Asylum Seeker Legal Support Clinics – It Takes More than Love to Fill the Justice Gap! When even the lawyers will work for free you know it must be an important issue. 

Over the past couple of years a group of senior lawyers, supported by some great law students, have provided pro-bono legal services to refugees and asylum seekers.  These people have gone about the business of helping asylum seekers, by donating their expertise, without seeking recompense. Asylum seeker legal cases can be complex, expensive and difficult to run, due to language barriers, jurisdictional issues, documentation and lack of funds to cover costs. There is no general pool of funding to pay for legal help for asylum seekers who require judicial review of their cases. This may come as a surprise to some, because we tend to presume that someone else will be looking after the issue, or the government will provide.

We have run fundraisers and events to pay for court filing fees and other out of pocket expenses.  I, like the other lawyers, have paid for photocopying and filing fees from my own pocket.  But there is just not enough to go around. 

Asylum seekers are some of the most marginalised and disenfranchised people in our community. We have a large asylum seeker population at Pontville. We also have many many asylum seekers living in community detention. 

With the support of social justice organisations we have responded to this crisis of need, by providing free community based clinics for asylum seeker legal support. Our work is challenging, sometimes confronting and certainly not for the faint hearted. We have about 80 lawyers (many students) on our volunteer list, some moving into their third year of volunteering with our asylum seeker legal support group.  We run regular legal clinics to which asylum seekers are invited in community groups, facilitated by local barristers and solicitors. 

When you sit down with people one on one and hear their stories it is almost impossible not to want to do more. I would love to be able to offer more comprehensive support for cases where the need is greatest, but we are constrained by our lack of resources. 

The justice gap is so large, and our capacity in a small town to provide free legal services in this highly specialised area of the law so limited, that I now feel it is urgent to call for funding support. 

Is there anyone out there who might like to make a substantial donation to human rights and social justice by helping me locate funding?  I’m calling for community support.  Come on you know you want to help…

Madeleine Ogilvie

Barrister & Solicitor

Ph 0409 001 800

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Suite 1, Level 2

Castray Esplanade

Battery Point Tas