eBulletin February/March 2021: Creating change
Our first e-Bulletin of 2021 focuses on RLC's change-making and education work.
RLC financial abuse staff, Gayatri Nair and Laura Bianchi at Parliament House, February 2021.
Submission: National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Supporting Economic Recovery) Bill 2020
RLC and the Economic Abuse Reference Group (EARG) have made a number of written submissions to parliament expressing grave concerns about proposed government reforms to responsible lending. RLC’s Financial Abuse Service NSW coordinates the EARG chapter in NSW.
On Friday 26 February, EARG members appeared before the Senate Economics Legislation Committee to discuss the impact of the reforms for victim-survivors of economic abuse.
The parliamentary inquiry was the result of advocacy by a coalition of 125 organisations including RLC, responding to the September 2020 announcement by the government about plans to wind back responsible lending protections.
EARG representatives who appeared before the Committee included staff from RLC's Financial Abuse Service NSW and WEstJustice.
"Our position is we already have a law that works... We are strongly of the view that we should not be weakening the current system," RLC's Financial Abuse NSW Team Leader, Laura Bianchi said.
We and others raised significant concerns about the Bill and we are happy that as a result of this Parliament has delayed its decision on the proposed reforms until May. Now more than ever, we need your help to Save Safe Lending.
Visit the ‘Stop the Debt Disaster’ website to learn how you can help stop the removal of these important protections.
Find RLC's submissions, along with the Economic Abuse Reference Group's submission, below.
RLC Submission (February 2021)
RLC Submissions (November 2020)
Economic Abuse Reference Group (EARG) Submission (February 2021)
RLC in the media
Concern over government plans to wind back responsible lending laws (Nine News, 10 January 2021)
Debbie's story: irresponsible lending
Debbie* was in her late 50s when she separated from her partner of over 10 years. Her partner was a gambler and exercised control over all areas of her life, refused to allow her to access to their bank accounts and forced her to live off a small allowance. Any resistance was met with severe violence and her allowance being cut off.
When Debbie separated from her partner, she discovered that the home they previously owned outright had been almost entirely mortgaged through successive loans. The current lender was threatening to repossess her home as the mortgage was in arrears.
Debbie was pressured by her partner to quickly sell the home, leaving her with next to nothing once the mortgage was discharged.
Debbie was homeless and struggling to survive when she sought help from Redfern Legal Centre. Debbie was shocked to learn the amount of debt her partner had put her in. When Debbie read the joint loan application, she identified that her partner had understated their living expenses and failed to disclose their liabilities.
Debbie recalled that throughout their relationship her partner would get her to sign papers that she was not allowed to read or ask questions about. She had no recollection of ever speaking to the lender directly.
RLC's credit and debt lawyers assisted Debbie to make complaints on the basis that the lenders had not correctly applied the responsible lending laws, specifically that they had failed to make inquiries about the information in the application or consider Debbie’s requirements and objectives for the loan, given she did not receive any benefit.
On this basis, Debbie’s lawyers were able to successfully negotiate compensation and a fair resolution that allowed Debbie to start a new life, independent from her abuser.
*Name has been changed
RLC calls for transparency around police sexual assault investigation guidelines
Over the recent weeks, there has been much-needed discussion about police investigations into alleged sexual assaults.
In response to comments made by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on ABC Radio National, RLC is calling on NSW Police to release internal operating procedures that guide police on the steps to apply when commencing an investigation into an alleged sexual assault.
"Redfern Legal Centre is of the view that greater transparency is required to inform the public about the steps NSW Police should take to gather evidence, especially at the initial reporting stage, to ensure there is sufficient evidence to seek the Department of Public Prosecutions' advice," RLC's police accountability solicitor, Samantha Lee said.
Discretion and discrimination: rethinking strip searches
RLC's police accountability practice has contributed an article to CLCNSW's Law Reform Bulletin calling on the NSW Government to amend strip search law in NSW.
Drawing on data obtained by RLC showing the disproportionate targeting of police strip searches children as young as 10 and on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, solicitor Samantha Lee argues strip searches are "intrusive, humiliating and harmful" and "raise major issues of police accountability, discretion and discrimination".
RLC In the Media
NSW Police must release internal sexual assault procedures Green Left (9 March 2021)
Government banking changes ‘perpetuate abuse’, domestic violence groups fear The New Daily (25 February 2021)
Why most people won't report workplace sexual harassment The Feed SBS (17 February 2021)
Law on Police Using Body Worn Cameras in NSW Lexology (24 January 2021)
Law enforcement watchdog recommends overhaul of NSW Police strip searches NITV (15 December 2020)
Call for overhaul of police strip searches Radio National (15 December 2020)
ABA calls for best interests duty clarification The Advisor (26 November 2020)
Banks on collision course with consumer groups over responsible lending The Australian (23 November 2020)
Factsheets and resources
Accessing information from NSW Police via GIPA
Share Housing Survival Guide
With uni back in session for another year, it's a busy time for students looking for accommodation.
Share housing is a good option for many students, but finding a place to live can be daunting, especially if you're moving out of home for the first time or you're studying interstate or overseas, far away from family and friends.
RLC's Share Housing Survival Guide is a great starting point for anyone seeking advice on share house living in NSW. This online resource is designed specifically with students in mind, and provides a mix of practical and legal information for people in share housing.
Share houses are a great option for many but part of sharing is dealing with conflicts and challenges that may arise.
Pedal Power: Cycling and the Law in NSW
For a limited time, RLC's legal resource for international students is available free, thanks to support from Study NSW and City of Sydney.
Justice Bell Stepping Down
The Honourable Justice Virginia Bell AC retired from the High Court of Australia last month, after a long and distinguished legal career.
Justice Bell was a founding member of Redfern Legal Centre, and one of our pioneering early volunteers when we first opened our doors in 1977.
On 10 February, Justice Bell handed down what is likely to be her final judgement in Australia's High Court.
Justice Bell speaking at RLC’s 40th birthday celebrations, Sydney Town Hall, 2016. Photo: John Dennis.
Read the ceremonial remarks paying tribute to Justice Bell's immense legal legacy here.
New RLC website coming soon...
As part of RLC's five-year Strategic Plan, we will soon be commencing work on building a new website, to be launched later this year.
As a precursor to this work, we have created a new-look homepage that is more visual and easier to navigate. Check it out at www.rlc.org.au.
There will be much bigger changes to come, when a whole new RLC site is launched by the end of 2021.
Thank you GMFIT
A massive thank you to our friends at GMFIT Personal Training who ran a special #GMGiveback Fitness Class in March, with 100% of the proceeds going to support the work of RLC!
This tenacious bunch of fitness class goers raised over $300 for RLC in one day! Thank you so much ❤️
Find out more about GMFIT at GMFIT.Setmore.com
If you or your business would like to support RLC, contact us at info.rlc.org.au or donate by clicking below!