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Emergency lawyers needed for disaster relief: LIV

Emergency lawyers needed for disaster relief: LIV

The peak body representing lawyers in Victoria says legal assistance needs to be incorporated into natural disaster emergency services.

THE peak body representing lawyers in Victoria says legal assistance needs to be incorporated into natural disaster emergency services.

The Law Institute of Victoria has highlighted a new report suggesting that a legal assistance sector be incorporated into relief for people affected by natural disasters.

Legal assistance needs to be part of emergency plans and community recovery when natural disasters such as Black Saturday occur, the Bushfire Legal Help report states.

The report also calls for the legal and human rights of individuals at inquiries such as the Bushfire Royal Commission to be strengthened and protected.

Bushfire Legal Help, a partnership of six Victorian legal agencies, was formed within days of Black Saturday, the LIV said.

It responded to over 2165 enquiries and provided ongoing legal assistance and resources to more than 800 Victorians affected by the bushfires.

The six agencies include the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the Public Interest Law Clearing House, the Victorian Bar, the Law Institute of Victoria, the Victorian Law Foundation and Victoria Legal Aid.

Despite the plethora of legal issues that arise from a state of emergency, the LIV said in a statement, legal services remain absent from emergency management policies and plans at both the state and national level.

In the immediate aftermath of Black Saturday people required assistance with identification, wills, estates, housing and tenancy, insurance, property law and family issues, the LIV said.

The report suggests that legal assistance be recognised as a vital component of natural disaster emergency services, and that emergency health, housing, counselling and legal services be co-located in times of a natural disaster recovery.

The report suggests that the legal assistance sector inform governments and planning bodies of the longer-term legal problems created by major emergencies.

The 40 page report describes the contributions of each of the six agencies, including personal stories of the legal issues and experiences faced by victims of Black Saturday.

Bushfire Legal Help lawyers at the Kinglake relief centre, the LIV said, were able to help a young couple whose home had been destroyed.

“The lawyers helped us with all our paperwork - right from getting a birth certificate for our little baby, who was only four days old, to sorting out issues with our landlord. The lawyers worked around our needs and even called us out of hours. We are so grateful.”


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