New legal services available in the Mallee region

New legal services available in the Mallee region

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Disadvantaged people in the Mallee region will now have greater access to legal help, with the launch of our new Mallee regional office.

The service is in partnership with Mildura’s Sunraysia Community Health Services (SCHS) and the office is co-located at SCHS. This is based on a health justice partnership model, recognising that there is often an overlap between health and legal problems in people’s lives.

Health justice partnerships are a growing service model in Australia and have been found to improve coordination between service providers, facilitate better targeting of services and improve health and wellbeing for clients.

Improving access to justice

Our Managing Director Bevan Warner said our presence in the Mallee will improve access to justice in the region.

‘Before opening the service we conducted extensive consultation with other legal assistance providers and community members; finding relatively high rates of legal need, particularly where people have complex civil law legal problems or child protection matters.

‘This new service will help people who might not ordinarily have seen a lawyer to get help when they need it most. Being located inside a health service means we will be able to play a more immediate role in people’s lives and to assist early so that problems don’t get worse,’ Bevan Warner said.

‘Research shows people are more likely to talk to health professionals such as a doctor, nurse or social worker, than with a lawyer,’ said Executive Director Services and Innovation Peter Noble.

‘We know many of our clients don’t seek legal help until they are in crisis or have to attend court proceedings. In general, only 16 per cent of people with legal issues ever get help from a lawyer. So, it makes sense for us to locate our staff close to services that are readily accessed for other purposes.’

L-R: Victoria Legal Aid Managing Director Bevan Warner, CEO of Sunraysia Community Health Service Simone Heald, Manager Mallee Legal Impact Heidi Deason, Child Protection Lawyer Joanne Brennan,  Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer Calinda Egan, Senior Lawyer Naomi Goldwater and Legal Assistant Jessica Thomson
L–R: Victoria Legal Aid Managing Director Bevan Warner, CEO of Sunraysia Community Health Service Simone Heald, Manager Mallee Legal Impact Heidi Deason, Child Protection Lawyer Joanne Brennan, Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer Calinda Egan, Senior Lawyer Naomi Goldwater and Legal Assistant Jessica Thomson

Working together for our clients

Simone Heald, CEO of SCHS, said ‘We’re excited to be partnering with Victoria Legal Aid on this innovative venture to improve health and justice outcomes for our clients.’

‘SCHS is a strong believer that to achieve better health outcomes, we need to operate from a social model of health. This means considering the broader influences on health, which this new innovative model of care sets out to achieve’ She said.

Since moving to Mildura in late 2016 to manage the new legal aid office, Heidi Deason said she’d been enjoying working closely with other legal assistance providers and health professionals and becoming part of the community.

’It’s been an enriching experience setting up this much-needed service. The SCHS team share Victoria Legal Aid’s passion in advocating for the rights of disadvantaged people. We both observe our clients being treated unfairly from time to time, and we’re joining forces to change it.

‘I’m looking forward to being here as the service grows and working with our legal partners and other community and health services to improve people’s lives in the Mallee,’ Heidi said.

In response to findings from consultations in the region, the Mallee regional office will prioritise early intervention assistance in child protection cases and help with civil justice matters such as tenancy problems, debts because of fines and hearings before the Mental Health Tribunal. The team comprises a manager, two lawyers, an Aboriginal Community Engagement Officer and a legal assistant.

Bevan Warner, Simone Heald, Heidi Deason and Peter Noble are available for interview.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry please contact Senior Communications Advisor Alma Mistry via alma.mistry@vla.vic.gov.au, or phone 0418 381 327.

More info​rmation

For more information about our new Mallee regional office, you can read these news items on our website:

The Sunraysia Daily also wrote an article about the launch – Team busy finding justice.