robertson).

We thank students Alex Vost, Ella Zauner, Amy Redi, Sophie Saunder, Jacob McLoughlin, Elise Foot and Tessa Daily.

The HPLC Student Clinic (UQ) supervised by Sue Garlick, investigated pathways to civil legal services for people transitioning out of the prison system, in view of the correlation between exiting prison and homelessness. Guest presenters from Legal Aid Queensland, Prisoners Legal Service, SPER, Queensland Corrective Services, Offender Reintegration Support Service, Prison Fellowship and a resident of Roma House with a significant history of incarceration provided students with a multi-layered grasp of the issues and guidance for an appropriate response. A report on the HPLC findings will be published in due course.

We thank the following HPLC firms for kindly hosting our students during the semester: Ashurst, DibbsBarker, McCullough Robertson, MurphySchmidt, Minter Ellison and HWL Ebsworth.

All of the students realised they had never considered the legal needs of a homeless person before, and one student who found the practical experience of the clinic "eye-opening" indicated that "when we study at (law school) the law is "dead", but [at the clinic] the law is 'alive'".

We thank students Lachlan Amerena, Anna Fanelli, Natalia Kamusinski, Ang Lixing, Rowan O'Neill and Belinda Tang.

Students in the Mental Health Law Clinic (UQ) have been assisting clients with mental health concerns with a range of legal matters including Mental Health Act issues, right to information and debt concerns. The students have also been working on research projects and assisting in the MHLP's outreach service to patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. The Mental Health Law Clinic has been supervised by Jordan Sacco.

We thank students Anthony Gardner, Kate Gover, Lara Henshall, Matthew Leadbetter, Alexandra Miller and Hamish Riley.

We are also very grateful to our guests who have given their time to speak to the students: Julie Hearnden and Roba Rayan (Queensland Advocacy Incorporated), Brent Dixon (Metro North Hospital and Health Service), Michelle Radke (Mental Health Review Tribunal) and Nadia Beer (West Moreton Hospital and Health Service).