Watch our webinar: Free legal help for small businesses and farms affected by natural disasters

10 May 2021

Many small businesses, farms and sole traders don’t know what kind of free legal help is out here after facing the impacts of natural disasters, like the recent cyclone in Western Australia, floods in New South Wales and Queensland, and bushfires along the east coast. That’s why we hosted a webinar on how Justice Connect can connect small business owners and farmers to one of 10,000 pro bono lawyers in our network for free legal advice or casework.

After the 2009 bushfires in Victoria, the Bushfire Legal Help partnership found that survivors faced a maze of complicated building contracts and permit applications processes, as they started to rebuild their lives.

And in 2020, in response to the extreme bushfire season of 2019-2020, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disasters Report highlighted the “crucial role” that non-government organisations and charities can play in recovery. Following a natural disaster, numerous legal issues can arise, including in relation to insurance, family law and family violence, tenancy and housing, and social security issues.

Our pro bono network is ready and able to help

Justice Connect has been working closely with legal assistance organisations and law firms to lead the pro bono response to the 2019-2020 bushfires in both Victoria and NSW.

As a result of that experience, we can now provide free legal advice and casework to eligible small businesses, farms and primary producers affected by natural disasters like floods, cyclones and bushfires. Legal issues we’ve responded to have included contracts, leases and property, fencing and disputes with neighbouring farms, business insurance coverage and claims, as well as credit and debt.

We’re also supporting frontline services to connect with lawyers that can provide ongoing, on-the-ground assistance. Frontline services can submit referrals of people and small businesses (including farms), and we can allocate these people to appropriate pro bono assistance via our Pro Bono Portal.

If demand exceeds our capacity to help, we are able to make our award winning Pro Bono Portal available to law firms in NSW that wish to offer free legal assistance to people, community groups and small businesses affected by the recent floods.

How do small business owners and farmers apply for legal assistance

Small business owners, sole traders and farmers affected by natural disasters can make a short application online. Once we receive the application, we will review your eligibility and get in touch to plan out next steps.

We commend the resilience shown by the communities devastated by natural disasters and will continue to work with our member firms and the legal assistance sector to ensure people get the help they need as quickly as possible.