Your Story, Disability Legal Support

This is part of the Advocacy Sector Conversations Forum series held online on 16 October 2020.


Overview

Your Story Disability Legal Support is a free national service funded to give information and legal advice to people about safely sharing their story with the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal services are funded by The Australian Government to deliver the national service.

There are three lawyers who work for Your Story in Victoria – Dayle Partridge and Michelle Bowler based at Victoria Legal Aid and Anna Potter based at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. They will outline the scope of the service and referral pathways and how to work together effectively with advocacy organisations.

 

 

Resources from this presentation can be found at the bottom of this post.

 

Audio and transcript

 

MELISSA HALE:
Morning, everyone. Welcome to the last session of the October 2020 advocacy sector conversation series. My name is Melissa Hale and I’m the coordinator of the Disability Advocacy Resource Unit.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land within which we meet and pay my respect to their elders past present and emerging.

Once again, we are delivering these forums online in this new format due to the new normal we find ourselves in in COVID-19. We are pleased to be able to still bring the Advocacy Sector Conversation to you safely and online. Like many of you, we are seeing some unexpected benefits in this type of program delivery and we will be coming back to you all sometime soon to get your feedback on what you like and dislike about this format. So that we can seek to continually improve and provide the best experience that, we can for you. So please let us know what you think.

You will note that we have Auslan interpreters today and we also have captioning that you can access if you go to the chat box, you will see a link that you can click to access the closed captioning in a separate browser.

We encourage your active participation today. Please type your questions in the ‘Q&A’ box, not the chat box and at the end of the session I will be facilitating a ‘Q&A’ session with our presenters so I hope you have all settled in comfortably because we have a fantastic session ahead.

The Royal Commission into violence, abuse neglect and exploitation of people with disability or the Disability Royal Commission wants to hear stories about people who have experienced violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation as a result of their disability. The Commission is still working through COVID-19 including recently having a week of public hearings focuses on the stories of people living with disability who have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. These stories require covering.

The federal government has funded disability advocates, counselling and legal services to work together to ensure people living with disability receive the support they need to engage with the commission. Your stories disability legal support is a national service that provides free independent legal assistance for people with disability, their families and carers to support them to engage with the commission.

There are three lawyers who work with Your Story in Victoria, Dale and Michelle who are based at Victoria Legal Aid, and Anna Potter, based at the Victorian Aboriginal legal service. Today we have Anna and Michelle with us to talk about their service and how they can work together with advocacy organisations. Please welcome Anna Potter and Michelle Bowler.

ANNA POTTER:
Thank you for that wonderful introduction. My name is Anna Potter and I’m based at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. We have about an hour together to talk about the Disability Royal Commission and your story disability legal support so thank you very much for coming and please, type your questions in and we’ll answer them at the end.

Before I launch into things, I first of all like to bear with me for a moment, trying to catch up with the slide show. I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands upon which all of us are meeting today in this virtual space. I’d like to acknowledge elders past, present and emerging and those of us in the virtual room with us today. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation the beautiful Sydney country that I’m currently on.

As mentioned before, my name is Anna Potter and I’m based at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. I’m also working with Michelle and Dale based at Victorian Legal Aid. I will be talking for the first half of this presentation and then Michelle will take over for the second half.

Your Story Disability Legal Support, or Your Story for short, is a national legal service set up to support people with disability, their families and carers to engage and share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission. Your Story is a national partnership between National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services so we are in every state and territory across the country.

Michelle, Dale and myself are the representatives for Victoria.  We are based at the most mainstream Legal Aids and Aboriginal Legal Aid commissions across the country. I apologise, my slide clicker does not seem to be working, there we go.

So what is the Disability Royal Commission? I’m sure a lot of you are already familiar with this. In response to terrible stories about violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, the Commonwealth Government decided to launch the Disability Royal Commission in April last year. This is a national investigation that will continue for three years until June 2022.

The inquiry will listen to stories of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people living with disability in all settings, so that could be at home, at school, in group homes, prisons, courts, very broad, any setting, so first of all – I think this was mentioned before, but I apologise again. My clicker has stopped working. Could we change to the next slide, thank you.

To support people to engage with the Disability Royal Commission, the Government has also funded legal counselling and disability advocates so we are the legal services funded to provide free legal information, advice and support. So first of all I’d like to talk about the terms of reference of the Royal Commission.

The terms of reference are the rules or guidelines of what the investigation is looking into and what the purpose of it is. The purpose of the Royal Commission is to prevent and better protect people living with disability from experiencing violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation to achieve best practice in reporting, investigating and responding to those issues, to promote a more inclusive society that supports people living with disability to live free and independent and without violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation.

As I mentioned, it’s very broad so that could be any setting and any time as well whether that’s a story that’s happened 30 years ago or yesterday or is still happening now, whether it was a one-off incident or whether it’s many different stories that have happened over time.

The word ‘disability’ is also defined very broadly. It includes people living with an impairment, existing at birth or acquired through illness, accident, ageing, includes cognitive impairment, physical, sensory, intellectual, and psychosocial disabilities. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disability also includes trauma. This could be intergenerational trauma or as a result of stolen generation or colonisation.

The Royal Commission is not able to solve individual cases but it would like to hear these stories and will write them into a report that it will give to the Government to recommend changes so these things do not happen again. The Royal Commission would also like to hear positive stories about what has worked well so that it can share these good stories with the Government and things can be rolled out more broadly.  There will be an interim report released by the Royal Commission this October about the stories they have heard so far. There will then be a final report in April 2022.

I will now talk about each of these terms on the screen in some more detail. First of all, I’ll talk about violence and abuse. These terms are also defined broadly. There are some examples up on the screen. There are more obvious ones such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, but this also includes use of restraint, chemical and physical, forced treatment, forced interventions, humiliation and harassment, financial and economic abuse, violations of privacy and dignity, basically anything that hurts someone.

The next term I will talk about is neglect. This could be physical or emotional, it could be intentional, wilful deprivation or unintentional. It could include refusing access to culturally important ceremonies or practices. It could happen one time or many times over a longer period. Basically, anything, that results in a person being deprived of a necessity, basic food, shelter, transport, mobility, clothing, education, or medical care. Again, this could be in any setting – at home, at school, at hospital, at court, in prison, anywhere.

Another important example is if reasonable adjustments are not made where they should have been made to make sure people living with disability have the same opportunities as everyone else, employment is another example where this occurs.

Finally, the last term I’ll talk about, is exploitation. This is when one person or organisation takes advantage of another person in any way, some examples on the screen include taking money, forcing someone to work, taking sexual advantage or physical advantage of someone.

The next slide is about the timeline of the Royal Commission that I’ve mentioned already. It will run for three years until mid-2022. There are also going to be public hearings throughout the Royal Commission on different topics, as Melissa mentioned before. Some examples have been education, COVID-19, and there’s one coming up in November about child protection for first nation’s parents.

These hearings have been happening by video as well, so it doesn’t matter which state or territory someone is living in, they can still be a witness and tell their story at these hearings. Up on the screen, there are some examples of the hearings that are happening.

The timeline has changed because of COVID-19. Hearings are just one way that people can share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission. I’m now going to hand over to my colleague Michelle to talk about the different ways that people can share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission and how lawyers such as myself and Michelle can support people to share their stories with the Disability Royal Commission.

MICHELLE BOWLER:
Thanks Anna. Hi everybody.

I would also like to acknowledge the traditional custodians whose land we are fortunate to live and work on and pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging and also thank you very much to Melissa and DARU for the opportunity to be here today to tell you a bit more about our work.

As Anna said, we’ll get into the details now about how you could tell your story to the Disability Royal Commission and how Your Story can potentially help you to tell your story to the commission. We’ll have plenty of time for questions at the end, with any of these examples about the different ways to tell your story and you might be weighing up which way to go.

The first way is that you might choose to speak at a community forum. My understanding is this is really on hold at the moment because of COVID but the Commission is still working and doing a lot of things virtually. Speaking at a community forum is a way to publicly share your story with a commissioner and other commission staff would be there and also other people would be there and the community forums are open to the public.

It is not an official form of engagement, so if you attended a community forum, you would still need to make a submission if you wanted your story to be included in the findings or the reports of the commission. Sharing or speaking your story at a community forum is a very public way to share your story. We would recommend if you decide that you want to attend a community forum that you talk to our service beforehand to help you prepare for attending a forum and telling your story.

The next option is to make a submission and anyone can do this and it can be in any format, so it might be in writing, and there are no rules about how it has to be written but there is a form and some suggestions available on the commission’s website that you can use. The submission could also be a recording and it could also be an artwork. It can also be in any language.

And when you make your submission, you can inform the commission about how public you want it to be. Again, we can provide support here, particularly about confidentiality options that are available if you’re choosing to make a submission and you want to know who would be able to access it.

Another option is sharing your story at a private session and this involves telling your story face-to-face or at the moment because of COVID by video, to a commissioner, to one commissioner, and this is a very private and confidential way to share your story.

Our service can help you prepare for a private session, we can help you apply for a private session, and we can also attend with you if you want support. And you can apply for a private session using the Royal Commission’s intake line and there’s also a first nation’s private session team that you can contact.

It is worth noting that there have been over 600 requests as of now and the Royal Commission says that it will do its best to meet all of those requests but to today, that it probably is a six to 12 month wait. What I really say about a private session, it’s a good way to tell your story private Lu but it’s not going to be as quick as writing a submission.

Other ways that you can give evidence, are at a hearing, a public hearing, or via documents. The Royal Commission has powers to compel or force some people to share their story that can be via documents, that is called a notice to produce, or by telling someone to be a witness at a public hearing and that would mean they’re given a summons.

And we can support people through this process and that can include organising legal representation. There might be reasons why you would like to get a notice or a summons and that is to do with greater protections that can come with this method and you could discuss that with us.

My clicker is working! So, when legal support might be important? It is important to know and we acknowledge that not everybody will need legal support to share their stories and many people have already shared their story via a submission without needing legal support. And we have some resources that we’ll discuss later in the presentation that might help you work out when legal support is a good idea.

We’re aware that for some people getting legal support or the idea of getting legal advice can be associated with the idea that you’re in trouble. So we’d like to send a clear message that even though everyone doesn’t need legal advice  to deal with or to engage with the commission, in some circumstances it’s a good idea but it doesn’t mean you’re in trouble.

And I’m just going to go through as you can see, those on the slide some reasons when – examples when – getting legal support is important.

So if you want to be able to include names of people or organisations in your story or submission. If you want to be able to name names. If you have signed a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, that is meant to stop you from telling part or all of your story, if you are concerned about retribution or payback, and this could be retribution or payback for yourself but for example if you were a carer making a submission you might be worried about the effects on the person with a disability. And retribution or payback you might be worried about someone’s safety, you make a submission, you might be worried about their ability to still access services, and that might be particularly if there are not many services in your area or there’s only one service provider, you might be worried about employment or employment prospects, or any other fundamental right being at risk if you share your story.

Another time so get legal support would be if you know that you want to keep your story or submission or parts of it private.

And as I’ve already said, if you’re registered to speak at a community forum, we also think it’s a good idea to get legal support before you attend. Talking now more about our service, which Anna has covered some of this as well at the start of her part, so important to know that we are independent from the Disability Royal Commission, we’ve been funded by the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s department, and the service has been delivered by National Legal Aid and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services as Anna said, and we’re here for the life of the commission.

The service started with an into line in September last year and started delivering legal advice in October last year. Although we have staff in all of the different organisations we do present as a single service and work together like Anna and I are today, that means that if someone calls our info line we’ll make sure they get the support they need from the person best able to help them.

Just a couple of points about really what we do, we provide legal advice and information about the commission, we can provide advice and assistance to people who choose then to engage with the commission, we can deliver community legal education to interested groups, we work collaboratively with other stakeholders, as Anna said, as well as funding for legal support there has been funding for advocates and counselling so we definitely work together.

And we can make appropriate referrals for legal and non-legal matters that are not directly related to the Royal Commission.

How we work. Our clients can include people with a disability, hopefully that goes without saying, but also family members, carers, supporters, and advocates, so anyone of those can contact us for support.

How we work. Our service can be described in three parts. Information, legal advice, and referrals.

With information, we operate a national information line or info line, client information officers answer those calls and they can provide people with information and answer their queries about the commission and during that process they triage the call. They may identify that the caller would benefit from further assistance that could be legal support, which is really our service, it could also be other services including the counselling and the disability advocates. With the info line, if the caller discloses that they are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander they will have the option of being transferred to an Aboriginal information line officer if that’s their preference.

Just talk a bit about legal advice, so if a client wants legal advice about how to safely engage with the commission then an appointment can be made with one of our lawyers. This advice can be provided in various formats to suit accessibility needs so it might be face-to-face, like most things in this presentation with the COVID caveat, so some states would be providing face-to-face advice probably sooner than Victoria unfortunately, the advice can be telephone, in writing, and we’re also currently working on setting up webchat for the info line.

We have access to Auslan interpreters and language interpreters and with client consent we can provide legal advice to clients alongside anybody that they want present for support so that could include an advocate if they’re working with an advocate or a family member, carer, supporter.

A couple of notes on submissions. If clients can’t prepare their own submission and that can be in whatever format so it might be in writing or recording and so on, we would try to connect them to a disability advocate for assistance. If they can’t be connected with appropriate support we may be able to assist them to write their submission in some circumstances including if they’re an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

With private sessions, we can work with clients to prepare and practice what they want to say in their private session and we can accompany them to that private session if they request.

A few notes on the referrals. As we have already talked about, we can make connections to other services where appropriate. Of course, with the client’s consent. Just some examples of places that we could warmly refer to would be disability advocates, particularly those that have received funding to help people write submissions, to a counsellor who has been specifically funded again in relation to the Disability Royal Commission, we can refer to other lawyers, if there’s potentially a legal pathway to resolve someone’s situation and that can be in addition to sharing their story with the commission.

And as it says on the last point on this slide, we try to operate with that idea that there is no wrong door, so we try to provide clients with information and support as we can and then refer on appropriately as we can working together with you.

So part of the reason that we’re here today as well as explaining what we do and why we do it is we want to increase awareness about our work but we also want to work together so our service has been around a little while, obviously it’s a temporary service for the life of the commission and we want to work with you to reach people with a disability, families, carers, supporters and advocates so that people know that free, independent legal support is available to help empower people to decide if and how they want to engage with the Commission.

We are flexible and we want to work with you and we’d really like to be able to travel even just saying ‘travel’ makes me laugh but when restrictions ease we’d love to travel.  So I’m based in Ballarat, working from home like everybody else, Anna and Dale are based in Melbourne, and we’re really keen to get out across Victoria and do some things face-to-face when we can so please perhaps bear that in mind. Maybe in 2021 when it’s appropriate for us to hit the road you can invite us over.

Other ways that you can help us promote ourselves, we have a range of fact sheets available on our website, so they can be downloaded, printed and shared as you would expect, we can also email them to you. We also have posters that could be put on display.

And as I’ve said we are happy to be invited so come and talk. With disability advocates and counsellors, potentially we can be referring clients to and from each other who are working with someone who wants to do a submission, we can help you with that.

We can work with carers support workers and family with consent from the person with a disability and I guess the general point is that we would welcome advice on who we might be missing and how we can reach those people, and how we can improve our service to build trust and promote safety so we’re really open to any ideas or feedback on how we can work with you.

We have established an advisory group to help us better design and deliver our services. And the advisory group includes people with lived experience of disability, also carers, academics, first nation’s people and LGBTIQ people and that advisory group include people from all States and Territories.

Resources – plenty of resources available on our website and our YouTube channel which has several videos. And I’ll talk in particular about the checklist and the referral form. So – and we have also provided these to Melissa so they’ll be included with this recording when it happens to be on the website but also you can find them on our website.

The checklist is for professionals working with people with a disability and it can be used at any statement to identify if your client should consider getting legal advice. It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a prompt for referrals. It can also assist us to tailor our advice to clients based on the different questions in the checklist.

So to give you an example, the checklist has a lot of yes and no questions, and if you answered yes to the particular questions, we would recommend getting legal advice, so one of the questions is are you worried about the privacy of your story? Another question is ‘do you want to name an organisation or person in your story?’

So you can see if you answered yes to one of those questions we would be recommending it is a situation to get legal advice. But I would also say don’t be deterred from making a referral if you’re in doubt, so the questions are not a benchmark that has to be meant before you make a referral or just make a time to have a chat with us. If in doubt, refer.

And then that really leads into the referral form, again, available on our website. And, again, this is to assist people who are working with someone with a disability. You can use this form to make a referral to our service, to get independent legal-free legal advice.  As you would expect you would need to have your client’s consent before you called make such a referral. And so the referral form can be completed and then sent to us by email.

And I don’t think that – I haven’t really covered this yet, but we aim to work in a trauma-informed way and a lot of questions on the referral form help us to do that. The referral form gives people the opportunity to say whether they would prefer advice from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal service. The form can also let us know if the client is in prison. And can let us know if the client has any safety concerns about different forms of contact.

So for example, you know, whether they are happy to receive a phone call, whether it’s OK to leave a voice mail, or an SMS, whether it’s OK to send them an email and also whether they need an interpreter and if there is someone that they would like to be included so for example an advocate or a family member when they’re receiving their advice appointment.

The flipbook and the video I would say are good ways to learn about what it means to share your story and they include some examples or scenarios of different problems or issues people have that they would want to share so they’re quite good. And lots of fact sheets on the website some specifically for people with a disability, some for workers, some for carers, and some in easy English.

This is just our contact details as you can see, so the info line which is a national info line, it’s a free call number, answered 9 to 5 Monday to Friday. And then our email so Dale and I share an email and share a job, that’s our email there and Anna at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, that’s her email. I hope that wasn’t too quick. I’ve come to the final slide. Which just says ‘any questions?’

MELISSA HALE:
Thank you very much. That was really really good and I was just thinking three lawyers, 600 requests wow, I think that really demonstrates need. I think we have already got a question.

The first thing I’d like to mention is that the whole recording of this session, and all the contact details will be available on DARU’s website as usual for you all to look on and goo through again. We’ll go to questions and answers now. If you have a question you’d like to ask please type it in the ‘Q&A’ box on your screen or pop them up on the screen now and read them out. The first questions is…

QUESTION:,
What if someone is worried about sharing their stories because they fear repercussions, what assurances can you give?

MELISSA HALE:
Who would like to start? Anna?

ANNA POTTER:
I’m happy to jump in there if you like, Michelle. I guess we’d ask them for a little bit more information about what type of repercussions they are worried about. And that would change I guess our advice for example, if they’re worried about someone else reading their story, there’s a range of different ways that you can share your story to make it more protected. And we can provide detailed information about that.

You can also provide your story anonymously in a de-identified way, or in a private session, or as Michelle mentioned there are some extra protections if you go down the evidence route, a notice to produce or summons, so there’s actually some criminal offences in the Royal Commission Act, so if someone tries to fire you for example, or get you in trouble, that’s against the law if you have given evidence.

Another common worry might be around defamation. There are protections that apply and we can give people advice about their particular story and how to make sure it’s protected. Those same protections do not apply if you share your story on Facebook for example.

MELISA HALE:
Obviously not!

ANNA POTTER:
Like I said, it depends on the story, someone wants to share and what exactly they’re worried about and then we can give them particular advice around that.

MELISSA HALE:
Are you saying the client can come and see you and say this is the issue I have, this is the story I want to share and then you guys can advise them what might happen afterwards or what potential repercussions they need to watch out for. Is that an option, so people can ask for advice around and make an informed decision about whether to make a submission or not?

ANNA POTTER:
Exactly. So we can give them options that are available and make sure they know about any repercussions.

MELISSA HALE:
Yep. Fantastic. OK.

MICHELLE BOWLER:
Can I just add… Just in case, it’s not clear. Talking to us is private and confidential so we wouldn’t be telling the commission for example, that someone has sought our advice. And we’re not going to force anyone to do anything. There’s no danger in getting that advice from us and maybe deciding ‘I won’t engage with the commission.’ We just want to help people make an informed decision.

MELISSA HALE:
Yep, great. I’ll read the question, I’ll go to Anna and then Michelle and then we’ll go to the next question. Does that sound good? The next question is…

QUESTION:
What efforts are being made to hear stories from difficult to reach places such as group homes.

MELISSA HALE:
We’ll go to Anna first and then Michelle.

ANNA POTTER:
That’s a really good question. It is really difficult to reach some of the most vulnerable people in places like group homes and prisons. We’re developing different strategies I guess to reach people in those places.

For example, for prisons, Michelle is working on a webinar and resources that will be shared with prisoners and they will have an option to call our service and we can talk to them by phone, or video or go and see them in person once we’re allowed.

We’re still looking into what’s the best way to reach people in group homes, because it is very tricky and we want to make sure that they are safe, so we’re looking into different options, for example, you know, perhaps they could talk to us when they go to their health service or a day program or something like that, particularly if the story they want to share is about their group home or the people they live with.  It’s quite tricky to make sure that that’s done in a safe way.

So we’re really open as well to suggestions that advocates might have because they’re probably – you’re probably the experts, knowing the people you’re working with and what’s the safest way for that, so we could really work together, hopefully, around that as well.

MELISSA HALE:
Absolutely. Michelle, anything you’d like to add to that?

MICHELLE BOWLER:
Um, really just with Anna’s final point that, um, we know there are people probably with additional barriers to engaging with the commission, um, so as well as the examples that Anna has mentioned, um, we’re keen to reach young people, ah, and we’re keen to reach people in the LGBTIQ community and yeah, happy to be given advice and given suggestions.

ANNA POTTER:
One more group that we’re trying to work with is people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, not myself so much, I’m just working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but Michelle and Dale are working with those communities also.

MELISSA HALE:
The trick is to try and get everybody. Can I have the next question please.

QUESTION:
People with disability tend to share really traumatic stories again and again, make complaints to complaints bodies and often don’t get a great response. What is the benefit of telling your story to the Royal Commission?

MELISSA HALE:
We’ll go to Anna and then to Michelle.

ANNA POTTER:
That’s a really good question. Unfortunately, in Australia, we have seen many Royal Commissions and they don’t always result in the change that we’re wanting. And there are no guarantees. It is really difficult to tell your story. However, this Royal Commission is the biggest one Australia has ever had, they’re spending more than half a billion dollars investing in this Royal Commission and I’m hopeful that the recommendations made to the Government will be taken up and things will improve.

It can be difficult to tell your story but some people also find it an empowering experience and if we can we will try and help someone or connect them with supports to actually help them with the problem that they’re having as well as sharing that story.

For example, if someone has had a problem with an NDIS support worker, I might be able to help them share that story with the Disability Royal Commission but also help them make a complaint through various mechanisms to resolve that issue for them.

MELISSA HALE:
That wrap around help, everything, it’s not just telling your story, it’s about trying to resolve the issue as well. Michelle, anything you’d like to add?

MICHELLE BOWLER:
I think I’ve got the easy part because Anna is doing all the work!

I think we would try to unfortunately manage people’s expectations, so the commission I would say certainly isn’t going to solve individual issues for individual people but it’s more hoping that there are good recommendations and things actually put into place and looking at it from that perspective to think it probably is worth telling your story but totally acknowledging, you know, the trauma involved in telling your story again and again and one of the fantastic things that I think is the counselling services, people specifically funded to provide that kind of support.

MELISSA HALE:
Thank you. Next question –

QUESTION:
what advice do you give disability advocates in supporting their clients to write submissions, what tips and tricks do you think advocates should remember when starting this process with a client?

MELISSA HALE:
Michelle, would you like to start this time?

MICHELLE BOWLER:
Ha, sure! I’m loving watching the interpreter and now I know the sign for clicker.

It’s not to get – not to stress about it. It doesn’t have to be a particular format, it doesn’t have to be, you know, amazingly well written, there are some good prompts on the commission’s website and also on our website that I think you’d find helpful. If you’re struggling, you know, give us a call, we are here to help.

MELISSA HALE:
Anna?

ANNA POTTER:
Yeah I guess echoing what Michelle said, and keeping your mind, the terms of reference that I spoke about today to try and think does my story or does the person you’re helping’s story fit within those terms of reference and possibly most likely they will because they are very broad. Almost too broad, so I think it’s going to be difficult for the Royal Commission to go into a lot of detail in all of those different areas.

MELISSA HALE:
OK, next question – a comment.

COMMENT:
We have found group homes are not the most welcoming of Royal Commission advocate supports, that is  your answer to that question?

MELISSA HALE:
Interesting! I found one question in the wrong section but I will read it out, it probably won’t come up on the screen but it sayS:

QUESTION:
’can you please give an example when to respond to a notice to produce or a a summons has occurred?’

ANNA POTTER:
Yes I can give two examples if you like, one for each. A notice to produce is probably not going to happen completely by surprise. We will usually ask for them to give us a notice to produce if we want those extra protections that I mentioned before. If Harry

for example is worried about losing his job because he wants to share his story about how he was treated at work, we might ask the Royal Commission to give us a notice to produce, then we will produce, give them the story, so it usually won’t happen by surprise.

Another way might be if you have already provided your story in a submission, for example, and the Royal Commission is thinking that story is a really important story and we’d like that person to tell that story as a witness, at a particular hearing, for example, on education or COVID-19, they will then issue a summons, and ask that person to appear as a witness.

I think usually that wouldn’t happen so much to people living with disability, more to, you know, CEOs of organisations who may need to answer some difficult questions and like Michelle said, we can help people through that process and make sure that they are represented and supported.

MELISSA HALE:
Michelle, anything you wanted to add to that?

MICHELLE BOWLER:
No.

MELISSA HALE:
OK. So I think that’s all we have time for today so I would like to thank you both for giving us your time today to present on Your Story. I absolutely have no doubt that Your Story’s a very much need a service and we have already had some advocacy agencies who have referred client on to Your Story and have come back to us with nothing but the highest praise of how much assistance you can provide them as well as your compassion and care for the people you’re working with so thank you and keep up the great work.

MICHELLE BOWLER:
Thank you very much.

ANNA POTTER:
Thank you for having us today. And please don’t be afraid, give us a call.

MELISSA HALE:
Everybody, we’re coming to a close, our last session for 2020 and what a year it has been. I would like to thank Anna and Michelle as well as Your Story, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Victoria Legal Aid for their presentation today and the fantastic work they do.

Thank you to the Auslan interpreters and captioners for their work today, Show Division for bringing this production to you today.

Please stay safe, wear your mask, wash those hands and stay home hopefully for not too much longer. We will see you at the next advocacy sector conversations series in 2021. Bye.

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Author:
DARU

Date published:
Fri 16th Oct, 2020