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Dry season in the NT is a time of festivals and of missing out on car parks at the markets.  It also brings to the Territory a round of consultations and reviews.  We have recently played host to consultations on the National Plan on Elder Abuse, the National Disability Strategy, the National Disability Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services.

In August we met with the Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, and discussed issues around the rights of older people in the Northern Territory.  Elder Abuse was a focus of our discussions. We had the opportunity to emphasise the difficulties in calling out abuse, particularly financial abuse, where there is a cultural obligation to share in small tightly-knit communities.
The absence of aged care services in the NT was also on the agenda.  The Prime Minister has announced a Royal Commission into aged care, and Minister Wyatt recently announced $106 million to assist aged care providers improve their infrastructure and transition to new standards. It is unclear how these proposals will help those who have limited access to services or no service at all.  

The NT has only half the number per capita of residential facilities in comparison to other states and territories. Our aged care services are essentially urban based and poorly resourced to deal with the complexity of problems and the cultural diversity of the population.  The waiting list for home care packages is so long that it is not even worth adding people to the list.  Older Territorians with medical conditions are increasingly admitted as long-stay patients in public hospitals, placing additional pressure on a public health system that is already beyond capacity.  For older people in the Northern Territory, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are most disadvantaged, access to aged care facilities of any condition would be a step up from what is available now.

While the Commonwealth Budget recognised the importance of the needs of older people, resources should support an equitable access to services, no matter where people live. Our Senior And Disability Rights Service will continue to advocate for the rights of older people in the NT and their access to services.
Age Discrimination Commissioner the Hon Dr Kay Patterson (left) and DCLS Executive Director Linda Weatherhead (right)
Celebrating 25 years of the NT Law Handbook
DCLS staff Nicki Petrou, Lee Campbell, Kate Kelly and David McGinlay at the Law Handbook 25th Anniversary event
On the 2nd of August, DCLS, NT Legal Aid and AustLII celebrated the 25th anniversary of the NT Law Handbook. The Law Handbook provides ‘plain English’ information on a broad range of legal topics. It was developed with the aim of assisting community organisations, government agencies, and individuals to understand and share legal information. The online edition was developed in 2016, making the NT the first jurisdiction to bring the Law Handbook into the digital age. 
A panel discussion featuring The Deputy Chief Judge The  Honorable Justice Elizabeth Morris, The Honorable Justice Jenny Blokland, Susan Cox QC, Melinda Schroeder and DCLS Principal Solicitor Nicki Petrou marked the evening. The panelists took us on a journey down memory lane, sharing how they came to be involved in the Law Handbook, and the importance of maintaining accessible legal information not just for the profession but for the general community.

The Law Handbook is available online for public use (click here).

DCLS would like to thank all contributors over the past 25 years for continuing to provide a vital resource to the community.
'Make renting Fair, Safe and Certain'

The Tenants’ Advice Service (TAS) are back on the campaign trail preparing for a comprehensive review of the Residential Tenancies Act commencing at the end of the year.

More than half of the NT population are in rental accommodation. We believe the reforms are fundamental in addressing housing affordability and security of housing and attracting people to and retaining them in the NT.  We have initiated consultations with stakeholders in advance of the formal announcement of the review, have commenced analysis of relevant legislation and best practice developments in other jurisdictions and have developed an agenda for change (click here to view).

Our aim is to support reform that brings law and policy into line with the reality of people’s housing needs in the Northern Territory and makes renting fair, safe and certain.

In anticipation for the announcement of the review, TAS has developed a petition to provide momentum for change. Our aim is to ensure every Territorian has access to housing that is FAIR, SAFE and CERTAIN. 

We can’t do it alone. We are seeking to gain the support and input from as many people as possible to ensure our voices are heard.

Sign our petition here
Amendments to regulate tenancy databases came into effect in July. TAS has been providing advice for those who have been unfairly listed.

CASE STUDY: We were contacted by a case worker in Western Australia that was assisting a homeless gentleman trying to get access to housing in his local area.  He had come up as listed on a ‘Blacklist’ for over five years, preventing him from securing housing.

The Real Estate Agent refused to remove the listing, which meant that the client continued to be homeless. We sent an email to the real estate agent outlining the legislative changes and the agent replied in a more conciliatory manner. They had confirmed that the database listing had been removed, and the client can now apply for private tenancy.
Gift of the Gavel
Each year, young lawyers display their public speaking skills, creativity and comedic wit at state and territory Golden Gavel competitions, often referred to the 'Eurovision of the legal profession'. Tenancy advocate, Myles Brown, entered on behalf of DCLS and was named NT champion.

Myles will now proceed to the National Golden Gavel in Adelaide to face off against the winners from all jurisdictions.  Congratulations Myles!
Understanding the NDIS
SDRS staff Trudy Lee, Sue Brownlee, Gail Marsh and Janet Brown

The Seniors and Disability Rights Service (SDRS) has been holding a series of workshops aimed at providing parents with information on how to get the best outcomes from NDIS for their children.

The first workshop was held in Katherine and was facilitated by educator Deb Hall and advocate Trudy Lee. Topics covered included; knowing your child’s rights, getting prepared for a planning meeting and making a complaint if things are not working for your child.

The workshop was well attended by parents with children living with disabilities. Participants stated they gained a lot from being able to share their stories about NDIS as well as exploring the rights of their children to receive adequate support and make complaints if necessary.

The next NDIS parents’ workshop will be held in Nhulunbuy on October 17th at the Walkabout Hotel.  If interested, please contact 8982 1111 to register by the 5th October as places are limited.
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.
We provide three advice sessions per week:
  • Monday at Palmerston library (6.00-7.00pm)
  • Thursday at our city office (5.30-7.00pm)
  • Saturday at Casuarina library (10.00-11.45am)
To maintain this essential community service, we urgently need the support of lawyers holding a practising 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 practising 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 with Maureen Wright 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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Darwin Community Legal Service · Level 2, Winlow House · 75 Woods Street · Darwin, NT 0801 · Australia

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