In March and April Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre hosted three community consultations across the region. The consultations were held in Shepparton, Seymour and Cobram. The aim of the consultations was to invite feedback from key local agencies about the centre’s performance and future challenges.
More than 30 people, representing the major community service providers in the region, attended the sessions and told us about the areas of legal advice and advocacy requiring particular attention in their respective communities.
One message came through loud and clear from participants: “A lot has happened since the Goulburn Valley CLC opened full-time in September 2012, but news about the services the CLC offers is not getting out to the wider community.”
Another key message from participants was that the Goulburn Valley residents most in need of additional legal services were people with mental health issues, the aged and homeless.
The consultations featured several presenters. In Shepparton, Family Care CEO David Tennant gave a powerful presentation on why it is so important that the Goulburn Valley has a community legal centre. David spoke from personal experience about the community legal sector’s proud history of advocating for the most disadvantaged members of society and related this to the significant socio-economic issues facing many Goulburn Valley residents. David also spoke about the local community’s role in shaping the centre’s future.
Loddon Campaspe CLC Coordinator, Peter Noble, outlined the short history of Goulburn Valley CLC, which is a program of Bendigo’s Advocacy and Rights Centre and a division of Loddon Campaspe CLC.
Goulburn Valley CLC lawyers Sara Molenaar and Kaz Gurney presented data on the centre’s activities and outlined the extent to which their work encompassed various areas of law.
Family law and family violence matters have accounted for nearly 50% of the Goulburn Valley CLC’s workload. Two-thirds of these clients were seen in Shepparton. The CLC also dealt with a range of other legal issues, including criminal and traffic matters, debt problems, motor vehicle accidents, wills and powers of attorney.
Kaz and Sara spoke about the community legal education seminars the Goulburn Valley CLC has presented to local schools. They also noted that the centre has worked with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to deliver legal advice sessions at Rumbalara and facilitated legal training sessions for lawyers and support workers in the region.
Consultation participants identified the need for information on legal and advocacy services relevant to local residents. Following from the consultations, Goulburn Valley CLC updated its website to include a page with contact details and links to relevant organisations: Other Local Services. A print version of this information will be produced later in 2013.
As a result of the consultations, the Goulburn Valley CLC is looking for ways to improve its regional profile and to service the particular needs of those local residents most in need of additional legal services.