The University of Western Sydney (UWS) has today launched the Parramatta Community Justice Clinic (PCJC) in an initiative aimed at assisting vulnerable community members by providing free legal advice and support.
Located in the Parramatta Justice Precinct, the PCJC was officially opened by the NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos and UWS Vice-Chancellor Professor Janice Reid to coincide with Law Week.
"It is fitting that we are launching the PCJC during Law Week, as it reminds us how important it is to have fair and free access to legal services and representation for all members of the community, regardless of their educational, socio-economic, or cultural backgrounds," said Reid
A unique service, the PCJC will be run by UWS law students under the supervision of practicing solicitors from Macquarie Legal Centre.
It is thought the centre will primarily be used by disadvantaged members of the community who cannot afford legal representation, and the participating students are also set to benefit.
"Working in the PCJC ... gives our law students an invaluable learning experience - allowing many of them to work with clients for the first time in a context which gives the principles of fairness and social justice, which they have studied, a human face," said Reid.
"One of the greatest strengths of the UWS School of Law is its active commitment to socially-just legal practice, and the way in which it challenges our students to serve their communities with commitment, fairness and empathy."
The PCJC's clients will be able to make appointments or simply drop-in, and students will be available to assist on civil, criminal and family law matters.
Students will also help clients understand and complete legal paperwork, assist them with court preparation, and refer them to external legal services where appropriate.
Hatzistergos said of the launch: "We welcome these hardworking law students to the legal fraternity here at the Parramatta Justice Precinct where their work helps to ensure that everyone has access to the law and justice."
UWS worked in partnership with the NSW Department of Justice and Attorney General, Macquarie Legal Centre and Parramatta City Council to launch the initiative, and it is strongly supported by members of the Parramatta and Greater Western Sydney legal profession, as well as local businesses and community groups.
Funding for the initiative has been provided by the Federal Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations through its Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund.