The Pro Bono Impact

Our 2020 end-of-year update

Welcome to our 2020 end-of-year UQ Pro Bono Centre news

Foreword from Professor Patrick Parkinson AO, Dean and Head of School

Despite a year of immense challenges, the Pro Bono Centre has continued to provide invaluable pro bono opportunities for law students and increased access to justice to the many vulnerable Queenslanders who have struggled through COVID restrictions. Students at clinic placements adapted quickly to the online environment, reporting increased demand in areas such as tenancy law; employment law; debt; and family violence. The number of students on the pro bono roster remained high, completing a broad range of research projects, law reform submissions and other tasks for the not-for-profit sector, demonstrating once again our students’ passion for justice and their unwavering commitment to public service.

This year we farewelled our long-standing Director Monica Taylor who has moved on to a role at QCOSS.  Monica has played a critical role in making the Centre what it is today. During her tenure, Monica increased student participation in the Centre and developed new partnerships and programs. These included international placements for students and the Papua New Guinea Courts research project. She cemented the Centre’s reputation as a national leader in student pro bono legal services. I thank Monica for her years of service and wish her all the best in her new role.

We were very pleased indeed to be able to appoint Mandy Shircore as the new Director. Mandy brings huge experience to the role, having run a large clinical program at the James Cook University Law School. She has also had long experience in the sector, most recently with LawRight.

I also acknowledge and thank Centre administrator Hannah Fannin who managed the Centre brilliantly on her own for two months, and Mark Deng who coordinated the clinical legal education program whilst we recruited for a new Director.  Thank you also to the Centre’s Patron the Honourable Justice Peter Applegarth, Mr Randal Dennings, Chair of the Advisory Board and Advisory Board members for their wisdom, support and guidance. Finally thank you to the academic staff who supervise the numerous projects and of course the students for their outstanding work that contributes so much to the community.

It has been a pleasure over the last 2 ½ years to be part of such a unique and inspirational Centre. I wish all of our pro bono partners and supporters a peaceful festive season and all the best for 2021.

Professor Patrick Parkinson
Dean and Head of School
UQ Law School

2020 statistical snapshot

 

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157 students successfully placed in 42 pro bono tasks

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27 pro bono partners received our assistance

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21 opportunities to produce legal research papers or contribute to law reform submissions

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71 law students volunteered for direct legal assistance and casework support

Welcome Mandy!

In September, the Pro Bono Centre was delighted to welcome Mandy Shircore to the role of Director. Mandy brings considerable experience and expertise to the role, having held roles in academia, private practice and the community legal sector.

What a pleasure it has been to join the Pro Bono Centre. Whilst I have always admired the tremendous output of the Centre, it is inspiring to be here on the ground, witnessing the energy of the students and the outstanding quality of their work. Centre partners, the Advisory Board, School of Law colleagues and our students have been extremely welcoming and I look forward to working with you all in 2021. 

Mandy Shircore
Pro Bono Centre Director

Alex Ladd with Monica Taylor
Pro Bono Publico Award recipient Alex Ladd with former Pro Bono Centre Director Monica Taylor

 

Pro Bono Publico Award presented to Alex Ladd

The Pro Bono Centre Advisory Board was thrilled to present the 2019 Pro Bono Publico Award to UQ graduate Alex Ladd at the Law School this year.

The Award recognises Alex's exceptional contribution to the community through his pro bono legal work, which included volunteer roles at Indooroopilly Uniting Church, LGBTI Legal Service, Manning St Project, and the PNG Treaty Project to name a few.

Nominations for the 2020 Pro Bono Publico Award close on 30 November.

Adapting to remote delivery

collage of volunteers
Law Education and Outreach program student volunteers

While the pandemic has caused disruption to the legal sector, it has also presented opportunities for flexible and remote pro bono service delivery. Our students and partners were quick to adapt and ensure that pro bono services continued to be provided through lockdown and limited face-to-face contact. 

Online delivery also enabled us to expand the Law Education and Outreach (LEO) program to deliver virtual presentations to regional, rural and remote areas. Student volunteers involved in the LEO program present legal material in a way that makes the law accessible to non-lawyers, and promotes greater understanding of laws designed to protect vulnerable families and individuals. In August, all three branches of the program presented to Fairholme College in Toowoomba on aspects of asylum and refugee law, international humanitarian law and domestic and family violence law via Zoom.

students on zoom
Clinical Legal Education students Suvradip Maitra (top right) and Savannah Kuylaars (bottom left)

Throughout lockdown, students participating in UQ’s Clinical Legal Education program demonstrated their adaptability and resilience working remotely with seven host Community Legal Centres over the course of their placements. Over 70 students helped their lawyer supervisors assist vulnerable clients in the community through the clinical program this year. The clinical program enhances students understanding of social justice issues, including the socio-legal issues facing First Nations people. Read more about the exceptional work of YFS Legal, a community legal centre partner of the Clinical Legal Education program.

 

Supporting women’s rights in Queensland

drawing of mother with babyThe spotlight that the pandemic has shone on issues of domestic and family violence has led to student involvement in critical research on a number of women’s issues this year, including papers on coercive control, reproduction coercion and specific gender-related violence offences.

Thank you so much for completing this paper - in the middle of a pandemic! It has been a pleasure to work with you all and I wish you all, especially the students, all the best for the rest of the semester.

Caroline Fitzpatrick
Access Community Services

 

Pioneering climate justice

drawing of hands holding earthLaunched in 2019, the Climate Justice Initiative (CJI) is a group of likeminded student volunteers committed to creating environmental sustainability through legal work. The Initiative was recently featured in the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s Pro Bono Guide to the Climate Crisis as an example of how students can assist social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations working towards climate justice, and contribute to meaningful environmental policy reform.

Examples of the students work through the CJI include two law reform submissions in response to the Bushfire Royal Commission and the independent review of the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth). Students are currently researching legal issues relating to climate activism and climate-conscious lawyering.  They aim to produce booklets to assist young lawyers in understanding how they can contribute to a more climate-conscious profession.

 “It is easy to feel helpless in our personal and professional lives as to how we can tackle climate change. We applied for the Initiative in the hope that we could channel our legal knowledge into a project that enables us to do something positive for the environment.”

Climate Justice Initiative students

Investigating human rights through the Manning St Project

Pro Bono Centre students contributed to important human rights research within Australia and the Asia-Pacific region through the Manning St Project this year.  

The Centre was pleased to sustain its alliance with the PNG Supreme and National Courts to produce a number of research reports including a paper on the interpretation of section 41 of the PNG Constitution and the extent to which it creates rights, freedoms and protections.

“Thanks so much Monica and to Mathew, Nathan and Professor Corrin for shedding light on the fascinating subject that is s 41 of the PNG Constitution. Your work is not only of jurisprudential significance but it will help me in a practical way in many human rights cases that I deal with.”

Justice David Cannings
PNG Supreme & National Courts

Two reports were also prepared on behalf Civil Liberties Australia examining human rights issues affecting the Australian Prison population: the discriminatory effect of voting restrictions on over-represented communities, and the legal restrictions and processes that apply to prisoners receiving publications.

 “Contributing new research on a contemporary constitutional and human rights issue was a dream come true. Thank you for the opportunity to work on this inspiring project.

Martin Churchill
UQ Pro Bono Centre student

To see examples of some of the reports students have completed, see our publications page.

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