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Issue 1 – December 2018

PCLC’s real world client experience provides critical input into the review of the Family Law Act.

As many readers will be aware, the Australian Law Reform Commission is presently conducting a comprehensive review of the family law system, and called for submissions from stakeholders and individuals earlier this year.  PCLC welcomed the opportunity to forward its submission in May this year.  The review is especially important to this Centre because approximately 50% of our caseload is family law and family violence related.

In October this year, after receiving over 1200 submissions to the Review, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) issued a Discussion Paper which sets out detailed proposals for comprehensive family law reform. It was pleasing to see PCLC’s submission was one of many referenced throughout the Paper.

Amongst our suggestions was the need to improve access to information and resources for those dealing with family violence related family law issues.  A national awareness campaign and a backup website were suggested with a series of facts sheets made available at the courts. Subsequently the ALRC have proposed a national awareness campaign and creation of a family law system information pack to be made available on the website and at the proposed Families Hubs.  The ALRC proposes the Hubs be the single visible entry point to family law system.

We also suggested the expanded use of integrated service approaches to assist clients with complex needs, especially for those experiencing family violence.  PCLC’s Family Violence to Family Law Continuity Pilot, and the Family Advocacy and Support Service (FASS), both of which are funded by Victoria Legal Aid (VLA), are excellent examples of how this collaborative approach is already delivering enormous benefit to our most vulnerable clients.  The ALRC specifically proposed rolling our FASS to a greater number of locations, and enhancing its present capabilities with the addition of ongoing case managed services.

It also noted funding health/justice partnerships, (of which PCLC’s Peninsula Health Justice Partnership and the Glen Eira Mother’s Service are examples) is an effective way to improve service integration and enhance access to information and support. Offering legal services in health settings recognizes that clients’ health issues can give rise to legal problems and provides legal service providers the opportunity to triage vulnerable & disadvantaged clients at critical times like a hospital admission or a maternal health care appointment.

In a recommendation echoed in many other submissions, and supported by the ALRC, PCLC proposed that funding be increased to make legally assisted family dispute resolution more widely available in both parenting and property matters where family violence has been present.  Coupled with this, PCLC recommended the establishment of dedicated court lists for family violence and small property matters, and endorsed the Women’s Legal Services Victoria Report Small Claims Large Battles – Achieving economic equality in the family law system in which comprehensive reform in small property matters was recommended.

Having regard to the high incidence of family violence allegations in family litigation, PCLC also proposed family violence specific improvements to the design of the courts and the presence of family violence support services for court users.

In terms of legislative reform, the Family Law Review proposes further consideration be given to expanding the definition of family violence and a major re-writing the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) to make it more understandable for general readers.

The ALRC is due to tender its final report to the Commonwealth by March 2019.

PCLC is not only looking forward to the outcome but believes the Family Law Review serves as a useful reference for future family law reform and discussion.

Click below to read our submission.

PCLC’s Family Law Team

Elder abuse – a hidden form of family violence

The vast majority of perpetrators of elder abuse are family members. Part of the reason this form of abuse is under reported is the disbelief that an adult child could be the perpetrator of the abuse. It is understandable that there is a ‘shock factor’ after all the devotion required to parent a child through to adulthood. Also, because it is hard to permanently ignore your own flesh and blood, the pain of raising the issue, (let alone instigating legal action), is too much to bear.

The underlying cause of elder abuse is a society that supports ageism – one that does not accept that ageing is part of a normal existence and the resulting deterioration in health is natural and needs to be catered for in the public health system. After all, the vast majority of seniors have paid their taxes over many years.

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 all may influence elder abuse. A history of family conflict/violence can also affect the parent-child relationship.

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.

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.

In addition to forums discussing ageing and legal matters, PCLC provides free advice to those experiencing elder abuse. We employ a sensitive, respectful and understanding approach combined with expert legal advice.

An invigorating discussion emerged during our ‘Legal Matters & Ageing Forum’ held at Safety Beach in October. William Betts one of our Community Lawyers, spoke about the many legal issues faced by seniors including advanced care directives.

2017/18 Annual Report

The past year has been full of many highlights and challenges as we strive to deliver holistic community legal services. Read all about it in our 2017/18 Annual Report.

Our AGM – we’re all in it for the ‘long game’ 

At this year’s AGM we were honored to hear a fantastic speech from Rob Hulls, Director/Founder of the Centre for Innovative Justice. Rob led us through his journey to founding the Centre and explained his motivation and drivers behind his passion for innovative use of the law in helping those in vulnerable/disadvantaged situations.

The Centre for Innovative Justice researches, advocates and applies innovative ways to improve the justice system with a particular focus on therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice and non-adversarial dispute resolution.

We thank Rob for inspiring us all to continue in the ‘long game’ of fighting for justice for all.

Education Justice Partnership

As part of our ongoing commitment to legal education, we have conducted a series of talks on youth law issues such as sexting and cyberbullying at Cranbourne Secondary College. The school has a high proportion of students from CALD backgrounds with complex legal needs.  In addition, we are beginning a series of 10 ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions for teachers at Chisholm TAFE in Frankston and Cranbourne to assist them when delivering classes in Australian law and the affect it has on newly arrived migrants.

Unpaid toll fines – the impact on our community

The impact of unpaid toll fines in our community has been mammoth, latest figures 2017/18 show that the Frankston postcode has 19,343 infringements that have progressed to enforcement at a monetary value of $3,032,494.00. In addition, the postcode of Cranbourne has 29,688 outstanding Enforcement infringements at a monetary value of $4,455.685

PCLC is tackling the issue and its impact on several fronts: delivering client services such as our Fines Clinics, collaborating with our legal colleagues in law reform and undertaking innovative projects and partnerships such as the Connect East, Streamline Fines and our Work Development Permit Project.

The ConnectEast Project     

PCLC has partnered with ConnectEast, operators of Melbourne’s EastLink tollway, to assist people at risk of incurring debts for toll fines. Drivers in Frankston and surrounding suburbs who receive a toll invoice in the mail for failing to pay an Eastlink toll will also receive a pamphlet providing the contact details of PCLC’s Fines Clinic. The Clinic provides advice and assistance to people experiencing hardship who have incurred fines.

We applaud ConnectEast for taking the steps to inform tollway users about our Fines Clinic. In addition to raising public awareness, this project will assist us to intervene on behalf of clients who are experiencing hardship before their fines have incurred additional costs, and possible sheriff enforcement action has commenced.

The Streamline Fines Project 

PCLC has partnered with Moonee Valley Legal Service, WEstjustice and Victoria Legal Aid to deliver the Streamlines Fines Project. Streamline Fines is a process that combines technology, health justice partnerships and bulk processing of similar matters, to address the ever increasing number and complexity of special circumstances fines being handled by Community Legal Centres and Victoria Legal Aid.  The Project develops web-based tools  that allows legal and health workers to identify  and manage clients that are eligible for revocation of their fines. Streamline Fines  is embedded in health settings, with visiting services to improve early identification and outcomes for clients. PCLC provides a weekly visiting service to Peninsula Health at Frankston Hospital.

Work Development Project 

PCLC welcomed funding from the Victorian Legal Services Board Grant Program to undertake the Unravelling the complex infringement system: A  Health, Legal and Community Response to Enhance Pathways for Vulnerable Clients with Infringement Debt in the South East. The project will see the implementation of a specialist fines project co-ordinator to undertake capacity building across the health and community services sector to improve knowledge of responses available for clients with fines enforcements, garner sponsor involvement for the Work and Development Permit initiative and enhance access to PCLC’s Fines Clinics. The project will work closely with the Connect East and Streamlines Fines projects.

Our Frankston office will be closed 25th December 2018 to 2nd January 2019. Bentleigh, Cranbourne & Rosebud offices are closed 24th December 2018 to 7th January 2019. We wish all our supporters, stakeholders and clients a relaxing break.

If you have any community news that you would like included in this newsletter please email Items will be published at PCLC’s discretion.

PCLC values your privacy. We only use your email address for this newsletter. We will not pass on your email address to any other party. This newsletter  is produced for general information only. The contents of this newsletter should not be relied upon for legal advice.

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