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Pro bono: Four years more

Every Issue

Cite as: (2005) 79(11) LIJ, p. 79


The National Pro Bono Resource Centre has set its agenda for the next four years.

The National Pro Bono Resource Centre had its strategic planning day on 7 September 2005 anticipating its next four years following the decision of the federal government in the May Budget to fund the centre until July 2009.

The planning day followed a public consultation process which produced valuable contributions in response to a consultation paper from law firms, Attorneys-General, legal aid commissions, community legal centres, law societies, referral schemes and clearing houses and corporate lawyers.

The centre’s board and advisory council met and distilled the following 10 themes to provide a focus for the centre’s future work:

The centre should:

  • increase its dialogue with government-funded legal service providers to ensure that pro bono is a complementary form of service delivery to government-funded legal services;
  • work to raise the pro bono ethos across the whole legal profession with a view to the burden being spread more evenly between lawyers. Particular emphasis should be placed on mid-tier firms, inhouse corporate and government lawyers and law students;
  • provide leadership on issues concerning the delivery of legal services to socially and/or economically disadvantaged or marginalised people and in coordinating activities that make it easier for pro bono service providers to help deliver these services alongside government funded legal service providers;
  • work to achieve better pro bono structures in the states and territories where the pro bono presence is limited by factors such as the size or capacity of the legal profession or prevailing attitudes;
  • be a national centre of expertise and authority about pro bono legal practice in Australia and overseas and identify new models of service delivery. The centre should provide practical assistance and increased information and resources for the legal profession, including statistical information and mapping of existing services, and it should identify gaps;
  • continue to address the difficulties associated with obtaining pro bono assistance in rural, regional and remote Australia;
  • remain innovative and flexible in approach and activities and not become institutionalised;
  • over time, shift its emphasis from leadership and promotion to facilitation and brokering of pro bono relationships;
  • better inform relevant areas of government about legal service gaps, funding issues and the role of the centre so as facilitate better communication and knowledge within government about these issues; and
  • resist corporate social responsibility being a substitute for pro bono work on the basis that the pro bono obligations of the legal profession must stand apart from the broader question of how a corporation can be socially responsible.

A full strategic plan for the centre for 2005-09 can be viewed on the centre’s website at http://www.nationalprobono.org.au.

At the annual National Community Legal Centres (CLCs) conference held 9-12 October, the National Pro Bono Resource Centre launched a new website and database that has been developed with the National Association of Community Legal Centres to help coordinate volunteering at CLCs across Australia.

The site aims to facilitate legal and non-legal volunteers by keeping information current about volunteering opportunities at each CLC. The site at http://www.clcvolunteers.net.au provides a place where volunteers can locate a CLC in their area and determine whether a volunteering opportunity exists at that centre.

In Victoria the site builds on the work already done by Monash and Latrobe University law students who established the http://www.lawvolunteers.org.au website and database in January 2003, the development of which was supported by the Victoria Law Foundation.

Rather than duplicate this facility for CLCs in Victoria, the clcvolunteers site links all queries about Victorian CLCs direct to the lawvolunteers site.

Looking to help?

To facilitate lawyers and firms becoming involved in pro bono work other than legal services, the LIJ will profile a community group and its needs each month.

Name of group Extended Families Australia Inc
Address Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Contact person Julie Langdon
Title Manager
Ph 9650 7216 or 0425 706 170
Email manager@extendedfamilies.org.au
Website http://www.extendedfamilies.org.au

Brief description of work of group
Established in 1978, Extended Families is an association that provides vital, practical assistance to children with disabilities and their families. By matching a child with a mature aged volunteer or “grandparent”, Extended Families offers a unique, mutually beneficial and caring relationship between the child, the child’s family and the volunteer “grandparent”.
Our volunteer “grandparents” spend regular time each week with the child, engaging in simple but hugely significant activities such as playing games or going to the park. They are also a lifeline to the families they help support.

Current needs of group
Corporate governance training for the committee of management, specifically relating to not-for-profit governance.
Board member as legal counsel for EFA.
Financial support to minimise our waiting list: $2500 will provide one year of support to one child with a disability.

For more information about volunteering, visit
http://www.goodcompany.com.au
http://www.probonoaustralia.com
http://www.ourcommunity.com.au
http://www.govolunteer.com.au


JOHN CORKER is director of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre. This column is coordinated by the VICTORIA LAW FOUNDATION (VLF). For further information contact the Pro Bono Secretariat via the VLF’s website http://www.victorialaw.org.au.

probonocolumn@liv.asn.au

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