A partnership between Canterbury City Council and Salvos Legal saw the launch of a new community legal centre in Lakemba on Saturday (29 October).
Sparke Helmore partner and deputy mayor of the City of Canterbury Bill Kritharas was instrumental in setting up the centre which is operating on the unique self-sustaining Salvos Legal model.
Kritharas said he noticed the gap in legal services (between Marrickville legal centre and Liverpool legal centre) in the Canterbury region and set about the goal of establishing a legal centre some years ago.
"When we didn't have success securing the funding from government, along came a new innovative model: Salvos Legal," said Kritharas.
The Salvos Legal model features a transactional legal arm which funds the salaries of lawyers working in the firm's humanitarian arm.
The firm already has offices in Surry Hills, Parramatta, Auburn, Campsie and Miranda.
The Lakemba centre is now open every Tuesday and staffed with one lawyer; partner Anne-Marie Paterson, and a number of volunteers who provide free legal services, particularly in relation to family law issues, domestic violence, criminal law, employment law and immigration matters.
"It's only been operating for a few weeks and already it's very busy. They're doing 15 consultations every Tuesday, so already the word has spread," said Kritharas, adding that he hopes to get Sparkes involved, and eventually see the centre up and running full time.
Luke Geary, managing partner of Salvos Legal Humanitarian said he was excited about the partnership with the Council and the opportunity it offered to help members of the region in "a very real and practical way".
Canterbury City Council is providing the premises and resources (furniture and computers) free of charge while Salvos Legal staffs the centre.
With 47 per cent of residents in the Canterbury region born overseas (the majority having come from China, Lebanon, Greece and Vietnam), it is one of the most diverse and lowest income per household areas in Sydney.