Pilch: Pro Bono Receives Much Deserved Recognition

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12th November 2009, 06:49pm - Views: 454





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Pro Bono receives much deserved recognition

MEDIA RELASE






                            Thursday, 12 November 2009

The outstanding contribution that pro bono legal practitioners make to access to justice and

a

fairer

society has been internationally recognized and applauded in a joint message by the Attorneys-General of

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.


The recognition was welcomed by the Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Clearing House in

Victoria (PILCH) which is the largest facilitator of pro bono legal work in the Asia Pacific.  


‘Every year we are witness to the extraordinary work performed by solicitors and barristers who act without charge

for individuals and organizations who would otherwise not have access to the legal system. This work varies from

assisting with communications to the United Nations, advising not-for-profit organisations on their tax deductibility,

running complex public interest litigation to preventing the unlawful eviction of a single mother and her children.’ 


‘The work can be life changing,’ said Ms Hilton, ‘not just for the clients who are the main beneficiaries, but also for

the lawyers who are rewarded with the knowledge that they have used their skills and expertise to achieve a

significant outcome for those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged.’


Ms Hilton also praised the recognition by the Attorneys-General that pro bono legal services should never be

relied upon as a substitute for properly funded legal aid commissions and community legal centres. 


‘If we are committed to promoting societies and institutions that are fair and equitable,

it falls within the

responsibility of government to ensure that access to our legal institutions and legal assistance is not solely

determined by a person’s ability to pay. Pro bono can help bridge a gap but it should not be expected to cover the

field.’


Ms Hilton also commented that with the further promotion and encouragement of pro bono it was essential that

these services are effectively co-ordinated and directed to where the need is greatest.


‘The design and delivery of pro bono legal services will be most effective when it is collaborative’ Ms Hilton said.

This effective co-ordination was most recently exemplified by the Bushfire Legal Help project – a service that was

established by PILCH, the Victorian Bar, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Federation of Community Legal Centres,

Victoria Legal Aid and the Victoria Law Foundation to respond to the tragic and unprecedented demand for legal

assistance by survivors of the Black Saturday bushfires.


‘The Bushfire Legal Help partnership was able to engage with the private legal profession

who played an

outstanding role in responding to the crisis through the provision of telephone advice, pro bono referrals and the

staffing of crisis centres with volunteer lawyers. The unique partnership made a significant difference in the lives

of people who have been severely traumatised.’

Contact

Kristen Hilton

Executive Director

0438 522 911

kristen.hilton@pilch.org.au




PILCH is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which is committed to furthering the public interest, improving access to

justice and protecting human rights. PILCH does this by facilitating pro bono legal services to Victorian individuals and

organisations in need, and by undertaking law reform, policy work and legal education






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