WCC Annual Report 2014-15 - Page 20

VOLUNTEERS THE YEAR AHEAD Volunteers significantly strengthen our ability to respond to the legal needs of our community. With more than 40 active volunteers at any one time our responsiveness is greatly boosted. Para-legal volunteers, many of whom are law students with keen aspirations to learn as much as they can while studying, assist with reception and in-take roles enabling our solicitors to maximise their time addressing the legal issues they are presented with. In 2014-15 we joined with other community legal service organisations nationally to overturn federal government threats to legal service funding. These were direct threats not only to specialist legal service providers but also to many local legal services such as our own. It was with a great deal of relief that the unity of the sector, along with the support of the broader Australian community, forced the Government to a change of heart and the withdrawal of the threat of cuts. However, we approach the 2015-16 financial year without certainty in relation to funding for 2 of our solicitor positions. The funding term for these 2 lawyers ends at the end of June 2016 and current Government policy remains that these contracts will not be renewed. We will continue our advocacy efforts to ensure that we can successfully defend our services and we remain committed to our conviction to grow our team and increase the quantity, quality and breadth of legal work we undertake on behalf of our community. We also benefit from the volunteer and pro-bono contribution of qualified lawyers who provide legal advice, information and consultation to residents on our behalf. Our capacity to undertake Casework, increases the numbers which comes off the back of our committed group of volunteers and they form an important role in the expansion of opportunities to access the justice system for many Whittlesea residents. We are justly proud of our volunteer team and thank them for their contributions. COMMUNITY LEGAL EDUCATION LAW REFORM Throughout 2014-15 our legal team provided many community legal education sessions on various legal topics. We completed many Family Violence information sessions, particularly with local culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, as part of the Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Project; we provided session to a range of community groups covering various topics including family law, wills information sessions and sessions on the services of WCLS to NMIT students. Our law reform work has continued with our on-going involvement with the Infringements Working Group of The Federation of Community Legal Centres. We have also led the way in promoting the legal needs of those experiencing family violence and our legal team were at the forefront of special projects to tackle the impact of this spiralling and acute issue for our community. Our legal team have been instrumental in informing our responses and submission to the Victorian Family Violence Royal Commission. Whittlesea Community Connections Annual Report 2014 -15 20