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Issue 25 - May 2016

Postcard from... Legal Aid NSW

 

Brenda Staggs was admitted as a lawyer on Friday the 13th, 2001 and as a result she considers this uncommon calendar quirk as lucky.

While studying law, Brenda worked as a senior claims officer with (then) CU Insurance, and then practiced insurance litigation, specialising in major and catastrophic claims. In 2009, she followed her passion for social justice and joined the Redfern Legal Centre, running the centre’s TAFE branch for six years. Following that, Brenda joined Legal Aid NSW, combining her passion for justice with her insurance knowledge.

Brenda is currently acting as Legal Aid’s disaster response co-ordinator and insurance specialist. Legal Aid NSW has a long history of providing client-centred legal information, advice and assistance to victims of natural disasters. They have a team of over 30 specially trained lawyers on standby to help people solve their problems after a disaster.

“We recently confirmed our ongoing commitment to be the central legal agency in the NSW government’s disaster response. This unique position of being able to assist large numbers of affected clients after a disaster allows us to identify systemic insurance issues. We work closely with industry members to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”

The best part of her job, Brenda says, is helping vulnerable clients. “The clients we see in this area usually come from non-English speaking backgrounds, have physical or psychiatric disabilities, or live in rural or remote communities. Many are homeless and all are in extreme financial hardship. The outcomes that we help them achieve make a huge difference in their lives.”

Brenda is really excited about working with Legal Aid’s new Domestic Violence Unit on a project around economic abuse, which forms part of Legal Aid’s integrated approach to helping victims of domestic violence. Integration and innovation is an important part of working at Legal Aid. “When I have an idea here, the usual reply is ‘Go for it!’”.

Brenda is a member of FOS’s Consumer Liaison Group, and in her spare time she studies psychology and statistics.

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