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Whittlesea Community House offering legal advice during Law Week

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IT was a busy week at Whittlesea Community House, WCH, last week, with multiple events aimed at recognising outstanding volunteers and giving advice to members of the community.

On Friday, WCH hosted its monthly Fix it Friday, this month receiving agency help from Whittlesea Community Legal Service, Expresso Legal, NDIS, My Aged Care, Whittlesea Police, Centrelink, and Lift Program for mental health among many others.

WCH manager Mary-Lynn Griffith said the idea of Fix it Friday was to make members of the community access help comfortably.

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“Community members can come here and they can tell their story. If they have debts or fines [they have access] to a whole range of services and can get help,” she said.

“We want to re-humanise services so that people aren’t stuck in queues to call centres on phones with no credit. That’s our main aim of Fix it Friday.”

Through Fix it Friday it was found older people often had trouble knowing where they stand with relationships, as well as being scared to answer the phone because of scams, and struggled with potential elder abuse and issues with mental health.

A panel on Friday featured solicitor Heather McLean from La Trobe University Law School, financial counsellor Yath Youen, principal solicitor Chris Howse, and My Aged Care coordinator Snezana Mackovski answering questions the community had regarding the law and their legal rights.

The panel was in conjunction with Victorian Law Week and covered issues including inheritance impatience, wills, powers of attorney, end of life planning, coercive control, reverse mortgages, and mobile phone contracts.

Ms Griffith said recent events had made a lot of people reconsider their future plans.

“I think more and more we’ve found since lockdown finished that people are coming blinking into the sunlight and realising they need to reconnect with each other and sort out problems that they’ve left for a couple of years,” she said.

“The pandemic made people really think about their direction in life, getting their paperwork sorted out.

“We have community meals every Tuesday among other events, and we find that at those events people feel relaxed and they can actually talk about things that are difficult. We can then provide services to help them.”

Victoria Law Foundation director Lynne Haultain said community houses were especially important venues over the course of Law Week’s 192 events.

“We’ve had I think about 38 or so events in neighbourhood houses across the state, in all sorts of regional towns and metropolitan areas,” she said.

“Neighbourhood houses are really critical, because they know their community already. They know the sorts of information and events that are going to be useful to the people in their neighbourhoods and that’s a really good combination.”

On Thursday, Whittlesea Bowls Club also hosted a celebration of the volunteers who work with the WCH and across the Whittlesea Township.

The celebration coincided with Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, with a raffle to raise funds for cancer.

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