Justice Connect: pro bono powerhouse re-wired

Leading pro bono organisations in Victoria and NSW have joined forces to create Australia’s biggest agency connecting more than 10,000 lawyers and barristers prepared to offer free legal service to not-for-profit organisations, individuals and cases that would otherwise go without.

Justice Connect is the new organisation which takes the place of PILCH Victoria and PILCH NSW. It is being launched tonight at an event at Melbourne Town Hall.

The guest list includes a who’s who of the legal world, including representation from leading law offices, judges and human rights champions; many have been part of significant cases that have changed the course of legal history – including the Tampa, the Stolen Wages case, exploitation of international workers on 457 visas, asylum seekers and refugee policy challenges, Gunns 20 and discrimination cases dating back to 1994 when a sole parents group was refused use of a hall in Castlemaine by the local council on the basis they were ‘immoral’, and the 14 year old girl who fought the AFL for the right to play footy in 2008

“We honour our history,” said Fiona McLeay, Chief Executive Officer of Justice Connect. “It is a proud roll call of just causes, of bringing together the resources of the legal profession to serve people experiencing disadvantage and the community organisations that support them.

“If not for PILCH in NSW and Victoria connecting these people and organisations with legal resources, they would not have had a voice. As Justice Connect, we are looking forward to seeing the spirit of pro bono thrive, where we can better connect resources and expertise across two states,” she said.

Justice Connect provides the central point for the 10,000 or so lawyers and barristers drawn from individual practices and around 50 law firms to link with causes and people who need them.

“Now more than ever we need Justice Connect to act as the lightning rod for those in the profession committed to pro bono – from the largest firms through to the smallest practices and individual barristers. We play a critical role in marshalling the resources of the legal profession to serve the homeless, the elderly, the socially and economically disadvantaged and the charitable and not-for-profit community organisations that support them.

“We can find the Goliaths who will work with the Davids out there so the odds are evened up and they can be heard in our legal system,” she said.

A special video featuring a number of those people will be presented on the night. It will include Human Rights Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC, former High Court Judge Michael Kirby AO CMG, Julian Burnside QC and two people who played integral roles in the  foundation of the State PILCH’s – Professor Andrea Durbach (Director, UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre) and Professor Denis Nelthorpe.

The new Justice Connect website, which replaces the two previous PILCH websites, is now live: www.justiceconnect.org.au