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The Postcode Lottery
Budget repair has captured the headlines of late and DCLS have been active in promoting the important role of human services in the economy. The Australian Government’s Job Outlook identifies Health Care and Social Assistance as the top industry for jobs growth over the next five years. These services deliver sustained productivity gains, foster economic growth, and support social cohesion into the future.  

One area we see as making increasing demands on the NT bottom line is the provision of support for those who fall through the net in areas such as aged care, early childhood and now disability. These Commonwealth essential services are now left to the market to deliver, with the consequence that those who don’t live in an area where there is a profit to be made miss out on services and the NT Government is left to pick up the pieces. Money given to individuals to purchase services often goes unspent, because the much-needed services don’t exist. Unspent funding results in reduced allocations for the following year, and the NT suffers again.

DCLS sees the upcoming Royal Commissions on Aged Care and Disability as an opportunity to address the postcode lottery inherent in the current market-based system and consider reforms that would deliver equitable access to these services no matter where you live. We will be advocating strongly for the Commonwealth to ensure that a safety net is provided.

- Linda Weatherhead, Executive Director
Migrant workers exploited by ambiguous employment arrangements
The General Legal Service has this year seen a great influx of matters involving the exploitation of employees who are on sponsored work visas. One ongoing theme involves workers being brought in from overseas with the promise of increased pay and better working conditions. However, often these promises are broken.

In the past months DCLS has been advocating on behalf of clients who have been subjected to both peculiar and unlawful employment conditions. While employers go to extreme lengths to establish and maintain these ambiguous working conditions, DCLS has had enormous success guiding our clients through the process of gaining compensation with the Fair Work Commission.

Cases that involve the underpayment and mistreatment of visa holders are particularly concerning as the people involved are often vulnerable as a result of language barriers, misunderstanding of rights and entitlements, and a reluctance to complain.

For information on your rights as an employee, contact DCLS on 08 8982 1111
Tenants' Advice Service
Christmas cheer seemed to be a little lacking over this festive season as on our return in 2019 we represented a number of clients whose landlords had taken eviction action against them over the holiday period. The situation is becoming more common as tenants struggle with the high rental commitment in the Northern Territory, which, despite the drop in house prices, is still the third most expensive place to rent in Australia.  

We have seen an increase in our workload of 58% in the last 8 months, and we know this does not touch the surface of demand. We are still campaigning for a full review of the Northern Territory Residential Tenancies' Act. To get on board with helping us 'Make renting Fair, Safe and Certain', sign our petition below.

Sign our petition to 'Make renting Fair, Safe and Certain'
Transition to Community-managed housing: The Tenants' Advice Service has been involved in monitoring recent transfers of Territory Housing properties to management by community service providers to ensure minimum disruption for the tenants and the transfer of tenant rights with the transfer of ownership.

Community managed housing is relatively new in the Northern Territory and provides a form of appropriate and affordable community managed rental housing to people in need. Community Housing is beneficial as it can provide greater support to tenants who may have more complex needs. 
The Tenants' Advice Service has partnered with Melaleuca Refugee Centre to deliver vital legal information and advice to migrants and those from a refugee background. The team will be providing advice to the clients from Melaleuca in regards to issues they may have with their tenancy.
Successful NDIS review to set precedent for future applications
The issues around accessing services in the NT, particularly in remote communities are well known.  However, the roll out of the NDIS in the Northern Territory fails to take these issues into account and generally refuses the inclusion of transport in NDIS plans.

In February DCLS were successful in seeking a review of an NDIA decision that declined a request for transport to be funded for a participant living in remote NT. Mitchell is 3 years of age and has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Required interventions include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. Mitchell’s diagnosis required very substantial support including intensive therapy sessions.

The required therapy was not available where Mitchell lives and his paediatrician advised that he would need to travel to Sydney three times a year to receive treatment. Each trip to Sydney enabled Mitchell to undergo intensive therapy sessions in two-week blocks as part of his early intervention treatment.  

The review found that funding for travel was a reasonable and necessary support. As a result of the reviewed decision Mitchell was approved funding for travel and accommodation to Sydney three times a year. The cost of approximately $35,000 was previously covered by his parents.

We are hoping this will provide a precedent for future applications. To read more about Mitchell's story see: "NT family's fight to get help for their toddler reveals cracks in national system"
Final report: Elder Abuse in the NT
The Final Report on our Elder Abuse project was released in February subsequent to the Elder Abuse Survey Report released last year.  The Project identified that 72% of abusers were family members and like other forms of abuse the victims were overwhelmingly women.    Many of the victims we worked with were reluctant to report abuse but wanted to see preventative programs in place for the perpetrator, such as alcohol and drug programs. 

While Elder Abuse is common in the NT, pathways for response and resolution are largely unavailable.  The Report makes a number of recommendations for further action including building the evidence base and addressing the barriers to accessing services for older people, including building the capacity of support workers and informal supports, particularly in remote locations. The Report supports the establishment of a monitoring and investigation body for elder abuse, a “Safeguarding Agency”.   

Click here to read the final report
Community forum: Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

We have had a lot of inquiries from workers, organisations and clients about how they could participate in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. DCLS and NTCOSS will be holding a Community Forum for interested organisations on Friday 22 March to  share information, discuss key issues for the NT and  support for those who want to participate.

Date: Friday 22nd March
Time: 10am – 11.30am
Location: NTCOSS Office, 2/5 Goyder Rd, Parap

Please RSVP to Video conferencing will be available.
Volunteers needed!
DCLS has been working with volunteers from the legal community to provide the Darwin community free legal advice sessions for over twenty-five years.
Our sessions are on:
  • Every Tuesday and Thursday at our Darwin office (5.30-7.30pm)
  • Fourth Monday of each month at Palmerston Library (6.00-8.00pm)
  • Second Saturday of each month at Casuarina Library (10.00-11.45am)
To maintain this essential community service, we urgently need the support of lawyers holding a practicing certificate who share our vision for a community where all people can obtain legal and social justice.
Volunteers working at these sessions obtain practical, front-line experience advising clients on a diverse range of legal issues. They have the opportunity to network with other legal practitioners and gain first-hand insights into the operations of a busy community legal service.
Volunteer opportunities also exist for session coordinators. This does not require a practicing certificate and is often filled by law students who report that the experience gained through volunteering at DCLS contributed significantly to their professional development.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with DCLS, please contact us on 8982 1111 or
Copyright © 2018 Darwin Community Legal Service, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
PO Box 3180
Darwin NT 0801

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