Criminal lawyer Darryl Annett has been practising law for more than 35 years. As the new ‘humanitarian partner’ for Salvos Legal in Melbourne, he tells Jessica Morris why he is so passionate about using his skills to help those in need.
How did you become interested in law?
My choice to study law was influenced significantly by my education, in particular by a Christian Brother who talked to all his students about areas of interest, and our skills and pathways in further education after secondary school.
I confess I had a vague interest in psychology, but he urged me to consider law. In the end I put law as my first preference, and was successful. I did law at Monash, which required students do a double degree, so I did a minor sequence in psychology in my first degree. Somewhat ironically I was offered a position at the end of second year to transfer to psychology but elected to stay in law.
Salvos Legal has been in Sydney and Brisbane for several years. Why are its services needed in Melbourne?
In Melbourne there’s been a real focus on homelessness and the people who are on the margins, and a lot of the services and government agencies have struggled to come up with appropriate responses. It seems to me that while Salvos Legal certainly hasn’t got all the answers, it offers a significant contribution of protecting the interests of people who are missing out.
Why do so many people experiencing homelessness need legal services?
It is a situation which tends to bring the person to the attention of the community
—both its structures and its members. It can also bring the person into conflict. A shopkeeper may complain about a homeless person sitting near their business and confront them. The police may intervene. Hunger may drive the person to minor theft, or travelling on public transport without tickets.
The absence of a ‘fixed address’ makes contact difficult, and recipients are more likely to miss communications. People who are homeless are often in chaotic circumstances and find it difficult to advocate effectively on their own behalf; they generally find it difficult to chart the processes and requirements of society, including the instruments of government.
There is also an issue around successfully connecting conventional legal support services to those who are homeless because of the transient and often disorganised nature of their life.
Once Salvos Legal is set up in Melbourne, what is the procedure for someone who wants your assistance, or who would like to volunteer?
Our plan is to establish the Advice Bureau network as it exists in Sydney and Brisbane already. This will extend our already strong team of skilled and passionate lawyers and migration agents (and barristers who can offer their services free of charge) to Melbourne. We also have a telephone advice service, which is already available to Victorian clients. Advice is given Wednesdays 10 am–4 pm, and operates via an appointment service.
Overall, we can provide free legal services in relation to the following areas:
• police matters
• family and children’s law
• migration and refugee law
• human rights and public interest law
• credit and debt
• housing law
• social security law
This may be high-end and well-resourced one-off advice, limited assistance or even full representation (subject to our Means and Merits Test) in circumstances where disadvantaged individuals are facing social injustice.
Volunteers can contact our volunteer co-ordinator, Sophia McCrindle, on phone 02 8202 1500; fax 02 8202 1590; email firstname.lastname@example.org
How does Salvos Legal services both fulfil and support the mission of the Army?
Our mission is to provide holistic justice funded by a competitively priced commercial legal service to the general public. We are a firm of leading professionals with various areas of expertise who offer our skill and experience. We will strive to create systemic change in the availability of access to justice for all people so that no- one is without a trusted adviser to provide comfort and counsel in their time of need.
Our aim is not only to exist as a law firm. We recognise that our clients often have other pressing non-legal needs and are managing other complicated issues in their lives. To this end, we can engage clients with other Salvation Army social and pastoral services such as drug and alcohol recovery, employment assistance, housing, welfare, counselling, financial management and aged care.
For more information about Salvos Legal, visit salvoslegal.com.au.