Friday March 22, 2019
2019 Social Justice Dinner – thank you!
Many thanks to everyone who supported PIAC at our Social Justice Dinner on 7 March.
The night was a great success, with almost 380 guests joining us to celebrate PIAC’s work and the contribution of our many partners and supporters.
Guests were entertained by the deft wit of MC Craig Reucassel and treated to an inspiring speech by the wonderful Virginia Trioli, reflecting on PIAC’s work in ‘the struggle to adjust the world to include all of us’.
The dinner raises essential funds to support PIAC’s work and we are very grateful to our Major Sponsors The Law Society of NSW, Macquarie Group and Minter Ellison, Supporting Sponsors Allen & Overy and Lawcover and everyone who came along, donated so generously and bid so enthusiastically in our silent auction.
We hope that we will see you at the Social Justice Dinner 2020!
Reducing financial vulnerability: scheme helps over 60,000 people
PIAC is delighted to note the success of the Work Development Order Scheme in reducing the impact of fines on people who are financially vulnerable.
The scheme, adopted in NSW in 2011, allows people to pay off outstanding fines through activities including volunteer work and engagement in treatment for issues like alcohol or other drug addiction.
Legal Aid has reported that since the scheme began, more than 102,000 WDOs have been approved for over 63,000 participants, resolving $124,756 million in unpaid fines. $35 million in fines has been cleared in the last year alone.
‘This is a stunning example of constructive, collaborative public policy work leading to sustained impact,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor. ‘It is a scheme that is particularly important in addressing the financial vulnerability that can lead to, and entrench, homelessness.’
PIAC’s Homeless Persons’ Legal Service first recommended the WDO program in its 2006 report, Not such a Fine Thing. This recommendation was followed by a 2011 supplementary submission, Still Not Such a Fine Thing, to the NSW Law Reform Commission Inquiry Into Penalty Notices. The subsequent work of NSW Legal Aid and Revenue NSW has made this initiative a great success.
‘We would love to see the scheme extended to other forms of Government debt, particularly for debts owed to Housing NSW and social housing providers’, said Jonathon. More…
Challenge continues to excessive bail compliance checks
PIAC’s challenge to the power of NSW police officers to conduct bail compliance checks without a Court order continues, with the NSW Court of Appeal setting aside the December 2018 decision of the District Court.
The Court of Appeal decided that the original question of law posed by police (and answered favourably to PIAC’s clients) was not appropriate to answer. This means the matter now returns to the District Court to proceed to trial.
The case, Dargin and Green v the State of NSW, arises from concerns that police have been conducting excessive and invasive bail compliance checks, including late at night and multiple times in a night, without any reason to believe that a person is not complying with their bail conditions.
Read more about the case here
A win for children leaving out-of-home-care
In 2017, PIAC helped a number of young people who had left out-of-home-care to access previously secret documents held by the department of Family and Community Services, that could assist them to make successful compensation claims to support their transition to independence.
The young people PIAC represented had been refused access to records of legal advice sought by the NSW Department of Community Services (FACS) while they were children in State care. The purpose of the advice was to identify the young person’s entitlement to bring any civil or statutory claims, including under victim’s compensation legislation or other similar schemes. PIAC assisted the young people to challenge the refusal and seek release of the documents in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. You can read more about the cases here
PIAC solicitor Brooke Greenwood, former PIAC solicitor Julia Mansour and Celia Winnett of the NSW Bar, who acted as pro bono counsel in the cases, have written about the litigation for the Alternative Law Journal, outlining the arguments they made on behalf of the young people. Follow this link to read their article
Homelessness: more people street sleeping in inner Sydney
The City of Sydney’s February street count figures, released this month, indicate an alarming increase in homelessness in the inner city, with the number of people street sleeping up by 13% when compared with the same time last year.
StreetCare Project Officer, Maddy Humphreys, said that this increase is just the tip of the iceberg.
‘For some time, consumers have been reporting an increase in rough sleeping in suburban areas – living in the inner west, I see it every day – so it’s fair to assume that the overall increase in rough sleeping is greater than the street count figures indicate,’ said Maddy Humphreys.
‘Unfortunately, there is little data on street sleeping in suburban and regional areas as few councils undertake comprehensive counts. However recent counts undertaken in Newtown and Parramatta suggest that street homelessness is rising across greater Sydney, not just in the inner city.’
Maddy says StreetCare ‘calls on local councils across New South Wales to work together to conduct comprehensive counts of rough sleepers, and wherever possible, to engage with local services to identify individuals experiencing secondary homelessness in their areas.’