A legal heavyweight visited Armidale on the weekend, where the North and North West Community Legal Service celebrated 21 years since it started.
Justice Margaret Beazley AO, President, Court of Appeal of New South Wales attended a formal function at the Armidale City Bowling Club on Saturday.
Justice Beazley was the first woman appointed to the New South Wales Court of Appeal in 1996 and in March 2013 was appointed President of the Court of Appeal.
On June 12, 2006, her honour was made an Officer in the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to the judiciary and the law, particularly through contributions to professional and ethical standards and to the advancement of women in the legal profession and the community.
Board Chairperson, Bronwyn Pearson, said in reaching the milestone they recognised the efforts of their staff, volunteers and board members.
“They are the lifeblood of the organisation and the success and longevity of the Service is a tribute to their commitment and passion,” she said.
Since the mid 1990s, the service has provided free and confidential legal advice and assistance to many people living in northern NSW who has had difficulties accessing, or was unsure how to access, the legal system.
In April 1993, under the leadership of Jennifer Crew, the Armidale Community Legal Service was founded and run solely by volunteer solicitors.
This band of volunteers, which included Ted Wright and Rhonda Wein, led the way for the creation of the North and North West Community Service.
They began research and consultation with the community in 1995 to establish if there was a need for a funded Community Legal Centre to service the entire New England & North West regions of NSW.
Their submission to the Commonwealth Government was successful and the North & North West Community Legal Service Inc was born the following year.
It currently has three solicitors, who service 11 outreach locations, from Tenterfield in the north, down to Quirindi and west to Wee Waa.
Offering telephone and face to face appointments, its solicitors have travelled all over the region, totalling approximately 28,000 kilometres each year.
The service has assisted with matters as wide-ranging as assisting a client with poor literacy skills navigate a bankruptcy process, facilitating a conciliation process and obtain an apology from a government department for a client with an intellectual disability, negotiating with insurance companies, and assisting two young school girls through a mediated dispute, successfully avoiding court.
The service had dual call to celebrate with a recent funding injection announcement from NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman.
“This is the biggest increase in funding from the state over the past 20 years. We are delighted to have our sector acknowledged for the vital and indispensable service we provide to our communities,” said Terri King, principal solicitor.