Undergraduate students in legal strife will have no choice but to take their problems to SUPRA or the Redfern Legal Centre, with the SRC Legal Service (SLS) closing over September.
The closure has been catalysed by Acting Principal Solicitor An Li’s decision to take pre-arranged leave, organised prior to her starting at the Legal Service in April this year.
The closure will not affect any of the service’s existing caseload, according to Li, telling Honi that adjournments had been sought and obtained in several student matters.
The student-funded SLS is suffering from capacity drawbacks after long-time principal Thomas McLoughlin was given the sack in June, forcing the SRC to hire an interim part-time solicitor.
In contrast, the University of Technology Sydney Students’ Association (UTSSA) runs a legal service managed by a solicitor and two trainee solicitors.
The search for a new Principal is on pause as the SRC defends McLoughlin’s unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission. Honi understands that the claim was not settled at conciliation.
USyd’s student-funded SLS is an incorporated legal practice which receives close to $160,000 in annual funding from the SRC.
Assisting more than 700 students every year with employment, family, criminal law issues and more, the service is a cornerstone of the SRC’s service offering, outreach and advocacy for vulnerable students and activists involved in the organisation’s campaigns.
In the past, the service has represented more than 130 students over proposed changes to the Bachelor of Visual Arts degree, and has consistently advised student journalists on defamation and other media law issues.
The SLS has been used as political leverage by student politicians of all political cloaks, with promises of increased funding and expanding services consistently pledged every year.
2018 SRC President Imogen Grant promised a dedicated a discrimination solicitor specialising in sexual assault.
In last year’s election, Reboot (Labor Right/Unity) presidential candidate Adriana Malavisi promised to bring in specialised discrimination and sexual assault lawyers. That same policy was promised by the Grassroots for Feminism ticket. Soft-Right Liberal ticket “Students first for SRC” also pledged to increase funding to the legal service.
Students have historically supported the provision of legal services through student organisations like the SRC.
In 2018, the Redfern Legal Centre conducted a client satisfaction survey of clients of its SSAF-funded service in SUPRA’s offices. The survey found 100% of all respondents supported the provision of a legal service for postgraduate students by SUPRA.
Back in May, SUPRA launched the SUPRA Legal Service (SUPRAL) as part of an $80,000 restructure which allowed SUPRAL to take over from the Redfern Legal Centre as the key legal service provider for postgraduate students at the University.
If you’re an undergraduate student and require legal assistance in September, call the SUPRA Legal Service on (02) 9351 3714. SUPRAL runs drop-in legal service sessions on 1-3pm on Mondays and Thursdays before 2:30pm.
You can also call the Redfern Legal Centre on (02) 9698 7277 for general advice or its International Student Advice Line on (02) 9698 7645. Call 131 450 if you require an interpreting service.