On 23 August 2019, a few hundred friends and supporters of Marrickville Legal Centre gathered in their finest cocktail attire to celebrate 40 years of delivering access to justice.
Guests arrived to the smooth and lively tunes of the Alex Inman jazz trio. To open the event, Aunty Ann Weldon delivered a special Welcome to Country in acknowledgement of the Gadigal and Wangal peoples of the Eora nation.
Host for the evening of #MLC40 Gala was the lovely Sara Mansour, lawyer and director of Bankstown Poetry Slam. Sara offered a heartfelt and charming open address as she set the scene for the evening by introducing the program.
MLC’s Managing Principal Solicitor Vasili Maroulis took the stage to express gratitude on behalf of our Centre for the overwhelming support in the room, recounting how his own journey through the justice system led him to pursue access to justice for the wider community.
Guests heard from Mayor of the Inner West Darcy Byrne, who spoke of his own experience facing eviction in a boarding house as a young man. With community legal assistance plus “staunch solidarity from the local government and collaboration between the tenants,” recounted Clr Byrne, the lodgers were all able to keep their homes. He offered words of support for MLC “to bring justice to tenants, to young people, to the unemployed, to people whom our society has dealt with unfairly that our local government and this local community will be there to support your work”.
We were honoured to welcome the Hon. Linda Burney MP, who commended the value of MLC, community legal centres and other community services in binding people together to build thriving communities.
“The Marrickville Legal Centre is more than a legal service,” said Ms Burney, “Its holistic approach to assisting clients with their specific circumstances has ensured lifelong relationships with members of the community – and the Marrickville Legal Centre has become a treasured part of our local community.”
The MLC Founders video was premiered. The film featured candid interviews with six founding members of MLC about the humble beginnings of the Centre in 1979, when a group of law students occupied a small room in the Marrickville Town Hall with a view to offer free legal advice. Our Centre and community owe so much to the passion and determination of these remarkable individuals, who were true trailblazers for the community legal sector.
Next, Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist Eric Avery performed a captivating violin and song piece in his custodial family language.
Guests milled about afterward as they enjoyed a fabulous South Asian buffet dinner provided by Parliament on King, social catering by asylum seekers.
The Hon. Michael Kirby arrived soon after dinner to an adoring crowd. Everyone in attendance delighted in his Honour’s anecdotes about the early days of his legal career, of discos at the Petersham Town Hall in the 60s and 70s, and of his unrelenting persistence to bring reform to a conservative legal fraternity and political nation.
Of the event Mr Kirby said: “The event on Friday was wonderful and definitely worth coming to, even if I was late. Johan was also happy to drive me to be with such admirable people at the Marrickville Legal Centre on its 40th birthday! Which was unusual given his normal attitude to lawyers!”
Next, Jo Haylen MP took to the stage. Off the back of a Marrickville Legal Centre tribute speech made in NSW Parliament earlier that day, Ms Haylen celebrated the work of community organisations in helping to provide the social capital and social license that allows parliamentarians to push for progressive reform. We also heard from NSW Leader of the Opposition Jodi McKay, who lauded the achievements of all the hard-working individuals who contributed to four decades of community legal history.
The speakers set the tone for reflection on how far the local community has come in 40 years. Staff, board members, pro bono partners, volunteers, members of the community, students, friends and founders rubbed shoulders as they shared their stories of Marrickville Legal Centre.
MLC is fortunate to remain an institution in Sydney’s inner west and across NSW. The foresight and unrelenting determination of our founders and alumni to make a difference has changed lives and communities for the better.
The formal section of the evening concluded with a performance from C’Darz, who entertained guests through traditional Lebanese Dabke before descending into the audience to welcome guests into their dance circle.
Bids were placed throughout the night on the #MLC40 Gala Silent Auction. Auction winners walked away with some fantastic prizes, including holidays, wine and dance classes. All funds raised from the Silent Auction go towards funding the Centre’s frontline services. Our sincere thanks to the generous donors and community partners who made this possible, and auction partners EzyBidz.
Special thanks to beer sponsors Young Henrys; to Parliament on King social catering for the beautifully prepared dinner; to all our talented performers and inspired speakers; thank you in particular to Sara Mansour, our charismatic MC.
We could not have done it without all the volunteers on the night who made magic happen. Lastly, we extend our gratitude to all guests for celebrating this important milestone alongside the Centre and friends of the Centre.
A vibrant energy of hope and support remains from the spirit of the #MLC40 Gala for the Centre to continue to thrive and edge ever closer to our vision of Justice For Us All.