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.
Natasha Shorter – criminal law senior associate Armstrong Legal
What motivated you to become a CLC volunteer?
As cliché as it sounds, I wanted to help make a difference, and give those people who require advice or assistance navigating the criminal justice system. Often the people who reach out to our service are from a disadvantaged background. They often do not have the means to pay for a private lawyer and are anxious about the unknown. I wanted to be able to assist those people so that they feel more confident and empowered to get themselves through a very stressful time of their lives.
What does your volunteering role involve?
I volunteer fortnightly on a Monday evening and provide clients with advice about their legal matter, explaining processes and procedures, penalties, and options
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I feel like we are able to bridge the gap and help those who may otherwise fall through the cracks. Even if we can’t assist on an ongoing basis, or the initial advice we provide isn’t enough, we have the ability to point them in the right direction to other providers and organisations who can. There is also a very supportive, organised, hardworking team involved with BCLS. It is amazing to be a part of such a team. It’s a very rewarding role.
What have you gained – personally and professionally – from volunteering at a CLC?
Professionally, I have learnt how to better communicate with a diverse range of client and adapt my communication style accordingly. I have also increased my ability to more rapidly problem solve. Personally, it has given me more gratitude for what I do as a job. Being able help people who are in a vulnerable position is very fulfilling.
Do you find volunteering work significant, impactful or rewarding? If so, why?
Absolutely – when you get a message from someone you have assisted thanking you for putting their mind at ease or advising you that they have resolved their matter and you played a role in that process, there is nothing more rewarding or humbling.