Practical help from lawyers for people at risk of mental illness

Stepping in early to help resolve the legal problems of people who are at risk of mental illness is producing positive change in practical ways, says the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

Today at NSW Parliament House, PIAC launches the Mental Health Legal Services project, an initiative backed by the NSW Attorney General, The Hon John Hatzistergos.

PIAC established the project with funding support from Legal Aid NSW. The NSW Public Purpose Fund with the support of the NSW Attorney General has funded four service delivery pilot projects. The Federal Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland, has provided further financial support.

This funding has enabled PIAC to:

  • place a social worker at Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, a joint project of Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and the law firm Freehills;
  • place a lawyer at the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS);
  • place a lawyer with the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of NSW (MDAA); and
  • place an Aboriginal mental health worker with the Gamarada Indigenous Men’s Healing Program.

‘Each of the four pilot projects adds a specialist worker to an existing health, community or legal service. This enables holistic service delivery that can at once meet the legal, practical and emotional support needs of people with mental illness,’ said PIAC Chief Executive Officer Ms Robin Banks.

‘Many people with mental illness are living with complex, entrenched problems and often have great difficulty in accessing appropriate services. These pilot projects aim to resolve those current problems and prevent further problems from occurring,’ Ms Banks said.

‘There is a domino effect that flows from these projects. By addressing legal and other needs such as accommodation, employment and mental health treatment, people are experiencing better outcomes and an overall improvement in quality of life,’ Ms Banks said.

MEDIA ALERT: The Hon John Hatzistergos launches PIAC’s Mental Health Legal Services project at NSW Parliament House on 24 November 2009 at 10:00 am.

MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,

Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169

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