5 April 2018: A new welfare initiative implemented by the University of Canberra will see students, staff and members of the local community receive legal assistance free of charge on campus.
The University has partnered with Legal Aid ACT, a local organisation that helps socially and economically disadvantaged people with their legal problems, to establish Legal Aid @ UC at its Bruce campus.
The service is partly funded under the student services and amenities fee program.
Under the arrangement, Legal Aid lawyers will offer free, confidential legal advice from the University’s Student Central.
The University’s Acting Director of Student Life, Scott Pearsall, said the on-campus presence of legal professionals would ease the burden on students and members of the local community who are dealing with legal issues.
“We know that university students commonly have a number of legal problems, including debt, residential disputes and employment issues,” Mr Pearsall said.
“This new service will provide timely and effective help for our students and enhance access to justice.”
Legal Aid @ UC was launched officially today but has been operating since March. Almost 30 clients – many of them students – have sought legal advice since its inception.
The service will operate alongside the wide range of existing student welfare services offered by the University.
“This new service is an opportunity for the University to provide additional resources and services for students,” Mr Pearsall said. “Having it on campus means students can access legal advice easily and in a familiar environment.”
Legal Aid ACT operates out of 12 locations around Canberra and counts university students among its existing clients, Chief Executive Officer John Boersig said.
Mr Boersig said establishing an outreach at the University of Canberra would help the organisation reach more students.
“When people have a problem, we want a door that they can come into readily,” Mr Boersig said.
“People often hide their problem or ignore it for a long time. Having an accessible service means people get help sooner rather than later and the sooner they get help, the more likely they are to get a positive resolution.”
The new service will also create opportunities for students studying law at the University to gain practical experience under the supervision of qualified lawyers.
Mr Pearsall said this was an exciting element of the partnership with Legal Aid ACT.
“Students will certainly be able to assist in the provision of legal advice,” he said. “This creates another opportunity for the University to engage with industry to provide students with access to real-life work experience through internships and placements.
“The University already has a number of arrangements in place with Legal Aid which students benefit from and this new partnership will see an expansion of that.”
The service will be available at the University’s Bruce campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays.