First generation Lebanese Australian strata lawyer and photographer

First generation Lebanese Australian strata lawyer and photographer

Justin Abi-Daher is the youngest son of immigrants who left Lebanon after the civil war in the early 1980s. As one of Marrickville Legal Centre’s state-wide strata solicitors, he has used his fluent Arabic to help clients.

When I was a tenant advocate at Western Sydney Legal Centre, I came across a client who was bullied by a real estate agent. The client suffered from schizophrenia and panic attacks. When I walked into conciliation, the agent went straight for this client, without remorse. Those tenants, if they lose the tenancy, they have nowhere to go: there’s a waiting list for social housing. They fall into that black hole. The way the real estate agent represented the client was completely different to how the tenant was. We won that case: she’s still in that property and it’s been nearly two years.

How did you become interested in the community legal sector?

My interest in social justice comes from growing up in western Sydney. I am the only one in my family born here and the only one to get a tertiary education. I wanted to help my own community.

Besides working in the community legal sector, what other roles have you taken on?

I worked as a digital media intern at News Corporation. I worked for GQ online: writing articles, doing all the online updates and galleries for six months. I also worked at the ABC as a legal intern. Fashion and media have always been an interest, that I like to keep running on the side. I think if I let that go, I would probably get burnt out.

What are you reading or watching at the moment?

It’s a bit nerdy, but I am re-watching all the Harry Potters: I’m up to series eight. I loved it growing up. I tend to read more magazines now: Kinfolk and Smith Journal. I’m more into that than reading books, mostly because I do so much reading and writing here at work. So in my spare time, I’m more into visuals and photography: something other than writing. I’m about to go on holiday to Slovenia and my camera and tripod will be with me the whole time: in the mountains and near the lake with the castle in the middle.

What are people surprised to learn about you?

People are surprised that I listen to a lot of heavy rock music, like scream-o stuff. I also listen to a lot of alternative music now. Some of the heavy stuff I’ve listened to is Alexisonfire and Underoath.

Is there anything quirky that you'd be happy to share? 

My favourite animal is a cow, I’ve always had an obsession with them. I take hundreds of photos of them, I have a cow pen that moves. I’m going to Byron Bay soon for the festival Splendour in the Grass and the whole road is just lined with cows: we’ll be stopping hundreds of times to take pictures. Sometime I try to be in the photo with them, but often they run away which is a bit sad. They’re quite peaceful. I don’t discriminate on colour, but the classic black and white ones are beautiful. I’m not veg, I have been, but not at the moment: sorry, cows! I always threaten to give up beef: it’s an existential crisis, let’s not get into it!

Strata solicitor, Justin Abi-Daher

Strata solicitor, Justin Abi-Daher

Act local: Help survivors of family and domestic violence in our community

Act local: Help survivors of family and domestic violence in our community

Our area has a lot to be proud of: we're home to one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the city, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and a vibrant LGBTIQA+ community.

Unfortunately, we also have something that's shameful and largely hidden: some of the highest rates of domestic and family violence in NSW.

In Marrickville Legal Centre’s catchment, Canterbury-Bankstown is one of the five areas in NSW with the largest proportion of domestic violence assaults*.

And it's reflected in our statistics: approximately one in three queries relate to violence in the family or in an intimate partnership.

This end of financial year, will you help support some of the most vulnerable in our community, by supporting Marrickville Legal Centre’s outreach to these survivors?

Your donation is tax deductible and every cent will be spent on services: we guarantee none will be spent on administration or fundraising.

So often in family and domestic violence, the social problems overlap with the legal ones: that’s why there’s a social worker specialising in this area that is based at our Centre.

All the recent attention, along with a new system which has been rolled out across NSW means we’re now hearing from more people in crisis.

While it’s great that more people are seeking help, we’re struggling to meet the demand.

In the past few years, the number of family and domestic violence survivors seeking help from Marrickville Legal Centre has increased and the cases have become more complex: and we’re trying to meet that with the same resources.

Please give what you are able to help us to maintain and expand our services for people leaving family and domestic violence.

Your donation is tax deductible and every cent of it will be spent on outreach for people leaving family and domestic violence. That's no spending on administration or fundraising.

Thanks in advance for your generous contribution.

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

*NSW Recorded Crime Statistics, July 2015-June 2016

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New service for girls escaping family violence

New service for girls escaping family violence

A new link has been established to help girls who are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

The Centre’s social worker who specialises in family and domestic violence has been making regular visits to The Girls’ Refuge in Sydney’s inner west since early this year.

“Most of the girls are escaping family and domestic violence, so a lot of our work is about healthy relationships, consent, sexting and their rights,” says Zoe McMillan, the Marrickville Legal Centre’s Domestic and Family Violence Support Worker.

Located in the inner west, the refuge gives dedicated care to six girls at a time. They are typically between the ages of 13 and 15 and stay for up to three months.

“We want to make the girls feel as comfortable as possible and to be able to ask anything they want,” says Ms McMillan. “Our work feels like it’s just a chat in the lounge room, but actually girls are able to ask questions that they haven’t been able to ask anyone else.”

Only some of the girls have had basic sexual health education and the outreach also gives the girls a better understanding of their rights.

“Sometimes they don’t realise that if they are 16 years of age or older – and they want to have sex with their partner – that’s their right, regardless of what a parent may want,” she says.

Help support Marrickville Legal Centre’s Domestic and Family Violence Support Worker reach more people at risk, by donating to our campaign 

All donations are tax deductible and will be spent on outreach. None will be spent on fundraising or administration.

 

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Young people report widespread discrimination

Young people report widespread discrimination

A legal health check aimed at young people has revealed widespread concern about discrimination.

Hundreds of young people – including some from disadvantaged schools in Sydney’s south and south-west – have taken part in the study.

Marrickville Legal Centre’s Youth Solicitor Katie Green started the work in January, to establish what young people did – and did not – know about the law and their rights.

“There are huge numbers of young people who have legal problems that are not diagnosed: and discrimination is the most common one,” says Ms Green, who points to one respondent who reported discrimination based on a range of personal attributes, including race, age, physical appearance and mental health.

“When I ask a young person why they might need a lawyer, they immediately think about criminal law issues. I find that they are not so aware of civil law issues, which are actually far more common,” says Ms Green. “They are always surprised to hear about victims’ services and that there is the option for compensation.”

The survey, which has been tailored for those under 25, is based on the legal health check established by the National Association of Community Legal Centres. Young people are also asked about experiences of family and domestic violence, fines and sexual abuse, amongst other matters.

Another result anecdotally is that young people are speaking about family and domestic violence more openly and they are disclosing personal experiences more often. (If you want to support further outreach to them, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to our campaign.)

The results from the work will inform future Community Legal Education sessions, which are regularly carried out in schools and refuges.

In addition to community outreach, the Marrickville Legal Centre operates the oldest free youth and children’s legal service in NSW. Those under 25 are encouraged to contact the Centre on (02) 9559 2899 during business hours.

One of Marrickville Legal Centre's youth solicitors, Katie Green 

One of Marrickville Legal Centre's youth solicitors, Katie Green 

Tenancy in the News

Last week, our tenancy advocate Sousan Ghecham discussed the need for greater security and protection for tenants.

Sydney has been named as the second most expensive city in the world when it comes to housing affordability. More and more Australians find that they are renting for much longer periods instead of buying their own homes. A recent survey of 1000 tenants found that over half reported feeling powerless when it comes to asserting their rights as tenants even when it comes to basic repairs for fear of being evicted.

As renting is becoming a more permanent housing solution for many Australians, the Residential Tenancies Act needs to be reformed to even the playing field between tenant and landlord

Marrickville Legal Centre provides free advice to tenants living in the Inner West on their rights and responsibilities, for more information you can call 02 9559 2899 or visit www.tenants.org.au.

We also provide free advice through the North Sydney Area Tenancy Service which can be contacted on 02 8198 8650.