The court process is intimidating and time-consuming, particularly for trans children like Sam. Delays in receiving treatment can be disastrous for children experiencing gender dysphoria. Dr Michelle Telfer, Clinical Lead at the Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Adolescent Health, explained that approximately 30 per cent of young people who are not supported in expressing and receiving treatment for gender dysphoria attempt suicide.
Sam received treatment and support from a range of physicians, including the Royal Children’s Hospital. Hospital workers suggested that Sam’s mother, Josephine*, contact Justice Connect for pro bono legal assistance. After Josephine contacted us, we referred the matter to Lander & Rogers, who took it on as a pro bono file.
Josephine was extremely grateful and pleased with the assistance she received from Lander & Rogers. She said that her lawyers were “absolutely wonderful, taking the time to explain the process and supporting us throughout.”
Sam’s application was successful. The Family Court made an order giving Sam the responsibility for making his own decisions relating to his medical treatment.
The case was equally rewarding for the lawyers. Sarah, one of the lawyers who handled the matter, said “It was a great learning experience, and great to be involved in an aspect of family law that we don’t deal with on an everyday basis. Sam’s family were lovely and deserving. Knowing the impact that the decision had on the child and the parents made it truly worthwhile.”
While Sam’s case was uncommon, his mother’s experience with Justice Connect was not. Pro bono intervention makes a big difference to people who need legal help. Josephine thanked Justice Connect, adding, “Sam is now able to re-engage in life and present as male. His anxiety has reduced and he is more confident and motivated. Sam now has hope for the future ahead.”
Since Sam won the right to receive the medical treatment he needed, Justice Connect has worked to end the cruel practice of forcing young trans people to go through the court for Stage 2 treatment. In 2017, a landmark decision was made to allow children and their families to seek treatment without the court’s involvement.
Pro bono help is essential to helping people navigate the legal system. But the real power of pro bono lies in listening to our clients. Above all, listening gives us the insight we need to challenge and change unfair laws. So we can help people live fairer, safer and healthier lives.
*names have been changed