Legal information, referrals, advice and casework on a broad range of civil legal issues.

Community members should always feel free to call the VALS Civil and Human Rights Practice team on 9418 5999 for a yarn about their legal issue. If it’s not something we can assist with, we’ll do our best to link you with someone who can.

The VALS Civil and Human Rights Practice can assist with a wide range of legal issues, providing casework and advise in the following areas:

  • Tenancy
  • Discrimination (State and Commonwealth jurisdictions) and human rights
  • Some Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIVO) matters
  • Coronial inquest and inquiries with the Coroners Court (deaths in custody and police contact coronial matters are now handled by the Wirraway Practice)
  • Credit, debt and consumer law issues
  • Working with Children Check suspension or cancellation
  • Telling your story to the Disability Royal Commission
  • Employment (termination and some unpaid wages matters only)
  • Infringements (through our clinic)
  • Victims of Crime (through our pro bono clinic)

We can only provide legal advice and casework to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander persons, who meet our financial eligibility test, where there is no conflict of interest.

In some instances, we provide advice only, and in other instances we will open a file to conduct ongoing casework. Where we can’t assist directly, we can usually provide people with information and/or referrals to other services that may be able to assist across all civil matters.

Before we can open a casework file for a person, they must provide VALS with sufficient confirmation of Aboriginality.

The table below explains what we can do for you in relation to most types of civil law areas.

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service – areas of civil law assistance

To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client;
  • enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest;
  • enquire as to compliance with the Means Test;
  • consider the merit of the client’s matter.

The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Officer Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    •  An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $52,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.