Australian bushfires: getting legal help to where it’s needed
16 Jan 2020
Chris Povey, CEO
Over the past month, bushfires have been devastating communities and ecosystems across Australia. Like so many, Justice Connect has been grappling with how to respond to these fires. Our hearts go out to all those affected.
In the wake of disaster, people and small businesses often require legal assistance. We witnessed how unexpected legal problems can affect people’s health, financial stability and relationships after the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009.
Drawing on those insights, Justice Connect is working alongside other legal organisations to deliver a coordinated response to legal need in Victoria and New South Wales. And we’re putting the experience of people affected front and centre.
We’re coordinating law firms in a pro bono response to the bushfires.
We recognise the well-being of communities is often linked with the well-being of the small businesses in those communities. We are ensuring that small businesses and farms can access pro bono legal assistance as well as individuals.
We’re making our Pro Bono Portal freely available to any legal practice willing to take on pro bono matters for the people and small businesses affected by bushfires.
We’re also supporting frontline services to connect with lawyers that can provide ongoing, on-the-ground assistance.
To register interest in contributing pro bono work and joining our Pro Bono Portal, go to justiceconnect.org.au/bushfireprobono
To get people legal help as quickly as possible, we have created a dedicated online referral pathway so that frontline services such as legal aid commissions and community legal centres can refer people to Justice Connect easily. Our public interest law team will process referrals and use the Pro Bono Portal to place matters with firms that have the relevant expertise.
Where to send people seeking assistance
People, small businesses and farms seeking legal assistance should contact the primary legal help services in the relevant state. Each respective service can help with a board range of legal programs including insurance claims and disputes, tenancy issues, replacing important documents and other everyday legal problems.
- Victoria: Disaster Legal Help Service has a hotline run by Victoria Legal Aid: 1800 113 432. The Disaster Legal Help Service website has up-to-date information and community legal education materials, as well as webchat: disasterlegalhelp.org.au. Victoria Legal Aid will refer people to other organisations in the legal assistance sector, including Justice Connect, as appropriate.
- NSW: Disaster Response Legal Service has a hotline run by Legal Aid NSW at 1800 801 529. Legal Aid NSW will refer people to other organisations in the legal assistance sector, including Justice Connect, as appropriate. Visit the website for more information disasterhelp.legalaid.nsw.gov.au
We commend the resilience shown by the communities devastated by these unprecedented bushfire, and will continue to work with pro bono lawyers and the legal assistance sector to ensure people get the help they need as quickly as possible.
Chris Povey, CEO