Darwin Community Legal Service

Update from DCLS Executive Director

Darwin in the dry season is the place to be as meetings, conferences and commissions descend on us to take advantage of the weather.

Over 1000 delegates arrived in Darwin for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (AHURI) National Housing Conference in August exposing them to the extent of our housing and homelessness challenges in the NT.  Adequate funding, community involvement in design and planning and the review of outdated tenancy legislation were called for in response to the NT’s continuing housing crisis.

The Royal Commission Aged Care Quality and Safety also came to town in July but was less engaged with issues in the NT.  DCLS with the support of NTCOSS worked with other stakeholders to petition the Commission to make time to actually hear NT stories while they were here.  They eventually allocated one day to local issues!

Our early engagement with the Disability Royal Commission has been entirely different, with the Commission and its staff being keen to engage and develop a flexible approach to ensuring they are well informed about the issues impacting people with disability across the country.  DCLS will be collating information and stories for submissions to the Commission over the coming months.


Advocating for residents of Supported Independent Living

The Seniors and Disability Rights Service (SDRS) provides support to those receiving NDIS disability supported accommodation and their families.  Advocates Elaine Walton and Sharon Binns were invited to visit a new Supported Independent Living/Short Term Accommodation House in July this year to meet and greet staff and residents and provide information on SDRS. People with disabilities in the NT often struggle to access the services they need because of a lack of providers and this is particularly a problem in relation to housing and respite care.  We welcome new services in the NDIS space.


New Charter of Aged Care Rights to positively impact service delivery

As of July 1 2019, the Commonwealth Government launched a new Charter of Aged Care Rights, with the aim of simplifying the identification of rights for older people receiving Government funded aged care services. The Charter applies to people receiving any Australian Government funded aged care services including:

  • residential care
  • home care packages
  • flexible care
  • services provided under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program.

SDRS Advocates have been busy over the past 3 months in providing 24 Education sessions to Residential Aged & Home Care facilities staff and residents on the new Charter of Aged Care Rights. Under the Charter residents have the right to:

1. safe and high quality care and services
2. be treated with dignity and respect
3. have my identity, culture and diversity valued and supported
4. live without abuse and neglect
5. be informed about my care and services in a way I understand
6. access all information about myself, including information about my rights, care and services
7. have control over and make choices about my care, and personal and social life, including where the choices involve personal risk
8. have control over, and make decisions about, the personal aspects of my daily life, financial affairs and possessions
9. my independence
10. be listened to and understood
11. have a person of my choice, including an aged care advocate, support me or speak on my behalf
12. complain free from reprisal, and to have my complaints dealt with fairly and promptly
13. personal privacy and to have my personal information protected
14. exercise my rights without it adversely affecting the way I am treated


Tenants need real reform

The review of the NT Residential Tenancy Act has finally been initiated with a discussion paper recently released by the Northern Territory Government.   While we acknowledge the government progressing this much needed area of reform, the process has been rushed, the consultations superficial and the tough issues dodged.

The paper rehashes an old 2010 review and falls far short of the comprehensive review promised. It fails to address the shift to rental housing and the crisis in housing affordability that has dominated the political agenda for the last few years.  More than 50% of people in the NT rent their homes, however NT law lags way behind those in other states and territories.  The lack of security, fairness and certainty disadvantages Northern Territory residents and potentially discourages new residents.

We still remain optimistic that the government will deliver on their promise and ensure there is a real process of consultation in the coming months and a commitment to a review of the Act to ensure it is relevant and reflects best practice.

The Tenancy Advice Service (TAS) has provided a comprehensive submission despite a restricted consultation time of less than a month.  The submission can be found here:

Please sign on to the TAS petition for change here


Tenancy Team expanding outreach services

Tenancy Solicitor Myles Brown travelled with the Seniors and Disability Rights Team to East Arnhem recently as part of the TAS team’s commitment to expanding our outreach across the NT.  He met with the Department of Housing staff, real estate agents, Anglicare and other local community organisations supporting tenants.

This was a valuable trip that highlighted the importance of building relationships. It was also gave us ideas on how to share information about our service and how to structure resources to help engage and support tenants across the NT.

If your organisation wishes to have us meet with your organisation or provide you with community legal education sessions on tenancy issues please contact us via our website or by email to tas@dcls.org.au.


Coolalinga Outreach- Reaching More Members of Our Community

The General Legal Service has commenced a new rural advice clinic at Coolalinga. The Clinic runs every Friday fortnight, from 9am – 11am at the electorate office of Kezia Purick, MLA.

There has been with slow growth in walk-in clients and a number of repeat clients for different legal issues. A majority of clients are elderly and do not like driving into the city or at night.

Ms Kezia Purick has been proactive in promoting our clinic to those attending her office with a legal problem. Legal issues vary, and include credit and debt, family law and health service complaints. In the coming weeks, we will be focussing on increasing awareness of the clinic and our presence in the local community.

See you at our next visit on Friday 13 September 2019.


Concerns for participants in guardianship proceedings

DCLS, along with Katherine Women’s Legal Service and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency met recently with the Attorney-General, the Hon Natasha Fyles MP to raise concerns about support and representation for participants in guardianship proceedings.  The NT has the highest numbers of people under public guardianship of any state and territory with 78% of those identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders and 50% suffering permanent disability.  Although changes to guardianship law have been fairly recent the NT lags way behind other jurisdictions in supporting people in guardianship proceedings and does not provide a right or access to representation.

The Attorney-General indicated a willingness to explore solutions in the area and DCLS have since been meeting with the Office of the Public Guardian and the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal to try and find a way forward.



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