St Kilda Legal Service – What did 2016 look like?  

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2017 marks 44 years of operation for St Kilda Legal Service (the Service). It was established to service the needs of the local community’s particularly disadvantaged groups needing assistance. At its core ,our Service is a grassroots organisation which was created to empower people to access justice.

 

What began in 1973 as a two-nights-a-week legal advice service staffed by volunteers, has now grown into several programs: family violence program, drug outreach program, law reform and community legal education program and night service. We assist those who live in the Cities of Port Phillip, Stonnington and Bayside as well as residents of North Caulfield.

 

Family Violence Program

Our family violence (FV) program offers a duty lawyer service to people appearing on the Family Violence Intervention Order (FVIO) list at the Moorabbin Justice Centre on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. In addition to our duty lawyer services, our FV program has recommenced the outreach clinic appointments in January 2016 to two locations within our catchment to provide assistance to women experiencing family violence.

 

In 2016 we also commenced the first Firearms project in the State of Victoria. The Firearms Project was created to assist victims of family violence in Victoria when a final FVIO has been made and the perpetrator is attempting to have their firearms licence reinstated (also known as a section 189 application).

 

In the 2015/2016 financial year the Family Violence lawyer assisted 301 clients with 486 court representations which impacted 390 children.  23 per cent of these clients were male and 77 per cent of these clients were female, 51 per cent of our clients were between 36 to 50 years of age.

 

The FV Lawyer also presented at the Community Workers Forum which was held in conjunction with Fitzroy Legal Service to help community workers in our local catchment area learn more about common legal issues that their clients are faced with.

 

During the past year the FV program was only funded for 0.7 EFT, despite the growing demand for representation and advice to victims of family violence.

 

Drug Outreach Program

The Drug Outreach (DO) program is targeted towards providing legal advice and assistance to three main client groups: people with substance dependency issues, people with disabilities (predominantly, a mental illness) and people who are experiencing (or are at risk of) homelessness.

 

This service is provided in conjunction with outreach partners, case managers, support workers, nurses, housing workers and alcohol and drug counsellors, among many others. Our DO Lawyer attends five outreach locations weekly in order to provide legal assistance.

 

In the 2015/2016 financial year the DO Lawyer assisted 287 clients, 90.7 per cent received Centrelink benefits and 58.4 per cent had a disability. 246 advices and 127 court representations were provided.

 

Our DO Lawyer co-presented at the National Association of Community Legal Centre’s Annual conference in August, 2015 a seminar centred on the discrimination and stigma experienced by sex workers, focusing on how front line workers (including our lawyers) use education and peer networks to share stories, build rapport and ultimately embark on a journey that is safe and sensitive for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

 

Community Legal Education and Law Reform Program

The community legal education program equips people with the awareness, knowledge and skills needed to understand, engage with or resolve the legal problems that they encounter. Our law reform program examines existing laws and regulations and advocates for the implementation of changes with the aim of improving access to justice.

In the 2015/2016 financial year the Community Legal Education/Law Reform Lawyer created seven new resources, delivered over 25 presentations and attended over 70 meetings with stakeholders, community groups, government, local council and partner organisations.

Some of the highlights include:

  • The production of the Revenge Porn factsheet – the first of its kind for adults in the state of Victoria.
  • Holding the “Breaking Down Barriers Forum: Empowering people with a disability to access justice” in partnership with the City of Stonnington. This event was in response to the lack of education for professionals (which includes lawyers, social and community workers) about the barriers people with a disability face when trying to access justice.
  • Advocating with sex work organisations for changes to the Judicial College’s Sentencing Manual. The Sentencing Manual is a guide to sentencing in all Victorian Jurisdictions and previously listed two cases that created a common law precedent that allowed a rape victim’s sexual experience to be taken be relevant to sentencing an offer, only if the victim was a sex worker. The sections that quoted these cases were altered in October 2016 and now reads as:

“The Court of Appeal has recognised that the mere fact a victim of a sexual offence was a sex worker will, of itself, have no effect on sentence. Rather, what is relevant are the consequences of the offence for a particular victim.”

Night Service
During the 2015/2016 financial year, St Kilda Legal Service had 63 volunteers providing legal services primarily through our Night Service on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights from 7pm to 9pm.

They assisted over 500 clients with a range of matters including family violence, fines, civil debts, child contact, criminal law and consumer complaints.

We are luckily to have many dedicated volunteers, several of whom are experts in their field. One such volunteer is Dr Renata Alexander, who celebrated 40 years of service at the Service, having conducted over 3200 client interviews during her time with us.

St Kilda Legal Service are very proud of their accomplishments and are excited to continue to implement systematic change and respond to the needs and interests of our community and continue to provide respectful, compassionate and non-judgemental assistance.

If you live within the City of Port Phillip, Stonnington or Bayside Councils we may be able to assist you. Call St Kilda Legal Service on 9534 0777 to make an appointment.

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