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Law Week and Volunteer Week celebrate those helping our most vulnerable

One of the most celebrated ethicists and legal rights campaigners of the 20th Century, Indian lawyer and humanitarian Mahatma Gandhi, said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable.”

It is a quote that has resonated throughout generations since his assassination in 1948 and inspired countless people to dedicate their professional skills to assist and provide life-changing help to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society.

Today, Queensland kicks off both Law Week and National Volunteer Week with events that celebrate and highlight the important work that the legal profession and volunteers do every day. This week, QLS Proctor pays tribute to many selfless members of the profession who regularly give back to their local 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.

There are more than 13,000 solicitors certified to practise in Queensland – with Queensland Law Society acting as the peak body to provide leadership, guidance and support to all its practitioners.

According to Society’s last annual report: “QLS empowers good lawyers, advocates for good law and serves the public good by providing a clear and passionate voice for solicitors and the legal profession in Queensland.”

The QLS 2020 Access to Justice Scorecard revealed that QLS members undertook an average of 19.48 hours of pro bono work each year – a total of almost 243,414 hours of pro bono work in Queensland.

The benefits of pro bono work include improved skills and experience for practitioners, but importantly it is the direct provision of legal services to people who would otherwise be unable to retain legal assistance.

The QLS Pro Bono Scheme is managed by LawRight. This valuable initiative aims to enhance the standing of the profession and gives QLS members a structured system in which to demonstrate practical support for their communities.

There are also many practitioners who dedicate much of their time working specifically for community legal centres (CLCs) – not-for-profit organisations that rely on limited government funding and assistance from Legal Aid Queensland to provide a range of general and specialist services to those without the capacity to help themselves.

Queensland’s CLCs provide free information, legal assistance and referral, representation and casework, community education and advocacy for vulnerable clients and communities facing legal problems.

The state’s peak legal centre body – Community Legal Centres Queensland (CLCQ) – provides support for 34 independent CLCs which supply an invaluable service to those in most need.

Queensland CLCs have a long, established history of harnessing volunteer support The CLCQ says that: “Volunteering in a (CLC) not only supports the work of providing free legal assistance and advice to the community, but it also plays an important part in building the careers and networks of future legal practitioners.”

Data supplied by CLCQ showed that last year:

  • Volunteers contributed more than 4000 volunteering hours in Queensland community legal centres in one year.
  • There are around 1500 volunteers working in Queensland community legal centres each year.
  • More than 60% of volunteers contributed 1-2 hours and more than 20% contributed 3-5 hours each week.
  • Types of work undertaken by CLC volunteers include direct legal service delivery, policy advocacy and law reform, community legal education, administrative support, accounting and bookkeeping, fundraising and sponsorship activities.

Some of the centres which serve the community thanks to the efforts of tireless practitioners include LawRight, Women’s Legal Service Queensland, QAI (Queensland Advocacy Incorporated), Tenants Queensland, Caxton Legal Centre and RAILS (Refugee and Immigration Legal Service).

See a full list of CLCQ’s 34 members and consider where you may be able to volunteer your assistance.

QLS Proctor will feature practitioners who make a difference in their community each day from tomorrow, Tuesday 18 May.

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