“The whole premise of me getting mental health support, addiction support and legal support all under the same umbrella is incredibly beneficial and it’s changed my life. I’m really so grateful for my experience with First Step Legal. My actual vision for myself has never been more clear. I feel like it’s doable. I’m not just clutching at straws; I feel like I can achieve it.”
First Step Legal is a community legal centre embedded within First Step. We provide pro bono legal advice and representation to some of the most disadvantaged and disenfranchised members of our community, ensuring that the stress of dealing with a legal matter does not derail their rehabilitation efforts.
COVID-19 demanded a radical shift in the way we operate and support our clients. We increased phone contact for many as they experienced distress from the economic, social, and medical implications of the pandemic. We engaged with their families, navigated various service closures and tried to find alternatives, and managed a new online system for court appearances.
For the first time since our inception, we received confirmation of our eligibility to receive Community Legal Centre funding from the state government to partially fund our legal practice. This wonderful news allowed us to start busily scoping two new health justice partnership pilots – one with St Kilda Road Clinic Community Mental Health, and the other with Star Health Family Violence
We also added a criminal lawyer and family lawyer to our team, and a new legal administrator. This means we can support even more clients struggling with legal issues, in a more meaningful way than ever before.
Overwhelmingly, we continue to deal with criminal law and family violence matters, driving offences, dishonesty offenses and drug related offending. Over the last year we assisted 151 clients with 188 legal matters.
As part of our ongoing commitment to clients, we keep in regular contact once their matter is resolved. Of the clients surveyed this year, 95% had not committed any further offences and 100% felt more hopeful and positive than before working with us.
It’s remains an enormous privilege to be able to do this work and to use whatever capacities we have to help make a difference in the lives of our clients whose courage and determination to overcome overwhelming obstacles in their owns lives, continues to inspire us.