Murdoch celebrates 20 years of free legal clinic

November 30, 2017


Building experience: Murdoch's clinical program at SCALES provides free legal aid to clients (From left to right SCALES Connect chair Nicola Gannon, Anna Copeland and Tessa Maybery)

Murdoch University’s clinical legal program, which has provided more than 11,000 people in the Rockingham and Kwinana areas with free legal advice, is celebrating its 20-year anniversary.

Staff and alumni of the clinical program, which is based at Southern Communities Advocacy, Legal and Education Service Inc (SCALES), have come together at various events, including a special Dean’s Reception at Murdoch’s School of Law, to acknowledge its incredible work and achievements.

The clinic at SCALES was established by Murdoch in partnership with the local community in April 1997.

The centre has given more than 1,000 Murdoch students the opportunity to work with real clients on their legal issues under the supervision of solicitors and Murdoch academics.

The assistance provided has helped individuals and organisations to address disadvantage and discrimination across a range of matters including housing issues, family and domestic violence, refugee rights, racial discrimination and access to justice.

The Director of Clinical Legal Programs at Murdoch University, Anna Copeland, said she was incredibly proud of the work done by Murdoch students at SCALES.

“We have won several awards and have been recognised nationally for our work over the years,” Ms Copeland said.

“But the most satisfying aspect of our clinical program is seeing our students make a tangible difference to the lives of disadvantaged members of society.

“Many have gained vital practical experience which has been very influential in their careers in the legal profession, as well as helping them to bridge the gap between their law text books and the real world.”

Final year law student Tessa Maybery said her SCALES experience helped her to gain confidence as a student about to transition into work, and cemented her desire to work in human rights and community law.

“Students are allowed independence at SCALES which is coupled with dedicated supervision,” she said.

“I was struck by the range of clients the SCALES human rights clinic assists. During my semester at SCALES, the clients I worked with included asylum seekers, refugees, people with issues stemming from homelessness along with cases regarding criminal prosecutions.

“The work I completed on these files ranged from contacting other parties to obtain information, drafting letters, legal research and interviewing clients.”

Ms Maybery will be working as the associate to Judge Barker in the Federal Court in 2018 but longer term hopes to work as a lawyer in a community legal centre like SCALES.

Alumni Sarah Pickles said her SCALES experience had taught her what it takes to be an effective and resilient lawyer.

“I’ve recently started working for the Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit in the Northern Territory where I am seeking justice for women facing domestic violence,” she said.

“Without the skills I developed at SCALES, I would not have had the confidence to take this job, which is based in Tennant Creek, a small town 500km north of Alice Springs.”

“Among the skills of legal research, confidence with clients and working in a legal team, my SCALES experience taught me that it’s important to keep caring.”

To learn more about SCALES, click here.

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