The Glebe Legal Outreach and Advice Service (GLOAS) first launched as a pilot program in July 2016.
It operates out of the ‘Have a Chat Café’ (HCC) in Glebe’s Old Fire Station on Mitchell Street every Thursday between 9:30am and 12pm, and both pre-booked appointments and drop-ins are welcomed by the clinic staff.
The legal clinic provides confidential legal services, alongside legal information sessions on issues identified as relevant by the local community. Legal information sessions covered topics including Centrelink debt, and planning for the future with Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Guardianship. These sessions have provided a safe place for people to obtain information without having to identify themselves, and in turn, have prompted people to feel safe following up with action.
The service is staffed by Redfern Legal Centre and Legal Aid NSW solicitors, and aims to build relationships between legal professionals and the Glebe community. GLAOS is supported by the Glebe Community Development Project (GCDP), which dedicates approximately six hours a week to the legal outreach service.
The clinic was established in recognition of the need for a targeted legal advice service in the area to address the often-complex legal needs experienced by Glebe residents. Approximately 20% of Glebe’s population are lower-income social housing tenants, and around 3% of Glebe’s population identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
The service is a direct response to multiple studies illustrating the community’s need for legal services, including in civil, criminal and consumer law. It recognises that contacting an unfamiliar service and needing to travel even across a few suburbs can act as a barrier to low income and otherwise disadvantaged members of the community.
Above: A publicity flyer for GLOAS.
Have a Chat Café
HCC provides a safe community space for people to access services and assistance, and to come together for affordable, quality coffee and food. It also provides free food for those struggling with food security issues, working collaboratively with food rescue organisations and local businesses.
Many of HCC’s regular customers live on the Glebe Housing Estate, and the community’s comfort and familiarity with the location was part of the reason for its selection for the clinic. This was a successful approach, as 87% of GLOAS clients felt comfortable accessing legal services at HCC. (Only three clients did not show up for scheduled appointments, further demonstrating the community’s level of comfort with the venue.)
Legal appointments are carried out with a view to maintaining client confidentiality with interviews taking place in a private room.
Clinic lawyers saw almost 70 clients across 26 weeks between September 2016 and April 2017. This is a high attendance rate for a fledgling service and a period that included a large number of public holidays such as Christmas, New Year, Australia Day, Easter and ANZAC Day.
The most common legal issues clients sought advice on included tenancy (40%); consumer matters (26%); future planning, such as wills and Enduring Power of Attorney documentation (20%); debt-related matters (13%); and family law (13%).
More than 30% of GLAOS’ appointments were drop-ins and 73% of clients lived in Glebe or neighbouring suburb Forest Lodge. Both these statistics illustrate an ongoing need for such a legal service in the Glebe community.
A survey of clients also demonstrated the service was assisting a large number of marginalised and vulnerable people, many of whom would have faced challenges accessing legal assistance. For example, almost 50% of clients live with a physical or psychosocial disability, and 15% identified as coming from a culturally and linguistically diverse background. Only 8% of clients received an income of more than $40,000 annually.
If you have a client who you think may benefit from attending the Glebe service, contact the Glebe Community Development Project on (02) 9571 6453.
* All information and data cited in this report is taken from Evans, L. & Meli, C. (2017). Glebe Legal Outreach and Advice Service Pilot Project Evaluation. September 2016–April 2017, evaluation report conducted by two students participating in the University of Sydney’s Glebe Social Justice Learning Lab.
This report prepared by Alexandra Roach, a Volunteer Legal Assistant at Redfern Legal Centre.