Monash legal service expands its mission for social justice

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Sara Kowal, Vice President of the Capital Punishment Justice Project and clinical supervisor
Sara Kowal, Vice President of the Capital Punishment Justice Project and clinical supervisor

For more than 40 years, Monash legal centres have provided hands-on experience to student volunteers giving legal assistance to the Victorians who can least afford it.

Now, to complement their core community-based work, they’re adding specialist clinics to tackle some of society’s big issues. The service has also gained a new CBD centre.

Associate Professor Rachel Spencer, Director, Monash Law Clinics – Clayton and Melbourne, said the Lonsdale Street centre provided easy access for people living on the other side of the city to Clayton. It also houses the four new clinics.

“The research-based clinics offer a slightly different experience for students in that they don’t interview individuals like they do in the centres – they work providing assistance to external partners. It’s exciting,” Ms Spencer said.

Monash Law’s Death Penalty Clinic, established in July 2018, works with international partner organisations in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines to undertake anti-death penalty advocacy and international diplomacy. A new partnership with the Capital Punishment Justice Project (formerly Reprieve Australia) will establish the Capital Punishment Impact Initiative – the first for the Asia-Pacific region. Sara Kowal (pictured), Vice President of the Capital Punishment Justice Project and a clinical supervisor at Monash, says the new institute will be a hub for partners focused on policy, research, advocacy and casework devoted to ending the death penalty in Asia and beyond.

The Start-up and Innovation Clinic will run in partnership with Monash’s Generator, Monash Innovation, the Eastern Innovation Business Centre and Sharrock Pitman Legal to provide free advice on start-up projects. The Law Reform Clinic opened last year and the Climate Justice Clinic is due to open at the end of the year.

The clinics broaden the experiences under the Monash Law Clinical Guarantee, which ensures that every law student completing their degree course has the opportunity to participate in clinical work.

While community legal centres are supported through the Federation of Community Legal Centres in Victoria and funded by the federal government through Victorian Legal Aid (VLA), the new clinics rely on support from industry partners and philanthropy.

The opportunity

“Without philanthropic help we certainly wouldn’t be able to provide the number of clinics we do,” Associate Professor Spencer said. “Due to the increasing demand within the community for legal assistance and the high level of student engagement, this is an ongoing priority for Monash Law.”

If you would like to know more, contact Kris McKay at Kris.McKay@monash.edu.