The Toongabbie-based centre has been providing free legal advice, referral service and information to residents for almost four years, writes Pallavi Sinha ( For Indian Link )
The formal launch of Toongabbie Legal Centre (TLC) and its website took place recently at the church hall where it operates in Toongabbie. TLC is a community legal centre providing free legal advice, referral service and information. TLC started its operations on 13 October 2007 as a Saturday only community legal service. Since July 2009, TLC has offered a Thursday evening legal service in addition to Saturdays.
TLC also conducts community legal education seminar and contributes to law reform. “We wanted to hold a formal function after our feasibility has been tested and our legal service has been firmly established,” Honorary Coordinator of TLC, Susai Benjamin said. “We have established a track record of sustaining ourselves for almost four years with the support of over 60 volunteers and we feel this is good time to hold a formal launch and at the same time celebrate our success so far.”
The formal launch of TLC was opened with a vibrant east African dance. Light snacks were provided to a huge crowd that filled the church hall and comprised of members of the community and social welfare groups. Federal and State Members of Parliaments were present such as the Hon. Robert McClelland, Federal Attorney General; Laurie Ferguson, Member for Reid; Paul Lynch, Member for Liverpool; and Julie Owens, Member for Parramatta.
Speeches were given by the Hon. Justice Margaret Beazley, Patron of TLC, the Hon Robert McClelland and representatives of the Law and Justice Foundation and TLC. The Hon Robert McClelland stated that TLC is an example of access to justice at grass roots level. He paid tribute to the great work that TLC has done with the collaboration of volunteers, and noted the valuable funding provided by the Law and Justice Foundation. He highlighted that the involvement of lawyers in probono services is a third higher than it was four years ago. The Principal Solicitor of TLC, Michael Vassili, said that TLC has provided 2000 consultations to the community and operates with few resources.
The dedicated volunteers at TLC comprise of solicitors, migration agents, law students, educators, information technologists, social workers, financial experts and community activists. According to Mr. Benjamin, since its commencement, TLC has assisted over 800 clients with over 1000 client visits. Assistance has been provided in areas such as consumer and community law, criminal law including domestic violence and victims of violence, traffic offences, family and employment law, property law, debt collection, guardianship, neighbourhood disputes, discrimination and immigration. Appointments are not necessary and TLC operates a drop-in service on Thursdays between 6.30 pm and 8.30 pm and Saturdays between 10 am – 12.45 pm.
For more information about the TLC and their projects, see website www.tlc.asn.au or phone 1300 373 353.
In relation to future plans, Mr. Benjamin said “I am optimistic of the future and hope that the Federal Government and State Government will see the rationale for the existence of the community legal service based in Toongabbie. We are now working on the proposal to open an Outreach Legal Service in Blacktown.”