The Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre resulted from a campaign run over several years in the Goulburn Valley that urged governments to fund a permanent Community Legal Centre (CLC) in the region.
There are about 200 CLCs across Australia, including almost 50 CLCs in Victoria. CLCs help those who cannot afford a private solicitor or who are ineligible for legal aid. CLCs are an essential part of the Australian justice system.
In 2009 Loddon Campaspe CLC (based in Bendigo) and UnitingCare Cutting Edge (now Kildonan UnitingCare) teamed up to establish a Pilot CLC in Shepparton. As well as delivering legal services on a shoestring, the Pilot CLC documented unmet legal need in the region, delivered community legal education and campaigned for a permanently funded CLC. The pilot would not have been possible without the critical funding provided by the Clayton Utz Foundation.
The campaign was supported by a large number of local individuals and organisations. The Hon. Jeanette Powell MP (Member for Shepparton), the Hon. Sharman Stone MP (Federal Member for Murray) and Tim McCurdy MP (Member for Murray Valley) all pledged support for the funding of a CLC in the Goulburn Valley and we thank them for being CLC supporters.
Other supporters included the Law Institute of Victoria, Vincent Care Victoria (Marian Community), Ethnic Council, FamilyCare, Hamish Fletcher (Primary Care Connect), Academy of Sport and Education, Peter Johnson (solicitor) Goulburn Valley Law Association, Richard Moloney (Shine Lawyers), Adelle Jones (solicitor), Cassidy Morrison & Teare, Danny Barlow (Riordan Legal), Anthony .Coote (Camerons Lawyers), Pat Cummins (Senior Registrar, Shepparton Court) and Mark Georgiou (Shepparton Centrelink).
In mid-2012 the state government provided funding for a permanent CLC. The Commonwealth followed this recognition of our work with additional funding in 2014.
The CLC has grown from just two lawyers in 2012 to the current 5 lawyers and a paralegal. It has moved twice: from the original shop front premises in Maude Street it shared with UnitingCare Cutting Edge after a flood: to the front of the Uniting Church hall; and then to the present offices in Nixon Street.
The total of the core funding provided by both State and Commonwealth remains very small and only about half of the average for similar CLCs. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is cancelling its contribution from 1 July 2017 which will cut our recurrent income by nearly one-third and have devastating effects on our ability to service one of the most disadvantaged communities in the State.
Much of the work we do, however, is funded by project money including our Therapeutic Justice Partnership with Primary Care Connect and our recently announced Health-Justice Partnership with Rumbalara Aboriginal Corporation which will embed a lawyer into a culturally appropriate and safe environment for clients at the health service.
Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre works within a community development framework. Empowerment, participation, safeguarding human rights and confronting structural disadvantage are hallmarks of this framework.
We service the Greater Shepparton, Mitchell, Strathbogie, Benalla and Moira shires.
Kaz Gurney – Managing Lawyer
Kaz manages Goulburn Valley CLC. Kaz came to us from Fitzroy Legal Service, where she was senior lawyer at the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice Centre and A/Principal Solicitor for the CLC.
Sejal Amin – Therapeutic Justice Lawyer
Sejal studied Law and International Relations at La Trobe University. She has previously worked as a solicitor advocate for Victoria Police in their specialist family violence unit, as a paralegal in the family division of the Melbourne Children’s Court for Victoria Legal Aid, and as a volunteer solicitor for the International Students Legal Advice Clinic of the Western Suburbs Legal Service.
Jasmin Day – Rumbalara Paralegal
Jasmin worked for many years at Guthrie Street Primary School in Shepparton, first as a Koori Educator and then as Special Education Support Staff for students with high needs. She also has a Certificate 3 in Business Administration, Education Support and Sport (Specialist Administration).
Hannah Fiddelaers – Community Lawyer
Hannah first joined us as our Paralegal Administration Worker after working at South Gippsland Shire Council and volunteering with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. She completed a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology and Criminology) and then the Juris Doctor at the University of Melbourne before being admitted to practice in 2015.
Georgia Morrissey – Rumbalara Community Lawyer
Georgia was admitted to practice in 2010 and interned with the Consumer Law Centre and Jobwatch Employment. She comes to us from SMR Legal in Shepparton. She is a member of the Shepparton Law Court Redevelopment Steering Committee and has predominately worked in Family Law and Family Violence. She has a particular interest in children’s matters relating to family violence.
Julie O’Connor – Community Lawyer
Julie comes to us from the Department of Justice and Regulation where she managed dispute resolution services. She has a social work background and her professional skills are a welcome addition to our service. Julie is filling in for our Community Lawyer Carmendy Cooper who is on Maternity Leave.
Brandy Skipper – Paralegal Receptionist
Brandy joined us after working for the Department of Justice’s Goulburn Valley office. She enjoys providing clients with a more rounded service and referring clients where appropriate to supplementary services.