News

We are pleased to announce Peninsula Community Legal Centre is celebrating a new probono partnership with Gadens Lawyers.   The partnership will support PCLC’s family law team, particularly in relation to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged family law clients.

PCLC is thrilled to be building on its relationship with Gadens to strengthen the Centre’s  capacity to help more vulnerable people resolve their family law issues.

This partnership will be particularly helpful given the complex and often protracted nature of the family law work conducted by the Centre.

Read more (link to media release) https://www.gadens.com/news-gadens-signs-mou-with-one-of-the-largest-community-legal-centres-in-australia/

 

 

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What is the WDP?

The Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme allows eligible people (those experiencing addiction, mental illness or cognitive impairment, homelessness, family violence or acute financial hardship) to ‘work off’ their unpaid fines.

Health practitioners and organisations can become accredited ‘sponsors’ online through Fines Victoria.  Sponsors provide activities so that the time spent engaged in services counts towards clearing this debt.  This is part of an initiative provided by the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety.

What is the WDP process?

  • The eligible person seeks advice about their fine(s) options from a community legal centre, Legal Aid or financial counsellor before engaging in a WDP.
  • The person finds a provider willing to become their sponsor.
  • The health practitioner or organisation applies for accreditation online through Fines Victoria. Upon accreditation, the sponsor has access to the WDP portal.
  • The sponsor determines if the client is eligible for a WDP and together both parties agree on an activity for the client to ‘work off’ the unpaid fine(s).
  • The sponsor applies for a WDP on behalf of the client and the client engages in the agreed activity. Pending approval by Fines Victoria, the debt is put on hold.
  • Each month the sponsor notifies Fines Victoria of the time the client has spent engaged in the activity using the WDP portal.

How can the WDP Information Package help me?

The WDP Information Package assists both clients and sponsors with the WDP process.  It includes the following documents –

  1. Client Brochure: Brief overview of the WDP process for eligible individuals/clients wanting to go onto a WDP.
  2. Sponsor Brochure: Brief overview of the WDP process for providers/sponsors interested in applying for WDPs on behalf of clients.
  3. Sponsor Roadmap: More in-depth explanation of the WDP process for providers/sponsors interested in applying for WDPs on behalf of clients.
  4. Client Intake Sheet: Assists sponsors in obtaining relevant information to determine client eligibility and to apply for a WDP on behalf of clients.
  5. Client Timesheet: Assists sponsors in recording the time clients spend engaged in the sponsor’s activity.
  6. Information Consent Form: Fines Victoria document provides consent for clients to be subject to a WDP and to provide certain information.

You can access the WDP Information Package at http://pclc.org.au/get-information/information-about-us/.

Please contact Laura Sanderson (Project Worker at PCLC) on 9783 3600 or lsanderson@pclc.org.au if you are interested in knowing more.

This project has been generously funded by the Legal Services Board.

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PCLC has welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health system. We have made recommendations with the aim to improve the provision of legal assistance to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable client’s in our community. These recommendations are informed by our extensive work with those experiencing psychosocial disability.

With over 50% of our family law clients experiencing family violence, we have seen the detrimental impact that exposure to family violence can have on our client’s mental well- being.

We are hoping our submission will contribute to the Commission’s aim to improve Victoria’s mental health system and enable Victorians to have the best outcomes in relation to mental health care.

To read our full Submission please click here Submission to Royal Commision into Mental Health July 2019

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Fines debt – a real problem

Fines debt is money owed through incurring infringements such as public transport, toll, council and traffic fines.

The impact this debt has on vulnerable people in our catchment is devastating.  Peninsula Community Legal Centre’s (PCLC) infringement clients have an average of over $11,000 in fines debt.

In the past, we have had limited options to help clients deal with their fines debt.  However, there is now a Victorian government initiative that could change this.

PCLC has recognised the potential of this Scheme and has recently received funding from the Legal Services Board to integrate the Work and Development (WDP) Scheme into Melbourne’s southern region.

What is a WDP?

WDPs allow vulnerable people (those experiencing addiction, mental illness or cognitive impairment, homelessness, family violence or acute financial hardship) to ‘work off’ their fines debt rather than pay money out of their pocket.

Health practitioners and organisations can become accredited sponsors by applying online with Fines Victoria.  They can then provide activities so that the time a client spends engaged with their service they can clear their fines debt.

Different ‘activities’ attract different work off rates.

For example, clients can engage in a treatment given by a health practitioner or drug and alcohol counselling and work off $1,090.45 (6.6 penalty units) per month of their fines debt.

Clients can also engage in unpaid work, a course, counselling (incl. financial) or a mentoring program (under 25 years) and work off $49.57 (0.3 penalty units) per hour of their fines debt.

Some effects of this Scheme include:

  • Vulnerable clients are able to address their legal and health needs in a preventative, therapeutic way;
  • Clients report feeling empowered when they take responsibility for their fines debt; and
  • Sponsors are able to provide an additional incentive for clients to attend their appointments.
Sam’s Story

 Sam has bipolar and gets a Disability Support Pension.  He has $10,000 in unpaid fines.  Sam gets a referral from his doctor and is put on a mental health care plan.  Sam sees a psychologist once a month and reduces his fines debt by $1,090.45 per month.  Sam eliminated his fines debt in 10 months.

More information

PCLC is seeking to work with health practitioners and organisations so that mutual clients can receive a ‘wrap around’ service.

Please contact Laura (Project Worker at PCLC) on 9873 3600 or lsanderson@pclc.org.au if you are interested in becoming a sponsor.
Additional information can be found on the WDP at https://pclc.org.au/get-information/information-about-us/.

You can also contact the Fines Victoria WDP Operation Team on 1300 323 483.

 

 

 

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As published in Victoria Legal Aid Brief – Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Two of us in family law nurturing solicitor-barrister relationship

 

A close working relationship between an instructing solicitor and a barrister in family law matters is vital to best serve the needs of our priority clients. Peninsula Community Legal Centre lawyer Chris Daniels and Barrister Marie Wilkening-Le Brun tell us about their productive working relationship.

Peninsula Community Legal Centre lawyer Chris Daniels

Upon being admitted to practise as a lawyer, I worked in private practice as a generalist lawyer for 12 years, before focusing on family law. I decided to represent legally aided clients as I became disenfranchised with the private practice emphasis on billable hours, and the fact that the level of assistance that I could provide to a client was often dictated by their capacity to pay. In addition, much of my family law work was focused on complex property settlement matters, with little focus on the human side of the matter.

I applied for a job at Peninsula Community Legal Centre, where I was already volunteering as a family lawyer within a new family law pilot program funded by Victoria Legal Aid. The majority of my clients within the pilot needed to obtain a grant of legal aid, and I applied for the role as I wished to assist clients, regardless of their capacity to pay.

The most rewarding aspect of my career is being able to assist clients who do not have the resources to pay for a private lawyer, and who have often lost hope that their protective concerns about their children will be addressed.

I also enjoy being able to occasionally help clients obtain a small family law property settlement that can assist them in starting a new life with their children, and focusing on their needs.

Priority clients often have anxiety issues that are exacerbated by court and can struggle to understand what is going on during proceedings, so I find great satisfaction in explaining what is happening and allaying their fears.

I have briefed Marie often and appreciate the respect she has for our community legal centre clients who frequently cannot get assistance elsewhere. She has regularly been willing to go above and beyond to assist our clients – with strategy, drafting further affidavits or submissions – when many other barristers would be content to settle.

I have always admired Marie’s polite, respectful and professional interaction with our clients. She makes an effort to tell them that she is there for them and will do her best to represent their interests.

She also goes to great lengths to explain to the client how the court process is unfolding that day, what the other party and the independent children’s lawyer are saying and the effect this has on the client’s position in the proceedings, which is something many clients struggle to understand.

Marie’s willingness to spend as much time as is required in a matter and not rushing a client has not gone unnoticed. In fact, many clients have expressed to me that they felt comfortable with Marie on account of her listening to their problem, rather than rushing them out the door.

It is for these reasons that I have briefed Marie in a variety of matters, and will continue to do so.

Marie Wilkening-Le Brun and Chris Daniels

Above (L–R): Marie Wilkening-Le Brun and Chris Daniels

Barrister Marie Wilkening-Le Brun

I was admitted to practice as a solicitor in the UK in 2002, and worked at leading firms in commercial law. During my training in 2000, I was fortunate to sit (as it is called in the UK) for six months in the family law department of the firm Hewitsons in Cambridge. It was then that I realised that even though I needed to obtain the work experience in any legal domain, I would stand out as a lawyer by working with people and solving their most personal problems.

The most important advice I can give a solicitor in preparing a brief for trial is to involve counsel early.

It is best to ask counsel to review the final affidavits prior to them being filed.  But this is not just for the affidavits, it is to discuss the strategy.  Sometimes as a solicitor, your time is divided with multiple clients and their high needs, and it can be a challenge to meet the deadlines imposed. Therefore, I cannot overemphasise the benefit of asking counsel to give an opinion in respect of a brief. This opinion does not have to be in writing, and can even be a telephone conversation asking counsel for their view of the case. I particularly enjoy working with my solicitor as a team and utilising them as my right hand.

I enjoy the special relationship I share with the team at Peninsula Community Legal Centre, and that Chris does seek my opinion early when preparing an upcoming case. It is particularly beneficial for the client that their solicitor and counsel are thinking about the best strategy for them well ahead of time, rather than having to make some quick and possibly regrettable decisions later on at court.

Chris’ briefs are always well prepared with proper instructions to counsel. I particularly like how his instructions to counsel and court material is well organised. It is these little things, which demonstrate the mutual respect we have towards each other, that benefits the client, and ensures they receive the best representation possible.

Skills that are essential for dealing with Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centre clients include empathy, good listening skills, communicating in simple language, ability to manage stress (yours and the clients), being a fearless voice for your client, and providing open, honest and respectful advice.

I enjoy my work and feel that I have found my calling.

I often get text messages and emails of gratitude from clients thanking me for representing them in court. This appreciation has no dollar value, and yet I derive great satisfaction from knowing I was able to advocate passionately and courageously on a client’s behalf, tell their side of the story and make a tangible difference in their life.

 

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Elder abuse is any act which harms an older person and is carried out by someone they trust such as an adult child, family member, partner, carer or friend.

To help commemorate and bring awareness to World Elder Abuse Awareness day, the Peninsula Community Legal Centre will be holding a morning tea on June 15, as well as conducting training and information sessions in June and July with aged care workers and seniors groups on the Mornington Peninsula.

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Peninsula Community Legal Centre stands with Fitzroy Legal Service and sixteen partner agencies urging all Victorian members of Parliament to reconsider the proposed amendments mandating imprisonment where injuries are sustained by emergency workers.

We need solutions that connect vulnerable people with the treatment they need and work to protect to our frontline emergency workers.

Please view Submission Mandatory Imprisonment – June 2018

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