Murdoch legal support for asylum seekers

May 31, 2017

Legacy Clinic volunteers with a print out of the huge application asylum seekers must make. The volunteers are, from left to right, Trish Blake, Lisa van Toor, Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny and Anna Copeland

Legacy Clinic volunteers with a print out of the huge application asylum seekers must make. The volunteers are, from left to right, Trish Blake, Lisa van Toor, Associate Professor Mary Anne Kenny and Anna Copeland

Students and alumni from Murdoch University’s School of Law are volunteering their time to provide assistance and support to asylum seekers affected by recent changes in Australia’s refugee policy.

The Legacy Clinic is run at Murdoch on Monday evenings, providing clients with legal advice and help to fill out complicated visa application forms.

The Clinic is part of the School’s Clinical Legal Program, which is led by legal practitioner and senior lecturer Anna Copeland.

She said recent announcements on refugee policy, which could mean asylum seekers are deported if they do not apply for a temporary protection visa by October, makes the work of the Clinic’s volunteers even more important.

“Asylum seekers are not allowed to make these applications for a certain time period,” said Ms Copeland. “When they are permitted, the application process is very difficult and arduous.

“There is no legal or interpretation assistance provided by the government, despite the complexity of the forms which feature more than 100 questions, and they can only be filled out in English.

“Once the processing is begun, the forms must be submitted very quickly, so it has been a big job to get enough volunteers to assist these clients.”

The Legacy Clinic has been running at Murdoch for almost two years and has helped more than 200 asylum seekers make successful visa applications.

Ms Copeland said the October deadline for applications was making the asylum seekers on the waiting list for assistance from the Legacy Clinic even more anxious.

“Our students and alumni are working very hard to help as many people as we can,” said Ms Copeland.

“Lots of our volunteers come after their day jobs but are committed to using their knowledge and skills to help as many people as they can.”

Lisa van Toor, graduate student and Legacy Clinic volunteer, said she wanted to help asylum seekers because they have been through so much hardship.

“They have had to flee their own country, and once in Australia, they have had to wait a number of years before they can apply for protection,” said Lisa, who is on placement at Murdoch's Clinical Legal Program as part of the Piddington Society's Piddington Justice Project.

“They do not have access to lawyers or even interpreters to help them with the process, so this is where we can help.”

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