Volunteering can be a great way to develop skills and to build professional and personal networks. Getting involved also offers a real opportunity to provide high quality, responsive legal advice to members of our community who are amongst those most likely to experience human rights abuses.
Consumers of mental health services often experience human rights abuses: from being detained and treated involuntarily, to being denied humane and dignified care, the highest standard of healthcare, an adequate standard of living and participation in the workforce, to being denied decision making capacity in relation to their finances or lifestyle issues.
The Mental Health Legal Centre occasionally has volunteering opportunities available. If you would like to express your interest, please send a CV to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pro Bono Justice Project (“Project”) aims to address the alarmingly low level of legal representation for people subject to enforced psychiatric treatment in their hearings before the Mental Health Tribunal.
Specifically, the Project engages pro bono lawyers in private practice, the public service, Victorian Bar and other organisations who are trained, supervised and supported by the Centre to represent involuntary patients in the Melbourne metropolitan region who are subject to compulsory treatment orders.
In any given year no more than 10% of Tribunal hearings involve legal representation on the part of the person whose rights are affected.
The availability of independent advice and advocacy for consumers is critical to a fair and participatory democracy and Victoria’s recent Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities further enshrines the right to a fair trial, including the right to legal representation. In a jurisdiction where many, if not most, clients suffer additional financial and social disadvantage, the increased provision of free or pro bono legal advocacy through the Project is crucial.
Encouraging pro bono lawyers to commit their energy and resources to the Project not only increases the number of people represented, but also generates a broader awareness of mental health law issues in the legal community.