Queensland has 34 not-for-profit community legal centres (CLCs) dotted across the state.
They have a long, established history of harnessing volunteer support and providing pro bono legal advice and assistance to society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable people and communities.
Volunteering Queensland – the state’s chief non-profit volunteer and community engagement organisation – estimates that as many as 700,000 of the state’s 5.18 million people give freely of their time each year to make an extraordinary impact on the people, communities and environments in which they live.
Many of these are lawyers.
As part of this week’s Queensland Law Week (May 18-24) and National Volunteer Week (May 17-23) celebrations, QLS Proctor is featuring some of the many selfless members of the profession who regularly give back to their local communities.
Aimee South – Senior Solicitor at Simonidis Steel Lawyers
What motivated you to become a CLC volunteer?
I am a Senior Solicitor at Simonidis Steel Lawyers. I was admitted as a solicitor in 2007 and I have practised almost exclusively in family law since then. I began volunteering at a community legal service as a junior solicitor. I saw it not just as an opportunity to expand my legal skills and knowledge, but to also give back to the community. It is very important to ensure that anyone is able to access legal services when they need it, irrespective of their financial circumstances. Community legal centres play an important role, and I wanted to be a part of that.
What does your volunteering role involve?
I volunteer at the Bayside Community Legal Service’s evening legal advice clinic about once a month. I usually see between three and four clients an evening, and each appointment takes about 30 minutes each. I am sent information about each client and their legal issue a few days before the clinic, and afterwards I send a copy of the legal advice given in the appointment to our principal solicitor.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
The clients I speak to are moving through a very distressing period in their lives. They often feel vulnerable, disempowered and bewildered. I do feel a sense of fulfilment in being able to provide clients with clarity, reassurance and guidance. I do also enjoy meeting and catching up with the other volunteers at the centre. We have numerous solicitors who specialise in different areas of law, but also a number of law students.
What have you gained – personally and professionally – from volunteering at a CLC?
Volunteering has given me ongoing opportunities for growth, both professionally and personally. It is great to be a part of the volunteer community and of course, the more we give the more we will receive.
Do you find volunteering work significant, impactful or rewarding?
I do find that, personally, volunteering is very rewarding. I do enjoy the feeling that I have helped someone, even if it is in the smallest way. Community legal centres have a real and positive impact on the clients who access them. Their role in our community is significant.