Monash | A voice for the voiceless | 50 Years of meeting diverse community legal needs

Awards category
The Community Champion Award
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The Monash Clinical Legal Education Program enables students to learn and develop as professionals by serving the community.  

Monash Law Clinics and South-East Monash Legal Service are two of the largest providers of free legal aid in Victoria, assisting thousands of clients each year. In 2023, these clinics have provided a range of services to 2,831 clients. The Monash Clinical Legal Education Program is the largest and most diverse in Australia, serving a broad range of communities through partnerships with leading local, national and global organisations.  

The program specialises in family law, working with victims of family violence. The program’s health justice partnership tackles the long-term challenges faced by people with complex medicolegal issues that require holistic assistance. In our increasingly globalised world, the program also harnesses technology to support international communities in matters involving fundamental human rights, climate change and fair trade.

Finalist - Dr Jeff Giddings

"GM sought help from the cohealth Monash Legal Assistance Service. Inconsistencies between the details on his Australian and Ethiopian passports meant he could not access an Age Pension and would not be permitted to return if he left Australia.

I think a person who didn't receive any assistance from Dr Cate may not understand what you are doing. But I understand what you did to me changed my life. I felt the life I had before you and after you were so different.

Other lawyers, they asked me to provide documents but they were very distanced. Your approach is really different. It surprised me to have you so close to me, trying to help with everything you can.

Other lawyers said they couldn't address the issue. It was really tiresome. You were so kind and you tried everything you can with my consent and you have a document and everything and you correct it and my life was getting better after we did that action.

Everything has been changed because of you. I am a citizen, I have my documents, I get aged pension now, all of the things that I missed all because of the mistake of government.

I left my mother country because it was so dangerous and a bad life for my wife and children, and I was offered to come to Australia for a new start, but I couldn’t get a new start over because I couldn’t get this important job done.

If I want to give a piece of advice for young lawyers to learn from you. At the end of the day, humanity should come first. They should learn compassion from you.

Dr Cate, I don't have any words to appreciate you more than you have done to me. You changed my life forever."

GM Testimonial

"When Monash Law Clinics accepted our case, our relief and gratitude cannot be overstated. We are older people (70 and 80) and we have been battling to first get wage justice, and second, Centrelink justice since 2018. Our initial experience with Monash Law Clinics was characterised by the impressive professionalism, patience, and clarity exhibited by the student handling our case. They meticulously gathered all necessary information, ensured timely appointments, and kept us informed throughout the process, making it a highly inclusive and efficient experience.

We had not realised how exhausting this process had been, until the burden was lifted. The patience, empathy and support provided by the students and staff at Monash Law Clinics has basically given us back our life."

Client Testimonial

"During my student placement at South-East Monash Legal Service (SMLS), I received experience in community legal practice that has been invaluable to my legal education and has shaped me as a person and as a lawyer.

Under the supervision of Dr Jacqueline Weinberg, I undertook a 3-month placement in a small team of Monash Law students, providing free advice over the phone to members of the South-East Monash community. Following this, I undertook a placement in the Integrated Services for Survivor Advocacy (ISSA), where we completed Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) applications for victim-survivors of sexual and family violence.

Both these programs offered the perfect balance of independence in undertaking real legal work whilst remaining under the careful supervision of highly experienced legal practitioners. We performed practical legal work such as research, drafting, communication with clients and key parties such as police and Courts/Tribunals, record keeping and client management. This exposed me to some of the more practical aspects of being a lawyer that I would not otherwise have encountered in a classroom.

The consistent feedback and guidance provided by my supervisors enabled me to not only reflect on my legal work but consider my future career path, and the type of lawyer I wanted to be. Active reflection prompted by supervisors made me acutely aware that the legal issues faced by community members are often influenced by a range of factors that may contribute to social disadvantage. Not only did this highlight for me the importance of community legal services such as SMLS for marginalised groups, but it also helped me to aspire to be a lawyer who is able to identify their clients’ needs, understands their complexity and aims to take a holistic approach to providing legal assistance."

Lucy Foster

Associate to Her Honour Judge Bender, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2)

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