An innovative style of free legal advice opened its doors last month at Macquarie Fields Salvation Army (NSW). The ‘pop-up’ legal bureau, which operates by appointment on the second and fourth Monday of the month until mid-October, aims to provide legal advice to those who need it most, says Salvos Legal Humanitarian senior associate, Carla Black.
How did the idea of a pop-up legal bureau come about?
Salvos Legal Humanitarian has been in operation now for more than five years. In that time (including with our predecessor, Courtyard Legal) we have provided legal advice in 16,000 cases. Our mission is to provide holistic justice for all people so that no-one is without a trusted adviser in their time of need.
As part of this, we strive to reach as many people as possible and thus the idea of a pop-up bureau was born. During our time at Macquarie Fields, we will assess the level of need for our services and if there is a strong need we will look at the possibility of keeping the bureau open longer term.
Is this the first pop-up bureau Salvos Legal has launched?
Yes—although we are also looking at other locations to trial. We are extremely grateful for the support of The Salvation Army Macquarie Fields corps officer (minister), Christian White, and his staff who have made it possible for us to trial the pop-up bureau concept.
Why did you set it up in Macquarie Fields?
Macquarie Fields is a Salvation Army mission, and quite similar to our very successful Salvos Legal Humanitarian office at the Soundpoint Youth and Community Centre in Goodna (Qld). Most of our other advice bureaus in NSW operate out of a Salvo corps (church), so we liked the idea of trying something new here.
The Macquarie Fields mission is a vibrant community hub and we were impressed with the set-up the moment we set foot there.
Who staffs it?
At all of our advice bureaus we have one supervising solicitor employed by Salvos Legal Humanitarian. At the moment I am supervising our pop-up bureau at Macquarie Fields. Our chaplain, Amanda Lennestaal, also accompanies me to provide chaplaincy support to those who require it, and we are lucky to have one volunteer solicitor from Gadens law firm. Our service is driven by volunteers and we are always looking for passionate volunteers who will help us provide access to justice in local communities.
What kinds of issues do you deal with?
People come to Salvos Legal with an incredibly diverse range of legal issues, including immigration, family, care and protection, criminal, debt, neighbourhood disputes and Centrelink disputes. If a client comes to see us about a legal issue in an area we don’t practise in, we always provide referrals to other solicitors.
Has there been a high demand on the bureau’s services? How many people have accessed the bureau since it has opened?
It’s still early days for our advice bureau (at the time of writing it had only been open twice) but we have already seen more than 10 clients and expect demand to grow as more people find out about
The Macquarie Fields mission is doing a great job of getting the word out and has even made us an amazing banner.
What have been the rewarding aspects of taking your legal services ‘on the road’?
Getting to work alongside other wonderful services that The Salvation Army provides, such as Moneycare. The Macquarie Fields mission is attempting to be holistic and it’s wonderful to be situated alongside a community cafe,
op shop, TAFE classes, an after-school care program as well as Zumba classes! Some good things are happening at Macquarie Fields and it’s rewarding just watching it being rolled out.
Will you repeat the model in other areas?
We certainly hope so. Salvos Legal is constantly changing and growing. As we grow we will have greater capacity to reach more communities so…watch this space!