Press Releases

An increase in family violence and partners separating during the pandemic has been placing high demand on an already overstretched family law system. On 1 September the new Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia opened, the latest in a long line of initiatives to reform a system which has been plagued for decades by lengthy delays and exorbitant legal costs.

“The new court is a merger of two previously separate courts, the Federal Circuit Court and the Family Court of Australia” said Brendan Stackpole, manager of Peninsula Community Legal Centre’s Family Law Program.  “What the new Court and its rules hope to achieve is the implementation of a completely new family law system.”

The establishment of the new court has been criticized by some legal advocates as an inadequate reform that will have little impact in addressing the existing flaws in the system.

 “It is too early to say what the new court will really mean for separating parents,” said Mr. Stackpole. “The reforms do target some of the key concerns with the system so hopefully it will result in some improvement. For example, where dispute resolution fails and court proceedings cannot be avoided, the new court will attempt to resolve up to 90% of cases within 12 months where possible.”

The previous system came under fire for repeated failures to protect women and children from family violence and to safeguard the best interests of the children it was set up to protect. The new system aims to improve early risk identification and the safety of children and vulnerable women.  Where safe, parents will be encouraged to resolve issues with dispute resolution and less cost – although this is not a new thing.   Importantly, there will also be a greater expectation that the court’s orders will be complied with.  And significant resources have been directed to improving access to the court, especially for vulnerable parties and those in remote and regional areas.

Legal advocates are calling on the federal government to seize the opportunity that the opening of the new court and the National Women’s Safety summit earlier this month present to show its commitment to achieving a safe, accessible family law system.

Mr Stackpole believes that meaningful change may be difficult to achieve unless parents are better supported through dispute resolution and the court process.

Accessible legal services are desperately needed in family law where many people can’t afford to pay for ongoing family law advice and representation themselves, “ said Mr Stackpole. “What is needed is increased funding to legal aid and the community legal sector to ensure that vulnerable and disadvantaged people can receive ongoing representation”. 

While the Australian Government injected $100 million into the Family Law Courts in its May 2021 budget, there was no matched funding for already-stretched free legal services.

Without legal support, many vulnerable people will continue to experience difficulty accessing justice and the protection of the court”, said Mr Stackpole.  “The system is just too complex and overwhelming.  Approximately 50% of our family law clients have experienced family violence and a majority face serious financial hardship resulting from the breakdown of the relationship. Many are unable to obtain property settlements because they cannot afford lawyers, and because legal aid is mostly unavailable for those matters their poverty is made worse.  In fact, it’s almost impossible for most people to effectively represent themselves in the family law system, and that is unlikely to change, even with these new reforms.” 

If you require free family violence or family law advice, contact Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600.


DATE: 16 September 2021

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer


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A decision in the Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) earlier this month has tenant advocates in our region concerned that a large number of renters will face homelessness now that the moratorium on evictions has ended.

At the height of the COVID-19 crisis last year, the Andrews Government introduced a raft of emergency measures to provide renters with additional protections. This included protection against eviction where renters were unable to pay their rent due to the ongoing pandemic.

Such measures proved crucial not only to ensuring renters were able to keep a roof above their heads but also in the overall strategy to reduce the spread of the virus by limiting peoples’ movement. However, these protections were repealed in late March this year, leaving many renters still unable to return to work due to rolling lockdowns at risk of homelessness.

“The protections may have gone away, but the virus has not,” said Jackie Galloway, CEO of Peninsula Community Legal Centre. “This leaves families in our area quite vulnerable to eviction where rent has gone unpaid due to a drop in income. It also comes at a time when rental providers are increasing rents, especially on the Peninsula, as people flee the city in the wake of COVID-19.”

Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) operates its Tenancy Assistance and Advocacy Program (TAAP) where staff are seeing an increase in rent-related debts. “In the past it was unusual to see rent arrears accrue beyond a couple of thousand dollars,” said Ms Galloway. “Now we are increasingly seeing renters with arrears of over ten thousand dollars. Many people have limited means to pay their rent and nowhere to go as rents are rising and housing is being snapped up by the sea changers.”

PCLC has continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 crisis and has assisted many renters negotiate rent reductions with their landlords in the hope they would have avoided disaster. However, with the crisis still unfolding renters require ongoing protection.

“With every lockdown comes the very real fear of how to pay your rent. There is no longer a mechanism to get rents reduced, and the Rental Relief Grant is no longer available. With VCAT now saying that renters can be evicted for rent arrears accrued during last year’s lockdowns, renters are at a heightened risk of homelessness with little means to repay their debt.”

Renters are reminded that they cannot be evicted from their homes without an order from the Tribunal. If anyone receives a Notice to Vacate for rent arrears or any other reason, they are urged to contact PCLC for advice.

PCLC remains committed to assisting our community. We are here to help and continue to offer services by telephone. Its dedicated staff are still available to advise, assist and attend VCAT hearings with renters. PCLC can be contacted on 9783 3600.


DATE: 19 AUGUST 2021

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer
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Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has welcomed recent changes to Victoria’s rental laws – which include the introduction of “basic standards” and limit rent rises to once a year – as making renting fairer for everyone.

PCLC has a large program to assist tenants living in private rental properties and for more than a decade has supported tenants who have not been given a fair go under the previous laws which created a power imbalance that favoured landlords.

The reforms, which came into effect at the end of March 2021, are a big step forward in correcting previous imbalances in the system that allowed landlords to rent out properties, often for high rents, that did not provide basic amenities such as functioning stoves, heating and deadlocks or have safety measures for gas, electricity and smoke alarms.

The changes to the law mean that renters in Victoria are now provided with some of the basic protections that have existed elsewhere in the world for a long time,” said Jackie Galloway, CEO at PCLC. “It is only fair that rental properties must meet basic standards that make them safe and liveable.””

 Other changes in the law are about issues that can have a big impact on renters’ quality of life such as being allowed to have a pet or nail picture hooks in the wall.

While the new laws have been criticised by some as being “too tough” on owners, many of the reforms address basic things which most Victorians would expect to be allowed to do in their own home.

“The new laws enable people to turn the house they rent into a home. They are not about maintaining a property to a luxury level, they are about maintaining it at a basic liveable level,’ said Ms. Galloway. “The reforms won’t require huge changes for those who are already providing safe and secure rentals”.

 The new laws strike a better balance between strengthening renters’ rights and protecting vulnerable tenants while providing appropriate protections for owners.

 “For example, renters have to ask if they can have a pet and if the owner does not agree they can apply for a VCAT decision that the pet should not be allowed’, said Ms Galloway. ”So an owner might be able to prevent a very large dog being kept in a very small unit, for example, but for most situations the renter can now make a home with the pet that they choose.”

PCLC has seen an increase in the number of renters facing eviction in the past two months.

Since the COVID moratorium on evictions ended in March we have seen more renters receiving notices to vacate due to ongoing financial stress as a result of the pandemic” said Ms. Galloway. “It is important for renters to seek advice and act quickly to avoid the possibility of having to leave the rental property with nowhere to go.”

Anyone who has been served a Notice to Vacate their private rental property or who needs advice on the new laws or other general renting matters, such as getting repairs done, can call the Peninsula Community Legal Centre for free advice on 9783 3600 or email


Contact: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer Tel: 9783 3600



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 Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. To mark the day, the Peninsula Community Legal Centre and the Frankston Mornington Peninsula Respecting Seniors Network are launching an elder abuse awareness campaign to highlight the issue of financial elder abuse, which is an increasing problem in Australia.

Close to two thirds (62%) of all elder abuse cases involve financial abuse. The need for public awareness of this issue is more urgent than ever.

Dr Kay Patterson, the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Age Discrimination Commissioner, launched the campaign and said:

“Elder abuse and ageism are linked.   Ageist attitudes are often used to justify elder abuse, for example, adult daughters and sons who feel they have a right to their parents’ money or assets. Elder abuse can happen to anyone, and it often happens in secret, but there is help available” said Dr Patterson. “The lack of public awareness about the problem leads to elder abuse becoming an invisible social issue”.

The “Inheritance Not an Entitlement campaign” is produced by the Frankston Mornington Peninsula Respecting Seniors Network, which is one of ten elder abuse prevention networks supported by the Victorian Government, and the Peninsula Community Legal Centre, in collaboration with Better Place Australia. It comprises seven short film clips, each exploring the issue of inheritance impatience or entitlement which can lead to financial elder abuse.

In the clips, seven myths about elder abuse are “busted” by a community lawyer from the Peninsula Community Legal Centre and provide advice about where to get help to those who may know someone who is facing elder abuse themselves or who may be experiencing abuse themselves.

Common myths “busted” by the films include the myth that most elder abuse occurs in nursing homes when in fact elder abuse happens most frequently at home by trusted family members; or that elder abuse is usually physical when in fact the most common forms of elder abuse are financial exploitation and emotional abuse.


DATE: 15 June 2021

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer –  t: 9783 3600 e:

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Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) is launching a new special free legal service for people aged 65 and over.

“Many life events associated with ageing involve legal issues” said CEO Jackie Galloway. “We are launching this new service to meet a steadily rising demand for advice on elder law problems”.

 Elder law focuses on protecting older people’s rights and assets. It is also about ensuring that a person’s wishes are respected at a time when they are at their most vulnerable. Common legal issues that are associated with ageing include: wills; delegation of decision-making capacity regarding financial and healthcare decisions; aged care facilities and retirement villages; guardianship; physical or financial abuse; and mistreatment in aged care.

The damning report by the Royal Commission in February revealed horrific failures in the aged care sector”, said Ms Galloway. “Financial exploitation and abuse of older people is also on the rise. Perpetrators include financial scammers who take advantage of victims’ lack of familiarity with technology, or family members who pressure victims to hand over money or assets by preying on their emotions”.

Advice on these elder-specific issues, as well as more general civil law issues, will be provided at the new monthly service by lawyers from PCLC and volunteers from prominent Australian law firm Russell Kennedy.

Commencing 16 April 2021, the elder law service will be held on the 3rd Friday of every month at PCLC’s Rosebud office at 1375 Pt Nepean Rd. Rosebud.  Advice will be provided in private one-on-one appointments which need to be booked in advance.

Anyone wishing to make an appointment can contact the Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600 or email


DATE: 23 March 2021

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer, PENINSULA COMMUNITY LEGAL CENTRE INC.

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Peninsula Community Legal Centre has received a new injection of funding to fight increased levels of family violence on the Mornington Peninsula. The UN has declared the global increase in domestic violence for women and children during 2020 as a “shadow pandemic”.

 “Due to the COVID pandemic, 2020 will be remembered by many of those working in the family violence sector as the worst on record,“ said PCLC’s CEO Jackie Galloway. “Our family violence team has not only seen an increase in the frequency and severity of family violence across the Mornington Peninsula and Melbourne’s south east, but also a surge in people affected by family violence for the first time.”

To meet this demand the Centre, which has branches and outreach services at Rosebud, Frankston, Hastings and Cranbourne, has doubled the size of its specialist family violence team in the past two months.

 “Families being stuck at home, job losses and increased financial stress have contributed to increased violence in many households”, said Ms. Galloway. “International Human Rights Day (10 December) marks the culmination of the United Nation’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, which highlights the urgent need for better support for the increasing numbers of women affected by the scourge of family violence”.

PCLC’s new family violence lawyers have been recruited to play an integral role in the implementation of the new Specialist Family Violence Courts at Frankston and Moorabbin. These courts are intended to take a more therapeutic and specialist approach to family violence matters.

Jane’s (not her real name) story is typical of many women helped by PCLC’s family violence lawyers. A resident of the Mornington Peninsula, Jane suffered a long history of psychological abuse and controlling coercive behaviour at the hands of her long-term partner and father of her 2 young children. After years of walking on egg shells, the turning point came when his aggressive verbal outbursts escalated into physical violence against her and the children. Jane realised that she needed to act to stop the physical and psychological harm being done to her kids and that she needed professional help.

Jane contacted PCLC to help her through the legal system to escape her violent partner.

“The PCLC team has been by my side helping me every step of the way through this nightmare”, said Jane. “It’s hard to list all the ways they helped me get through: from putting intervention orders in place to keep me and my kids safe; settling the separation and divorce; arranging for my lease to be broken when my former partner tracked us down and terrorised us at our new home; providing a financial counsellor and social worker to help us get on our feet again; as well as referring us to family violence support services to help with new accommodation when we had to keep moving to get away from him.”

Jane’s nightmare came to an end recently with the finalisation of all the legal proceedings, leaving Jane and her children free to move on with their lives.

A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship had experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis.

Anyone needing free confidential legal advice on family violence, family law or other general legal issues can contact the Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600.


DATE: 4 December 2020

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer


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Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has released a new report which sheds light on the little known and often shocking conditions in private rooming houses across Melbourne’s southeast.

Rooming house residents surveyed by PCLC’s rooming house outreach program paint a picture of woeful living conditions that would shock most Victorians, particularly given that some are located right next to some of Melbourne’s wealthiest postcodes in south east Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. This is what residents had to say:

“It’s like living in hell….Rough sleeping is cheaper and safer…. Help me to get out of here…..The roof is falling apart….Things are broken and they don’t get fixed. The toilet is broken – not flushing, the shower water doesn’t drain properly and there’s no hot water….Mould is everywhere….There are bed bugs in the mattress….The windows don’t close….There is blood on the walls from when I first moved in….”

 The Centre, which has offices in Frankston, East Bentleigh, Rosebud, and Cranbourne, has a specialist rooming house outreach program which covers the south east region where more than 800 privately run rooming houses are registered. The report found overcrowding and woefully poor standards of hygiene and repair in over 40% of private rooming houses visited by the outreach team.

“We’re seeing more and more people who have lost their jobs and their homes winding up in overcrowded rooming houses with filthy shared bathrooms, broken stoves forcing them to cook in their bedrooms, rodent droppings in the cupboards, and broken locks on their door. This is what daily life looks like for too many rooming house residents across Melbourne’s south east and the Mornington Peninsula,” said Jackie Galloway, PCLC’s CEO.

 Rooming houses have long been associated as rundown properties operated by unscrupulous owners exploiting vulnerable and disadvantaged tenants. While the government has initiated various measures over the past decade to crack down on unscrupulous operators and to better regulate the sector by establishing minimum standards, too many are still living in overcrowded and dangerous conditions.  And despite the stereotype that rooming houses provide cheap accommodation, the report found that over half the residents surveyed are struggling with unaffordable rents and are paying as much as 50 – 60% of their already low income for the “privilege” of living in such places. In the residents’ own words:

“You can’t afford to live here and eat….I’m paying $250 per week for a room that’s smaller than a prison cell. How is this legal?….You could be living with a murderer or rapist. As long as the owners get their money they don’t care….You never know who you’re living with. I’ve had two sex offenders living with me….(the) druggies and alcoholics want to argue and fight….when they are doing drugs trouble starts happening…. This was originally only a 4 bedroom house. The owner thinks she can stack people on top of each other”.

Often the appalling conditions are in breach of minimum standards and a fit and proper person licensing test put in place by the government to clean up the rooming house sector over the past 8 years, but too often dodgy operators are getting away with providing sub-standard facilities. The COVID-19 pandemic and the threat to public health posed by overcrowded and unhygienic living conditions has also thrown the inadequacy of the current system into stark relief.

“There has been a lot of effort invested in trying to fix problems in the rooming house sector but we’re still seeing the same problems we’ve been seeing for many years. The effectiveness of the rooming house regulatory and enforcement system needs to be reviewed. Ten people sharing a filthy bathroom is no longer acceptable in a COVID-19 world. The minimum standards need to be raised, and there needs to be greater effort to hold dodgy operators to account,” Ms. Galloway said.

A key aim of the report was to give a voice to rooming house residents, who normally lead hidden lives on the margins of society, and to communicate their experiences to government and the broader community. Here is more of what they had to say:

“Rooming houses are a shambles, a mess, an idea gone wrong. The rooming house model is broken……….It is no way of life in the long term. These places drag you down…. ….I can’t wait to get out of here….I want to get stable, decent accommodation so I can have access with my kids again…….People in rooming houses come from all different echelons of society, but being in a rooming house labels them with a particular societal identity….Put more services in – people in rooming houses are castaways. We need more support….. We are not statistics we are human beings…..This is inhumane, you lose your self-respect. You lose hope. “

Click here to access the full report: Open the Door – The Residents View of life in a Rooming House

DATE: 9 October 2020

CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer

Peninsula Community Legal Centre – 9783 3600


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The COVID-19 pandemic presents a number of urgent housing and homelessness challenges, which the Peninsula Community Legal Centre has been working hard to address.  “Homelessness Week highlights that everyone needs safe accommodation, including people who are sleeping rough, living in over-crowded conditions such as rooming houses, or otherwise needing to self-isolate but without means to do so” said Jackie Galloway, the CEO.

The Centre, which has branches at Rosebud, Frankston, Bentleigh and Cranbourne, has a specialist tenancy team which has been helping people to maintain their tenancies during the COVID-19 crisis so that they do not end up on the streets despite losing their income.

“We’ve been fielding a large number of enquiries from tenants about their rights under the COVID-19 emergency laws,’ said Ms Galloway. “This is not surprising, given that a third of Victorians rent and so many people have lost their jobs”.

The emergency tenancy laws in Victoria acknowledge that many people are in financial distress and make it illegal to evict people as a result of hardship due to COVID-19. They establish a scheme to enable people to negotiate rent reductions until the end of September. PCLC has joined other organisations across Victoria calling for the emergency laws to be extended.

“Our team has assisted many clients in negotiating rent reduction agreements with their landlords over the past few months,” said Sokha Um, the head of PCLC’s tenancy team. “Sometimes tenants have asked for a rent reduction but have been refused. Other tenants struggling to pay their rent have been threatened by landlords to put their names on a tenancy database or ‘blacklist’, which is not allowed during the emergency period.”

The Centre has also seen a spike in the number of people who have been sleeping rough or who need emergency food assistance during COVID-19. Centre staff have been going out to rooming houses delivering care packages and onto the street to provide legal assistance.

Their Street Law Coffee Van, which is run in partnership with Social Engine, has been visiting venues such as the SPLaSh laundry and showers on the Rosebud foreshore and the food distribution point at the Dromana community house. Over a free cup of coffee, people can have a chat with a lawyer and a community engagement officer to receive legal advice and support with their related problems.

The Street Law van and the hot barista coffee are a welcome sight for people who are sleeping rough on the foreshore, especially during the colder months.

Anyone needing free legal advice on tenancy or other general legal issues, or to find out about the Street Law Coffee van schedule, can contact the Peninsula Community Legal Centre on 9783 3600. The Centre continues to provide legal advice over the telephone throughout the lockdown.

DATE: 31 July 2020
CONTACT: Kirsten Young, Community Engagement Officer – Peninsula Community Legal Centre Inc.

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Fines have been receiving a lot of media attention in recent weeks.

Under a new Fines Victoria social justice initiative called the Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme, health practitioners and organisations are helping vulnerable community members ‘work off’ their unpaid fines by becoming ‘sponsors’ and reporting client participation in treatment, courses and other activities.

This WDP Scheme is one of the first of its kind in the world.  Peninsula Community Legal Centre (PCLC) has already assisted many psychologists and not-for-profit organisations get on-board.

PCLC’s infringements clients have an average of over $12,000 in unpaid fines debt. With unpaid fines becoming an increasing problem in the community, PCLC is calling on more health practitioners and organisations to become sponsors.

‘Becoming a sponsor is particularly important given the devastating psychological and financial toll COVID-19 is having on many people’s lives and the substantial financial and emotional costs associated with receiving fines.’ said Jackie Galloway, CEO at PCLC.

‘For most, unpaid fines are an inconvenience but for those eligible for this Scheme the impact is devastating’, she said.

‘Clients can stop opening their letters as their debt escalates and their mental health and addiction issues can spiral downwards,’ said Laura Sanderson, WDP Project Worker at PCLC.

‘We’ve seen clients work off their fines by engaging in activities that range from getting mental health treatment, studying for the first time at a community college, volunteering at their local church and getting support for their drug and alcohol problems.  Participation in the WDP Scheme is often life-changing for our clients.’

‘For sponsors, the WDP Scheme involves a simple, three-step process where the sponsor gets accredited by Fines Victoria, applies for a WDP on behalf of the client and then reports participation.  This is all done using the Fines Victoria WDP portal,’ she said.

‘Sponsors must meet certain recording keeping obligations but sponsors have assured PCLC that the application process takes no more than 5 minutes and the reporting process takes no more than 2 minutes per client,’ stated Laura.

The equivalent program in NSW recently won a 2019 Premiers Award in the category of ‘tackling longstanding social challenges’.

Jackie Galloway praised the WDP Scheme as ‘a more financially viable option than pouring government resources into failed attempts at collecting debt from people with no assets or financial stability.’

‘The WDP Scheme is an engagement incentive and referral pathway for sponsors and a therapeutic mechanism used to reduce reoffending behaviour and empower vulnerable people,’ she said.

More than $5,000,000 worth of fines has been loaded onto the WDP Scheme since it first began in mid-2017.

PCLC has received funding from the Legal Services Board to employ a Project Worker who has been helping health practitioners and sponsors understand and integrate with the WDP Scheme.

For health practitioners and organisations interested in knowing more, please contact us on

PCLC is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal assistance to those most vulnerable within Melbourne’s southern region.


DATE: 21st May 2020


CONTACT: Nicola Barrans, Senior Manager – Development & Engagement  e:




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Elder abuse can be very complex; without adequate education of what constitutes this form of abuse, the perpetrator may be unaware their actions are abusive.

Senior Rights Victoria’s help line data for the past two years points to the fact that 90% of alleged perpetrators of elder abuse were related to the older person; often an adult son or daughter, or estranged ex-partner. Part of the reason this form of abuse is under reported is the disbelief that a family member could behave in such a predatory way. The difficulty of raising the issue with the family member, let alone instigating legal action is in many cases too much to bear.

One of the possible reasons elder abuse is becoming more common is that we live in a technology focused society that sometime alienates the older generations and enables the younger generations to have the upper-hand.

In this environment, older people can be treated with contempt and seen as a ‘waste of space’;  yet the vast majority of seniors have paid their taxes over many years and contributed much to the lives of their children.  Ageing and the resulting deterioration in health is natural and we should value and look after our seniors.

PCLC recognizes that elder abuse is a form of family violence, and that the behavior of perpetrators and the safety of victims can be similar to intimate partner violence.

However, while elder abuse is a form of family violence and faces some of the same barriers to prevention; the risk factors, relationship dynamics and outcomes are unique. The majority of elder abuse victims are women, often from CALD backgrounds, although it is important to note the victims are sometimes male with female perpetrators.

The particular nature of the parent-child relationship and how it is affected by external pressure due to family conflict; the rising cost of living, the care needs of the parent, mental and physical issues of the child, can influence elder abuse. A history of family conflict/violence can also affect the parent-child relationship.” says Kate Ross, Director of Legal Services.

We provide free advice and employ a sensitive, respectful and understanding approach combined with expert legal advice.  PCLC has expertise in a variety of areas of law with specialist services in family law/ family violence, fines and tenancy issues. We offer day and evening appointments at our Frankston, Bentleigh, Cranbourne and Rosebud offices. We are one of the largest community based legal centres in Australia.

For more information about free legal services, please call (03) 9783 3600 or visit



contact:  Siobhan Kenny, Communications Officer



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