Pro Bono

Social justice, inclusion and equality are entitlements of every member of our community. These entitlements should be protected by strong and fair laws, and access to the legal institutions that enforce those laws.

At Henry Davis York pro bono is at the heart of our community commitment and an essential part of our lawyers' professional responsibility. Our pro bono program is directed at ensuring fair and effective systems of justice and support, respect and safeguards for those who are marginalised or vulnerable.

Our pro bono work uses the skills and time of our trained lawyers to provide targeted assistance to marginalised communities and individuals experiencing disadvantage, and the not-for-profit organisations that assist them. We assist through strategic projects, and our partnerships with not for profit organisations, which focus on the provision of free legal advice, representation, advocacy, community legal education, law reform and policy work.

Our pro bono work is focused in the areas listed below. Our pro bono initiatives in these areas are complementary to, and complimented by, our Community, Indigenous Engagement, Environment and Diversity & Inclusion initiatives.


Strategic projects and partnerships

Homeless Persons Legal Service

HDY has had a longstanding partnership with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre through its HPLS outreach clinic to help people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These clients are particularly vulnerable to issues involving law enforcement, debt, housing related problems, social security problems, crime and fines.

HDY lawyers attend at the regular outreach clinic at the Station to provide face to face advice to clients on a variety of civil legal matters. The issues can be interrelated and complex, complicated by difficulties in maintaining contact with clients whose accommodation is often temporary at best.

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Homicide Victims Support Group

HVSG provides direct and indirect support to families of the victims of homicide. That support can take the form of counselling, advocacy, education, and activities directed at reforming the criminal justice system, that sometimes causes the families more trauma .

HDY has provided legal support to HVSG and to numerous families over a number of years, dealing with the difficult issues they face following the loss of a loved one, including in some cases navigating the complexity of a coronial inquiry. Through the LRHub, HDY also assists HVSG with submission writing as part of HVSG's advocacy and law reform agenda.

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Human Rights Commission

HDY has worked with the Australian Human Rights Commission on projects such as freedom from discrimination focused on marriage equality and LGBTIQ rights.

HDY recently provided a lawyer on secondment to the Commission to work on advocacy strategies around marriage equality, LGBTIQ discrimination, and transgender and intersex rights.

In addition, HDY lawyers and clerks have worked on research to assist the Commission with its Submission to the Select Committee Inquiry on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill.

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Human Rights Law Centre

HDY has engaged in initiatives supporting the Human Rights Law Centre's work for freedom from discrimination and LGBTQI rights, including birth certificate law reform.

The initiatives have incorporated:

  • Support for legislative reform through Law Reform Hub submissions
  • Legal and financial support on birth certificate legal reform

Legal and secondment support on marriage equality.

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Immigration Advice and Rights Centre

IARC is an independent Community Legal Centre that helps vulnerable people navigate Australian migration law. HDY is IARC's community legal education pro bono partner.

HDY lawyers have recently prepared training materials on Slavery, Volunteering and Employment, and Forced Marriage and Dowry Abuse in Australia for use by case workers providing assistance to IARC's clients.

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Law Reform Hub

The LRHub is a collaborative pro bono project providing support to Community Legal Centres and other not-for-profit organisations with their law reform and policy work. LRHub was established in 2015 with Colin Biggers & Paisley and Lander & Rogers.

Through the LRHub HDY has prepared submissions on a number of topics including elder abuse, victim support schemes, freedoms inquiry, classification of life-sentence inmates, marriage equality, human trafficking and birth certificate reform.

"… [W]e now have the opportunity to reform law, to affect wide spread and meaningful change for victims of Human Trafficking in Australia and across Asia: Child Brides, Sex Slaves, Migrant Workers, etc. 

Without your help, we would remain just another small voice struggling to change the world. The world needs your altruism, heart and compassion. Thank you Henry Davis York." 
Lucy Cornell, CEO, The Echo Project

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Public Interest Advocacy Centre

In addition to participating in the HPLS outreach clinic at The Station, HDY provides ongoing support to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, by providing legal advice to support its operation, research support and secondments for its projects, and accepting referrals.

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Refugee Advice and Casework Service

HDY established its clinic in partnership with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service in October 2015. HDY takes statements from people seeking asylum outlining their claims for protection. Most of these clients do not speak English and require the assistance of interpreters. Many have suffered very traumatic experiences before fleeing to Australia.

Since February 2017, the need for assistance has become even more urgent, as a large number of asylum seekers have received notification that they must apply for protection within a tight timeframe, and extensions for the submission of applications are no longer being granted.

Recently HDY was able to expand the services offered to RACS clients, by introducing members from the in-house legal team of one of HDY's important clients to the clinic, providing training and support to equip those lawyers to participate in statement taking.

"We would like to convey what a fantastic job the lawyers at HDY have been doing to provide high-quality statements for asylum seekers who generally can’t speak English and wouldn’t be able to effectively convey their story. These vulnerable people would otherwise be alone in intimidating, difficult and confusing circumstances." 
Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, Executive Director, RACS

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Seniors Rights Service

In 2016 HDY launched a new telephone legal advice service in partnership with the Seniors Rights Service NSW and Holding Redlich. It provides free legal assistance to vulnerable elderly people

"Lawyers play such a central role in the process of older people appointing substitute decision-makers, uniquely placing us in a position to identify, prevent and stop abuse. The Telephone Advice Service provides much needed assistance to vulnerable elderly clients on a range of issues including wills, retirement villages, and enduring power of attorney and enduring guardianship."
Tom Cowen, Principal Solicitor, Seniors Rights Service

HDY also assisted the Seniors Rights Service with their submissions in response to the invitation of the General Purpose Standing Committee No 2 of the Legislative Council NSW into Elder Abuse and the Australian Law Reform Commission's Enquiry into Elder Abuse.

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Redfern Legal Centre

HDY provides pro bono legal advice to Redfern Legal Centre clients by appointment, prioritising vulnerable clients whose matter does not typically fit the criteria for other advice sessions, and who cannot attend the Centre's usual evening appointments for reasons such as disability, carer responsibilities or shift work.

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Whitelion works with youth at risk aged between 10 to 25 years old, with practical support such as mentoring programs, education and employment. HDY’s pro bono team facilitated training for Whitelion’s social workers with Legal Aid NSW and Macarthur Legal and developed a customised civil law issue checklist which was incorporated into their case management system.

"The training helped us to identify our clients’ legal problems early, particularly civil law issues, so they are now being addressed before they snowball into bigger problems."
Kelly Hinton, State Manager NSW, Whitelion

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Welfare Rights Centre

HDY has partnered with the Welfare Rights Centre and TressCox to assist clients with Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) debts. SRSS payments are made by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to some asylum seekers during the period in which their applications for protection are processed.

In 2016, HDY provided a lawyer to act as the Welfare Rights Centre’s Principal Solicitor for 18 weeks part-time while the Centre recruited a new Principal.

"Providing the Centre, at short notice, with such a senior lawyer really helped to both stabilise and then rebuild the Centre after a period of significant upheaval. More than just the practising certificate and practice supervision, the remarkable and effective leadership significantly improved the quality of legal service and the morale of staff at the Centre."
Michael Raper, Chair, Welfare Rights Centre

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Further information

For further information about where to find help with a legal problem see Links to Legal Help on the Australian Pro Bono Centre's website.