The past year has been full of many highlights and challenges as our people strived to deliver quality and holistic community legal services. The work we do ensuring access to justice for communities in need is as important today as it ever was because the demand for our services and the complexity of our clients’ matters continue to grow.
As our organisation has grown so too has the demand for our services. With a vast and diverse catchment and a population in excess of 1 million people, our resources and funding are always stretched, particularly with our family law and family violence services. In fact, 36% of our clients reported family violence this past year. For this reason, we welcomed the State Government’s commitment to implementing all of the recommendations made in the Royal Commission into Family Violence, including the expansion of resources for legal services and the establishment of Family Violence Support & Safety Hubs. We were especially pleased to learn that Frankston is one of five Safety Hub pilot sites. The initial roll-out of Safety Hub services has already seen an impact on our services, We have seen increased referrals to our family violence services, the scheduling of extra listing days at the courts and consequent high demand for duty lawyer services, with no extra resources. We will continue to advocate for appropriate levels of funding to ensure those experiencing family violence have access to the free legal help they need.
“Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life” – ALBERT EINSTEIN
We also remain committed to maintaining and strengthening our contribution to, and advocacy for, the objectives and work of the broader legal assistance sector, participating in consultations on
the proposed National Partnership Agreement (NPA) Review, Community Legal Services Program Reform, Access to Justice Review, jurisdictional planning and the statewide response to family violence.
One of the key highlights this year has been the development of our legal practice after the implementation of our organisation and legal practice reviews last year. We continue to build on our strong foundation; our people rallied, sharing our vision to deliver another outstanding year of service to the community, providing assistance to over 6,100 clients.
We have also enhanced our client services with intensive casework and related wrap around services, and boosted our reach with embedded services in health, education and community settings to improve legal and health outcomes for our clients.
We welcomed new partnerships with Peninsula Health, Mind Australia, and the Family Mediation Centre, and expanded existing partnerships with Glen Eira City Council and Mornington Peninsula Shire to deliver collaborative and innovative programs.
We continued to plan and deliver our services from a client-centered perspective, monitoring and measuring our impact and building on our knowledge and understanding of our clients and their complex needs. This occurred with our participation in three sector led projects; the Federation’s Outcome Measurement Project, VLA’s Collaborative Service Planning Pilot Project and the Federation’s Community Legal Centres’ Client Satisfaction Survey Project.
As part of our Outcome Measurement work, we undertook a client complexity survey, measuring client need and complexity of over 450 of our casework clients. The survey findings highlighted that our casework clients are presenting with more than one legal problem. They are grappling with a number of social issues such as family violence, substance abuse, or risk of homelessness. Often, the client is suffering from the impact of a life event or a history of trauma, and issues concerning client safety, welfare of children and homelessness feature strongly.
We also carried on valuable work with our legal assistance sector colleagues, Springvale Monash Legal Service, Casey Cardinia Legal Service, St.Kilda Legal Service and Victorian Legal Aid Dandenong and Frankston Regional Offices with our regional service planning collaboration, the South Eastern Regional Assistance Network (SERLAN).
We remain focused on fostering a culture of continuous quality improvement by maintaining our accreditation and certification under the National Association of Community Legal Centres’ scheme. Additionally, our Management Committee and Leadership team led the ongoing development, implementation, monitoring and review of our policies, procedures and associated practices to ensure that we met our obligations and reflected on, and improved those practices.
All our work is sustained by the generous support of our funders, Federal, State and Local Governments, donors and supporters who provide us with the resources needed to ensure that PCLC’s critical services can continue. We express our sincerest gratitude for their ongoing support.
Of course, our funded work is significantly enhanced through our extensive volunteer program. PCLC volunteers generously contribute in excess of 5,000 hours per year to the Centre, enabling the Centre to provide up to nine additional free legal advice sessions per week across our vast region. These are the law students who work on the front line of our service, greeting the clients at that first interview with the Centre; the lawyers who donate their time to give assistance and advice to our clients; and our Deakin and PLT Students who support our specialist services and Centre operations. We would not be able to do the work we do without their generous support, and we extend our warmest thanks to them.
We also thank our Management Committee for their leadership, determination and engagement as they continue to undertake their vital governance role. Finally, the success of PCLC is thanks to the work of our dedicated staff. Each and every day bears witness to this most extraordinary group of talented and committed people, whose exceptional professionalism, persistence and resilience improves the lives of our clients and ultimately promotes a more fair and inclusive society.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.”– MARGARET MEAD