Our 40th Party

This year IMCL turns 40! 

We celebrated our 40th Anniversary with a vibrant party held in the heart of the CBD at the Melbourne Town Hall on Thursday 16 August.

The room was bursting with the organisation’s past and present partners, volunteers and staff who joined together for a night of storytelling, reconnecting and celebrating our shared achievements.

Story Wise storyteller Kate Lawrence compèred the proceedings, starting the night by telling a story about the highs and lows of her time working in a female prison as a former IMCL lawyer. Despite witnessing injustice faced by female prisoners like her client Max*, working alongside other community activists on prison advocacy was personally formative and she had an inspiring message about the power of community lawyering.

"It told me loud and clear that you never know. You never know what impact you might be having. Systemic, seismic, meaningful change is always a possibility and community legal centres are essential for a good justice system and a good democracy," she said, reflecting on the part she played in prison reform.

"To think that there’s an entity that we’re all bound to through time that none of us own but we all feel connected to is a surprise to me," she said, highlighting the common bond uniting the audience. "What I do know is that it is the only community legal centre that’s got a place in my heart and has a deep place in my personal history," she added affectionately, representing a sentiment shared by many other people in the room. You can read the full transcript of her story here.

IMCL Founder and Supreme Court Justice Peter Almond gave a special address to the crowded room on the night.

“I think what we [the Founders] can say fairly is that…our achievement was that we made a solid start. But we did not imagine that start would metamorphise into this extraordinary legal service...or that there would be thousands of clients who have been assisted by committed volunteers, and those who are paid, over a span of four decades,” said Justice Almond. You can read about the founding of IMCL and each of the three founders here

IMCL Founders Peter Collinson QC, Hon. Justice Peter Almond and William Houghton QC.

IMCL Senior Lawyer Philippa Dixon introduced a video featuring a client Danielle she had worked with at Ozanam Community Centre, a support service for people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Philippa emphasised the importance of IMCL's partnerships and outreach work, enabling the organisation's lawyers to reach those who need legal help. 

"The most important thing about being a community lawyer is going out into the community to help people in need,” explained Ms Dixon about IMCL’s 20-year relationship with VincentCare, who manages Ozanam Community Center. You can view the video here.

Former IMCL lawyer Linda Gyorki and current lawyers Hannah Fesseha and Philippa Dixon

Another highlight from the evening was a lively group exercise during which guests shared stories of their unique and varied connection with IMCL.

IMCL board member of 20 years, John Mangan, took to the lecturn to share his memory of a client that IMCL, then North Melbourne Legal Service (NMLS), had helped to apply for assistance from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. The client had gone on to share her experience at a meeting attended by the State Attorney General.

“For one of our clients to be so helped by the service but also to feel so strongly about the service and the help she got to make that commitment to us…by explaining our work to this delegation, I just found that remarkable at the time and I still do,” said Mr Mangan.

“It is just a great example of the work that’s done in the service every day by the people in this room.”

Former Principal lawyer Lee Hurlston recalled the police accountability work undertaken by the organisation alongside formidable community activists, while former IMCL lawyer and current government law advsior at Clayton Utz Simon Bailey reflected on how his years at NMLS were some of the best of his professional life because of the meaningful nature of the work. 

Former board member and current Senior Legal Officer at the Community Public Sector Union Mark Perica also seized the opportunity to recount his memory of trying to manage Kate Lawrence's rebellious habit of climbing on to the rooftop of IMCL's former office premises on Victoria St for a stress relieving cigarette! 

You can read more stories about the people who have made IMCL what it is today in our 40 Years 40 Stories series here

Former IMCL office coordinator Mishelle Predika and MC on the night Kate Lawrence

Other amusing anecdotes from the evening included the intense deliberation over purchasing the legal centre’s first typewriter, but it was IMCL’s continued fight for access to justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community that was the unwavering theme of the evening.

Reflecting on the success of the event, IMCL CEO Mr Stubbs says that it was an important opportunity to bring everyone together from IMCL’s history and to celebrate the hard work of such a committed group of people.

“The room was filled with stories, laughter, and genuine community spirit, and was a wonderful reminder of just how special our support community is, and how important our work is to improving the lives of so many and to help their voices to be heard.”

Attendees also raised much-needed funding for IMCL, with every dollar going towards the delivery of vital services and ensuring the organisation is able to continue its important work into the next 40 years. IMCL thanks those who donated on the night and since then, including our generous event sponsors Hall & Wilcox, Clayton Utz, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ryan Carlisle Thomas and Lander & Rogers.  

Please click here if you too would like to donate. For donations of $40 or more you will receive a limited edition 40th Anniversary IMCL tote bag, modelled in the photo below with a celebratory bottle of red by our very own CEO, Dan Stubbs! 

IMCL CEO Dan Stubbs