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PIAC E-Bulletin

Tuesday July 3, 2012

Boarding house reform

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More than 6,000 boarding house residents, including people who live in unlicensed boarding houses, expect to be better protected under a proposed new Boarding House Act for NSW.

The NSW Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, has released the exposure draft Boarding Houses Bill 2012.

The draft bill includes a requirement for boarding houses to be registered with the Commissioner for Fair Trading and protects residents from being evicted without notice or right of appeal.

Submissions on the draft bill close on 10 August 2012.

Photo: Flickr

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Thank you to PIAC donors

PIAC extends sincere thanks to all of its friends and supporters, particularly those who donated to PIAC prior to the end of financial year on 30 June.

‘Generous support to fund PIAC’s work for people experiencing homelessness comes from the NSW Public Purpose Fund and Legal Aid NSW,’ said PIAC chief executive, Edward Santow.

‘But we need further support to build on our success in this area, and we are very grateful for the private donations we received during the past financial year.

‘These donations will help us to continue to provide legal support and advocacy for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, through the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service (HPLS),’ Mr Santow said.

Visit PIAC online for more information about HPLS and its free legal clinics or to make a tax-deductible donation.

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PIAC celebrates Law School joint venture

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PIAC hosted an ‘office-warming’ last month to celebrate its joint venture with Sydney Law School and its move to new premises at 173-175 Phillip Street, Sydney.

‘The move brings PIAC to the heart of the legal precinct and an activist stone’s throw from Parliament!’ said PIAC chief executive, Edward Santow (pictured above left, with Professor Gillian Triggs).

'This is exactly where we want to be. Our location symbolises our desire to be at the heart of decision-making, but to do so in a way that brings our clients and partners with us.’

Professor Gillian Triggs, Sydney Law School Dean (and soon-to-be president of the Australian Human Rights Commission), thanked PIAC chair Peter Cashman for helping to bring the Law School’s internship program with PIAC to fruition.

‘Many students come up to me and say it’s the best part of their training,’ Professor Triggs said.

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Australia moves closer to OPCAT treaty

Australia has moved another step closer to ratifying an anti-torture treaty that will enable independent inspections of detention centres, prisons and psychiatric wards.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) has recommended that the Federal Government ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

The JSCOT recommendation is in line with the Federal Government’s National Interest Analysis, which also endorsed ratification of OPCAT.


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Humanitarian award for PIAC lawyer

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The Refugee Council of Australia and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) last month presented PIAC acting Senior Solicitor, Anne Mainsbridge, with a Humanitarian Award
for her legal work with refugee survivors of torture and trauma.  

Until recently, Ms Mainsbridge provided legal support services to STARTTS clients as part of PIAC's Mental Health Legal Services Project.

According to STARTTS and the Refugee Council, Ms Mainsbridge’s contribution ‘was vital to the resolution of many cases, and she truly went above the call of duty to ensure that refugee clients were getting the best possible access to the law.’

Pictured, from left, are Lachlan Murdoch, Deputy CEO of STARTTS; PIAC’s Anne Mainsbridge; and Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia.

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Law for non-Lawyers in Goulburn

Twenty-eight community service workers from the NSW South Coast and Southern Tablelands met in Goulburn last month in a concerted effort to break the cycle of homelessness.

The community service workers joined a one-day training workshop presented by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and Legal Aid NSW.

Called Law for Non-Lawyers, the workshop addressed common legal problems faced by people at risk of becoming homeless. The workshop gave community workers the information they need to support early intervention for problems such as debt, fines, social security and tenancy issues.

Representatives from Mission Australia in Nowra and Moruya, and from Anglicare in Goulburn and the Southern Tablelands took part in the workshop, alongside local community workers from St Vincent de Paul and the Goulburn Family Support Service.

More information about the PIAC training program is available online.

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ACOSS launches climate change survey

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The Australian Council of Social Service has launched an online survey to identify the extent of the community welfare sector's exposure to climate change and extreme weather risks.

‘There is widespread concern that Australia's community sector is highly exposed to climate change and extreme weather risks,’ said ACOSS chief executive, Dr Cassandra Goldie.

‘For the first time this national survey will give us a good picture of the extent of that exposure, and the effects of organisational strain or failure during extreme events on service provision and, crucially, on its client-base,’ Dr Goldie said.

Photo: Flikr

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