Justice Connect (formerly the Public Interest Law Clearing House, or PILCH) is a not-for-profit incorporated association, which is committed to furthering the public interest, improving access to justice and protecting human rights by facilitating the provision of pro bono legal services and undertaking law reform, policy work and legal education.
Justice Connect’s members include law firms, university law faculties, community legal centres, corporate legal departments, the Victorian Bar and the Law Institute of Victoria.
Justice Connect delivers pro bono legal services through the following programs:
- Not-for-profit Law;
- Victorian Bar Pro Bono Scheme;
- Homeless Law;
- Seniors Law.
Not-for-profit Law provides free or low cost legal information, advice and training to not-for-profit organisations, and arranges pro bono referrals for public interest not-for-profit organisations. In addition, Not-for-profit Law runs a seminar and workshop series on issues such as governance, legal issues for volunteers, tax and fundraising. Not-for-profit Law hosts a comprehensive web portal designed to assist not-for-profits to understand common legal issues affecting their organisations. The portal (at www.justiceconnect.org.au/our-programs/not-for-profit-law) provides legal resources for not-for-profits, including plain English resources such as fact sheets and checklists. Not-for-profit Law also engages in policy and law reform work for the not-for-profit sector and has a Telephone Advice Service (TAS) that operates on a call-back basis for not-for-profits seeking advice for one-off inquiries.
Under the Victorian Bar Pro Bono Scheme, a matter may be referred to a barrister where the client cannot afford to pay for legal assistance and the matter is legally meritorious. The type of pro bono assistance provided by barristers may include the provision of legal advice, settling of court documents or representation before a court or tribunal. The scheme will consider applications in most areas of law.
Homeless Law provides free outreach legal advice and advocacy to people experiencing homelessness or people at risk of homelessness at 14 locations around Melbourne and regional Victoria. Homeless Law also engages in law reform to bring about changes to laws and policies that impact disproportionately on marginalised and disadvantaged people.
Seniors Law is a free legal service that responds to and helps prevent elder abuse, and helps to protect the dignity and independence of older Victorians. Justice Connect partners with the Eastern and Loddon Campaspe community legal centres and the Council on the Ageing to provide a range of services through Seniors Law in relation to elder abuse, including a telephone helpline, referrals, legal advice, advocacy, community and professional education. The legal service operates from the central Melbourne office with outreach delivered to Eastern and Loddon Campaspe CLCs. Pro bono clinics have been established at hospitals and health centres around Melbourne to provide a state-wide service and engage in strategic litigation and law reform in the area of elder abuse prevention.
Clients should telephone first to discuss their eligibility under any of these schemes.
Level 17, 461 Bourke Street, Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: 8636 4400
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 1 pm and 2 – 5.30 pm
All registrars of Magistrates’ Courts have been instructed in the following terms.
The advice given to the public by registrars is confined within the scope of their duties and knowledge. Registrars are strictly impartial in the giving of advice, which is based only on the facts, and they do not do or say anything from which it may appear that they are acting as the legal representative of any particular person. They do not offer legal advice in any matter.
If advice is given in matters that may lead to litigation, registrars inform the person to whom the advice is given that the advice offered is based only on the facts supplied by that person, and that any decision made by the court will be based on facts elicited from all parties. Anyone to whom advice is given should also be informed of matters that do not support their case, and of the possibility of costs being awarded against them should their action fail.
Registrars provide procedural advice on a range of legal matters including but not limited to:
•Civil disputes, which are disputes arising from claims for debts, damage to property and or injury (e.g. motor vehicle collisions) and other monetary demands. The civil jurisdiction also deals with neighbourhood disputes such as disputes about fences. The Magistrates’ Court can determine most disputes over money or property up to the value of $100,000, including damages for personal injury.
•Intervention Orders, which are orders made by a magistrate under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) (“FVPA”) or the Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic) (“PSIOA”).
– Family Violence Protection Act 2008: An application for an intervention order can be made under the FVPA where there is a family relationship or a person is, or has been, involved in a relationship and the affected family member requires the protection of an intervention order to:
– ensure their safety; or
– preserve their property; or
– protect a child who has been subjected to family violence committed by a family member (respondent).
– Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act: An application for an intervention order can also be made under the PSIOA where a person has stalked another person and is likely to do so again and there is no family relationship between the parties or the parties are neighbours or friends and the affected person requires the protection of an intervention order to:
– ensure their safety; or
– preserve the property of the affected person.
Intervention orders may include any conditions that the court considers necessary or desirable in the circumstances to ensure the safety of the affected family member (family violence jurisdiction) or the affected person (stalking jurisdiction).
•Criminal matters. The Magistrates’ Court deals with all summary (less serious) offences and some indictable offences. Registrars provide a range of information and procedural advice in relation to the criminal jurisdiction. For example advice relating to:
– adjournments (putting your case off to another day);
– types of cases/hearings;
– applications for a payment plan or stay relating to fines;
– applications to convert fines to community work;
– applications for restoration of drivers licence;
– diversion hearings; and
– general procedural advice.
A registrar may provide limited assistance, if time permits, when requested, in the following issues.
1 Under section 71(1)(b) of the Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic), the person entitled to probate of the will or letters of administration of the estate of a deceased person may apply for assistance in obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration to the Registrar of the Magistrates’ Court nearest to the person’s home where:
athe deceased left property in their sole name not exceeding $50,000 in gross value, and the only persons entitled to benefit under the deceased’s will or to share under intestacy are the spouse, domestic partner, sole surviving parent or the children of the deceased; or
bthe deceased left property to anybody other than those named above and the gross value of the property does not exceed $25,000. This service is restricted to applicants who reside outside a 32 kilometre radius from the post office at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne. Within Melbourne, the Small Estates Office (see below) can help.
2 Registrars of the Magistrates’ Court at many country locations are authorised marriage celebrants under the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (and are therefore qualified to perform marriage ceremonies). Check with the local court if this facility is required.
The registrar will not release monies or make payments from the “court fund” to individual persons under any circumstances in accordance with recommendations made by the Victorian Auditor-General. “Court fund” monies are paid to local social welfare and not-for-profit community organisations. People in urgent need of money for food, travel, medicine or for any other purpose, such as avoiding eviction, will be referred to these agencies for assistance.
Most trade unions have an arrangement with one or more solicitors to provide legal advice for members of the union. Often, the solicitors will provide an initial interview free of charge to give advice and decide whether or not the member has a case on which further action should be taken.
In some instances, the union will be prepared to underwrite the cost of an action. This is particularly so in claims for WorkSafe, or for damages for injuries that were suffered; a union’s help may be sought in matters of dismissal, nonpayment or under-payment of wages, and other employment-connected problems. Contact the union, or Trades Hall (see “Contacts”, in Protection for your rights at work for details).
Members of the RACV may obtain free motoring-related legal advice via the Motoring Advice Line on matters such as motor vehicle accidents, insurance claims, driving offences, purchase of cars and disputes arising from the repair or servicing of cars. The advice is provided by non-lawyers who have a detailed practical knowledge in these areas. Assistance in the form of taking or defending legal action is not provided.
RACV Advice Line
Tel: 9790 2190
RMIT, Melbourne and La Trobe Universities provide a legal service for students of those universities. Solicitors, who will write letters, conduct negotiations and arrange representation in court if necessary, are employed for this purpose.
Monash University students in need of legal advice are referred to the Monash Oakleigh Legal Service, which is a community legal centre staffed by Monash University law students. For contact details, see Legal services that can help.
State Trustees provides a range of trustee, executor and administrator services, which include:
•enduring powers of guardianship and attorney (financial and medical treatment);
•deceased estates management;
•represented people’s affairs (management services to people with disabilities);
•genealogical research and beneficiary tracking;
•investment and taxation services; and
•funeral funds and funds management.
There is a charge for these services and you should enquire about this when you telephone for an appointment. There are offices in Melbourne and regional services at other metropolitan and country locations. The head office is:
1 McNab Avenue, Footscray Vic 3011
Tel: 9667 6444; 1300 138 672
In defined circumstances, assistance may be provided to persons who wish to obtain a Grant of Representation (Probate or Administration) in small estate matters. Eligibility for assistance is determined by the proposed applicant’s relationship to the deceased and monetary threshold limits.
A small estate is defined as an estate where the gross value of solely owned assets does not exceed:
1 $50,000 where the persons entitled to share in the estate are the children only or the partner only or the partner and children only or the sole surviving parent; or
2 $25,000 where persons outside the above categories are entitled to share in the estate.
If the above criteria apply then the person entitled to probate of a will or to the letters of administration of the estate may apply to:
Supreme Court of Victoria
Level 2, 436 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne Vic 3000
Tel: 9603 9300
Assistance in obtaining a grant of probate or letters of administration is provided to people within a 32 kilometre radius of Melbourne (contact the Probate Office or go to the website listed above for advice on fees for this service). Outside that area, contact the registrar of the local Magistrates’ Court.
In eligible cases a Small Estates Officer can obtain instructions from, prepare and lodge an application on behalf of the applicant. The assistance provided by the Court reduces the need for persons to retain a solicitor and acts as a legal aid service to the public. The Small Estates Officer or Registrar of the Magistrates’ Court only deal with applications for basic Grants of Representation and do not render assistance in contentious or doubtful applications. In all cases proof to establish the identity and right or relationship of an applicant is required.
Liberty Victoria (also known as the Victorian Council for Civil Liberties) is an independent, non-government, non-profit organisation that promotes respect for civil liberties and human rights in Australia. Liberty Victoria seeks to achieve recognition for and protection of civil liberties and human rights through advocating for law and policy reform and through conducting public awareness campaigns. It does not provide legal advice or deal with individual cases.
GPO Box 3161, Melbourne Vic 3001
Tel: 9670 6422
For advice on tenants’ rights, rental disputes, eviction, investigation of complaints, and assistance with taking and defending legal action, contact the Tenants Union of Victoria on 9416 2577 or visit www.tuv.org.au.
People undertaking their own legal work in a property transfer or probate may find a kit helpful. Conveyancing and probate kits are available from some newsagents and law stationers. A free power of attorney kit is available from VLA offices.
Conveyancing, selling your own home, power of attorney, probate and will kits are available from Fitzroy Legal Service. To order, telephone 9419 3744, or order online at www.fitzroylegal.org.au/bookshop.
Financial counsellors can provide advice about debts, budgeting and debt recovery procedures. They can also provide paralegal advice on credit, debt and bankruptcy. For a full list of financial counselling organisations in Victoria, see Financial counselling services.
There are many sites that provide helpful information, including:
•www.legalaid.vic.gov.au – legal aid guidelines, services and legal information;
•www.liv.asn.au – information for lawyers and the public;
•www.austlii.edu.au – one of the largest sources of legal materials on the net;
•www.law4u.com.au/vic – legal information, finding a lawyer, and do-it-yourself advice;
•www.familycourt.gov.au – Family Court of Australia;
•www.supremecourt.vic.gov.au – Supreme Court of Victoria;
•www.countycourt.vic.gov.au – County Court;
•www.magistratescourt.vic.gov.au – Magistrates’ Court;
•www.victorialawfoundation.org.au – Victoria Law Foundation.