Major funding boost for Bendigo Health-Justice Partnership

L-R: Attorney-General Martin Pakula, ARC Justice EO Hayley Mansfield, Clayton Utz Partner Steven Murray, Loddon Campaspe CLC Manager & Principal Lawyer Lindy Harland, Member for Bendigo West Maree Edwards.

Loddon Campaspe CLC recently welcomed the Victorian Government’s announcement of $200,000 funding over two years. This funding will enable us to continue to deliver our innovative Health-Justice Partnership with Bendigo Community Health Services at Kangaroo Flat.

At the announcement of the funding, ARC Justice EO, Hayley Mansfield, explained how the funding will help vulnerable members of the local commuity.

‘Health-Justice Partnerships recognise that many legal conflicts present as health issues, such as anxiety or depression. By working together, health and legal services can help clients to address their health, social and legal issues. This funding will allow us to continue to reach vulnerable members of our community who would otherwise not seek legal advice and support.’

Health-Justice Partnerships recognise that health and allied health professions are a key access point for individuals seeking assistance with a wide variety of problems. By embedding a legal service within a health service, both services can improve the health outcomes for vulnerable individuals, many of whom have experienced trauma or negative experiences of the legal system.

Research undertaken by Australian National University from 2013 to 2016 found that our Bendigo Health-Justice Partnership reached clients who would otherwise not have sought legal help. The role played by patients’ trusted health or allied health professional was critical.

Ninety per cent of clients interviewed by ANU said that without the Health-Justice Partnership they would not have sought legal help. The research further found that patients’ knowledge around their rights and responsibilities increased by 73%, their confidence in engaging with services increased by 91%, and their knowledge of their options increased by 91%.

Sixty per cent of the patients studied reported that their stress levels had decreased significantly as a result of their engagement with the Health-Justice Partnership lawyer. One hundred per cent noted that the program had a positive impact on their stress and anxiety levels.

ANU’s research also found that health and allied health professionals’ capacity to confidently respond to patients’ legal issues had increased.

Hayley Mansfield: ‘This funding vindicates ANU’s research findings and recognises the great work undertaken by our lawyers and the staff at Bendigo Community Health Services. ANU noted in 2016 that with ongoing funding, the Bendigo Health-Justice Partnership would continue to reach clients who would otherwise not access essential legal help. This funding announcement by the Victorian Government will increase access to justice for some of the most vulnerable individuals in regional and rural Victoria.’

Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula and the Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, were on hand for the announcment. We were particularly pleased that Steven Murray, Partner at Clayton Utz, whose seed funding allowed us to demonstrate a model that has now been picked up by government, could join us for the announcement.

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