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Legal response to Victorian bushfires

Legal response to Victorian bushfires

By Sam Pandya, LIV President

Voluntary Associations/Pro Bono 

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Dear members,

Victoria again is in the grip of bushfires and the legal profession is preparing to assist in the recovery response over the coming weeks and months.

We are putting a call out to our members for volunteers to assist with pro bono legal assistance and other tasks, which may include community meetings.

We know from our experience in the Black Saturday bushfires that the legal profession is quick to offer support.

The LIV is a partner in Disaster Legal Help Victoria (DLHV) which was established in response to the 2009 bushfires.

Our role under the Disaster Assistance Plan includes co-ordinating offers of assistance from the private profession and assisting with communication.

The DLHV partners are Victoria Legal Aid, Federation of Community Legal Centres, Justice Connect, the Victorian Bar and the LIV.

The Disaster Legal Help Victoria partners held a telephone hook up last week to activate the legal response to these fires. We are also working with our affected country law associations through their presidents who we have also engaged with DLHV. Contact has also been made with the State Government’s Bushfire Response and Recovery Taskforce.

What can you do?

We are keen to hear from members who are able to offer pro bono legal support over the coming weeks and months.

This includes lawyers with experience in insurance, credit, tenancy and general legal issues.

We are particularly keen to hear from lawyers in the affected areas of Gippsland and North East Victoria.

Assistance may include visiting relief centres or community meetings or providing referrals for affected victims of the fires.

If you are interested, please submit your details and areas of interest HERE through Disaster Legal Help Victoria and you will be contacted with further information on assistance required.

Public information:

The website www.disasterlegalhelp.org.au contains useful information and factsheets on common areas of legal concern including fencing, property, destroyed documents and dealing with insurance and mortgage problems.

The Disaster Legal Help Victoria phone line is 1800 113 432 for free information on legal issues and options for ongoing assistance.

Other assistance for practitioners:

For those solicitors whose practice has been destroyed or damaged in the fires, the LIV, in association with the Victorian Legal Services Board and the Legal Practitioners’ Liability Committee, can assist in relation to queries on:

  • Trust accounting;
  • Professional support for loss of files; and
  • Professional support in costs, ethics and regulatory compliance for any affected legal practice.
  • Advice in relation to management of professional risks

Please contact LIV’s Professional Standards team PSQA@liv.asn.au.

And if the bushfires raise any issues for you or your colleagues support is available through our Employee Assistance Program – Converge on 1300 687 327.

Public appeal:

If you are wanting to support the community directly the Premier has requested that financial assistance is the best way and the government have set up the Bushfire Appeal at www.vic.gov.au/bushfireappeal

Next steps

We will keep you informed of disaster legal activities and plans.

It is likely that it could take some time after the immediate impact of the fires for people to seek help with legal issues.

We know that the legal profession stands ready to support our communities in the long term and difficult task of rebuilding their lives.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Sam Pandya
LIV President


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