Building a legal career

Building a legal career

Owen Egbenoma’s family always hoped he would become a lawyer, after he showed promise as a public speaker throughout his schooling.

Now the 25-year-old is growing into the profession as a volunteer at Marrickville Legal Centre.

Owen initially started his legal career as a paralegal in a practice specialising in property law, but decided to do his Practical Legal Training (PLT) at MLC to find his direction.

“There’s great diversity in the work we do here, which is good,” says the graduate of Western Sydney Law School.

“Applying soft skills, being empathetic with clients and being able to have that initial rapport is really important. Trust is vital - it’s very significant given the background and circumstances of some our clients,” he says.

What are you trying to achieve from your PLT role at Marrickville Legal Centre?

Ever since I completed my degree, I’ve been trying to settle on what exactly it is I want to do within the profession, which area of the law my interest truly lies. The two practice areas I’ve worked in, I’ve realised they’re probably not for me -- property is okay, but it is perhaps too transactional.

Marrickville Legal Centre presents a fantastic opportunity because of the diversity and  breadth of work, and the different types of clients we assist.

Why did you choose to travel to Marrickville for your PLT?

I’ve always heard really positive things about the Centre, and have been intrigued by the activities of CLC's since my fourth year of Law School. During my studies at the College of Law, I interacted with several former MLC volunteers who gave glowing recommendations.

Where are you working most of the time?

I’m currently a retail consultant at Optus. I have been employed with the company since my time at university.

From these experiences, I've developed an intrigue in consumer protection. I did the Consumer Law elective at university and found the concepts interesting. I’m particularly looking forward to doing some employment law work at MLC. I have a commerce degree, with a major in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations, so I feel I can view these types of matters from multiple perspectives.

What do you remember about growing up in the Hills District?

Just a great place to grow up really, with an increasing mix of cultures. My family have lived in the Hills District for the majority of the time we've been in Australia. When my father arrived here from Nigeria, he started work as a cabbie. I was two years old when we arrived, and despite leaving quite young, I’ve still grown up with a lot of the Nigerian culture, and consider myself a proud Nigerian-Australian.

I look forward to going back over there soon.

 

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Young people need a stronger voice in family law: MLC submission

Young people need a stronger voice in family law: MLC submission

The needs and views of young people are frequently overlooked by the legal system, even when it comes to matters directly affecting their care – or that of their siblings – according to a submission on the Family Law system, put together by Marrickville Legal Centre.

The Centre’s submission highlights what it calls the ‘default’ position of young people not having direct input into family law proceedings about parenting orders that affect them.

“The issue has been highlighted in a number of recent cases we have seen where young people estranged from a parent find themselves permanently separated from younger siblings that still live with the parent,” says Marrickville Legal Centre’s Family law and family violence solicitor, Dr Maree Livermore, who wrote the document.

“Family law now gives grandparents a specific path to use to protect their contact and relationship with grandchildren, yet there is no similar path for siblings,” she says.

The Centre has two current cases in which young people aged 16 and 17 are being prevented from seeing their siblings by a single parent. 

In a third case, after the death of their mother last year, a young person, has applied for sole parental responsibility for his three siblings. Joel* is concerned about the welfare of his siblings who are in the care of their father, who has a history of physical, verbal and emotional abuse. Joel was stabbed by his father three years ago.

Joel has written: “He is extremely violent and volatile. He has threatened to ‘wrap me around a tree’.   I’m worried that my brothers and sister are in danger.”

Dr Livermore, who is also the author of the Family Law Handbook, argues that young people like Joel have a lot to contribute to informed decision-making about care arrangements for children and the crafting of sustainable outcomes.

Currently, young people are usually required to start family law proceedings with a case guardian. Additionally, young people are also not allowed to give direct instructions to a lawyer.

The submission argues that the Family Law Act does not allow for the voices of young people to be clearly heard, a position which is out of step with the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the approach taken under state-based child protection laws.

“Despite children and young people being at the centre of parenting disputes, their views are almost always filtered, before they even reach the court, by adults who apply their own ideas about what should happen,” says Dr Livermore.

“Young people do not generally talk to judges, they don’t take part in mediation, and there is often no independent children’s lawyer or family consultant appointed. Quite apart from the rights issue, if the court is aiming to make a workable, sustainable decisions about arrangements for children, it is losing valuable data in not hearing directly from the people it matters the most to.

“It is fact that children and young people most often are fully aware that there is dispute about their parenting and, very often, have strong views about what should happen. They want to, and need to, be heard.”

The Turnbull Government announced the first comprehensive review into the family law system in 2017.

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Creating a new life for survivors of violence

Creating a new life for survivors of violence

"Violence almost broke my creative spirit: I could no longer dance or sing."

My Thi is a life-long performer whose voice was effectively silenced by an abusive relationship.

That shattered spirit is common in those who have experienced violence: we see many of them walking through our door. 

"The support I got at Marrickville Legal Centre was invaluable: I could not have got back on my feet without it," she says. 

Help us support survivors of violence, through your generous tax-deductible, end-of-financial year donation.

When survivors contact Marrickville Legal Centre, we work with them in a holistic fashion to help them out of the shadows of violence.

While legal issues are often pressing, non-legal support, including counselling and connection with other services is vital.

Funding for that work is in jeopardy, despite an increasing need in our community.

To keep going with this vital work in the short-term, we urgently need to raise $50,000.

We know the difference the work makes to survivors, like My Thi.

She won victim’s compensation, which has helped her to establish a life – and to continue her artistic pursuits – in Sydney. 

In addition to her own work, she teaches art therapy classes to young homeless people and people who have experienced violence. 

"Sometimes I see my own experience of domestic violence reflected in their lives," she says. "It means a lot to be able to help them through it."

She also sings and dances to raise money for her community iand for the Ian Bowie Memorial Association in Sydney, helping disadvantaged young people find their way into the world of theatre. 

Your generous donation before June 30 will help support this vital work in the community for six months.

Your donation is tax-deductible and every cent of it will be spent on outreach to help people like My Thi. (That's no spending on administration or fundraising.)

 

 Regaining her creative spirit ... My Thi dances at home. Credit: Jodie Barker

Regaining her creative spirit ... My Thi dances at home. Credit: Jodie Barker

Young people “Lawyer Up” in time for Youth Week

Young people “Lawyer Up” in time for Youth Week

Marrickville Legal Centre has come up with an artfully designed pocket card to help young people know what to say and do when they have interactions with police.

The card, which was distributed as part of a legal education program at Belmore Youth Resource Centre, gives young people tips like suggesting they film any interactions with police.

“We know that young people are often intimidated when they encounter police,” says Vasili Maroulis, one of the youth solicitors from Marrickville Legal Centre, who delivered the training.

“Amongst the tips in the card: It is legal to film such interactions and it’s a good idea, because everyone tends to be more aware of how their behaviour appears when the camera is rolling,” he says.

The pocket card was used as part of an eight-week curriculum delivered to young people from the Canterbury-Bankstown area, ahead of Youth Week (13-22 April).

The program, “Lawyer Up”, involved legal education and videos in four key areas:

  • Police Powers
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Sexting
  • Public transport issues

“The young people asked lots of questions during the sessions and it seemed to be thought-provoking for them,” says Frankie Sullivan, the other youth solicitor involved in the program.

The youth team from the City of Canterbury Bankstown was a partner in developing the material and approached a number of schools to ensure the material reached a large number of young people.

The work was funded thanks to a grant from the City of Canterbury Bankstown.

Police powers ... Marrickville Youth Solicitor Frankie Sullivan and the pocket cards.

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Photo exhibit: social justice heroes

Photo exhibit: social justice heroes

The people of the inner west are inspiring, diverse and creative: yet often their stories go unrecognized.

Marrickville Legal Centre is hosting a photo exhibition which celebrates local people’s victories in fighting for justice.

It will be launched during Law Week (14-20 May).

The exhibition “Champions of Social Justice (inner west)” is part of the prestigious Sydney-wide portrait photography event the “Head On Festival”.

Amongst the subjects is Derek Rees (pictured), who was a business leader until he suffered a serious injury in a bushwalking fall.

Derek lived in his car in Marrickville for four years, accruing fines, until getting the legal and non-legal support he needed.

While he’s now got temporary accommodation in Dulwich Hill, the legacy of sleeping rough remains: he’s had further accidents, leaving him unable to make his own meals, or shave himself.

The photo of Derek is by inner west photographer Jodie Barker. Three other local photographers involved are Steven Siewert, Grant Turner and Valentina Penkova.

Other subjects include:

·      A young woman who was underpaid thousands of dollars by an unscrupulous employer

·      A woman who won victim’s compensation after leaving a violent relationship

·      A young man who was facing a jail term for acting in self-defence who is now a social worker and a new father.

Marrickville Legal Centre is an independent, nonprofit community legal centre, which offers free legal advice and assistance to people experiencing economic and social disadvantage in the inner west, south-west and southern suburbs of Sydney – and beyond. The Centre also operates two statewide services, including a youth legal service.

What: Champions of Social Justice (inner west): a photo exhibition

When: Monday 14 May to Friday 1 June from 9.30 to 5pm, Monday to Friday (except 1-2pm)

Where: 12-14 Seaview St, Dulwich Hill

Funded by NSW Government through the Stronger Communities Fund. Thanks to the Inner West Council for its support.

Other supporters of the exhibition include Colin Biggers & PaisleyRadio 2SER and Rewind Photo Lab.

Photo credit: Jodie Barker

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High regional NSW strata rates under the spotlight

High regional NSW strata rates under the spotlight

Northern NSW has amongst the highest rates of strata living outside of Sydney*.

Due to the increasing numbers of people living in strata buildings, a free service has been established to help owner-occupiers with the legal problems involved.

The two Sydney-based solicitors take calls from anywhere in the state – and have been giving information sessions around Newcastle and the Central, Mid- and North Coasts of NSW.

"We get a range of queries, from how to get repairs or renovations done and what to do if the property is considering collective sales, through to what to do when you receive a penalty notice for breach of by-law - for example for pets, or noise," says Jake Edwards, from the Strata Collective Sales Advocacy Service, pictured at right below.

The Service has a particular focus on recent changes to strata law, but it can take general queries. It gets a lot of calls relating to special levies.

“Special levies can push people into debt,” says Mr Edwards. “Often owner-occupiers can’t come up with large sums of money at relatively short notice like that. 

“Sometimes investors want to spend money on improving the common property in a strata scheme, like gardens and foyers, when owner-occupiers might not have the budget for this.”

Strata is the fastest growing form of residential property ownership in Australia.

“Over half the new dwellings to be built in our metropolitan areas over the next decades will be strata titled,” says solicitor Justin Abi-Daher, pictured at left below.

“Our service has been inundated by queries because strata affects the way people live, where they live and their budgets,” he says.

The latest figures, released in December 2015, show that outside of the Sydney metropolitan area, Wollongong LGA had the highest number of residential strata lots in NSW (16,303), followed by Newcastle (12,373) and the Tweed (12,068). Port Macquarie came in at number four with 6,395 lots and Coffs Harbour came in at number five with 6,254 lots.

The Service can be reached on (02) 9559 2899.

*Strata Data Report (2015), City Futures Research Centre, UNSW

 

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A new hub for housing rights

A new hub for housing rights

Marrickville Legal Centre is thrilled to have a second, much-needed premises.

We’ve won the tender from the Inner West Council to take over the old Dulwich Hill Library for the next three years.

We’ll be open to the public at 12-14 Seaview Street from the end of March: Our work in the building will focus on housing rights, with the Centre’s tenancy and strata services located there.

The Centre’s original home, near the train station at 338 Illawarra Road Marrickville, will remain open and home to other core services.

Managing Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent, says the Centre has grown in size and scope since it began almost 40 years ago - and it needed new premises to cope with the demand. 

“Marrickville Legal Centre began by serving the Greek community around Marrickville, but we now serve a large community in Sydney’s inner west, south-west and southern suburbs: the area is home to around 1.5 million people.

“We are grateful to the Inner West Council for allowing us to establish this hub focused on equitable housing. We know there is a housing affordability crisis, which means more people are renting than ever before: tenants will be able to come in and access our services if and when problems occur,” she says.

The Centre’s state-wide strata service will also offer free advice to owner-occupiers, if they are economically and socially disadvantaged.

The Mayor of the Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne, says the Council is on the side of renters and wants to them have greater security in the inner west. 

“There is a whole generation of people in the inner west who are being locked out of home ownership. We want people from all backgrounds to be able to build a life in our community which can't happen without giving renters greater protection and assistance,” he says.

“Council is leading the city by example with an affordable housing policy with an ambitious target of 15 per cent affordable housing on large developments, and 30 per cent on government owned land in urban renewal areas.

“Council has a long-standing relationship with the Marrickville Legal Centre and they are very effective advocates for disadvantaged people. We are delighted to welcome them to the old Dulwich Hill Library.”

Marrickville Legal Centre provides free and accessible legal and related services to people who experience social and economic disadvantage.

In addition to housing, the Centre has expertise with youth law and family and domestic violence. It also offers general, family and employment law services.

The Centre can be reached on 9559 2899 – or drop during office hours.

 Mayor of the Inner West Council Darcy Byrne with MLC's Managing Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent. (Credit: Jodie Barker)

Mayor of the Inner West Council Darcy Byrne with MLC's Managing Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent. (Credit: Jodie Barker)

MLC people: the refugee turned law student

MLC people: the refugee turned law student

Quyen Nguyen was a political refugee from Vietnam in the 1970s: she escaped the country by boat with her parents and siblings and lived in a UN refugee camp in Malaysia before being settled in Australia in the 1970s.

When the family eventually settled in Sydney almost 40 years ago, they had lived in Dulwich Hill.

“When I was a child, we used to shop on Illawarra Road in Marrickville. There was such a large community of Vietnamese people here and there were some things that were familiar. We eventually moved to South Western Sydney when I was about 16 years old,” says Quyen, who has nearly completed her Juris Doctor at UNSW Law.

“When I volunteer at Marrickville Legal Centre, I hear a lot of stories about vulnerable people. Not so long ago, my parents and I were vulnerable. It was difficult to seek justice because we were migrants,” says the paralegal at Marrickville Legal Centre.

What was your first impression of Australia?

I was only 7 years old when we arrived in Australia, but I remember the place felt massive: the land and houses were sparse and widely separated compared to the little villages and houses in Asia.

Having said that, when we lived in Vietnam, we did not live in a small house. My great-grandfather was a billionaire, so we lived in a big compound.

My father studied Commerce in France and became a successful businessman upon his return to Vietnam. He eventually went into politics and became the Treasurer of the Democratic Party. After the war had ended in 1975, my family was persecuted by the Communist Party due to my father’s political activity.

Things were not equal for us when we arrived here. Migrants tended to settle in certain areas, and were only permitted to do certain jobs, so my Dad became a secretary and my Mum was a dressmaker.

What did you do before studying law?

I worked as a pharmacist for 24 years and I’m still doing it as a locum. I have worked in hospital and community pharmacies all over Sydney.

I always wanted to do law as a child, but my parents had advised against a career in Law because they had perceived that with English as a second language, I would struggle and may not become successful as a lawyer.

What made you decide to study law, finally?

I am getting old and if I cannot fulfil my wishes now, then there’s no point! I cannot delay my dream of becoming a lawyer any longer. It would look weird if I attend Law School in my 60s.

I want to use my intellect to help vulnerable people with social justice problems.

How have you found the study?

I started my JD a while back, but I had to drop to part-time study to nurse my elderly father at home.

It’s just me and Mum now. Thankfully, she’s doing well.

What’s something people might not know about you?

Before I studied to be a pharmacist, I thought I wanted to be a vet. I did that for a week, but realised I had a phobia of insects!

When I was at High School, I used to listen to Boy George and had tied my hair with ribbons like Boy George. When I went to Bethlehem College in Ashfield, the nuns made me remove the ribbons at the School Gates, and to comb my hair neatly before entering school grounds!

I also tell people that I’m taller than I actually am. I usually say that I’m 5 foot 5, but people don’t believe me since I am only 5 foot 2.

 

 MLC paralegal Quyen Nguyen

MLC paralegal Quyen Nguyen

Strata service expands

Strata service expands

Our strata service is growing! 

Our newest service, which was set up in November 2016 in response to new strata laws on collective sales and redevelopment, is now also able to provide legal advice about other general strata-related matters, in certain circumstances. 

Justin Abi-Daher and Jake Edwards are the faces of the state-wide Strata Collective Sales Advocacy Service, which is funded by NSW Fair Trading. 

In certain matters, the team may represent clients in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal or the Land and Environment Court. 

Not only is the team doing more work, it's also on the move! 

As part of the outreach, Justin and Jake will be carrying out information sessions in areas with high strata density in northern NSW in early March.

The strata service is the sixth and newest service of Marrickville Legal Centre.

The team can be reached on 9559 2899.

 

 MLC strata solicitors (l-r) Jake Edwards and Justin Abi-Daher 

MLC strata solicitors (l-r) Jake Edwards and Justin Abi-Daher 

Motor vehicle accidents get dedicated focus

Motor vehicle accidents get dedicated focus

Motor vehicle accidents are getting dedicated attention at Marrickville Legal Centre.

The new fortnightly clinic comes as a result of a new pro bono partnership with the business law firm Hall&Wilcox.

This takes to eight the number of legal firms which work closely with the Centre.

The firm’s Director of Pro Bono and Community, Nathan Kennedy, has been a long-time volunteer at the Centre.

MLC’s Managing Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent welcomes the support of two solicitors every fortnight.

“People on low incomes often don’t have insurance because they can’t afford the premiums,” she says.

“That means when there’s an accident, they might be up for a lot of money and they have to navigate the system without the help of an insurance company.”

Mr Kennedy notes the partnership formalises what was already a well-established connection.

‘’I enjoy the diversity of the work at Marrickville Legal Centre,” says Mr Kennedy. “It was a natural progression for Hall&Wilcox to formalise a partnership on the back of that work.

“The firm has a strong commitment to social justice and ensuring that everyone has access to the legal help they need,” he says.

MLC is also grateful for all pro bono support and the formal partnerships it has already formed with seven other legal firms. They are:

·      Clayton Utz

·      Colin, Biggers & Paisley

·      Gilbert + Tobin

·      HWL Ebsworth

·      MinterEllison

·      Sparke Helmore

·      Santone Lawyers

 Hall&Wilcox Director - Pro Bono & Community, Nathan Kennedy

Hall&Wilcox Director - Pro Bono & Community, Nathan Kennedy

Opening the curtains on a new career: theatre producer turned solicitor

Opening the curtains on a new career: theatre producer turned solicitor

Opening the curtains on a new career: theatre producer-turned-solicitor

“I don’t seem like a ‘crazy artist’ but that’s the world I was in before law,” says Genevieve Barry, a long-time volunteer with Marrickville Legal Centre.

“A lot of people think art and law is a strange combination, but art teaches you to empathise with people going through hard times and law is about getting people through difficult times. I think there’s a real connection,” says Genevieve, who completed a Juris Doctor with the University of Sydney Law School and was recently admitted as a solicitor.

Have you always wanted to study law?

As a kid I’d always planned to be a lawyer but when it came time to start a career, art seemed like the most attractive avenue. My Dad was a barrister who worked in Family Law and Mental Health and after he died in 2013 I thought, ‘There’s no time like the present’ and so I applied to do my Juris Doctor.

What attracted you to study law?

The whole world is basically teetering on this artificial basis that we all obey the law. We all somehow collectively agreed that we would follow these laws and I find that really interesting. I’ve always thought of law as being a real public service. I can help people who need help and that’s what interests me.

Where did your career take you before studying law?

I finished my Masters in Arts Administration and Curation and ran Berkelouw Books, with 12 stores, from 2010 to 2013: one of the things we did was start writers’ events and the cafe. Then I worked for a year at Performing Lines, an Australian touring theatre company, and also did some independent curating. Those things were really interesting and enjoyable but it just never felt like enough.

Why did you choose Marrickville Legal Centre to do your Practical Legal Training (supervised training to become a solicitor)?

I saw an ad from MLC and I thought: ‘This is probably going to be the best decision because it’s trial by fire.’ I knew I’d be getting experience in criminal law, family law, civil law and the whole gamut of all sorts of law. I learnt in four months what would have taken me a year to learn elsewhere. You can be exposed to anything and everything if you’re open to it.


What’s great about working in a community legal centre is that you get to follow the matter from meeting the client to taking them to court and representing them and if you get a positive outcome it’s just incredible. I understand the legal process more and I understand how to develop relationships with the client more when I’m working with them from start to finish.

How did you feel when you found out you were to be admitted?

Relieved! It’s such an intense application process with your academic record, character references, Practical Legal Training confirmation, police check and you have to be assessed as a fit and proper person and it’s a culmination of 3 to 4 years of hard work. Now I'm excited about what's going to happen next!

What are people surprised to learn about you?

I don’t seem like a ‘crazy artist’ but that’s the world I was in before law. I like facilitating creative spaces for other people, I’ve even MC’d a few weddings. In fact my Mum, Marcia Barry, and my sister, Anna Barry, and I have a production company called TUELLEing. We’ve produced cabaret shows and charity events. A lot of people think art and law is a strange combination but art teaches you to empathise with people going through hard times and law is about getting people through difficult times. I think there’s a real connection.

Genevieve Barry is photographed (at right) after being admitted as a solicitor with MLC youth solicitor Katie Green.

 

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A refresh for MLC Board

A refresh for MLC Board

Three new faces have been voted onto Marrickville Legal Centre’s Board.

One of the new Board members is a long-time volunteer solicitor with the Centre, Ian Bennett (pictured below at left).

Ian is an employment lawyer who also works with one of the Centre’s pro bono law firms, Sparke Helmore.

The other new Board Members are Alexandra Conroy and Alejandro Arvelo (also pictured).

Alejandro is a senior lawyer with extensive in-house and private practice experience in the insurance and finance and technology industries.

Alexandra Conroy is a former corporate lawyer, who launched and is currently leading a tailored healthcare business. 

This takes to nine the number of people sitting on the Board. They are:

·       Graham Jenkins (Chair), a consultant and investor who advises clients on business issues

·       Brent Goldman (Treasurer), a specialist in corporate finance, currently with Nexia Australia

·       Lainie Anderson (Secretary), Project Officer with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

·       Simon Fitzpatrick, barrister at pro bono supporters 7 Wentworth Selborne Chambers

·       David Johnson, a chartered accountant

·       John Laxon, employment, crime and commercial lawyer with Laxon Lex

The Centre wishes to thank Rebecca Kenny, General Counsel for the Australia Council for the Arts, for her significant contribution as a Board member during 2016-2017.

 

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Ten-year-olds on police blacklist

Ten-year-olds on police blacklist

Children as young as ten are being kept on a covert blacklist by NSW Police, according to a key report involving Marrickville Legal Centre lawyers.

Policing Young People in NSW: A study of the Suspect Targeting Management Plan (STMP) was launched recently by MLC’s Managing Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent. The Centre convenes the Youth Justice Coalition, which produced the report.

The Centre’s former youth solicitors Kate Duffy and Liam McAuliffe were contributors to the landmark report. It finds STMP is disproportionately used against young people and Aboriginal people.

The report authors, Vicki Sentas from UNSW Law and Camilla Pandolfini from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, find police compiled the blacklist in the belief it will prevent future offending by targeting repeat offenders. They also find police target individuals they believe are likely to commit future crime.

Thy authors say thousands of people may be on the list and subjected to routine harassment by the NSW Police as a result.

Policing Young People in NSW details a number of findings including:

*Oppressive policing is damaging relationships between young people and the police,

*The approach encourages poor policing practice and raises concerns regarding the lack of transparency

*An absence of oversight, scrutiny or evaluation.

The Youth Justice Coalition made a number of findings, including that the police discontinue applying STMP to people under 18 years of age and that they make the STMP policy and operational arrangements publicly available to enable transparency and accountability. 

The Youth Justice Coalition, which is convened by MLC, is a network of youth workers, children’s lawyers, policy workers and academics who work to promote the rights of children and young people in NSW and across Australia.

Read the full report here 

Photo: Marrickville Legal Centre’s Managing Principal Solicitor Annette van Gent launched the report.

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The missing story: young people and domestic and family violence

The missing story: young people and domestic and family violence

Children as young as ten who are victims of family violence are often kept in police custody overnight as there are not the services to cater to them, according to one leading expert on criminology.

UNSW Professor Eileen Baldry made the remark as part of a Q+A style panel on young people and violence co-hosted by Marrickville Legal Centre and Gilbert + Tobin.

Moderated by ABC TV’s Ben Jenkins from The Checkout, the panel reported common themes including a lack of appropriate resources for young people, the importance of schools as being a way of stopping the cycle of violence and problems with the justice system.

Justice Elizabeth Fullerton of the Supreme Court said she had little faith in the punishment model being a deterrent.

“I am heartbroken and staggered by the number of juvenile offenders that have been refused bail all the way up to our Court,” she said, noting that young people who experience family violence frequently become offenders.

A young person who left a violent relationship was also on the panel, saying she had little awareness of healthy relationships before finding herself in danger.

“I grew up in out of home care,” said Naja, who is now a mother of a 13-month-old daughter.

“I grew up around them [unhealthy relationships] and you become them unintentionally,” she said. “There needs to be more awareness at school.”

School should also be a protective factor and “sanctuary” for children and young people experiencing violence, according to psychologist Beth Macgregor. 

“We need teachers to be trauma informed, so that they can identify behaviours, such as aggression, and look at what might be at the root of the problem,” she said, adding that early intervention in children as young as two will save money and untold social harm.

The Advocate for Children and Young People noted that while violence is a major issue for young people, too often they think ‘domestic violence’ refers only to adults. Andrew Johnson says while school is important, “the rest of the community needs to stand up and say it’s wrong. [Young people] asked us to say ‘violence against us is not on’.”

Marrickville Legal Centre’s Domestic and Family Violence Support worker, Zoe McMillan spoke of the gap in resources which are appropriate for young people.

“Often a young person will ring me and say they need to leave immediately, but then it might take two weeks to find a refuge and six months to get payment through Centrelink,” said Ms McMillan.

The social worker suggests it's important to be responsive in the first instance to young people seeking help, otherwise they will lose trust in services and be reluctant to re-engage.

Here's how the event was covered by the ABC's AM Program

Find out more about Marrickville Legal Centre’s service for young people

 Stopping the cycle of violence (l-r): Beth Macgregor, Justice Fullerton and Professor Eileen Baldry

Stopping the cycle of violence (l-r): Beth Macgregor, Justice Fullerton and Professor Eileen Baldry

Helping young people leave violence

Helping young people leave violence

It was only when I became pregnant that he started hitting me.

This is something we hear far too often at Marrickville Legal Centre: and increasingly, it is from young people.

In this case, the now 20-year-old mother of one managed to escape: despite her former partner eluding police and an AVO for six months.

He would turn up in the middle of the night and say: You have no hope: the police can not even find me to serve the AVO.’”

She eventually found a refuge and then legal and non-legal support through Marrickville Legal Centre.

When young people contact us, 9 times out of 10 it is about family and domestic violence.

In the last year, for the first time, we have employed a youth and family violence solicitor.

They have taken on cases, provided legal education, advice and court support to countless young people, including the young mum we are calling Josie.

That solicitor works alongside our social worker who has expertise in dealing with people experiencing family and domestic violence.

There is no other service for young people like it in NSW.

It was life-changing to have that support: someone to communicate clearly with me about the law and make me aware of the questions I would be asked.

It would be really disheartening if there was no-one to provide that, says Josie.

Marrickville Legal Centre was able to pay for that new, important service through generous donations from our supporter base. But now that funding is coming to an end.

To keep going with this vital work, we urgently need to raise $50,000.

Your generous donation before Christmas will help support this vital position in the local community for the next six months.

Your donation is tax deductible and every cent of it will be spent on outreach to people like Josie – young people leaving family and domestic violence. (That's no spending on administration or fundraising.)

Thanks in advance for your generous donation.

- Annette van Gent, Principal Solicitor and Acting Executive Officer, Marrickville Legal Centre

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Friday night food van

Friday night food van

Most Friday nights, a group of young men gather around a food van in Sydney’s south-west.

While the lure might be free chicken and chips, it’s also an opportunity for them to talk to professionals about some serious issues they face: often relating to alcohol, drugs and dealing with police.

One of the boys says: “We have learned lots: be careful, don’t get searched by police. We learn how to talk with the cops.”

Youth workers from Barnardos and Bankstown Multicultural Youth work closely with the young men over a period of months -- and sometimes years -- to build relationships of trust. Then they can provide support on employment, education and counselling.

In addition, a solicitor from Marrickville Legal Centre is on hand on Friday nights to offer free legal advice in an informal environment.

“Sadly, they often feel like they are targeted by police,” says Vasili Maroulis, a youth solicitor at Marrickville Legal Centre. “They want to know: if I’m standing here, do I have to move if they ask me? They’ve taken my phone, they won’t give it back: are they allowed to do that?”

Barnardos' youth worker Leonard Perelini says most of the young men are from middle eastern backgrounds, but there are also Sudanese, Palestinians and Lebanese.

“We have a soft entry point, which is the food truck to build rapport and the conversation. It gives them the opportunity to meet with us,” he says.

Appropriately enough, the mantra for Streetwork is "working with young people on their own turf and on their own terms”.

Bankstown Multicultural Youth social worker Kurtis Lyon says it’s important to meet the young men in own territory.

“The value is being able to bring our resources out to the streets where they are, instead of them coming to our offices. This shows that we really want to help: we’re going to them and giving everyone a free feed.”

Marrickville Legal Centre has worked with several of the young men to maintain their clean criminal record, which helps with future employment opportunities.

“I often say that they are at an age where you want to open doors, not close them, so that’s what we do,” says Vasili.

The food van has been going out around Sydney’s south-west for most of 2017, but the Barnardos Streetwork program has been operational since 1990. It is funded by NSW Health.

 

 Photo: Kurtis Lyon (left), Vasili Maroulis (middle) and Leonard Perelini (right)

Photo: Kurtis Lyon (left), Vasili Maroulis (middle) and Leonard Perelini (right)

Minister Goward visits MLC

Minister Goward visits MLC

One in three calls to Marrickville Legal Centre relate to domestic and family violence.

MLC was able to shed light on some of those statistics with the Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward, and her advisor, who visited the centre recently.

Ms Goward spoke with the MLC’s Principal Solicitor, Annette Van Gent, our Domestic and Family Violence Support Worker, Zoe McMillan, and our Youth and Family Violence Solicitor, Frankie Sullivan, about the Centre’s efforts in dealing with domestic abuse.

The visit comes on the heels of the release of the latest figures from the Bureau of Crimes Statistics and Research, including statistics on domestic violence.

These numbers indicated that suburbs in our service area such as Bankstown, Rockdale, Hurstville and Auburn, have amongst the largest number of recorded domestic violence assault incidents in Sydney*.

The team also thanked the Minister for another year’s funding for the position of the Domestic and Family Violence Support Worker.

Find out more about the MLC’s domestic violence services here:

*Of the 39 Sydney local government areas in NSW Recorded Crime Statistics (July 2016-June 2017), 11 of the 25 areas with the greatest DFV assault rates are in our service areas.

Win for man and dog in strata case

Win for man and dog in strata case

In a win for Sydney dog lovers, an older man has won the right to keep his Red Cocker Spaniel in his apartment, despite protests from the Owners Corporation.

Five years ago, Anatoly Fanshil adopted Kobey and they have been inseparable ever since.

“He is my family,” says 67-year-old Mr Fanshil. “I love him. He is part of my heart.”

Kobey has been trained as an assistance animal.

“I had a big car accident and he saved my life,” says the retiree. “Ever since then, I have high blood pressure and Kobey helps keep it down. Plus, he is very friendly to so many other neighbours: they all say ‘Bring Kobey!’”

Despite being an owner-occupier in the strata complex for 13 years – the last five with Kobey – the Owners Corporation gave notice just five months ago that the dog would have to go, as it did not comply with the no pets by-law.

“I was devastated, I was looking at having to move,” says Mr Fanshil. “I would not have any choice.”

When the Owners Corporation applied to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to obtain a monetary penalty for the alleged breach, Mr Fanshil approached Marrickville Legal Centre.

Solicitor Justin Abi-Daher was confident of success in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

“When I saw strong evidence that the dog is an assistance animal, it just seemed unfair for the Owners Corporation to take such action,” he says, noting that he used the Disability Discrimination Act to help win the case.

Kobey is now able to stay in the Anatoly’s apartment, as long as he is kept on a short leash in common property areas. The pair can only use the lift if there are no other people in it.

“It’s just so rewarding to help in a case like this,” says Mr Abi-Daher. “It would be impossible for Anatoly to live without Kobey.”

If you have a strata issue, please feel welcome to contact Marrickville Legal Centre. We give advice about general strata issues and operate a NSW state-wide Strata Collective Sales Advocacy Service, which helps with issues relating to strata collective sales. For assistance, please call 02 9559 2899

 Photo: Anatoly Fanshil (left) and Justin Abi-Daher (right) with Kobey 

Photo: Anatoly Fanshil (left) and Justin Abi-Daher (right) with Kobey 

MLC in the Media: September

MLC in the Media: September

Young people and divorce: Triple J Hack

Young people filing for divorce often encounter more personal and financial issues compared with older couples, according to the MLC’s Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent.

In an interview with Triple J Hack, Ms van Gent said it costs several hundred dollars to get divorced and this can deter young people from seeking legal help at the outset.

‘’It can be quite expensive for younger people … and as a consequence, often people don’t seek advice in those timely ways they could or should and that can mean sometimes that the problems around getting separated and divorced escalate in a way that they don’t necessarily have to.

‘’Often [young] people don’t necessarily know at the first instance what to do, who to turn to, where to get support, where to get advice, where to get help,” she says.

“There are community legal centres like the one that I work for and we can give advice and some very practical suggestions as well to people which is really important at an early stage to stop the issues becoming more complicated than they need to be,” she says.

Listen to the full interview at the end of the program: 

Migrants more vulnerable in domestic violence cases

Migrants are faced with significant challenges when attempting to leave abusive domestic partnerships according to MLC solicitor, Katie Green.

In an interview with SBS Radio’s Portuguese service, Ms Green explains that migrants may feel particularly vulnerable if they experience domestic violence, since their place in the country is contingent upon their relationship with their attacker.

"I think for migrants there are so many barriers to accessing support and assistance because people are thinking about what ties them to that visa and what their migration responsibility is,” she says.

Read the full story: 

$100,000 announcement for MLC's family and domestic violence work

Read more about the particular issues relating to young people and domestic and family violence in this article in the Inner West Courier.

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Young woman with learning disability given fresh start

Young woman with learning disability given fresh start

A 19-year-old woman with a learning disability has been given a second chance, after a brush with the law.

The woman, who also has a number of diagnosed mental health problems and lives with her mother in Sydney’s south-west, recently faced court on a number of minor charges.

Marrickville Legal Centre’s youth solicitor, Katie Green, successfully argued the young woman she represented should be diverted from the criminal justice system into a treatment program that would help her address underlying problems to prevent any further offending.

Instead of ordering a criminal conviction, the Magistrate made orders that the young woman be required to attend regular counselling and yoga at her local headspace program.

MLC lawyer Katie Green says it’s a good outcome: “I am pleased that this young woman has been given a second chance to engage with support services and continue with her TAFE course and apprenticeship.

“Unfortunately, a lot of young people with mental health problems or disabilities are criminalised for minor offences at a very early age. This sets them up to fail before they have had much of a chance,” she says.

Marrickville Legal Centre’s youth solicitors attend headspace in Bankstown and Liverpool to provide free legal advice for young people experiencing mental health problems.

Find out more about MLC’s state-wide Youth Legal Service here.