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


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.


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.


Migrant employees exploited in the workplace

Migrant employees exploited in the workplace

One in two queries to our service relate to wage underpayment: and so often it’s migrant workers who pay the price.

This is in line with a report by Unions NSW which showed 97% of hospitality jobs advertised on foreign language job websites were under the minimum wage.

In an interview for the Inner West Courier, Principal Solicitor Annette van Gent said migrant workers and young people are particularly vulnerable, with the minimum wage and conditions often being ignored by employers.

Read the full story here:

Our meetings in Canberra

Our meetings in Canberra

While we’re celebrating ongoing funding from the NSW Government, the Centre is also meeting representatives in Canberra.

A team from MLC went to Parliament House to express thanks for the recent funding reversal of funding cuts for the sector. The team also explained the need for better resourcing for its services for survivors of family and domestic violence.

MLC’s team was warmly received by two elected political representatives in our community: Linda Burney (Barton) and Craig Laundy (Reid). There was also a supportive meeting with a staff member from Anthony Albanese’s office (Grayndler).

There are future meetings with both federal and state representatives planned.

NSW Government announces funding for local family and domestic violence support worker

NSW Government announces funding for local family and domestic violence support worker

The NSW Government has announced ongoing funding to support survivors of family and domestic violence in Marrickville Legal Centre’s community.

The Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Pru Goward, has announced the Centre will again receive $100,000, allowing it to continue its Family and Domestic Violence (FDV) support service for another year.

Marrickville Legal Centre’s Principal Solicitor, Annette van Gent says the support is vital.

“We are grateful for the continuing support, as we know family and domestic violence is such a big problem in our community.

“As these cases are usually complex, lengthy and traumatic, the Centre needs to work with people sensitively and in a holistic fashion. That’s why a social worker specialising in family and domestic violence is critical, in addition to the service of our lawyers,” says Ms van Gent.

Marrickville Legal Centre serves a community of 1.5 million people in Sydney, including the inner west, south-west and southern suburbs of the city.

One in three calls to the Centre relate to FDV: due in part to the large service area and also because the community has particularly high rates of such violence.

Canterbury-Bankstown is one of the five areas in NSW with the largest proportion of domestic violence assaults (NSW Recorded Crime Statistics, July 2015-June 2016).

The Marrickville Legal Centre was instrumental in developing the “Yellow Card” program, through which women experiencing violence were proactively referred to support services by police. It has since developed into the It Stops Here – Safer Pathways program, which has been rolled out across NSW.

As the Centre also runs a state-wide Youth Legal Service for children and young people under the age of twenty-five, it caters to the specific needs of those young people who are survivors of FDV.

“Young people especially don’t realise they are experiencing family and domestic violence,” says Ms van Gent.

“They may come to us with a legal issue such as with credit or debit related issues, or perhaps tenancy issues, but then it transpires they are leaving family or domestic violence. That’s where our support worker comes in: she can help the person understand their situation better, and provide support with the many issues surrounding this violence, such as safety planning, housing, income support, and the need for counselling.”

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



The Marrickville Legal Centre can be contacted on 9559 2899 or at

Media contact: Susi Hamilton, Fundraising and Communications Manager 0422 934 024 or

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


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.



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

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

Volunteer Appreciation Night

Our dedicated volunteers are integral in helping Marrickville Legal Centre provide legal support to the most vulnerable members of our community. Every year we enjoy giving back with our Volunteer Appreciation Night, and this year's was a blast!

Thank you to all our wonderful volunteers, to The Warren View Hotel for hosting and to everyone who attended and made it a great night (and to those who made it to Ding Dong Dang for Karaoke Kick-ons).

If you are interested in volunteering at Marrickville Legal Centre, please contact

Story Club

Saturday 23 April

Marrickville Legal Centre is thrilled to announce this very special event -  please come to Story Club at Sydney Comedy Festival, this Saturday 23 April. Proceeds from ticket sales will be generously donated to Marrickville Legal Centre’s campaign to keep a domestic violence support worker on staff. Click here for tickets & more information.