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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 June 2021) . . Page.. 1626 ..

One of the people who Genevieve and her team have helped through the pandemic is a Housing ACT tenant, Judith. Judith had been a model Housing ACT tenant for over a decade. She became the victim of abuse from her neighbours and managed to obtain personal protection orders or PPOs against her neighbours. To escape the abuse, Judith exhausted her savings, staying in motels and other accommodation, even resorting to sleeping in her car for over 50 nights. Judith had to leave her job and became physically and mentally unwell. Strains on government services during the pandemic meant that Judith was unable to access crisis or low-income accommodation. With CCL’s experience, expertise and support, Judith was placed on the priority housing list and thankfully is now living safely in a private complex.

Another area in which CCL do a lot of work is supporting Canberrans to navigate and deal with the Centrelink system. During the pandemic, one of CCL’s clients, William, had his JobSeeker claim rejected by Centrelink. William was experiencing extreme financial hardship and faced eviction from his community housing unit. William found it difficult to access Centrelink services during COVID-19 and had difficulty working through the issues and systems on the phone.

CCL met with William and helped him gather supporting documentation, including financial statements and medical reports demonstrating that his gambling was being medically treated as an addiction. CCL drafted a submission to the Authorised Review Officer and made oral submissions arguing for the JobSeeker preclusion period to be reduced, based on special circumstances. Thanks to the team at CCL, William received an arrears payment and is now working with a psychologist on measures to better manage his money.

An area that Genevieve and her team are particularly proud of is their work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the ACT. The Dhurrawang Aboriginal Human Rights program is a specialist legal service that provides advice and representation to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the ACT. The Dhurrawang program also runs a specialist outreach service with the AMC, assisting inmates with race discrimination and other human rights claims.

Additional funding last year allowed CCL to increase its front-line legal services around the pandemic so that Canberrans like Judith and William were able to receive assistance when government services were under pressure. However, this short-term COVID assistance funding that CCL received during the pandemic ceases on 30 June this year, in about four weeks time.

While this funding comes to an end, the strain on government services remains high and the need for community legal assistance continues at an increased level. The lockdown in Victoria and this morning’s declaration of COVID exposure sites along the South Coast are stark reminders that the pandemic continues and its impacts will remain for quite a while longer.

Canberrans like Judith and William still need support from Canberra Community Law. Without urgent funding certainty from the ACT government, Canberra Community Law faces an immediate reduction in staffing and will need to reduce its service

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