Access to justice

We assist disadvantaged individuals who are otherwise locked out of the legal system by accepting referrals from community legal centres and Legal Aid. This has included acting in litigation matters, debt recoveries, financial abuse, elder abuse, bankruptcy, land rights and discrimination matters.  By providing an ‘equality of arms’ and access to professional and committed advocates in the legal system, our work can be transformative to the individuals involved.

We also collaborate with partners on large strategic projects, including strategic litigation and class actions, which involve considerable public interest or systemic injustice. We provide backstage support to organisations in the preparation, involvement in and formulation of strategic litigation projects. Our growth focus for strategic projects includes the areas of refugee and indigenous rights and disability discrimination.

We are not afraid of hard fights and acting in significant court battles, including those that are long and complex.

First Nations matters

For two years, we acted for a First Nations woman in a complex property and bankruptcy dispute. Our client was verbally granted a 99-year lease over a property and on that basis she invested into it and occupied it for 20 years. She installed a pre-fabricated home and made a number of improvements, including installing a drainage and septic system. It transpired that the lease was never in fact formally obtained and our client was evicted and became homeless.

In March 2022, we established in the Supreme Court of NSW that our client was entitled to restitution, based on the value of the improvements she had made to the property, and equitable compensation based on a proprietary estoppel. Damages of $115,000 were awarded, which also prevented her bankruptcy. For more information and to find out about the impact our contribution made to this individual, read her quote.  

In 2023-24, we are advising Waminda – South Coast Women’s Health and Wellbeing Aboriginal Corporation, on the establishment of a purpose-built Birthing on Country Centre and Community Hub, located on the NSW South Coast. The Centre will provide culturally safe maternity care for Aboriginal Women and their families. For more information, read our media release. JWS lawyers have also been involved in preparing contracts and agreements in relation to the project, advising on a range of employment law matters as well as providing finance, intellectual property, real estate, disputes, structuring and tax advice.

JWS has also helped with the establishment of the Walpa Winaka Foundation by preparing relevant corporate documents, correspondence to regulatory authorities and drafting company policies. Walpa Winaka Foundation Ltd is an Indigenous not-for-profit, whose purpose is to implement an innovative ‘disruptive business model’ as an alternative to the imprisonment of Australian First Nations adults and youth. Walpa Winaka provides an Indigenous community development model of cultural reinforcement, with a focus upon behavioural change and employment as an alternative to punitive government run systems that excessively imprisons Indigenous Australians. The Walpa Winaka ’Cultural Through-Care Program’ provides alternatives to imprisonment and remand, while providing a comprehensive program of rehabilitation, education, family support, employment, accommodation and work on country. This results in a reductionin crime, imprisonment and recidivism.

We also facilitated Walpa Winaka’s registration as a registered Australian Charity and advised on the legal and tax structure of the Foundation. JWS continues to provide ongoing advice on corporate governance matters. 

Domestic and financial abuse

We acted for a victim of domestic violence who was facing Supreme Court of Victoria proceedings to enforce a guarantee she had signed under duress and undue influence from her abusive ex-husband regarding the debts of the ex-husband’s company. After considerable legal processes, we obtained a discontinuance of the matter against our client. 

We also assisted the Hobart Women’s Shelter, which provides safe, emergency medium-term accommodation for up to two years to women and children affected by family violence and/or homelessness. The shelter also works with local, state and federal governments and key stakeholders on policy and funding priorities as well as other agencies to provide support service referrals. JWS has assisted the shelter with legal advice in respect of employment, property and privacy law matters.

In 2023, together with Street Law, JWS assisted a First Nations client to lodge a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) against a bank.  The complaint arose because despite the bank being aware the individual was experiencing homelessness and significant health issues, it allowed a relative to become a signatory on this person's account. The relative then withdrew $100,000 from the person's bank account that he had received as part of the National Redress Scheme.  We worked together with Street Law to make submissions to AFCA and successfully obtained $105,400 compensation from the bank as a result of the bank having breached its obligations under the Banking Code of Practice. Learn more about our work on this matter with Street Law. 

Disability discrimination

Our client was ejected from a hotel because he required a wheelchair. We acted in relation to discrimination proceedings, obtaining a very good settlement, which included compensation and a number of strategic outcomes sought by the client.

Financial deception

We acted for an individual who had been coerced into making financial contributions to a religious organisation during a period when she was suffering from a mental health condition. We commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of WA and following mediation, secured a $204,500 settlement on grounds of undue influence and unconscionable conduct arising from improvident gifts made to the organisation. 

Need support?

We assist a range of individuals via our referral partners.

Unfortunately, we are unable to take on cases directly from individuals. If you are an individual seeking legal representation, please contact Justice Connect (NSW, Victoria), Law Access (WA), Law Right (Qld), or Justice Net (SA). You can also request support through Legal Aid in each state (NSW, NTQLD, SA, TASVIC, and WA).