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.
Tian Behenna – fifth-year law and economics student at the University of Queensland
What motivated you to become a CLC volunteer?
I wanted to volunteer somewhere I could be challenged. I chose to volunteer with Community Legal Centre Queensland (CLCQ) because I thought it would be different to other work that I have done in the past at specific CLCs, and that the work would vary week to week.
What does your volunteering role involve?
My main responsibility is answering the phone and making referral for clients on to appropriate community legal centres or other services. I undertake other ad hoc administrative tasks for the CLCQ staff. This has included contacting CLCs on CLCQ staff behalf and doing some of the administrative work for CLCQ event preparation.
What do you most enjoy about volunteering?
I really like that it’s a small team. This means I’ve gotten to know the staff pretty well, and it’s a friendly and relaxing environment to work in. I also feel fully supported and appreciated by the staff there. I also enjoy being able to help clients directly by referring them on to appropriate community legal centres for assistance.
What have you gained – personally and professionally – from volunteering at a CLC?
I have gained a thorough insight into the specific work undertaken by some of Queensland’s community legal centres. I have gained communication skills from my weekly interaction with a variety of clients by telephone. I have developed more of an understanding of different clients’ circumstances, and the need that exists in the community for CLC support to secure access to justice. This was highlighted by the fact that many clients I have spoken to do not fall into the categories of people that CLCs are able to assist.
Do you find volunteering work significant, impactful or rewarding? If so, why?
I think that it is. Every week I am able to make referrals for clients on to appropriate CLCs for support. This is clearly significant for many clients who do not know where to go to get the assistance they need with their legal matters.