Aboriginal Legal Service Moree, Dharriwaa Elders Group and Gilbert and Tobin win Pro Bono Partnership Award at Law and Justice Foundation of NSW's 2017 Justice Awards

Moree’s Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) has taken out a major gong at the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW’s 2017 Justice Awards for helping to improve housing conditions for disadvantaged indigenous people as part of a collaborative project.

ALS Moree, working in collaboration with the Dharriwaa Elders Group (based in Walgett) and leading law firm, Gilbert and Tobin (G+T), has won the Pro Bono Partnership Award at the 2017 Justice Awards, held at Parliament House Sydney on Thursday, October 19.

The Justice Awards are an opportunity to recognise the valuable work being carried out by individuals and organisations to improve access to justice for the people of NSW.

The Pro Bono Partnership Award is presented to private law firms, community organisations and/or community legal centres that have developed an outstanding pro bono legal assistance relationship, resulting in improved access to justice for disadvantaged people in the community.

ALS Moree, Dharriwaa Elders Group and G+T took out the award for their success in delivering the Housing Repairs Project, which assists Aboriginal families with tenancy issues in Moree and Walgett.

As part of the unique project, the Dharriwaa Elders Group and ALS staff identify local Aboriginal people who have housing repair issues and G+T lawyers travel to communities in need to meet with them, gather evidence and take instructions.

The lawyers notify the housing provider of the repairs needed, and acting on behalf of the group of tenants, can negotiate more effectively than a single tenant could.

If negotiations are unsuccessful, then G+T lawyers act for the tenant in proceedings before NCAT.

ALS Chief Executive Officer, Lesley Turner, said the innovative project had already proven to be a great success.

In the past 12 months, 38 tenants have been assisted, with three housing providers in Moree and Walgett completing large scale repairs and maintenance work.

Rental arrears of more than $127,000 have been written off and many tenancy arrangements finalised.

“The award win is fitting recognition of the great work our ALS Moree team has undertaken in partnership with the Dharriwaa Elders Group and G+T,” Mr Turner said.

“The Housing Repairs Project has proven to be innovative, grassroots solution in assisting local Aboriginal people who are experiencing tenancy issues and we are pleased that it is greatly assisting communities in need. .

“We’re honoured to win this award and we thank and congratulate our project partners, Dharriwaa Elders Group and G+T, for working with us and delivering this fantastic project.”

More than 300 guests attended the awards ceremony.