RLC ebulletin: November 2020

Our November e-Bulletin highlights work RLC is doing in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

During NAIDOC Week, RLC launched a First Nations artwork alongside our new Theory of Change and strategic plan, which includes strategic goals to support First Nations people, and will guide our work to 2025.

We also announced a change in Board leadership, with RLC Board Director Amy Munro stepping down from her position as Chair and welcoming her successor, Kerry O'Brien, who is the first Koori Chair of the RLC Board.

This month's e-Bulletin also features new RLC webinars, and highlights our concerns about proposed reforms to responsible lending laws, new data on strip searches, and calls for more affordable housing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Redfern-Waterloo area. Read the full e-Bulletin here: https://bit.ly/37r3Yu6



News and Events

Celebrating NAIDOC Week 2020


Some reflections on the theme of NAIDOC Week 2020 from RLC's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Access worker.

The theme of NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation’s story didn’t begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 - with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.



L-R: Wiradjuri artist Sharon Smith and RLC's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Access Worker, Maureen Randell.

'Always Was, Always Will be' recognises that the very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nations peoples.



Introducing our Theory of Change and Strategic Plan 2020-2025


Since 2019, RLC has been engaged in an intensive strategic planning process to create a roadmap that will inform our work for the next five years.

This month, we launched our robust new Theory of Change and strategic plan for the 2020–2025 year period.



RLC's new Theory of Change and Strategic Plan includes strategic goals in relation to services for First Nations people.


New First Nations artwork for RLC  


During NAIDOC Week, RLC proudly unveiled our beautiful First Nations artwork created by local Boomalli artist, Sharon Smith.


This stunning new work, commissioned with support from City of Sydney, will welcome people to our centre with the message that RLC is a warm and culturally safe place.


Board and staff celebrate the unveiling of RLC's new First Nations artwork during NAIDOC Week.


Celebrating Change: RLC's 2020 Annual General Meeting


At RLC's Annual General Meeting, RLC Board and staff paid tribute to outgoing Chair of the Board, Amy Munro, who is departing RLC after 20 years' service.

Amy leaves an immense legacy, and her care and compassion will be greatly missed.


Pictured (right): Outgoing Chair, Amy Munro at her final RLC AGM, November 2020.

We were delighted to welcome an equally gifted and passionate successor to the role of Chair, Kerry O'Brien, who is first Koori Chair of the RLC Board.



Working for change

Concern over repeal of responsible lending laws

In September, the Government announced a suite of changes to Australia’s consumer credit framework contained in the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 aimed at reducing red tape for lenders as part of the Government’s economic recovery plans.

RLC has joined with 125 organisations including Financial Rights Legal Centre, and other leading consumer groups, financial counsellors and domestic violence advocates signing an open letter raising concerns about the removal of these critical protections for consumers.

Laura Bianchi, team leader of Redfern Legal Centre’s Financial Abuse Service NSW said they have grave concerns about the impact of removing lending protections on people experiencing domestic and family violence.  


“The wind back of responsible lending obligations will have dire consequences for people experiencing financial abuse. Coerced debt is a common factor preventing victim-survivors from leaving a violent relationship and re-establishing their lives,” Ms Bianchi said. 

“Removing these critical protections at a time when so many women are more vulnerable than ever to economic abuse could have devastating results.”



In the media 

Looser lending laws may lead to worse financial abuse, campaigners warn

The Sydney Morning Herald | 16 November 2020)



Dramatic rise in police strip searches on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

NSW Police figures obtained during by RLC via freedom of information laws highlight a dramatic rise in strip searches of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“These figures paint a disturbing new picture of police strip searches,” RLC police accountability solicitor, Samantha Lee said.

“We already know that police are conducting strip searches on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at disproportionately high rates. But we now also know that this disparity is increasing.


“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should not have to live in fear of being strip-searched by police. This harmful practice is eroding good community relations and feeds into distrust and fear of the police,” Ms Lee said.


In the media 

NSW police strip-searched 96 children in past year, some as young as 11

(Guardian Australia, 2 November 2020).


Push for more social and affordable housing for Aboriginal people in inner Sydney

Over 20 local community and legal groups, including Redfern Legal Centre, joined forces as the Redfern Waterloo Alliance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and Allies to start a campaign for more social and affordable housing.

The Alliance seeks a policy response and commitment to targets from the NSW Government to deliver Aboriginal affordable housing on all government-controlled land in the Redfern-Waterloo area. 



In the media 

'This needs to be a priority': Push for more Aboriginal housing in inner Sydney (The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 October 2020).


COVID-19 laws should not prevent the public’s right to protest

RLC has raised concerns about rough handling of protesters and observers by NSW Police at a University of Sydney protest.

"The purpose of the COVID-19 public health law is to prevent the spread of disease, not to prevent the public’s right to protest,” RLC police accountability solicitor, Samantha Lee said.

A number of arrests were made during the Sydney University event held in protest of increases to higher education fees, with alleged reports and some video footage showing rough handling by police.


Photo: Honi Soit.

The arrests included University of Sydney Law Professor Simon Rice, a bystander at the event, who was reportedly forced to the ground by police as he attempted to leave the protest area.

In the media

Head of Sydney Law School condemns 'hard' policing of student protests (Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October 2020).


Webinars and Factsheets 

On Wednesday 9 December, Redfern Legal Centre and DLA Piper present a webinar about police powers, protests and the law in NSW. 

Facilitated by RLC police accountability solicitor Samantha Lee, this webinar is for anyone who has attended a protest – or is considering attending one – and wants to know more about their legal rights.


  • Felicity Graham: Barrister, Blackstone Chambers, and former Trial Advocate for Aboriginal Legal Service

  • Jane Sanders: Principal solicitor of the Shopfront Youth Legal Centre.

  • Peter O'Brien: Principal Lawyer and founder of O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors

What are your legal rights if:

  • you are protesting in a group of more than 20?
  • you are told to move on by police?
  • you are arrested?
  • force is used against you?
  • you are under 18?
  • you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander?
  • you are kettle sprayed or capsicum sprayed?

From Friday 23 October, the NSW Government has announced that a protest or demonstration about governmental or political matters of up to 500 people will be permitted in an outdoor public place.

The person principally responsible for organising the protest or demonstration must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan. 

If you attend a protest event, it is important to be informed about your rights and what to do if approached by police.


COVID-19 and Your Visa

In October, RLC's International Student Legal Service NSW presented a free webinar for international students and community workers, entitled 'COVID-19 and Your Visa'.

Many international students in NSW are experiencing visa issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have questions about visa cancellations and extensions.

This RLC webinar examines common visa issues for international students during COVID-19 and where to get visa advice. 


  • Melanie Macfarlane, CEO and Principal Migration Consultant
  • Michal Sestak, Education and Migration Consultant
  • Ursula Ng, Migration Consultant. 


Facilitator: Sean Stimson, International Student Solicitor, RLC's International Student Legal Service NSW.

For more legal tips, download My Legal Mate, RLC's free legal app for international students in NSW. Available in 7 languages.

Thanks to support from NSW Government and City of Sydney, My Legal Mate is available free to international students in NSW. APPLY HERE>

See also: RLC factsheet

​COVID-19 and Your Visa factsheet 


Other News

UNSW academics honoured with pre-eminent legal research awards for RLC strip search report

Two UNSW Sydney Law academics have been awarded for their work on a research report commissioned by RLC to reform unjust strip search law. 

The UNSW report found an almost twentyfold increase in strip searches in less than 12 years.


Dr Vicki Sentas (L) and Dr Michael Grewcock (R) were recognised in the category of non-traditional research output for authoring the report, Rethinking Strip Searches by NSW Police

The awards for the research were issued at the inaugural Australian Legal Research Awards (ALRA).



Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families continues at 'alarming rate': Family Matters report 2020

The latest Family Matters Report report, which monitors the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, highlights a continued escalation in the number of First Nations children removed from their families in 2020.

Based on the current trajectory, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care is projected to double by 2029.



Download the report here


Support RLC!

RLC relies on community support to help sustain our work. Help us support communities in crisis during COVID-19 by donating to Redfern Legal Centre.

Donations of $2 or more are tax-deductible.


RLC staff and volunteers say thank you!