Our Chief Executive Officer Louise Glanville visited Mildura last month to reaffirm our commitment to supporting clients and partner organisations in the region, amid plans for an office relocation.
It has been a time of growth for our Mildura office, having just welcomed a Family Advocacy and Support Services (FASS) lawyer to the team as part of the nationwide expansion of the family violence support program.
Louise met with local stakeholders, including Magistrate Michael Coghlan and Magistrate Patrick Southey of the Mildura Magistrates' Court, and private practitioners, to discuss a proposed office move and a potential expansion of our services.
‘Continued collaboration and engagement with our valued partners means we’re best placed to support the community and work off each of our strengths to ensure all client needs can be met,’ said Louise.
‘We’re lucky to have such a passionate all-women crew in our Mildura office, who place those who use our services at the centre of what they do – that is the approach we practice and promote every day.’
The Mildura team – Victoria Legal Aid’s smallest regional office – began providing tailored legal supports to the local community in 2017, working in partnership with Sunraysia Community Health Service (SCHS) to offer wraparound legal and health assistance.
This co-located health-justice partnership has also resulted in strengthened relationships with local operators, including SCHS, Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Djirra and Mallee Family Care Community Legal Centre.
Our legal assistance services in Mildura have been largely limited to areas of civil law and child protection matters - and filling those areas of legal need has contributed to improved access to justice, according to an independent evaluation.
Regardless of any physical move out of SCHS's headquarters, this important health-justice partnership will not change.
The evaluation found Mildura was delivering a highly valued critical service, with opportunities to expand into criminal law, as well as the areas of non-legal mental health advocacy and family law advocacy.
The benefits would ensure that clients would receive a ‘holistic service that provided a continuity of service’.
‘Sometimes in our practice, we see instances where a client might have multiple lawyers, looking after separate matters, which can be confusing and cause unnecessary stress on clients already under pressure,’ said Sonia Sawant, Regional Manager, Mallee Region.
'Expanding out our services to targeted criminal matters where a private practitioner is unable to because of, say conflict interests, for example, would allow us to better support clients and provide more of a one-stop shop for legal issues.’
A legal needs assessment identified three priority client groups in the region with above-average need for legal assistance, being children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The region has the fifth highest proportion of disengaged youth, double the state average.
Our plans for Mildura will be centred on the aims of our client-first strategy, which asks that we reimagine service models that look at ways to recognise and better respond to people’s multiple legal and non-legal needs.
Work with our partners to build a collaborative legal sector that continues to offer more linked and connected services is an essential part of that journey.
For a copy of the evaluation, please email Senior Policy and Projects Manager, Regions and Service Delivery, Sejal Amin.
Read about our mixed model of service delivery.
Reviewed 21 February 2023