Are you looking for legal help for a community organisation? Go to Justice Connect's Not-for-profit Law Service.
Is there a specialist Justice Connect service that can help me with my problem?
Justice Connect has different specialist programs that help people with some kinds of legal problems. Some of these services operate in only some states in Australia, or in particular courts. It's important to read through the brief summaries below to get an idea of whether a service may be able to help you with your legal problem in your location.
Who is eligible for help?
If you are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness in Victoria, the Homeless Law service may be able to assist you by providing free legal advice and representation. Assistance is provided in the metro Melbourne area and Geelong.
If you have an upcoming court or VCAT date it's very important to call us as soon as possible. It takes us time to find a lawyer for you, so please try to give us as much notice as possible.
Types of legal issues that Homeless Law can help with
Homeless Law can assist with:
- Housing and tenancy (in particular preventing evictions – please call us if you have received a Notice to Vacate, have a VCAT hearing or are otherwise facing eviction into homelessness)
- Fines and infringements connected to homelessness
- Guardianship and administration orders (for example where a court makes orders for someone to look after your financial affairs or assets)
- Credit and debt problems
- Some criminal law matters
Homeless Law cannot assist with family law matters, however we can assist victims of family violence who are having problems with their tenancies. For family law problems try contacting the Victoria Legal Aid advice line on 1300 792 387 or your local community legal service who may be able to assist (find your local CLC here).
Homeless Law has lots of information about the services that it provides and eligibility criteria. Read more about Homeless Law and how to get help here.
Who is the Self Representation Service for?
We provide free assistance to individuals who are involved in, or are considering commencing proceedings relating to:
- Fair Work matters (employment law)
- human rights/discrimination, and
- judicial review proceedings.
We assist with matters in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Civil Registries in Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania. People are eligible for an appointment with our lawyers where:
- they have a legal issue in one of the four areas above and we have a lawyer available with relevant expertise
- they are not represented
- they are unable to afford private legal assistance, and
- they are ineligible for legal aid.
How it works
People eligible for assistance will receive a one-hour appointment at court in Melbourne or Sydney or by phone or video conferencing with one of a team of volunteer lawyers provided by Justice Connect supporting firms.
The appointment may include:
- legal advice about the issue
- assistance preparing documents, including correspondence (eg letters) and court forms
- advice about other options to resolve the issue
- information about court orders and procedures.
Depending on the nature of the matter and the circumstances, eligible people may be offered more than one appointment to support them throughout their case. The Service provides task-orientated assistance in preparation for court; it does not provide ongoing legal representation or representation in the court-room.
Read more about the service and how to apply for assistance here.
If you are not eligible for one-on-one assistance, you can still access information resources.
To see whether we can help you, go to the Domestic Building Legal Service page.
If no specialist service applies, can Justice Connect's Public Interest Law Service help?
Justice Connect's Public Interest Law Service matches people experiencing disadvantage with legal problems with lawyers in private practice who are willing to help for free, where it considers to do so is in the public interest. As there are many people who want free legal assistance, we apply eligibility criteria that prioritises helping where there is a public interest or where a person is especially vulnerable.
Generally, the Public Interest Law Service operates on a referral basis, meaning it does not take requests for assistance by phone directly from the public - requests need to come via a professional (eg via another lawyer, or a social worker). The Public Interest Law online enquiry trial is currently paused over the Christmas and New Year period.
Our eligibility criteria includes:
- can the help-seeker afford a lawyer? We consider the expenses likely to be involved in the case and the help-seeker's assets and income to help determine an answer to this question. If a person can afford a lawyer, generally the Public Interest Law Service will not assist
- is the help-seeker eligible for Legal Aid? If they are, they are unlikely to be eligible for assistance through the Public Interest Law Service
- is the legal issue in an area of law covered by lawyers in our pro bono network? We can rarely help with criminal law, family law, compensation claims or visa applications
- does the help-seeker have a legal problem with a likelihood of success, that is, if the legal issue involves a claim against someone else, or defending a claim against there is a reasonable chance of success?
- is providing pro bono representation in the public interest?
What does "public interest" mean?
'Public interest' can mean that a legal issue involves an important point of law that is uncertain and requires clarification, or the case could relates to an important right affecting a sector of the community.
We also consider that assisting people with serious legal issues that will significantly affect their lives where they would otherwise not access legal assistance can be in the public interest.
Find out more about the Public Interest Law Service, and apply for assistance online here.
Where else can I look for legal assistance?
- Legal Aid (government run free legal services)
- community legal centres (independent, not-for-profit legal centres) - there are general community legal centres that provide assistance to people in their local area, and there are specialist community legal centres that provide their services to a particular group of people (eg. youth, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) or for a particular area of law (eg. consumer law).
Legal Aid only covers certain areas of law (these vary from state to state). Community legal centres are often focussed on areas of law not covered by Legal Aid, or types of people who may need specialist assistance.
Generally, Legal Aid can provide some basic help to most people who call for the areas of law that Legal Aid covers (eg. some legal information over the phone). In some locations, Legal Aid offers a small amount of advice to all people before they apply eligibility criteria.
Some community legal centres offer drop-in clinics where people can get limited one-off legal help without needing to meet eligibility criteria.
Generally, to access ongoing legal assistance from Legal Aid or from a community legal centre, you need to be on a low income or receiving Government benefits, or have some other special circumstances (eg. be seeking assistance to exit a violent relationship, or be suffering from a mental illness). There are exceptions to this general rule for certain types of legal problems, or for certain groups of people.
The best approach is to call your local Legal Aid Commission and speak to your local Community Legal Centre to understand your options.
You can find out more about community legal centres and find your local community legal centre through the National Association of Community Legal Centres. If there is a specialist community legal centre that covers your type of legal problem, you should speak to that specialist community legal centre.
For people in NSW, Law Access can help you find legal help.