Case Studies

Maddocks works with Public Interest Advocacy Centre

By Melinda Norquay, Tamsin Webster

• 29 September 2023 • 2 min read
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Public Interest Advocacy Centre | Maddocks Pro Bono legal services

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS) is a project of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Sydney. HPLS protects the rights of people experiencing homelessness and reduces homelessness by tackling laws, policies and practices that prevent people from accessing and maintaining appropriate, stable, safe, and secure housing.

The HPLS runs 10 legal clinics across Sydney and provides people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with practical legal assistance in areas such as financial hardship, housing, discrimination or harassment, employment and contractual disputes.

In Sydney, Maddocks has been providing pro bono legal services at the HPLS clinic located at Mission Australia Centre, Surry Hills (weekly on Thursdays) since late 2013.

Volunteer solicitors attend the clinics and often provide follow up assistance. This involves:

  • meeting with clients either in person or via telephone and speaking to them about their legal issues and concerns;
  • corresponding with the client’s caseworkers and social workers to provide proper assistance; and
  • providing pro bono legal assistance to the clients – including (amongst many other things) writing letters, speaking to government agencies, completing forms, applying for government assistance and/or payments, and giving general ‘jargon free’ legal advice.

For example, our Sydney office recently assisted a vulnerable client who had incurred a significant number of fines during COVID lockdowns. COVID-19 lockdowns had a significant impact on vulnerable populations such as our client, who was a rough sleeper. Among other things, people experiencing homelessness were less able to comply with stay at home orders.

Our client could not afford to pay the fines, many of which were issued as a consequence of his homelessness, and was at risk of incurring even further debt. By submitting evidence of our client's financial and living circumstances and making an application to Revenue NSW on his behalf, we were able to have his overdue fines totalling almost $20,0000, completely written off.

"The work that Maddocks did to support a vulnerable client was extremely rewarding. It was a matter that will remain with the team for many years, serving as a reminder of our commitment to the community and ensuring that we continue to prioritise it in all that we do."

Melinda Norquay, Senior Associate, Sydney

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