Barwon Community Legal Service – Celebrating 30 Years

Barwon Community Legal Service – Celebrating 30 Years


In 1986 there was only one and a half staff myself and a half time assistant and now we have 16 paid staff and over a hundred volunteers who come in and do an amazing job on all sorts of things. When we started we are really excited to have a great of eight six thousand dollars to employ two people and set up the service. Now we are receiving from state and federal governments and various sources over $1.6 million dollars which is just amazing. When we started in ’86 it was very much a grassroots organization but it was centralized, it was the Geelong Community Legal Service and we had a small catchment area. One of the real strengths of the image of the community legal service is the clientele it services I mean it services pensioners, it services refugees and Diversitat is a local multicultural group who shares a common many common links with the community legal service. Hi my name is Tereza, I work here at Diversitat, I am a bi-lingual Our organisation works with the Barwon Community Legal Service to deliver legal education to new arrivals in Australia. Our case workers they can refer our clients to the Barwon Community Legal Service to get free legal advice. Each year we assist more than 3,000 people from more than eight locations across the Barwon Southwest region. One of the really exciting things and our legal service is our vibrant education program responding to community need we deliver a wide range of topics and participate in innovative community development activities. As a students we also get the opportunity to not only work with clients and their case files but also participate in community legal education. We were lucky enough to take a group of high school students down to the Geelong Magistrates Court to participate in a mock trial and show them how the court process works. So students at BCLS are also involved in policy reform and researching particular areas of law and writing submissions. So in my short time as a student at BCLS I’ve really enjoyed my time here, i’ve learnt a lot of things and I think it’s a great service to the community. At the Barwon Community Legal Service we assist a range of clients with different legal issues and they may be experiencing multiple legal issue at one time as well as mental health issues and other personal circumstances that compound their legal issues. What I love about being a community lawyer is I can take the time to really assist the clients and find out if there any other legal issues that they may not even be aware of when they come in to seek support and we can also assist our clients in a really holistic way and find out there’s other support services in our region that maybe able to to provide additional non-legal support to our clients. As a community lawyer at the Barwon Community Legal Centre there’s three parts to our role. The first being casework and legal advice for our clients but also do a lot of fantastic education and events in our community and we also do law reform to try and make bigger sistemic changes that assisting our clients on a case by case basis. Well I sought legal advice in 1999, I had a long break and I’ve come back again for almost the same problem. I think it’s a superb idea to also have social workers helping people and because a lot of people can’t afford to pay for social workers I think it’s absolutely fantastic idea cause i’m using it so i know. I will tell you the truth, when I first went into the room with the Lee I wasn’t very happy i thought, I don’t really like social workers but Lee make you feel as though you’re not going into a place like just because your got problems. She made you feel like a friend. She sort of sat down, she didn’t talk about my problem. She just sat down and just spoke as a friend and then I just slowly just got everything out. We are proud of what our organization has achieved on behalf of the local community over the past 30 years. The whole team looks forward to continuing this work and to expanding the services we offer to address community need. I’d like to thank the team for everything they’ve done for me and my lawyer who represented me in court. I’d like to make a big shout out thank you very much for everything he has done for me. So I’m just saying I really think the people here are fabulous I hope we have more people around it would make Australia a better place too.

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