For over eight years Western Sydney University (WSU) and Western Sydney Community Legal Centre have been working together to provide legal services to students and disadvantaged people in the Western Sydney Community.
Parramatta Community Justice Clinic
Susannah Coles is the current PCJC Solicitor. She provides advice, representation and referrals at Parramatta Local Court on a daily basis. Most clients are referred to Susannah by either the Court, Legal Aid, or police. Other clients drop in and make an appointment to get advice in future. There is a huge variety in the type of legal matters that clients bring to Susannah. Some of the most common issues are motor vehicle accidents, traffic offences and neighbourhood disputes.
From January to October 2017, Susannah gave over 170 advices, taken on 17 cases and conducted numerous community legal education seminars for community organisations.
“I love being able to help people with problems. I really appreciate the diversity of clients and matters – it can be challenging, but it’s never boring!” says Susannah.
When she’s not at work, Susannah is also active in her community and her church. She also loves a good novel and recently set up a book club with friends!
Student Legal Services
Zaky Orya is the current SLS Solicitor. SLS is a legal service for current students of WSU. The service is provided through Student Service and Amenities Fee (SSAF) funds. Zaky gives advice and representation on a wide range of issues, including academic matters, consumer rights, credit and debt issues, employment law, minor criminal matters, traffic fines and accidents, and tenancy and accommodation (including Western Sydney University Village). Students are able to call the advice line Monday to Friday and make an appointment to receive legal advice within a week. They can also drop in for legal advice at their campus – Zaky visits the campuses on a rotating basis. Over two weeks he visits Bankstown, Hawkesbury, Campbelltown, and Kingswood campuses.
Between January and October 2017, Zaky provided over 150 advices, opened 22 cases, attended 46 outreach services, and published three articles in the W’SUP University Magazine.
“The varied workload is amazing and keeps me on my toes. The ability to help young people in the most vulnerable moment in their life is very rewarding.” said Zaky.
When he’s not giving legal advice, Zaky is often to be found at the gym working out! Faith is also an important part of his life and he recently completed the Haj.
Working with WSU law students
Another aspect to the PCJC and SLS programs is the involvement of WSU law students. Each week, four new students shadow Susannah and Zaky as they perform their duties. The students get a very hands-on experience and are able to improve their legal skills through taking instructions from clients, undertaking legal research, and observing appointments and court. Over 160 WSU students each year benefit from this program.
One student gave this feedback: “This experience undoubtedly has been the most beneficial to my professional development.” Another student commented, “this was very informative of the reality of legal clinics and the challenges they face, but also their benefit to the community.” Another student said, “Susannah and Zaky were amazing at providing us insight into their daily work, they are great at what they do and were open to having us be involved.”
The PCJC and SLS programs are funded by WSU, and are very effective in helping disadvantaged people and students in Western Sydney, as well as developing the skills of WSU legal students. Susannah and Zaky work closely together and are legally supported and supervised by the Principal Solicitor at WSCLC. This collaboration between WSU and WSCLC is a great example of two organisations leveraging their resources and expertise to create an ongoing positive social impact.