New Free Legal Advice Service for Benalla

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Kaz Gurney (Goulburn Valley CLC), Debi Fisher and Sarah Rodgers (Hume Riverina CLC), Neil Stott (Benalla Health), Hannah Fiddelaers (Goulburn Valley CLC), Janine Holland (Benalla Health).

Earlier this month, members of the Hume Riverina and Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centres and Benalla Health launched the new partnership to provide free legal assistance services to disadvantaged residents in the Benalla area from the Ray Sweeney Centre at 45 Coster Street Benalla.

Benalla Health has been providing health care to the Benalla community for many years and has been working on enhancing the various services at the Ray Sweeney Centre, making it a ‘One Stop Shop’ that provides an even greater and more holistic service to its clients. This latest initiative now offers access to legal services at the Ray Sweeney Centre, enabling residents, who otherwise cannot afford them, to access legal support and justice opportunities.

Due to the level of demand, Hume Riverina Community Legal Service has expanded to a fortnightly service at Benalla Health with appointments now available on Tuesdays. For the first time Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre will provide a lawyer at the Benalla Family Violence court sessions each Tuesday and follow-up sessions with clients at the Ray Sweeney Centre on Wednesday.

Hume Riverina Community Legal Service Principal Lawyer, Sarah Rodgers, said ‘Too often, people in regional Victoria miss out on free legal help. These new services will help to meet the needs of Benalla residents in a holistic manner and we look forward to developing services even further with our partners, Benalla Health and Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre. Community Legal Centres provide free legal advice and other limited legal assistance measures in relation to a broad range of legal areas. These include family violence, family law parenting disputes, fines, neighbourhood disputes, credit and debt issues, and consumer law problems, especially in cases where funded legal aid is unavailable to the client yet private assistance is beyond their reach.’

Kaz Gurney, Managing Lawyer of the Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre, explained that ‘The Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre recently received funding from the Victorian Government to deliver family violence services at Benalla. North-East Victoria continues to experience particularly high instances of family violence, adding to the many barriers that women experience in getting legal help in rural and regional areas. Our lawyer is now providing a family violence duty service at Benalla Court on Tuesdays and is also seeing clients at Benalla Health by appointment on Wednesdays.’

Neil Stott, Director of Community Health at Benalla Health said ‘We have been working hard to develop a “one stop shop” approach to health and community based services. These services (in addition to the community legal services) include counselling, social work, the Centre Against Violence, mental health, financial counselling, drug and alcohol counselling, family support and family liaison services in addition to support from our Allied Health team. Now clients in need can contact the Ray Sweeney Centre and be actively supported to obtain the help that they need.’

Anyone wishing to see one of the Community Legal Service lawyers can ring Goulburn Valley Community Legal Service on 1800 310 900; Hume Riverina Community Legal Service on 1800 918 377; or the Ray Sweeney Centre on 5761 4500.

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