Latest News from Caxton Legal Centre

Elder abuse community legal education in Cherbourg

Caxton Legal Centre’s Seniors Legal and Support Service helps seniors experiencing elder abuse, mistreatment or financial exploitation. Our intervention model has social workers and lawyers working side-by-side to identify psycho-social and legal issues, and then follow through with the older person if they opt to take action or need other health, financial or social supports.

On the 14th November a social worker and lawyer from our team headed to Cherbourg in response to an invitation to talk to seniors there at the Ration Shed Museum, a terrific spot to visit to understand the history of the Cherbourg Aboriginal community.

The welcome to country was given by Mayor of Cherbourg, Cr Arnold Murray and some of the senior community members attended with plenty of comments and questions to contribute to a lively discussion. Others involved were Uniting Care Community’s Time for Grandparents program who lead the forum, the Office of the Public Guardian, and Clarissa from DATSIP who is leading one of three Queensland trials for integrated approaches to improving the safety of those effected by domestic and family violence.

The abuse of seniors is a difficult topic for most audiences. To get the message across, we acted out a typical home visit where we keep things relaxed and make the most of the opportunity for face-to-face communication. Home visits are particularly helpful for clients with some hearing loss or problems with mobility. For many people, this low-stress way to receive services also optimises their capacity to recall information and make decisions.

The home visit role play drew out issues of financial, physical and psychological abuse; assets-for-care, domestic violence, Enduring Powers of Attorney and mobile phone debt issues; as well as social isolation, age-related modifications for safety in the home, safety planning, human rights and the role that the extended family can play in keeping seniors safe.

We appreciated the hospitality and support from the Cherbourg community to help us connect and talk about preventing and dealing with elder abuse. Our only complaint was that we had to compete with so many beautiful birds calling from the trees surrounding the Ration Shed Museum!

Your rights in the aftermath of a natural disaster

Natural disasters can affect many different areas of our lives. In the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie, many people will have questions about their legal rights with respect to one or more of the following.

Fencing disputes

After a storm one of the most immediate problems is damage to property.  When it is a dividing fence that is damaged, that property is the shared responsibility of both neighbours and it is important to come to a decision about what to do together.  Most of the time neighbours reach very swift agreement about what needs to be done but if there is any dispute you might need more information about fencing disputes.

Insurance claims

If your property is damaged in a storm or flooding you must ensure that you take reasonable steps to prevent further loss. This may include moving undamaged items from an area that was flooded or making temporary repairs like putting a tarp on your damaged roof. You should take photographs and videos of any damaged items or damage to your property as soon as possible after the damage occurs.

Major weather events usually generate a high volume of insurance claims, which can result in longer than usual processing times.

It is important that the proper procedure is followed when making a claim. Failure to do so may result in extended delay or less than the full entitlement being paid. If possible, it is a good idea to read through your policy documents before contacting your insurer.

It is also important to be transparent and honest when making your claim. Insurers take fraud seriously and may well prosecute even a low-value fraudulent matter as a policy. You can find more information about insurance here.

Damage to leased goods

It is not uncommon for people to lease household items such as furniture or white goods like fridges and washing machine. If these items are damaged or made unusable by severe weather, consumers may still have ongoing obligations, such as continuing to make repayments under the lease agreement. If you have leased goods which have been damaged in the storm, it is important to read your lease contract to see what your rights and obligations are.  These contracts are not always transparent and we recommend you seek legal advice if you are having difficulty. If you do not have a copy of your contract or if it was also damaged you can request a copy from the lessor. You should seek legal advice if you need help getting a copy of your contract or dealing with the lessor.

You may also have protections under the Australian Consumer Law and the National Credit Code. The Queensland Law Handbook Online contains relevant information about consumer protection legislation and consumer credit.

Financial difficulty and loan repayments

Natural disasters can cause considerable financial hardship for individuals. The National Credit Code provides for variations to credit contracts, to provide temporary relief, where borrowers are experiencing hardship. If you anticipate having difficulty making loan repayments as a result of the storm you should talk to your lender as soon as possible. You can find more information about hardship variations here.

Employment law

Some people may find that they need to take time off work during or after a severe weather event, for one reason or another. In some cases, an employer will suffer financial loss or damage which means they are no longer able to provide employment to some or all of their workforce. If you find that your employment situation is adversely affected by the storm, you might need more information unfair or unlawful dismissal.

If you are stood down or lose your job (even if it was a causal job) it is important to get legal advice as soon as possible as you may only have 21 days from the date of dismissal to make a claim.

Complying with parenting orders

The safety considerations and transport difficulties associated with flooding and inclement weather can potentially affect the ability of separated parents to comply with parenting orders. If you are worried that your parenting arrangements will be, or already have been affected by the weather, information on contravention of parenting orders may assist.

Damage to rental accommodation

Landlords have an obligation to ensure that rented premises are in good repair and are of a standard fit for living. If your rental property is destroyed or otherwise non-liveable because of cyclone, flood or storm damage you can give notice to leave within one month of the event that caused the non-liveability.

If your rental accommodation is damaged you must notify the lessor or agent as soon as possible. If a repair issue is determined to be an emergency repair there is a process available for having those repairs completed quickly.

If the property is dirty because of flood, usually the lessor is responsible for cleaning the property and inclusions, however tenants are responsible for cleaning their own goods and possessions.

If you are living in rented accommodation which has been damaged by the storm which can no longer be lived in or requires urgent repairs you may need more information on the rights and obligations of tenants and landlords.

Problems with trees

Fallen trees and branches can often cause damage and other problems in the event of bad weather. If your property has been damaged by a fallen tree which was growing on private property, or if a tree needs to be removed you could need information on rules about neighbouring trees.

If your problem relates to a tree growing on land which is not private property you should contact the relevant Local Council.

Damage caused by and removal of trees may also be covered by insurance. See ‘Insurance Claims’ above for more information.


A Celebration of 40 Years of Unlocking The Law

It was about 4pm and The Tivoli was looking spectacular, even with a couple of large stepladders on the dance floor and various black clad technicians shouting technical things to each other. 

By 6.15 The tables were set, the seating plan was in place, the lighting and sound was ready, Megan and Karen had sprinkled the illicit illuminations on the tables and a feeling of anticipation was in the air.

Continue reading A Celebration of 40 Years of Unlocking The Law

Gallery of Domestic Violence Information

This is a series of memes we created to help raise awareness of Domestic and Family Violence laws in Queensland.
Feel free to  download and share any of these memes on your social media accounts.

Click on an image in the gallery below to see a larger version.

Don’t miss our Justice in Focus Forum, Domestic ViolenceUnheard Voices.
29th September at the QEII Courts of Law in Brisbane – Click here for more information.

Without Unnecessary Violence

PLEASE NOTE: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this document may contain images of deceased persons. 

At the 150th anniversary of the gazettal of Regulations imposing a duty on armed officers to “disperse” any “large assembly of blacks without unnecessary violence”, how does the present day reality of Aboriginal people in Queensland continue to be shaped by the history of their relations with the Queensland colonial police force?

Continue reading Without Unnecessary Violence

Calls to elder abuse helplines around Australia double in 12 months

Image of book and phone

A new report on elder abuse, released for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on 15 June, shows phone calls to elder abuse helplines around Australia have nearly doubled since the 2013/2014 financial year.

Figures from the National Elder Abuse Annual Report 2014/2015 show that information calls to elder abuse agencies have increased by 106 percent – from 3159 in 2013/2014 to 6515 in 2014/2015.

Caxton Legal Centre Director Scott McDougall said “Seniors from all walks of life are vulnerable to elder abuse.  The abuse is most often financial or psychological abuse and is usually at the hands of a family member.” Continue reading Calls to elder abuse helplines around Australia double in 12 months

Caxton Turns 40

This year Caxton Legal Centre celebrates 40 years of unlocking the law for Queenslanders.  Caxton Legal Centre is as an independent non-profit organisation providing free legal advice and representation to Queenslanders who face disadvantage in their access to the law.

Such an auspicious anniversary is an opportunity for us to celebrate our resilience in changing times, to reflect on past challenges and successes and to look forward to meeting the future needs of our clients. Continue reading Caxton Turns 40