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Working on wills

Working on wills

By Georgia Murphy-Haste

Practice & Procedure Wills 

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Collaboration with Indigenous communities is paramount.

Since 2016, Sparke Helmore has provided wills clinics for Aboriginal people in rural and regional Australia. The initiative was established to address the concern that around 70 per cent of burial disputes in Australian courts involve Indigenous people1 and only 2 per cent to 6 per cent of Aboriginal people have a will (compared to approximately 55 per cent of non-Aboriginal people). Lawyers provide community legal education, take instructions and prepare estate documents at the clinics, which are held over two consecutive days.

The clinics have taught us much about providing legal services to Aboriginal people in local communities. For example, collaboration with local stakeholders and Legal Aid is paramount because they, and community legal centre (CLC) representatives, have the ties to and knowledge of the community. This ensures local ownership and agency of the clinics. Working through Legal Aid’s cooperative legal service delivery program also means our focus is directed to areas with the greatest need and that the community is more engaged.

The clinics highlight the importance of fostering a mindset beyond the corporate environment by adapting standard processes and precedents to the Aboriginal cultures, for example, working with Aboriginal kinship networks, which are often broader than those of non-Aboriginal Australians.

Training culturally competent lawyers has also been essential. We constantly update our training to cover culturally appropriate language and communication techniques, including recognition of differing countries, languages, histories and traditions as well as the need for discretion and specific terminology in discussions surrounding death.

There are some challenges that come with facilitating clinics in regional, rural or remote locations. We often face technological issues such as not having reliable internet access or a printer to print documents, which can make things tricky. For this reason it is all the more important that our lawyers are adaptable as each location and community is unique.

 

Georgia Murphy-Haste is a lawyer and Sydney pro bono and community coordinator, Sparke Helmore Lawyers.

 

1. Prue Vines UNSW at www.uniken.unsw.edu.au/features/where-theres-will.

 

LOOKING TO HELP?

To find pro bono opportunities for your firm see www.justiceconnect.org.au/get-involved, which also manages the LIV’s pro bono Legal Assistance Service.

For solicitors: talk to your pro bono coordinator or the person responsible for pro bono work at your firm or see www.fclc.org.au/cb_pages/careers_and_getting_involved.php.

For barristers: see www.vicbar.com.au/social-justice/pro-bono.

 


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