Client confidentiality and privacy
ECLC highly values the confidentiality and privacy of its clients yet many wish their stories to be heard. No real names are used in the case studies below and some details have been changed to protect client privacy.
Louisa’s Story (Family violence)
Louisa had been living with Charlie on a rural rental property in the Yarra Valley for several years. Throughout their relationship she experienced emotional, verbal and more recently physical abuse.
After having a baby, Louisa became concerned for the baby’s welfare, so she went to see a Yarra Ranges Community Lawyer about her options.
Louisa didn’t want to return to the property because it was remote and so she went to stay with her sister. ECLC assisted Louisa to prepare an application for an intervention order to stop Charlie from being abusive to her and the baby.
The community lawyer also gave some initial advice about separation and parenting options. Louisa successfully obtained an intervention order with support from ECLC at Court and then was assisted by the ECLC Tenancy Advocate who gave advice about her options with the rental property.
ECLC also referred Louisa to Eastern Domestic Violence Service who provided her with support throughout the intervention order process at Court and helped her to access counselling support.
Louisa came back to ECLC for further advice about child arrangements once she had settled into her new home. ECLC helped her to access mediation where she was able to safely negotiate supervised contact for Charlie with the baby.
Ali’s Story (Deakin Student Legal Service)
Ali is an international student at Deakin University who just arrived in Australia. He had planned to find a job to support himself while he studied but his applications were continually rejected because of his limited experience and English language skills. He applied to an advertisement on Gumtree as a “Customer Service Representative” and within a few days, received an email saying he’d got the job. He was sent a formal-looking contract, which he signed, and he sent back with a copy of his passport and his personal details.
The next day Ali received a phone call welcoming him to the company. The woman on the phone explained that she had his first task for him. He was required to receive money from a customer into his personal bank account to be transferred onto their headquarters in Italy. An amount of $5,000 would be deposited into his account in a few hours, and Ali could keep $500 as payment. Ali did as he was instructed and transferred $4,500 to an individual in Italy via Western Union.
Two days later when Ali tried to pay his bills online he found out that he had been locked out of his account. When he visited the bank branch he was told that his account had been closed due to money from compromised accounts being illegally transferred into his account.
The DLSFS lawyer gave Ali advice about scams, and supported him to contact the Police, Scamwatch, and his country’s consulate to alert them about his compromised passport details. The lawyer also assisted Ali with writing a statutory declaration that could be passed onto the bank to reopen his account, and also to provide an account of what happened to Police.
Diana’s Story (Rental debt)
Diana was hearing-impaired and could only communicate with her real estate agent via email. She needed to break her lease because she was offered a place in low-income, supported accommodation.
The agent told Diana that she would need to pay out the lease, as well as advertising and reletting costs. She would have had to pay double rent for two properties at one stage and could not afford this. ECLC’s Tenant Advocate rang the agent who said they were very willing to negotiate towards a much lower sum, but were not willing to make an offer in writing.
The agents provided an approximate figure to the advocate that they believed the landlord would settle on. Through the advocate, Diana agreed to this amount and was pleased with the outcome.
The matter was resolved relatively quickly, taking slightly longer because of the need to use a telephone relay interpreter. This example demonstrates increasing trust between the advocates and agents which demonstrates the value of negotiation and avoided the matter going to VCAT for resolution.