CCHR provides a list of legal organisations as a service to make obtaining legal representation easier. CCHR makes no recommendations about any of the organisations listed. We advise that you choose a lawyer that you feel confident working with. Even if the lawyer is working for free, make sure you are 100% satisfied with them or you may not obtain the required result you want.
- Australian Probono Resource Centre: This Australian group supports and promotes probono legal services (meaning “for the public good”, services are free though sometimes they may charge for other expenses). They do not provide legal assistance themselves but do have a state directory on their website which lists organizations and services who may be able to assist with free legal advice in your state. http://probonocentre.org.au
- LAWPATH (all states of Australia): Their website covers how to obtain free legal advice in all states of Australia. They also have a facility where a question can be asked confidentially via their lawyer connection platform on 1800LAWPATH. They will then connect you to the most suitable lawyer from their 600+ network for a free 30 minute consultation. https://lawpath.com.au
- Public Interest Advocacy Centre: Is a non-profit organisation who provide legal assistance, to help people who have the least access to economic, social and legal resources and opportunities. They have a strict set of guidelines concerning who they are able to assist. They are located in NSW. http://www.piac.asn.au
- Justice Connect: Provide free legal referral to pro bono lawyers for people experiencing disadvantage in NSW and Victoria. https://www.justiceconnect.org.au
- NSW Public Interest Clearing House (PILCH): Refer around 100 requests a year from the community for assistance from their members. http://www.pilchnsw.org.au
- LawAccess NSW: A free government phone service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in NSW. http://www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au
- Community Legal Centres Queensland: There are 33 independent community legal centres operating across Queensland. They provide free information, advice and referral, limited representation and advocacy. http://communitylegalqld.org.au
- LawRight: Formerly known as QLD Public Interest Law Clearing House (QPILCH), LawRight is an independent, not-for-profit, community-based legal organisation coordinating the provision of pro bono legal services for individuals and community groups in Queensland. www.lawright.org.au
- Victoria Law Foundation: Help to give Victorians the knowledge and confidence to deal with everyday legal issues and seek legal help for problems. http://www.victorialawfoundation.org.au/about-us
- South Australia reviews and appeals under the Mental Health Act: The South Australian Mental Health Act under section 84, provides for every review or appeal (for involuntarily detained patients and those on a community treatment order), a lawyer of the person’s choice paid for by the government. http://sahealth.sa.gov.au
- No Win No Fee Law Firms: There are many law firms across Australia that will take on legal matters on a “no win, no fee” basis, also known as a “contingency” basis or “speculative action.” This means that, if the firm thinks you are likely to succeed in court and receive compensation, they will not charge you any money up front. Instead, they will take their legal fees out of the amount of compensation you receive if you succeed. Enquire about this when contact is made with a law firm.
- Solicitor Advice.com: This site may assist in locating a lawyer: http://www.solicitoradvice.com/medicalnegligencelawyers.htm
- Australian Lawyers for Human Rights: An association of legal professionals active in practising and promoting awareness of international human rights standards in Australia. They promote laws across Australia that comply with the principals of international human rights law, support lawyer’s practice of human rights law and assist victims of human rights violations in Australia. https://alhr.org.au
Law Societies in Each State of Australia
- Law Society of ACT: Have a Legal Advice Bureau where members of the public can see a lawyer who has volunteered their time between 12.30pm and 2.00pm weekdays. Phone (02) 6274 0300 for an appointment. They also have a Pro Bono Clearing House who examines applications made to them for pro bono legal assistance. Applicants who meet eligibility criteria will be referred on to a network of Community Legal Centres and law firms. https://www.actlawsociety.asn.au
- Law Society of NSW: Refer the public to lawyers including public who can pay and sometimes those who can’t through their Pro Bono Referral Scheme. They have an online referral, by email or by phone (02) 9926 0300. https://www.lawsociety.com.au
- Law Society Northern Territory: Members of the public can telephone the NT Law Society and ask for a list of firms practising in the required area of law on (08) 8981 5104. They also have a Pro Bono Clearing House and members of the public can apply for assistance. In addition to these services they have a “First Interview Scheme” that enables a member of the public to have an initial 30 minute consultation with a legal practitioner for $99 (cost as at August 2016). Phone the Law Society NT to enquire about this scheme. http://lawsocietynt.asn.au
- Queensland Law Society: Have a “Find a solicitor by online referral” on their website. They also have a Pro Bono Referral Service which is administered by the non-profit organisation, LawRight (formerly QPILCH) www.lawright.org.au
- Society of SA: Will provide the names of 3 legal firms according to specific areas of law. https://www.lawsocietysa.asn.au
- Law Society of Tasmania: Have a “Find a Firm by Areas of Practice” on their website. Have a Pro Bono Clearing House aimed at matching people who are in genuine need of legal help with a lawyer who is able to assist. Eligibility criteria are on their website. http://lst.org.au
- Law Institute of Victoria: Have a “Find your lawyer” referral service by area of law on their website. They also provide a “Law Institute Referral Letter”, for participating firms who will see clients for up to the first 30 minutes free of charge. Phone (03) 9607 9550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a referral letter. The referral letter will list up to 3 firms practising in the relevant area of law. http://www.liv.asn.au
- Law Society of WA: Have an on-line search to find lawyers who have experience in specific areas of law. They also have a list of free or low cost legal services on their site. https://www.lawsocietywa.asn.aup
Other ways to locate a lawyer to assist would include searching on-line for medical negligence lawyers, personal injury lawyers, human rights lawyers and similar. Should you call someone and they are unable to help, ask them if they know of anyone who can as this may shorten your search.
You could also talk to your lawyer if required about the possibility of what actions could be taken to assist in preventing future psychiatric treatment through the use of a Living Will, Power of Attorney, Medical Guardianship, (some states of Australia have Advance Health Directives or similar). State Governments will also have information on this area.
Freedom of Information Acts – Obtaining Medical Records and Government Information
All states of Australia have acts of law which allow for patients to obtain their medical records as well as for the public to obtain information from government agencies. Medical records can greatly assist with lodgement of complaints and legal actions.
The name of the law, what can be obtained and from where does vary from state to state and federally. Below are links that provide information for each state on this law and how to make a freedom of information request. The hospital or agency where it is known/thought the records are, can be phoned directly and asked for assistance to make the request.
- FEDERAL: Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – https://www.oaic.gov.au/freedom-of-information/foi-act
- ACT: Australian Capital Territory Ombudsman – http://ombudsman.act.gov.au/contact-us/freedom-of-information-request
- NSW: Information and Privacy Commission – https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/how-access-medical-records-or-information
- NT: Office of the Information Commissioner Northern Territory – https://infocomm.nt.gov.au
- QLD: Queensland Government – https://www.rti.qld.gov.au/right-to-information-act
- SA: South Australia Government – https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/citizens-and-your-rights/access-to-government/accessing-government-data
- Tas: Tasmanian Department of Human Services for health related requests- http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/about_the_department/your_rights/rti
- Vic: Victoria State Government Right to Information website: http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/about_the_department/your_rights/rti
- WA: Office of the Information Commissioner – http://foi.wa.gov.au