Wednesday, December 9 2015

This afternoon the Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan will launch the video Behind the Curtain at St Vincent’s Hospital.  The two-minute video about elder abuse was created by Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) to help educate GPs about indicators of family violence, services and referral information.  Behind the Curtain tells the story of Anna who begins to experience elder abuse after family members move interstate.

ECLC’s Elder Abuse Prevention Advocate Kaz Mackay explains that primary health providers play an important role in assisting people experiencing elder abuse.

“Very often, a GP is the only professional that an older person will disclose their abuse to, yet few GP’s seem to understand elder abuse or have knowledge of appropriate local services to refer their patients to,” said Ms Mackay.

Elder abuse is a growing issue for Australia.  Elder abuse is any act of harm to an older person that is committed by someone with whom the older person has a relationship of trust such as a partner, family member or friend.  This can take the form of financial, psychological and physical abuse.

ECLC CEO Michael Smith explains that part of the silence and complexity around elder abuse is the reluctance that many people who are experiencing the abuse to take action or criticise their adult children and relatives.

“Our lawyers often find that clients who are suffering from elder abuse do not want to press charges against their own adult child.  Most do not want to view the behaviour as abuse,” said Mr Smith.

Behind the Curtain was created with funds from the former Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local. View the video on our website:

‘Behind the Curtain’ Video Launch
2pm Wednesday 09 December 2015
The Boardroom,
11th Floor, In Patients Building
St. Vincents Hospital

For further media information and interviews, please contact: Michael Smith on +61 3 9285 4822 or


Federation of Community Legal Centres Vic

Friday, October 30 2015

State Coroner Ian Gray has today heeded key recommendations from a joint community legal centre submission in his findings in the inquest of Sargun Ragi, which were handed down this morning.

Sargun Ragi was killed by her partner in October 2012, and her death has prompted searching questions about how the family violence system can better protect women who report a partner’s violence to immigration authorities.

‘Sargun Ragi was failed by the family violence system, but today’s findings mean that her tragic story will not be rendered invisible and will lead to system changes that will help prevent future family violence deaths,’ said Belinda Lo, an author of the joint submission, and Principal Lawyer with Eastern Community Legal Centre.

A key finding of Judge Gray was that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection should publicly report on the policies it develops in response to community legal centre recommendations that immigration officials seek the permission of women alleging family violence to ensure the involvement of police, and that they case manage family violence using the Common Risk Assessment Framework to achieve an integrated response.

‘We need a system where women do not fall through the cracks because one agency knows about family violence but fails to trigger a response by the broader family violence system,’ Ms Lo said.

Judge Gray also supported recommendations about improved police processes regarding consideration of past risk assessments when undertaking risk assessments for current family violence incidents.

He also supported the creation of a family violence advocacy service, and in a further recommendation not canvassed in the community legal centre submission, recommended improved education and behaviour change programs for men from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds (CALD).

‘The Coroner’s recommendations in this case are positive and will, if implemented, go some way to preventing deaths of this sort in future,’ said Liana Buchanan, Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, today.

‘However, this case highlights the need to have a rigorous inquest process for every family violence death. The fact is that three of the four recommendations made arose only because community legal centre advocates were following the inquest, were concerned that the system’s failings were not being addressed, and sought leave to make submissions,’ she said .

The joint submission was made by Eastern Community Legal Centre, Broadmeadows Community Legal Service, and the Federation.

Media contacts:

Belinda Lo, Principal Lawyer – Eastern Community Legal Centre: (03) 9285 4822
Liana Buchanan, Executive Officer – Federation of Community Legal Centres: 0407 189 221
Darren Lewin-Hill, Communications Manager – Federation of Community Legal Centres: 0488 773 535


Friday, October 9 2015

Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) welcomes the State Government’s announcement of extra funding for community legal centres. ECLC will receive a total of $100,000 from the Community Legal Centre Assistance and Fund Family Violence Duty Lawyer Fund announced at the West Justice Community Legal Centre this morning.

Mr Michael Smith, the CEO of Eastern Community Legal Centre, explained that the money will go to boost existing vital services that ECLC provides at Ringwood Magistrates Court and the Yarra Ranges Centre.

“This funding is going to help us provide the vital services that assist some of the most vulnerable people in our community including family violence survivors,” said Mr Smith.

“In the past 12 months we have seen a 50% increase in clients accessing our family violence lawyers at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court. This funding will help us to expand this important free legal service experiencing major demand,” said Mr Smith.

ECLC’s Yarra Ranges Centre was also a recipient of a $50,000 grant. The Yarra Ranges team cater to the 140,000 people living in the municipality that has seen a significant rise in applications of family violence intervention orders. Figures released on the Victoria Police website show the number of applications for an intervention order in the Yarra Ranges region has increased by 228.69% over the past five years.

“The devastating figures coming from the police echo our own numbers with the vast majority of the legal matters we are dealing with at Yarra Ranges CLC being related to family violence” said Mr Smith.

– ENDS –

Interviews with ECLC CEO Michael Smith are available.

Michael Smith on +61 3 9285 4822 or

Download a copy of the media release here.



Thursday, September 24 2015

This morning Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Federal Minister for Women, Senator Michaelia Cash as they announced the Women’s Safety Package initiative to combat family violence at the Centre’s Box Hill office.

The PM announced the 100 million dollar initiative that will fund a range of initiatives including specialist family violence units to be placed in community legal centres across the nation. The Prime Minister and Senator Cash were accompanied by Mr Ken Lay, Chair of the COAG Advisory Panel on Violence Against Women and Children and former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner and Australianof the Year, Ms Rosie Batty.

It was announced that ECLC will host the first of these units and ECLC CEO Michael Smith explains that the Women’s Safety Package reflects what so many people in the sector have been asking for – an integrated response to family violence.

“We are very proud to implement this new initiative at our Centre across Melbourne’s East. We have been working on piloting integrated responses to family violence for some years and these have proven very successful in providing effective assistance to people who are experiencing family violence,” explained Mr Smith.

“Family violence is the biggest justice issue facing Australians. For our community legal centre to be able to provide women and children seeking help due to family violence with an integrated response with lawyers and other appropriate professionals is absolutely critical and really encouraging. Family violence is a major legal issue but it’s more than that. We are very pleased that the Government is taking action and supporting holistic approaches to this national crisis,” said Mr Smith.

ECLC is a not-for-profit organisation providing free and confidential legal information, advice, referrals and representation to Victorians living in Melbourne’s East – from Hawthorn to Healesville. ECLC services an area with a population of over 870,000 people – over 15% of the State’s total population, the largest population catchment of any community legal centre in Victoria. The centre has three offices across the region: Box Hill, Boronia and in the Yarra Ranges. It works closely with family violence services, police and many other agencies.

The majority of the legal matters the Centre’s lawyers deal with are related to family violence. In the past year alone, over 1200 clients were assisted with family violence issues, a 40% increase from the previous year. Figures released on the Victoria Police website show the number of applications for an intervention order in the Yarra Ranges region has increased by 228.69% over the past five years.

– ENDS –

For further media information and interviews, please contact:

Michael Smith: (03) 9285 4822 or
Belinda Lo: 0423 731 821

Download a copy of the media release here.



Monday, November 5 2014

A busy Yarra Ranges community legal centre in Melbourne’s outer east is under threat. Federal funding for the Yarra Ranges community centre has been pulled by the Attorney General’s Department despite surging family violence numbers in the region. Figures released on the Victoria Police website show the number of applications for an intervention order in the Yarra Ranges region has increased by 228.69% over the past five years.

Mr Michael Smith, the CEO of Eastern Community Legal Centre, is worried that despite this very real need the Centre’s Yarra Ranges office might be forced to close down with the cuts totalling $200,000 pa.

“The devastating figures coming from the police echo our own numbers with the vast majority of the legal matters we are dealing with at Yarra Ranges CLC being family violence related” said Mr Smith.

“The office caters to the 140,000 people living in the municipality that would otherwise have to travel for hours to access this vital legal advice.”

“Many victims of family violence struggle to get legal assistance and other relevant services primarily due to geographical and transport barriers,” said Mr Smith.

The Yarra Ranges office was granted funding in August 2013 from the Federal Attorney-General’s Department after a five-year public campaign run by the ECLC and supported by members of the legal community, Victoria Police, Anglicare, EDVOS, Anchor and Yarra Valley Community Health. The cessation of this funding after only months of existence leaves the Yarra Ranges CLC’s future at risk.

“In our first six months of operation the Yarra Ranges CLC has seen 166 clients with the vast majority of these are on low incomes and we are concerned for the future of the centre and the effect this will have on the local community.”

 – ENDS –

For further media information and interviews, please contact: 

Michael Smith on +61 3 9285 4822 or



Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eastern Community Legal Centre’s new Centre for the Yarra Ranges opened its service to the public today.

After years of outreach services, legal needs studies, advocacy and planning, the new Community Legal Centre (CLC) office in Healesville is providing free legal help to people living across the Yarra Ranges.

Based in the Healesville Community Link building in River Street, the new Centre, expects to focus on responding to family violence and housing issues in the large and diverse Yarra Ranges area.

ECLC CEO Michael Smith said the Centre was delighted to provide the new dedicated service for the Yarra Ranges community. “Eastern CLC has been providing outreach services to the Yarra Ranges for a number of years. However, a dedicated Community Legal Centre for the Yarra Ranges communities was overdue.

“We are thrilled with the welcome we’ve received from Council, community agencies and local residents across the municipality. As well as providing professional and confidential legal advice, ECLC will be conducting a range of community legal education sessions and working closely with many local services.”

ECLC acknowledged the financial support of the Commonwealth Government, Victorian Government and Victoria Legal Aid. “We are really pleased with the support of these funding partners, with today’s opening being just the beginning of a long-term service.”, Mr Smith stated.

The new ECLC office is open three days per week, Tuesday through Thursday, based at the Healesville Community Link. Outreach services will continue in Lilydale, Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction and may be expanded depending on community need.

As well as family violence and tenancy problems, the staff can assist with a range of legal problems or provide referral where necessary.

For appointments for any of these locations or information about how ECLC can assist you with your legal needs, please call ECLC’s Yarra Ranges team on (03) 5962 1665.

Media Contacts:
Michael Smith: or (03) 9285 4822

Download a copy of the media release here.



Monday, September 16, 2013

Planning is well underway for the new Yarra Ranges Community Legal Centre (CLC) that will provide free legal help to people living in Yarra Ranges. The new CLC, to be opened in Healesville before the end of the year, will have a focus on responding to family violence and housing issues in the large and diverse Yarra Ranges area.

The service will be part of Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) that has been working in the Yarra Ranges for a number of years.

On Tuesday ECLC is conducting a Community Briefing to outline their plans for the new community legal centre and listen in more detail to the needs of the local communities.

Over 40 community members will be in attendance including Yarra Ranges Councillors and Community Agency staff.

Mayor Jim Child will formally open the event and welcome ECLC to the Yarra Ranges community.

Michael Smith, CEO noted the importance of working with the community. “Community Legal Centres are highly effective and respective because they listen closely and work well with their local communities.

“ECLC has been active in the Yarra Ranges Community for a number of years, but the new CLC will mean much improved access to local residents, both in direct legal assistance and our broader work.”

ECLC is delighted that Victoria Legal Aid has announced funding of $70,000 in the first year in addition to the recent Federal funding commitment. This will allow the Centre to establish the new service and lay strong foundations for the long-term.

VLA’s Director Civil Justice Access and Equity Kristen Hilton said the funding would allow the ECLC to both deliver services and further research the legal needs of local communities.

“This funding will help identify those issues causing people the most concern in the Yarra Ranges and support the Centre in its efforts to alleviate them,” she said.

The new legal centre will initially open three days per week at the Healesville Community Link.

Outreach services will continue in Lilydale, Yarra Glen and Yarra Junction and may be expanded depending on community need.

For more information about how ECLC can assist you with your legal needs, please call ECLC’s Boronia office on (03) 9762 6235.



Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus announces ECLC's Commonwealth funding at its Box Hill office on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC announces ECLC’s Commonwealth funding at its Box Hill office on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) today welcomed the announcement by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC of Commonwealth funding ($350,000 over four years) to open a Community Legal Centre based in the Yarra Ranges. The new Yarra Ranges CLC, to be based in Healesville, will have a focus on responding to family violence and housing issues in the large and diverse Yarra Ranges on Melbourne’s eastern fringe.

ECLC has been actively campaigning for over four years to improve access to the justice system for the 148,000 residents living in the Yarra Ranges, spread over a vast 2,500km2 area.

“We are delighted that the Australian Government has supported the legal needs of people in the Yarra Ranges communities. All people need access to quality legal help and geography should not be a barrier to accessing legal assistance,” said Michael Smith, ECLC’s CEO.

The new CLC office will be based in the Healesville Community Link hub in the centre of Healesville thanks to the support of Yarra Ranges Council. “We are very pleased that Yarra Ranges Council will be a strong partner with the new CLC,” Mr Smith said.

Research conducted by the Centre found that the number of Intervention Orders sought by Victoria Police in response to family violence was higher in the Yarra Ranges than any other municipality in the Eastern region. The research also found that 86% of community agency staff indicated tenancy issues were a major concern.

“Reaching our closest office in Boronia was very difficult for residents, especially using public transport and our outreach services were only available monthly,” Mr Smith said.

ECLC also welcomed additional funding to extend legal support for people experiencing family violence ($400,000 over four years). “Regrettably, our Centre assists a huge number of people each year who are experiencing family violence. As well as providing significant legal help to people in these awful situations, the Centre is actively working to both improve the systems that respond and prevent violence before it happens. This funding will enable us to improve and expand this vital family violence work. No-one, especially women and children, should be unsafe within their own homes.”

Jennifer, a local woman who has experienced family violence spoke of the importance of the new service. “In my experience, access to local, timely legal advice from a knowledgeable professional was totally necessary,” she said. “Anything that reduces the barriers to accessing the legal system will help many women dealing with violence.”

Community Law Australia campaign spokesperson Carolyn Bond said that with additional funding to a number of CLCs around the country, access to justice would become more of a reality for people in regional areas, women struggling with family violence issues, people being ripped off by financial institutions, and people with credit and debt problems.

“Community Law Australia has long been calling for better resources to meet a diverse range of client needs in the community, and it is welcome to see that the Government recognises the problem of access to justice,” Ms Bond said.

Media Contacts:
Michael Smith: (03) 9285 4822

Local family violence survivors and Michael Smith, CEO available for interview

Download a copy of the media release here.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) is disturbed by the use of ‘sexting’ as a tool for abuse in relationships.

The Centre’s concerns have been highlighted in this week’s release of the report of the Victorian Law Reform Committee’s Inquiry into sexting. ECLC said it was pleased the inquiry report took into account their experience as they have had a number of clients in Melbourne’s East where sexting was a major concern.

“We are seeing a concerning trend where young adult women have felt coerced to stay in abusive relationships for fear of a sexual image being released to third parties,” said Belinda Lo, Principal Lawyer at ECLC.

“The distribution of sexually explicit images can be used as a threat and the images are being shared without their consent,” Ms Lo said.

The state’s parliamentary inquiry into sexting was prompted by concerns about young people and the harm caused by sexually explicit text messages. Yet, the Centre shared examples where women in their early 20s were being threatened by the use of images taken earlier in their relationship.

ECLC has welcomed the Law Reform Committee’s recommendations, particularly the proposal to establish a specific criminal offence for sexting.

“Many young people are unaware that sexting behaviour is currently a serious criminal offence. The proposed offence strikes a good balance between what is increasingly common in teenage relationships and the abusive potential of these images,” Ms Lo said.

“Using sexually explicit images to threaten women should not be tolerated, and is regrettably an emerging form of family violence.”

Download a copy of the media release here.



May 16th, 2012

Deakin University Student Association is celebrating the launch of its new free on-campus legal service. The service is part of a new partnership with the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) and the Barwon Community Legal Service (BCLS).

The service is to be offered across all of Deakin’s campuses and available to off-campus students. DUSA president Toni Hawker says the legal service will be of enormous benefit to students, “The legal service is a great example of students’ money going directly to essential student services, an area that has long been neglected”.

The service will provide free and confidential legal advice, information, referral and education. Legal Advice will be given on a face-to-face appointment basis.

ECLC CEO Michael Smith says he’s expecting the on-campus Community Lawyers to be busy with student consultations as well as educating students about their legal rights. “It is fantastic to be able to be on campus to provide legal help to students when they need it. Many students may have a problem, but don’t recognise it as a legal issue. We’re really looking forward to working closely with DUSA and Deakin University to help students ‘Sort It’ out, before small problems get too big.”

International students, students with accommodation issues, and students with problems at work are expected to be big users of the new service.

Nick Hudson, Manager of BCLS in Geelong is enthusiastic about the new service. “We‘re excited about further building on our close relationship with Deakin University. We’ve worked with law students and the law school for about 20 Years and this is a great opportunity to extend that to the broader Deakin community.” Mr Hudson said.

ECLC & BCLS are working closely with DUSA to develop a service tailored to the specific needs of Deakin students and young people. The service partners are looking forward to empowering Deakin University Students to resolve their legal problems.

Appointments are available now by calling 9285 4822 (Burwood), 1300 430 599 (Geelong) or through DUSA Advocates on 1300 555 528. For details see or


May 14th, 2012

During Law Week (14-18 May), Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) is testing the public’s legal knowledge.

Recent ABS data shows law affects everyone. Nearly all of us witness crime. Many people feel unsafe out alone at night. Most of us have recently felt personal stress from illness, bereavement, unemployment, mental illness, divorce or separation. Many people suffer poor health or finances or need care.

Chief Executive Officer Michael Smith said the Centre’s Legal Quiz shows people that the law is something we know and use. “Law is not just for courts and lawyers. Law both resolves and prevents disputes. People often know their legal rights and duties without realising. Legal ‘know-how’ helps people get along during hard times.”

“People should see the law as more than complex jargon. They should also know legal support often helps prevent problems from worsening. For example, under some laws people must act before set deadlines. That’s where ECLC’s free legal advice and education can help.”

Almost two-thirds of Victorians felt personal stresses such as serious illness or injury, mental illness, divorce, separation and unemployment. Over one-quarter had recently relied on government support as their main income. Almost one-fifth had recent cash-flow problems. All of these issues have a potential legal dimension. (ABS 2010 General Social Survey)

The Victorian Law Week calendar is at

Download a copy of the quiz here.


March 28th, 2012

Human Rights are Aussie Rules, an innovative human rights education program for young Australians will launch it’s first online and smart phone game Today, Wednesday 28 March 2012 at 11am, Ringwood Secondary College.

“Handball for Human Rights is a new online game using kids’ love of Australian Rules Football to promote human rights principles” said Tanja Kovac, National Co-ordinator of the Human Rights are Aussie Rules Program. “The game, which is available for free download from our website is just one way the Human Rights are Aussie Rules educates and engages young people about human rights. Our program also uses theatre, workshops and sporting games to promote understanding of Freedom, Respect Equality and Dignity.”

“Human Rights are a part of everyday life – at school, at home, at work and on the sports field. Being a good sport in life means more than being the best, you also have to be the fairest. This is what the Human Rights are Aussie Rules project teaches young people” Tanja said.

Helping to launch the game will be Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and AFL Diversity Ambassador and member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, Chris Johnson. Students at Ringwood Secondary College and Yarra Hills Secondary College who helped test the game will also be part of the launch.

Human Rights are Aussie Rules is a national education program using sport to teach young people about human rights. The program was commenced at the Eastern Community Legal Centre in 2008 and now has offices in WA and NT with more to follow. The program has been supported by the Federal Government’s Human Rights Framework Grants, the Victorian Government and Jinta Sport.

For all inquiries about the launch contact Michael Smith on 0421 437 883 or Tanja Kovac on 0419 910 577

Download a copy of the media release here.


THE HON NICOLA ROXON MP – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management

MIKE SYMON MP – Member for Deakin

March 26th, 2012

Young footy fans are learning that playing fair on the field is just as important off the field through a new online game, ‘Handball for Human Rights’.

In launching ‘Handball for Human Rights’, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon congratulated the Eastern Community Legal Centre for engaging kids on human rights in such a practical way.

“Kids know that playing fair on the sports field is about showing respect to others and everyone having a go, this is how we should behave in all aspects of life,” Ms Roxon said.

“This is a uniquely Australian way of teaching kids about their human rights through the great levelling medium of Aussie rules football.

“The wonderful thing about sport, as a tool to educate, is that every person, regardless of their religion, background or heritage – is equal on the field.

“Australians understand this in sport – we want to spread this culture further.”

Local Member for Deakin Mike Symon said that just as there are expectations of fair play on the sports field, human rights are about fairness on the playing field of life.

“Across the electorate schools use ideas of ‘mutual respect’ and ‘fair play’, this is the language of both sport and human rights,” Mr Symon said.

The Handball for Human Rights program is part of the ‘Human Rights are Aussie Rules’ project funded by Australia’s Human Rights Framework – Education Grants. The project teaches children and young people about human rights by connecting fair play on the field to fair play in life. It uses sport to transform complicated human rights principles into fun and easy to understand ideas.

National Coordinator of the Human Rights are Aussie Rules Program, Tanja Kovac said that with the launch of Handball for Human Rights even more kids will be able to participate and learn about human rights.

“Human Rights are Aussie Rules is education and inspiration, sport is the medium and human rights are the message,” Ms Kovac said.

“As today’s launch shows, community organisations play a vital role in teaching the Australian community about human rights and I’m extremely pleased to be announcing a further grants round today” Ms Roxon said.

Australia’s Human Rights Framework—Education Grants is part of the Governments’ $12.4 million investment in human rights education initiatives across the community. This grant round is the 3rd and will provide $400,000 to community groups and non-government organisations across Australia.

Applications for Round 3 close at 5:00pm AEST on Wednesday 9 May 2012 and further information is available at

For all media enquiries, please contact the Attorney-General’s Office on 02 6277 7300 or 0409 945 476

Download a copy of the media release here.


November 14th, 2011

At the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) annual general meeting held November 9, 2011, Anna Burke, Federal Member for Chisholm spoke on the valuable contribution ECLC makes to her electorate.

“To everybody involved in this terrific organisation a huge thank you for offering your time and services to these individuals who are often the most vulnerable, at their wit’s end, who need that support. You offer an invaluable service,” Ms Burke said.

“We often have this misconception that in the eastern suburbs there isn’t a need for a service such as this. I disagree with that, it is vital to offer this support to the community.”

Chisholm covers an area of approximately 61 square kilometres in the south-eastern suburbs from Box Hill North to Oakleigh, from Glen Waverley and Mount Waverley to Burwood and Chadstone.

ECLC covers a much broader area than Chisholm and is one of the largest by population of all community legal centres in Australia. It covers six local government areas: Boroondara, Manningham, Whitehorse, Maroondah, Yarra Ranges and Knox.

It offers free legal assistance from its offices in Box Hill and Boronia during the day, at night and also through various outreach locations across the East, with a priority given to those who are disadvantaged. In addition to direct legal services, ECLC undertakes community development activities to empower, raise awareness and provide education.

This year’s ECLC annual report and general meeting had the theme “Access All Areas” with a focus on its six priority areas – family violence, the Yarra Ranges, human rights education, seniors rights, cultural diversity and children and young people.

“We must ensure we offer access to all areas. It doesn’t matter what your culture is, what your language level is, what your age is. Ms Burke said. “We must ensure we are providing enough financial support into the system to ensure everybody has equal access.”

Ms Burke’s office refers people to the ECLC often and she says that it is “vitally important that we continue to fund the centres, not just to do the case work” but also the outreach work and community development.

The ECLC annual report 2011 is available, for a copy please call 03 9285 4822 or download a copy here.

Photo: L to R Helen Killmier Chairperson ECLC, Anna Burke MP, Michael Smith CEO ECLC


September 14, 2011

Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) is calling for ongoing council support for its legal outreach services in Bulleen following the release of a research report that highlights the disadvantage experienced by many in the community.

The ‘Access to Justice for Manningham’ report released this week explores the legal needs and challenges faced by the Bulleen and surrounding communities in the City of Manningham. It also evaluates the effectiveness of the service model adopted by ECLC?s Bulleen Outreach Service.

The report confirmed that key legal issues experienced by Bulleen and surrounding communities include disturbingly high rates of family violence, complex debt and infringement matters and housing and tenancy issues. A clear majority of clients who sought support from the Outreach service were on low incomes and many had not previously accessed legal support.

Census data shows that Bulleen residents experience a higher rate of disadvantage in comparison the Manningham as a whole, with more low income earners, an older population, and lower car ownership. ECLC?s research shows that these issues compound already complex legal issues by making access to the legal system more difficult. It identified that all clients of the Bulleen Outreach service to date had experienced transport issues to some extent and might have not otherwise accessed a legal service were it not for the outreach location.

ECLC CEO Michael Smith says the research highlights the need for services in Bulleen. “The Bulleen Outreach Service is one of the few community services physically located in Bulleen, reaching those who need legal support the most. This research shows that for some residents, significant barriers prevent them from accessing legal services and demonstrates the need to continue to operate a local service.”

Eastern Community Legal Centre provides free legal advice and assistance to the communities of the East, as well as undertaking community development and education projects. ECLC has a small staff team and over 100 volunteers, offices in Box Hill and Boronia and nine outreach locations. While open to all, most people seeking assistance are on low incomes and a large number are from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The Centre established a legal outreach service at Bulleen and Templestowe Community House (BATCH) with the support of a Community Development Grant from Manningham City Council. The Bulleen Outreach has now been running since March 2010 and provides legal advice and assistance to residents in Manningham who are unable to attend the Box Hill Office. To make an appointment for legal advice, please contact ECLC on 9285 4822.


Bulleen Outreach Service – Evaluation and Research Report