New refugee legal service

New service: Legal Aid NSW senior lawyer Jeremie Quiohilag; Professor Peter Shergold, Monique Hitter, Legal Aid NSW Executive Director, Civil Law and Richard Funston, Legal Aid NSW Acting chief executive.

New service: Legal Aid NSW senior lawyer Jeremie Quiohilag; Professor Peter Shergold, Monique Hitter, Legal Aid NSW Executive Director, Civil Law and Richard Funston, Legal Aid NSW Acting chief executive.

A dedicated Refugee Service by Legal Aid NSW was launched this week, to help support the thousands of humanitarian refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq who will be calling south west Sydney home in the coming months.

The targeted service, made possible by a NSW Government investment of $4 million over four years, will help newly arrived refugees address legal problems before they escalate.

“By helping refugees understand their rights and responsibilities, we hope to give them the confidence to fully participate in Australian life,” Legal Aid NSW acting chief executive Richard Funston said.

“For those who have grown up in Australia, it is easy to underestimate the extent to which law shapes our everyday lives. But every time you pay a bill, pick up the phone to talk to Centrelink or get behind the wheel, you are relying on legal rules.”

It is easy to underestimate the extent to which law shapes our everyday lives. - Legal Aid NSW acting chief executive Richard Funston

The free service was launched by the NSW Coordinator-General of Refugee Resettlement, Professor Peter Shergold who described Fairfield as a “vibrant” place with plenty of services for refugees.

One of those services is CORE Community Services.

Manager of Multicultural Communities Clement Meru knows first-hand about how important services are for newly arrived refugees.

The Hinchinbrrok resident came to Australia from south Sudan in 2003.

“As we continue as a country to settle refugees from different parts of the world, I’ve seen an improvement in essential support to new refugees and this new refugee Legal Aid service is an example of this enhancement.” he said.

“Refugees have come from countries where their law has been used by powerful members of their society as a tool to oppress them so there will be a reluctance to interact with the legal system.

“But this service is a good opportunity for refugees to interact with legal aid lawyers and to understand the system here is fair and supports them.”

The service will target legal problems in areas of immigration, housing, social security, fines, credit, debt and employment.

Legal Aid lawyers Iliana Cruz Montalvo, Oliver Slewa, Jeremie Quiohilag and Nouvart Asadourian are part of the new refugee service that starts on March 15 and will be based at Bankstown.

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