Free clinic helping Uni students solve legal problems

A free student legal clinic has been established at the University of Wollongong using funds raised by the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SAF).

The clinic opened in late August in response to the online submissions of UOW students on which areas they thought the SAF funding should be spent.

Since August the clinic has provided legal advice to 16 students, with advice most commonly sought on the areas of criminal and family law.

The clinic is run by two solicitors from Gerringong law firm Carter and Ferguson, Debbie Langton and Renata Matyear. Langton is worried that, due to a lack of advertising, the free service is not being accessed by as many students as it could be. With future funding reliant on the programs continued success, she is planning to promote the service to new students coming to the University in 2013.

“We are hoping to be able to turn up at lectures to talk to students about the Clinic,” Langton said.

Further promotion of the UOW Student Legal Clinic is being planned for 2013 as signs are not as effective as first hoped.

The service offered by the legal clinic is limited to giving free confidential advice and Langton and Matyear cannot represent students in court.

“We can give them advice but we can’t go beyond that” Langton explained.

However if students are in need of representation they will be given referrals to other legal practitioners and to Legal Aid, which provides free representation to eligible individuals.

The Clinic provides advice on a wide range of legal issues including tenancy, criminal charges and employee rights. They are unable to assist students who need advice on immigration, personal injury and financial matters and to overcome this problem, Langton is looking at running legal education workshops in 2013. A visiting professional would run the workshops, providing interested students with information on the areas not covered by the clinic.

Future plans for the clinic in 2013 also include the use of Skype to extend the service to students enrolled at the University’s satellite campuses.

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