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Conflict of interest cuts domestic violence victims from aid
Sparke Helmore picks up Curwoods partners:

Conflict of interest cuts domestic violence victims from aid

Ross Lee RCLC

Two legal aid centres are necessary in any one place to avoid people being turned away because of a conflict of interest, according to one CLC president.

All law firms, including community legal centres, are not allowed to offer legal advice to both sides of a dispute, which means that victims of domestic violence can be turned away if their partner has already sought legal advice at the same centre.

The Gold Coast’s Robina Community Legal Centre president Ross Lee (pictured) said: “The conflict of interest issue is a fundamental reason why the Gold Coast, or anywhere really, needs at least two legal aid centres so that people aren't turned away.

“The latest national survey of legal centres listed the highest percentage reason why turnaways occurred was in-fact conflict of interest – 83 per cent, which is just madness to me.”

Mr Lee also highlighted the importance of providing a walk-in service, as making appointments is often too difficult for people in domestic violence situations.

“It’s really important that we remain accessible because if you tell someone ‘make an appointment to see us in two weeks or three weeks or six weeks’, then chances are that they're not going to turn up.”

He added: “They need to be able to walk in to a safe environment, get the advice they need and then they can put their lives, and their kids' lives importantly too, on track.”

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