Gippsland Community Legal Service (GCLS) covers ground to support 18 months on from bushfires

Gippsland Community Legal Service (GCLS) covers ground to support 18 months on from bushfires

“The roads used to access some of these communities are narrow and can be very dangerous, and there is often ice on them too during the winter months. These tracks are predominantly used by logging trucks and, as there is no phone reception, UHF radios and numbered markers are used to communicate your location if you end up in trouble.” – Simone Elias, Community Lawyer, GCLS

During the Gippsland bushfires at the start of 2020, some of the hardest hit communities were extremely remote and near impossible to access without a reliable off-road vehicle and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radio walkie talkies.

Before affected communities could receive the legal support and education they needed to get back on their feet, the safety of GCLS lawyers working in the region had to be prioritised. Additional funding from the Department of Justice Community and Safety (DJCS) made a real difference for GCLS staff to complete the work they were still undertaking many months after the bushfires stopped burning.

“I broke down recently on my way out to Errinundra and the Snowy communities. It gives me peace of mind that I can now travel in the SUV that we have been able to lease with the funding from DJCS. It can easily manage off-road driving and has a larger carrying capacity, which is great for when I am doing outreach – I can easily transport a gazebo, a table, chairs, pamphlets and the paperwork I need.”

Alongside the bushfire financial counselling team and Bushfire Recovery Victoria, GCLS continued to visit communities within the East Gippsland Shire Council during the 2020/21 financial year that still needed support to continue rebuilding. The team will provide educational sessions about insurance, wills, power of attorneys, intervention orders and advance care directives. There will also be information available about fencing, planning law and tenancy.

GCLS wants to extend a special thanks to community lawyers Simone Elias and Taylah Alanis who have worked tirelessly with the communities in East Gippsland since the summer bushfires of 2019/20. Simone and Taylah have gone above and beyond to support Gippslanders to rebuild their lives over the past 18 months, and are funded to continue this work until mid-2022.

This article was published in Anglicare Victoria’s 2021 Annual Report – Survive Thrive.

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Gippsland Community Legal Service