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Community centre lawyers champion social justice

Community legal centres epitomise social justice principles, lawyer Julie Mason told a gathering in Cairns yesterday.

The Supervising Solicitor at North Queensland Women’s Legal Service in Cairns presented Social Justice as a Superpower with Julie Mason as the first session for this year’s James Cook University (JCU) Law Seminar Series.

From JCU’s Smithfield campus, Julie spoke about her experiences as a lawyer volunteering and working in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, and the appeal of a legal career in the sector.

She gave examples of how community legal centres embodied the five main principles of social justice: access to resources, equity, participation, diversity and human rights.

Julie Mason presenting in Cairns yesterday.

“(I) encourage you to utilise your privilege and skills to bring about positive outcomes for many individuals and families throughout Australia who are caught up in the legal system and have no understanding of what options are available to them, or have a legal problem or problems and have no idea how to manage or resolve them, which may lead to disastrous consequences for themselves and their families,” she told the audience.

Julie described many of the benefits of working in the NFP sector, including the ability to work and relocate anywhere in Australia; the opportunity for advocacy; and a 38-hour working week, with generous allowances, and opportunities for education and networking.

“And of course, (there’s) the underlying personal and professional satisfaction and reward from achieving successful outcomes for thousands of people who, without your legal knowledge and assistance, would be floundering in a legal system they don’t understand, (and) are unable to access because of lack of money or resources, lack of English skills, physical and intellectual disabilities, or simply fear of discrimination,”  she said.

Julie explained how the various definitions of social justice included fairness, and how that fairness manifested in areas such as health care, employment and housing, before she took questions from an enthusiastic audience.

For details of other six presentations in the James Cook University Law Seminar Series, visit the website.

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