Why we need a Health Justice Program
International research for more than two decades has documented the health harming effects of unmet legal needs. There is growing evidence of links between law and health demonstrating that social and economic problems with a legal dimension can exacerbate or create ill-health and that conversely, ill-health can create legal problems.[ii]
Barriers to justice is often due to people receiving poor information, employer intimidation, lack of access to legal counsel, language barriers, and unfamiliarity with procedures. Many disadvantaged migrants and refugees with language and cultural barriers avoid seeking legal assistance, and fall through the gaps in the system as they do not have the legal literacy or understanding of the system to navigate it successfully.
Our pro-active social health model addresses the social determinants of health which create adverse health outcomes such as housing, employment, legal, family violence, discrimination, language and cultural barriers in an embedded wraparound model of care. Evidence shows that the health of migrants and refugees are socially determined to a greater extent than the Australia-born population and working within a human rights-based framework we have a strong focus on advocacy and social justice for our clients.
Our Health Justice work
In our experience, legal problems and lack of access to justice is a key determinant for our clients, with many having complex legal matters compounding their existing social disadvantage. Via pro bono legal assistance from two lawyers working at our clinic, the legal case work undertaken to date has demonstrated the large positive impact that can be achieved by helping our clients understand the legal matters confronting them and by advocacy and facilitating access to further legal expertise, when needed. This is within a framework of wrap-around health and mental health support. Work undertaken to date highlights that it is impossible to provide legal assistance in isolation of wraparound support.
We assist our clients in various ways ranging from support letters, individual advocacy and explanation of the law. We can also assist with representation via our network of pro bono lawyers and barristers. Most of our work involves interpreters and support workers to help provide access to justice.
Our program has deals with: