AG with volunteers
When faced with troubling legal problems, sometimes it’s just about knowing where to turn. The University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta Community Justice Clinic initiative is helping the most vulnerable in our community with free legal advice and support when they most need it.
Located in the heart of the Parramatta Justice Precinct, the Parramatta Community Justice Clinic (PCJC) is run by UWS law students under the close supervision of practicing solicitors from Macquarie Legal Centre and is primarily utilised by disadvantaged members of the community who cannot afford legal representation.
Clients can choose to make appointments or simply drop-in to the PCJC, where the law students are available to assist on civil, criminal and family law matters ranging from traffic offences and motor vehicle accidents, home building and neighbourhood disputes, to family breakdown, divorce and child support.
Students also assist clients with the often daunting administrative side of the law – helping them to understand and complete the legal paperwork and helping them with court preparation – as well as providing referrals to other external legal services.
Since it first opened its doors in November 2009, the PCJC has seen some 135 students working in the Clinic, many of whom continue to help out on a volunteer basis.
UWS Vice Chancellor, Professor Janice Reid, says the PCJC initiative is another example of the University’s commitment to ‘Bring Knowledge to Life’ for the people of the Greater Western Sydney region.
“It is fitting that we are launching the PCJC during Law Week, as it reminds us how important it is to have fair and free access to legal services and representation for all members of the community, regardless of their educational, socio-economic, or cultural backgrounds,” says Professor Reid.
“Working in the PCJC also gives our law students an invaluable learning experience – allowing many of them to work with clients for the first time in a context which gives the principles of fairness and social justice which they have studied a human face.
“One of the greatest strengths of the UWS School of Law is its active commitment to socially-just legal practice, and the way in which it challenges our students to serve their communities with commitment, fairness and empathy.
“The real-life experience our students gain from working in the PCJC not only prepares them for the rigours and realities of the legal profession, but is an opportunity to help those in our community who would otherwise be left on the margins of the social institutions in Australian society meant to provide fairness and justice for all.”
The PCJC is an initiative of the University of Western Sydney in partnership with the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney General, Macquarie Legal Centre and Parramatta City Council. It is also strongly supported by members of the Parramatta and Greater Western Sydney legal profession, local businesses and community groups.
Funding for the initiative has been provided by the Federal Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations through its Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund.
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