Legal member associations across the country are offering support to victims affected by way of telephone services, access to participating pro bono lawyers and fundraising appeals, reports Lawyers Weekly’s Jerome Doraisamy.
Law Council of Australia president Pauline Wright has commended the support being offered to victims of the bushfires across the nations through referral services offered by law societies and bar associations, legal aid organisations, and community legal associations.
“I can only imagine how difficult it would be struggling with the loss of loved ones, your home, your business, your farm, or your animals,” Ms Wright said.
“The bushfires, sadly, are now having a devastating impact in every state in Australia.
“As a profession, we are uniquely placed to support victims as they require legal advice, and every lawyer should consider pro bono aid for those affected. It’s heartening to see that so many individuals in the profession have stepped up with offers of pro bono assistance.”
NSW Bar Association president Tim Game SC said: “In recent weeks we have witnessed, and continue to witness, the devastation wrought by bushfires and the resulting terrible loss of life, homes and property. Our thoughts are with all affected by the bushfires.”
“We are liaising with various bodies to offer the Association’s support, where possible, to assist those affected by the bushfires to access legal services. We will keep you informed of those discussions.”
Law Society of NSW president Richard Harvey added: “The danger has not yet passed. We know that, for those Australians who have lost everything, the task of rebuilding their lives will present many, many challenges for them.”
“In this time of great tragedy, we need to do all we can, as members of the NSW community and the legal profession, to assist those impacted by the bushfires who have lost so much. These people have shown great strength and resilience in the face of such great loss. Many of them have been, and are still, involved in fighting the fires,” he said.
Elsewhere, Law Society of South Australia president Tim White said: “In circumstances of severe bushfire damage, we expect to receive a greater number of requests for assistance once the dust settles, so to speak, and once victims have dealt with more pressing needs resulting from the disaster.”
“One of the more pressing legal problems that people can face when properties are damaged by fires is the loss of important documents such as personal identification documents. This can cause problems with accessing aid, finding alternative accommodation, ending a lease, managing debt, or making an insurance claim.”
“There would also be a number of people whose employment has been affected by the fires. Receiving some free legal advice about what can be done to alleviate some of the financial strain caused by the disaster can provide some comfort at such a difficult time,” he concluded.
People affected by the fires can seek assistance from the following resources: