Law Society President calls for improved access to justice for Coffs Coast kids at risk
The President of the Law Society of NSW is using a trip home to Coffs Harbour to reinforce her advocacy for more lawyers to act in children’s care and protection matters to give young people at risk of serious harm a better start in life.
Cassandra Banks is part way through a year away from her role as principal of a Coffs Harbour legal practice to lead the 38,000 strong solicitor branch of the NSW legal profession. She has returned home to participate in the Clarence River and Coffs Harbour Regional Law Society Annual General Meeting held on Friday.
Ms Banks said her extensive experience in children’s law matters in and around the region is behind her push to draw attention to the importance of legal practitioners being involved in this crucial are of the law.
“NSW currently has almost 16,000 children in out-of-home care and more than 100,000 children assessed at risk of significant harm every year. There are close to 500,000 reports made in relation to concerns about children’s welfare each year,” Ms Banks said.
“These cases can be deeply complex, the material often difficult and challenging to hear and see. However, working with vulnerable children and families and demonstrating that someone cares and someone is listening to them can be deeply rewarding.”
At the start of her 2023 term as Law Society President, Ms Banks identified as one of her President’s Priorities, ‘Building awareness of the importance of legal practitioners in the children and young person’s care and protection system.’
“There are simply not enough lawyers handling the legal work necessary to help these children have a better chance at life. Of the 186 lawyers based in the Clarence River and Coffs Harbour region, only nine, including me, practise regularly in the children’s care and protection system,” Ms Banks said.
Her longstanding record as an advocate for children and families in crisis is the driving force behind Ms Banks choice of the Tracker Network, including ShoreTrack on the Coffs Coast, as her nominated Law Society charity for this year.
ShoreTrack founders Paul Fatty Ireland and Jill Ashley have welcomed Ms Banks’ support for their program which works with marginalised young people, disengaged from school and or community. ShoreTrack builds courage and resilience through trades and employability skills development.
“As an advocate for children and a focus on the importance of legal practitioners’ involvement in the care and protection of young people, Cassandra’s support will provide the young people we work with a voice and the means to overcome some of the many challenges they face to reach their goals,” the ShoreTrack founders said.
In 2022, 12 of ShoreTrack’s marginalised young people who have participated in the program went on to gain entry level employment including traineeships and apprenticeships. Donations to ShoreTrack can be made here.
Damien Smith | Director, Media and Public Relations
The Law Society of New South Wales
M: +61 417 788 947 | E: Damien.Smith@lawsociety.com.au