Our response to the NSW bushfires
Our thoughts go out to the individuals, families, and communities that have lost so much in the devastating bushfires that have destroyed or damaged a staggering number of homes and properties in NSW and around Australia.
Here in NSW, reports indicate that more than 2000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, 20 lives have been lost, livestock and wildlife have perished and millions of hectares of bushland across the state has been ravaged by the fires. And the danger has not yet passed.
We know that for those Australians who have lost everything, the task of rebuilding their lives will present many, many challenges for them.
In this time of great tragedy, we need to do all we can, as members of the NSW community and the legal profession, to assist those impacted by the bushfires who have lost so much.
These people have shown great strength and resilience in the face of such great loss, many of them have been and are still involved in fighting the fires. Now, as they work to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their livelihood, it’s important they can access legal assistance in relation to insurance, housing or tenancy issues, accessing credit and employment or social security.
Those impacted by the bushfires can access free legal help via the NSW Government's Disaster Response Legal Service. The helpline number is 1800 801 529.
Disaster Response Legal Service NSW is a partnership between Legal Aid NSW, community legal centres, the Law Society of NSW, Justice Connect and the NSW Bar Association and will provide invaluable help to people impacted by the bushfires.
The statewide response for free legal assistance has now been finalised. Further information is available here.
For those members of the profession wishing to provide other humanitarian assistance to those affected by the bushfires and have capacity to do so, we would encourage you to make a donation to either the Australian Red Cross or Foodbank. Foodbank, which is the 2020 President’s Charity, is the only food relief organisation to play a role in times of emergency and natural disasters such as fires, floods and cyclones.
We also acknowledge that many of our solicitors live in regional communities that have been devastated by the fires or are still under threat. It’s very likely some of our members have had their homes, practices or property damaged or destroyed in the fires.
For those solicitors whose practice has been destroyed or damaged in the fires, the Law Society, in association with Lawcover, can assist in relation to:
- Trust accounting;
- Professional support for loss of files; and
- Professional support in costs, ethics and regulatory compliance for any affected legal practice.
The help line for this assistance is (02) 9926 0333.
For notifications, claims and for assistance with future Professional Indemnity Insurance renewals please notify Lawcover directly on (02) 9264 8855 or go to the Lawcover website.
In relation to solicitors directly impacted through the loss of property, we are also in communication with the Solicitors’ Benevolent Association with a view to ensuring that it has sufficient funds to provide immediate emergency financial support for those facing overwhelming circumstances. To find out more information about making an application, you may either call (02) 9926 0378 or contact the Secretary of the Association Andrew Brown on 0413 440 703 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, solicitors needing to access mental health and wellbeing support can find information about those services and organisations on the Law Society website.
It’s crucial that our legal profession is on standby to provide support and assistance to our communities and the Law Society plays a role in facilitating this.
The road to rebuild will be long and challenging and we thank you in advance for your support.
President, Law Society of NSW