La Trobe Law School Partnership with the Neighbourhood Justice Centre

A Wills and Wishes clinic to support people making complex life decisions in drafting their own Will is being delivered in an Australian-first partnership between the La Trobe Law School and the Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) in Collingwood.

Head of La Trobe Law School, Professor Patrick Keyzer, and Sue Marshall, Manager of Education and Stakeholder Engagement at the NJC, initiated the project. The Law School is sponsoring the clinic, which will run from St Mary’s House of Welcome in Fitzroy.

The Wills and Wishes clinic builds on the existing invaluable services offered by volunteers and staff of St Mary’s House of Welcome. St Mary’s has been operating in Fitzroy since 1960 to feed homeless people in the area. They have an open door policy for people who are homeless or are living in poverty. The centre is open six days a week and assists over 200 people each day. This is an invaluable service and unique opportunity for students to engage with the community in a meaningful and productive way within a supported environment.

The clinics take a multi-disciplinary approach, bringing together students from two colleges to work with clients at St Mary’s, and offers an opportunity to develop practical skills by working alongside other professionals to support people when making difficult life decisions. Over the course of a semester students from the Law School and the School of Social Work will run the clinics under the supervision of legal practitioners and social workers. Six students from each school will work in pairs to assist clients in drafting their wills. Law School students will receive credit towards their degrees.

All students will work alongside an experienced social worker and an experienced solicitor throughout the project. Students will assist with arranging wills, powers of attorney, advanced health directives and similar legal documents, which will then be drafted and settled by an experienced wills and probate solicitor.

Law School students will be supervised by La Trobe’s Clinical Legal Educator, Joanne Ellis, while Patrick McGee, Coordinator of the La Trobe Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign, will be supervising the social work students. The practicing solicitor for the project is Suzanne Bevacqua, a Lecturer in the Law School.

To assist with getting the project off the ground, Maureen Long, Discipline Lead—Social Work at La Trobe, put a call out to social work students, asking for volunteers for the project. This resulted in an overwhelming positive response and the difficult task of selecting six students for this semester. It was wonderful to have so many students volunteer for such a worthwhile project.

This project has relied on the invaluable support of La Trobe staff as well as NJC and St Mary’s staff and volunteers. Thank you to all involved: Sue Marshall (Manager, NJC), Randa Rafiq (Clinical and Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator, La Trobe Law School), Professor Patrick Keyzer (Head, La Trobe Law School), Suzanne Bevacqua (Lecturer, La Trobe Law School), Joanne Ellis (Clinical Legal Educator, La Trobe Law School), Patrick McGee (Coordinator, Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign) and Maureen Long (Discipline Lead — Social Work, La Trobe University).

La Trobe