Tasmanian
Refugee
Legal
Service

TRLS addresses an access-to-justice gap that manifests from the unique circumstances of refugees, asylum seekers & other humanitarian entrants into the Tasmanian community.

Collaborating with Rae & Partners in Launceston

To expand our ability to service the north of Tasmania, in 2023 TRLS formed a partnership with commercial legal firm Rae & Partners in Launceston.

In 2023, TRLS reached out to the Launceston based commercial firm Rae and Partners to see if the firm would be willing to partner with TRLS to provide further free legal services to clients in the north of the state. TRLS was looking to continue to expand to the North of the State. As outlined by the Australian Pro Bono Centre the contributions of pro bono lawyers can make a world of difference to underfunded and overworked community legal centres.

This partnership with TRLS came at a perfect time for Rae and Partners, as the firm was in the process of establishing a Diversity Committee. The Diversity Committee, currently comprised of four lawyers, aims to promote diversity, equality and inclusion within the firm, support underrepresented groups within the wider community, advocate for equality of opportunity for all staff, regardless of race, ethnicity, heritage, gender, age, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and to be advocates for change within the firm and the wider community.

The Diversity Committee of Rae and Partners decided to undertake this project with TRLS to expand the reach of the service further. Previously clients in the north of the State needed to have their appointments by phone or video link and lawyers from Hobart were driving back and forth to provide vital legal support to clients in the north of the State. With many of TRLS’s clients being from linguistically diverse backgrounds, this created a barrier in communication. To bridge this gap, and to address the issues and challenges faced by their clients, the project aimed to support the work that TRLS do by offering face-to-face appointments from the Rae and Partners office in Launceston. This allows the service to provide the advice, representation and support that TRLS clients need in Northern Tasmania.

In the past 24 months, there have been two major humanitarian crises – the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine. This has resulted in TRLS’s caseload increasing by 300%. The Rae and Partners team predominantly assists TRLS with their family reunification cases. There is a significant amount of work involved in these cases, with each requiring approximately 25 – 35 hours of work to prepare and lodge the application, and a further 25 – 30 hours of work to prepare and lodge the submissions. On average, it takes three to five years for these cases to be determined.

If TRLS’s clients had to instruct a private law firm to complete their applications, they would incur legal costs of approximately $8,000.00 per case. TRLS estimates that by the end of this financial year, it will have provided approximately one million dollars worth of free family reunification legal work for the Afghan refugee community alone.

Rae and Partners lawyers assist TRLS by undertaking the first appointments with clients (in-person), gathering information and documents (such as ID, birth certificates, marriage certificates and immigration documents), assisting them in completing visa application forms, preparing statutory declarations, and eventually, drafting submissions. This work enables TRLS to increase capacity to take on more clients and spread the support to the wider community.

The Rae and Partners team are currently operating on a roster system, with Tuesday and Thursday afternoons set aside for the project. Rae and Partners currently have a team of four lawyers involved in the project, meaning that each lawyer is dedicating approximately one afternoon per month. As a primarily commercial law firm, this project has presented the opportunity for Rae and Partners lawyers to gain experience in migration law, which they may not have otherwise been able to do. Rae and Partners have undertaking training with TRLS since January 2023.

This project is already having a positive impact within the firm by increasing lawyers’ skills in migration law and trauma-informed response, and by boosting morale within the firm by giving back to the community and by reducing wait times for clients in the north of the State.

Learn more about Rae & Partners from their website.

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