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Issue 31 - October 2017

Postcard from... Western Australia

Consumer Credit Legal Service (WA) Inc. (CCLSWA) is a small not-for-profit charitable organisation which provides legal advice and representation to consumers in WA in the areas of credit, banking and finance and Australian consumer law. CCLSWA also takes an active role in community legal education by presenting to community groups and to high schools for a small fee, on topics such as moving out of home, buying your fist car, and online shopping. The centre also participates in law reform activities and looks at policy issues affecting consumers.

Gemma Mitchell is the Managing Solicitor at CCLSWA. In 2007, Gemma migrated from England to study law at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, where she graduated with Honours. Gemma also holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology. After graduating in 2009, Gemma worked for a boutique commercial law firm before moving to CCLSWA in October 2013. She commenced as Principal Solicitor of CCLSWA in August 2016 and became Managing Solicitor in July 2017. In her role, she is responsible for all of the legal content that is produced; from individual advices, to the daily running of the centre.

Gemma is passionate about social justice and making sure the centre is doing the best it can with its limited resources. She believes that everyone has the right to access high quality legal services regardless of their financial means. In its 2014 report Access to Justice Arrangements, The Productivity Commission concluded that for every $1.00 spent on Community Legal Centres, there is a benefit of $18.00 to the community.

Gemma understands this as basic accounting. “It’s important that people who cannot afford to pay for legal services can still access those services early on, and get disputes resolved sooner rather than later. Without services like ours more people would be having their homes repossessed and be left liable for debts they should not have to repay.”

When people are in debt, it can be very stressful, potentially impacting other areas of their lives, their family or their health. It can lead to marriage breakdowns and mental health problems.

Not knowing where to turn or what to do can cause further issues. “We know that once they speak to our volunteers they can usually put a plan into place to start to remedy the situation. That takes away a huge amount of stress and can save them from developing other serious issues,” Gemma said.

Gemma’s passion for quality legal services sees her constantly trying to improve service delivery, and come up with new and innovative ideas on how to best meet the demand. CCLSWA maintains a high level of community service through a dedicated team of staff and volunteers. “We simply could not operate without our volunteers, they are a vital part of the service we provide,” explained Gemma.

FOS welcomed CCLSWA to the Consumer Liaison Group in late 2016.

For more information visit CCLSWA's website.