Law students help those in need

Dr Kieran Tranter with law school students Christy Englezakis and Heather Nieuwenhoven.

Griffith University law students are putting theory into practice and assisting people with free legal advice at the Robina Community Legal Centre.

Every Thursday night, the final-year students volunteer their time and expertise with members of the Gold Coast legal profession to help people who cannot afford such advice.

Griffith Law Lecturer Dr Kieran Tranter said Griffith students have helped more than 700 people since the centre opened in February 2014.

“An initiative of the Gold Coast District Law Association, the centre now plays a significant role in offering free, frontline legal advice and referral services to the southern Gold Coast community,’’ he said.

For Christy Englezakis and Heather Nieuwenhoven, volunteering gives them the opportunity to be guided by legal professionals and gain valuable work experience.

“All the lawyers at the RCLC are volunteering after a day’s work in the office,’’ Heather said.

“Working at the RCLC is extremely rewarding as it assists with fulfilling a community need. We all have access to free health care but not free legal advice.

“RCLC provides a wide variety of advice to people many who do not meet requirements for traditional legal aid funding but cannot afford legal advice.

“The clinic seems to be getting busier and it is really frustrating when we have to turn people away. I believe the opportunity to participate here also assists graduates when looking for work.”

Christy, who hopes to specialise in animal welfare and environmental law when she graduates, says working at the centre enables her to combine community service and learning.

“The centre performs an invaluable role in clarifying the law, and the lawyers provide practical, clear advice that enables clients to be proactive in progressing their issues. It empowers and supports as well as providing advice.

“Feedback from clients is overwhelmingly positive. Even when their legal position may not be ideal, they are simply relieved to understand the issues and know what they have to do.

“There is often a long queue prior to opening and people may have to wait some time to see a lawyer, but this is rarely expressed as a complaint. It does, however, demonstrate a significant need,’’ she said.

Dr Tranter said that without a cent of government funding the Centre has proven the enormous need for community legal services on the southern Gold Coast.

“The State government should really be getting behind this initiative by funding RCLC to employ a full-time lawyer,’’ he said.

“This would allow RCLC and its student and lawyer volunteers to greatly increase the numbers of Gold Coasters that they can help.”