Often people don’t really know that they have a legal problem until they see a lawyer. They don’t understand the consequences of the problem. And often they’re unsure where to get help. They think that it’s going to cost a fortune to get a lawyer involved. But community legal centres give free advice.
The Women’s Legal Service (WLS) NSW is a state-based community legal centre. It provides legal advice to women across NSW in the areas of family law, domestic violence, sexual assault, care and protection issues, discrimination in employment and/or any other issue connected to being a woman. There are several different ways women can get advice, either over the phone or face-to-face.
WLS prides itself on making sure that it’s not quoting legal jargon when women make contact. Instead, the staff explain the law in simple, easy-to-understand terms. They describe how to engage with the law and all the potential options. This way women can walk away armed with information and are able to take practical steps about their problem.
Often women after calling the WLS advice line will say, “I’ve never spoken to a lawyer before. That was actually really helpful.” People are genuinely surprised that it’s useful information.
Outreach is a vital aspect of WLS’s work. It supports a lot of women who are experiencing domestic violence. Often when these women call WLS, they are still in a violent relationship and can’t easily call a lawyer or visit a lawyer’s office in fear of being found out. WLS does a lot of outreach work in places where women can come for other purposes and access its service. They visit women’s health centres, hospitals, family dispute resolution centres and more obvious places like the courts.
“On some days when you think, ‘This is just a waste of time’, there’s always a client that will say, ‘Thank you, now I understand what I need to do,’ or ‘That was really helpful’, or ‘Thanks for your support. I now understand why I can’t do anything about it.’ It makes it all worthwhile.” Katrina Ironside
Written from a conversation with Katrina Ironside