Tag Archive: community law

  1. Yarra Ranges CLC success confirmed in Review calling for funding rescue

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    An independent review of ECLC’s Yarra Ranges Centre (YRCLC) has highlighted the critical impact the service has had on the region’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, as the service faces potential closure when Commonwealth funding cuts take effect in July 2017.

    In just two and a half years of operation, the part-time Community Legal Centre has supported over 500 clients, provided approximately 600 legal advices and reached a further 530 people through community legal education.

    ECLC CEO Michael Smith expressed pride in the achievements but frustration that funding uncertainty would threaten the viability of the service for the second time since its 2014 launch.

    “It is clear that the Yarra Ranges CLC is achieving critical and often life-changing positive outcomes with the Yarra Ranges community, but those residents are again at risk of being denied this vital service,” said Mr Smith.

    Local services engaged by the review were adamant that without YRCLC, the region’s most under-serviced community members would simply not have access to legal help, including Aboriginal clients with complex needs and women living in rural isolation escaping family violence.

    “Lots of organisations have a nice Reconciliation Action Plan but the ECLC actually live it and do it,” said Rose Solomon, Manager of Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service.

    Heidi Tucker, CEO of local housing and community service provider Anchor added: “There are no alternatives to the YRCLC service for our community”.

    Despite its clear success, the YRCLC remains under threat with Commonwealth funding cuts due to impact on July 1, 2017. ECLC has been notified that it will lose $240,000 per annum, which will also impact the Centre’s broader work in the Eastern Metropolitan Region.

    Specifically, the Review by evaluation consultants Effective Change stated that, “Local service providers were unequivocal that without the YRCLC:

    • the most vulnerable and disadvantaged clients would simply not seek legal advice, inevitably resulting in the escalation of relatively minor legal matters
    • women living in rural isolation escaping family violence from partners often with access to guns would not have access to legal advice
    • Aboriginal clients with complex legal needs including family violence and child protection issues would not have access to legal advice.”

    In 2015-16, 55% of Yarra Ranges clients were assisted in relation to family violence or family law issues (and 60% of overall ECLC clients).

    In conclusion, the review,

    “strongly demonstrates that YRCLC is a critical service that requires continued ongoing funding to enable the Centre to continue to service the most vulnerable, marginalised and under-serviced members of the community and make a significant difference to the broader community.”

    ECLC and its supporters in the Yarra Ranges communities and beyond will utilise the review’s findings as further evidence for both Commonwealth and State funders to support the continuation of this vital work.

    Both the Executive Summary and Full Report can be read online:

    Download the full media release. 

  2. Attorney-General George Brandis QC launches new program to tackle family violence

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    Attorney-General George Brandis QC launched Eastern Community Legal Centre’s (ECLC) new family violence program, SAGE – Support, Advice, Guidance, Empowerment – at the Centre’s AGM on Wednesday 16 November. SAGE provides a unique ‘wraparound’ service for women experiencing or at risk of family violence, including legal, social and other support.

    ECLC CEO Michael Smith said the program, which integrates with other service providers across Melbourne’s east, seeks to engage women most in need of assistance.

    “The demand for family violence support has surged in recent years but many women still face barriers to accessing help. The SAGE program takes a partnership approach that’s more likely to reach women who fall through the cracks of mainstream and standalone services,” said Mr Smith.

    Women from especially vulnerable population groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women from migrant and CaLD backgrounds and women with mental health issues or a disability, will have priority access to the SAGE program.

    “With the SAGE program launched, we have greater capacity to provide a culturally safe service that responds to the whole-of-life issues that can arise with family violence,” said Mr Smith.

    In the 2015/16 year, ECLC assisted a record number of clients with 38% of the Centre’s work related to family violence matters and another 22% related to family law. ECLC assisted 945 clients at the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court as part of its family violence Intervention Order Support Service, up 20% from the previous year.

    ECLC was one of 12 legal assistance providers nominated by the Federal Government in 2015 to develop a specialist family violence service under the Women’s Safety Package.

  3. ‘Equality Every Day’: Annual General Meeting & Family Violence Team launch

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    All people are created equal but for many, equality still has to be sought. ECLC supports people and communities every day as they seek equality and increasingly does this work in everyday places.

    At ECLC’s 2016 AGM, ‘Equality Every Day’, the Centre celebrates and highlights the work of its staff, volunteers and partners over 365 days.

    The launch of the new Family Violence Team, SAGE, will also feature the strategic and partnership approach of this much needed service amidst an increasing understanding of the devastating impacts of family violence.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2016

    2:00pm Launch of Family Violence Team
    3:00pm Annual General Meeting
    3:30pm Afternoon Tea / Refreshments

    The Camberwell Parkview Room
    340 Camberwell Road, Camberwell
    (Car parking is limited)

    by Friday, 11 November 2016
    via TryBooking

    Enquiries: 1300 32 52 00 (1300 ECLC 00)

    View or download the invitation


  4. Older and Wiser: ECLC launches new legal fact sheets for seniors

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    Eastern Community Legal Centre launched two new legal fact sheets for seniors at the Chinese Workers Network on Wednesday 6 September. The resources provide older members of the Chinese community with information in simplified and traditional Chinese about important legal issues that affect most people later in life: Wills and Grandparents’ Rights.

    Almost a quarter of ECLC’s clients speak a language other than English at home, the most common being Mandarin and Cantonese. The fact sheets have been developed in community language to provide accessible information that prevents legal problems from arising.

    No one wants to think about end of life issues and what happens after we’re gone, but making a Will can ensure that your wishes are known and respected.  The Wills fact sheet includes things that need to be considered when making a new Will or updating an existing Will.

    Likewise, it can be a stressful time for families when parents separate.  Grandparents will want to continue to spend time with their grandchildren, but may feel uncertain about their rights and what will happen if their grandchildren are no longer living with both of their parents.  The Grandparents’ Rights fact sheet includes things to consider when you want to see your grandchild.

    The fact sheets are available to download:

    The Wills and Grandparents’ Rights fact sheets build on the ECLC’s previous publication, Older and Wiser, which can be found on the Centre’s resources page.

    ECLC would like to that Whitehorse City Council for their support of this project.

  5. Critical Yarra Ranges legal services under threat as Budget confirms funding cuts

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    Vulnerable communities in the Yarra Ranges and across Melbourne’s east may lose access to critical legal services from July 2017, according to the Federal Government’s budget announcements on Tuesday.

    The figures confirmed that a 30 per cent cut in federal funding of community legal services would take place in July 2017 as the sector faces a national funding cliff.

    Eastern Community Legal Centre’s Yarra Ranges office, which caters to 140,000 people living across the municipality, may be forced to close when the centre cops an expected $240,000 cut in funding next year. The Centre appeared set to close its Yarra Ranges office during a funding crisis in 2014-15, before the cuts were reversed and stabilised the sector for two years.

    “The funding cut to free legal help is still a year away, but we know so well the impact and pressure that funding uncertainty has on our communities.” said ECLC CEO Michael Smith.

    “Our Centre is already facing huge demand for family violence and other legal help but the Centre will now have to expend energy to advocate to retain services, rather than expanding services to meet community needs.”

    Recently Ringwood Magistrates’ Court added an extra day to family violence matters as the court’s lists are exhausted by increased demand. Last year Victoria Police released figures that showed the number of applications for an intervention order in the Yarra Ranges region has increased by 228.69% over the past five years. These figures reflect a general increase across the region.

    “The Productivity Commission has called for significant funding expansion to legal assistance and the Victorian government has recognised demand in some recent family violence funding increases.

    “Regrettably, rather than expanding legal help, this Federal Budget leaves our Centre and many others in another year of ‘funding limbo’ with the stress of major cuts again hanging over these crucial services.” Mr. Smith concluded.

    Download ECLC’s full media release.

  6. Eastern CLC welcomes historic Royal Commission findings

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    Eastern Community Legal Centre has strongly welcomed the comprehensive and historic findings of the Royal Commission into Family Violence that were tabled in parliament today and released by Premier Daniel Andrews and Commissioner Marcia Neave, AO.

    Mr Michael Smith, CEO of Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) praised the depth and breadth of the report and its 227 recommendations.

    “The Royal Commission has established a clear systems approach to tackling the scourge of family violence across the community, with a broad range of recommendations across prevention, response, support, justice and legal systems as well as perpetrator accountability.” he said

    “It has clearly heard the voices of victim/survivors as well as professionals and agencies working in this field for many years, including the expertise of our Centre and our many colleagues and partners.”

    “The success of a number of initiatives and pilot projects in our Eastern region is clear in the report and ECLC looks forward to working with the government and partners to implement the recommendations without delay.”

    ECLC welcomes the Premier’s comments that,

    “There can be no more excuses. Our work begins today to overhaul our broken family violence system from the bottom up.”¹

    as well as the State Government’s clear commitment to implement all recommendations. While it will take some time to analyse the report’s details, the Royal Commission clearly identified that,

    “All parts of the system—support services, police, courts – are overwhelmed by the number of family violence incidents now reported. Services are not currently equipped to meet this high level of demand, which undermines the safety of those experiencing family violence and their potential for recovery.”²

    This is certainly the case in Melbourne’s East, with the Royal Commission noting a doubling of family violence incidents in last five years (to 2013-14).

    “ECLC, like many agencies, is struggling to cope with the increased demand for assistance from family violence victims,” said Belinda Lo, Principal Lawyer. “We remain highly concerned for women and children who may not receive the help they need so remain in immediate danger – this needs an urgent, whole of community response.”

    ECLC provided three detailed submissions to the Royal Commission with a focus on specific projects and expertise. In this context, ECLC particularly welcomes:

    • That all Magistrates’ Courts headquarter courts have the function of Family Violence Division Courts, with specialist magistrates, registrars, staff and facilities (Rec 60).
    • This acknowledges the critical Ringwood Family Violence Integration Project, an ECLC led partnership project, including its key outcomes with RC recommendations for:
      • a daily co-ordination meeting before hearings in the family violence list (Rec. 64)
      • capital works for “safe waiting areas” and other appropriate facilities (Rec. 70)
      • production of “multi-media information about the family violence intervention order process that can not only be viewed online but can be shown in court waiting areas… (Rec. 73) See ECLC’s Steps 2 Safety video resources.
      • a series of recommendations for improving the court and justice system for people experiencing family violence (Recs 60-78).
    • The importance of specialist (family violence and legal) services working closely with universal health and education services to prevent, identify and respond to family violence.
    • The emphasis on Family Violence and Diversity, particularly the needs of older people (in elder abuse as a form of family violence), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people in rural and regional communities, people from CaLD communities, LGBTI people, people with disabilities and more.
    • The extensive education, awareness-raising and co-ordination work of ECLC’s elder abuse work, as well as the Eastern Elder Abuse Network was widely cited and commended, including:
      • that “ageism—stereotyping or discriminating against a person because of their age—can be an important factor in family violence against older people” (Vol V p 71)
      • the importance of professional development and training for police and a range of health professionals in family violence and older people
      • ECLC’s training videos on Elder Abuse
      • The EEAN electronic case conferencing facility (Vol V. p78)
    • Improved Residential Tenancies Act legislation and VCAT procedures for when family violence impacts on tenancies, protecting the victim from further financial impact (Rec 116).

    Download ECLC’s full media release.

    ¹ Media Release, It’s Time To Fix Our Broken Family Violence System, March 30, 2016
    ² RCFV Report, Summary, p6