The Law Council, Law Society of NSW and NSW Bar have all issued statements offering assistance and reminding those in need how they can seek free legal advice.
Australian lawyers continue to support bushfire victims across the country as the crisis worsens, new LCA president Pauline Wright said, while offering her “sympathy and best wishes” to those directly affected.
“I can only imagine how difficult it would be struggling with the loss of loved ones, your home, your business, your farm, or your animals,” Ms Wright said.
She commended the support being offered to victims of the bushfires across the nations through referral services offered by law societies and bar associations, legal aid organisations, and community legal associations.
“The bushfires, sadly, are now having a devastating impact in every state in Australia,” Ms Wright said.
“As a profession, we are uniquely placed to support victims as they require legal advice, and every lawyer should consider pro bono aid for those affected. It’s heartening to see that so many individuals in the profession have stepped up with offers of pro bono assistance.”
NSW Bar Association president Tim Game SC said: “In recent weeks we have witnessed, and continue to witness, the devastation wrought by bushfires and the resulting terrible loss of life, homes and property. Our thoughts are with all affected by the bushfires.”
“Our sincere thanks go out to volunteers of the Rural Fire Service, emergency services personnel, ADF personnel and reservists and countless others who continue to work tirelessly to support communities during this difficult time.
“The fires are also having a devastating effect on wildlife. WIRES have set up an emergency fund, with information available here.
“We are liaising with various bodies to offer the association’s support, where possible, to assist those affected by the bushfires to access legal services. We will keep you informed of those discussions.”
This was supported by the new president of the Law Society of NSW, Richard Harvey, who said that across the Premier State, reports indicate that more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed, 20 lives have been lost, livestock and wildlife have perished and more than 4 million hectares of bushland across the state have been ravaged by the fires.
“And the danger has not yet passed. We know that for those Australians who have lost everything, the task of rebuilding their lives will present many, many challenges for them,” he said.
“In this time of great tragedy, we need to do all we can, as members of the NSW community and the legal profession, to assist those impacted by the bushfires who have lost so much. These people have shown great strength and resilience in the face of such great loss, many of them have been and are still involved in fighting the fires.
“Now, as they work to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their livelihood, it’s important they can access legal assistance in relation to insurance, housing or tenancy issues, accessing credit and employment or social security.”
For those impacted by the bushfires, Legal Aid NSW is currently providing free, practical legal assistance to help these people recover and rebuild, Mr Harvey continued.
“However, with the demand for legal assistance expected to be immense and ongoing, we anticipate that private practitioners and law firms will be called on to provide pro bono legal assistance,” he said.
“To this end, we are working with the NSW Attorney General’s Office, Legal Aid NSW and the NSW Bar Association to formulate a statewide pro bono legal assistance capability to ensure a timely response as the emergency enters the recovery phase.”
“Importantly, we are particularly keen to deploy pro bono legal services where there are areas of need which may not be captured within Legal Aid NSW’s remit.”
• RFS: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/general-news/how-you-can-help
• National Legal Aid: www.nationallegalaid.org
• LawAccess NSW Disaster Response Hotline: 1800 801 529
• Legal Aid NSW: www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au
• BarCare: 0427317958
• Community legal associations: www.lawaccess.org.au
• Lawcover NSW: (02) 9926 0333