Embracing the challenging and rewarding work of the IMCL board for an admirable 21 years, John is the current Treasurer. He reflects on standout achievements and the vital importance of a dedicated legal centre for the local community.
Coming across North Melbourne Legal Service as a local North Melbourne resident
John first became involved with NMLS after hearing from two friends who were involved in the service, Nick Batten and Danielle Talbot, of the impressive work being done at the service.
“They were taking skills that they had developed in the halls of academia and transposing them into the real world, and really improving people’s lives,” recalls John.
As a local North Melbourne resident, he quickly began to realise the importance of the service for the local community.
“I quickly got a sense of the scale of the service’s challenge to provide assistance for people who were hitting rock bottom or had nowhere else to turn. Getting to know the staff and volunteers, the service seemed a magnet for energy, intellect, generosity and compassion."
He was energised by the underlying motive that unites all the service's staff: providing access to justice.
"The driving force behind the service is to make sure that everybody gets access to the law. If only people with money can access the law, the law isn’t really working and that has an impact on society," he says.
Reflecting on standout achievements
During his time on the board John has overseen many organisational developments.
"We have spun off the YouthLaw legal service, initiated and closed a clinical education program with RMIT, we have massively expanded community legal education, reached further out into our catchment area, particularly Carlton, initiated our health-justice partnerships with some of the nation’s biggest hospitals, we have increased our budget three or four times, significantly broadened our funding base, strengthened our ties with a range of pro-bono partners, had a major restructure a decade ago and more recently changed our premises, our logo and our name."
John cites the partnership with the Royal Women’s Hospital as an outstanding initiative from his 21 years with IMCL.
“We knew it would be difficult, and there were concerns that the medical staff were already flat-out
After the partnership had been running for a few years, John attended a symposium at the RWH and heard the program spoken about in glowing terms, with medical staff appreciating that the legal problems their clients had fed into their health directly.
“It was just this idea of providing a holistic service to your client, which is much better for the client and much cheaper for the system as a whole.
"One doctor referred to it as building a fence at the top of a cliff rather than put an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff."
Another memorable moment for John was when IMCL lawyer Linda Gyorki won the 2017 Community Lawyer of the Year Award.
“From the perspective of a committee member, to have seen the Health Justice Partnerships program in action, and then see the recognition of her work and the contribution the service had made to the community, was a great highlight.”
Being part of a continually evolving service with generations of inspiring staff
“Through the growth and development, the consistent factor over the years has been the calibre and spirit of the people working at the service, the volunteers, the staff, the managers and lawyers providing the front-line services, and the committee members marshalling the resources to best help them do their job.”
“The time has flown by,” John explains.
"I have been fortunate to see a legal service gradually but inexorably build on the labours and wisdom of its staff and volunteers, move with the times, and respond to the changing needs of its clients and its catchment area. I have seen it adapt and thrive. Throughout my involvement, as the baton has been passed to new generations of staff, volunteers and committee members, while the service has changed enormously, it remains a magnet for remarkable people doing inspiring work.
"It has been a privilege to be part of it. Long may IMCL flourish!"
You can also read about the celebration held for John in 2017 to celebrate 20 years of service on the IMCL board!
“The driving force behind the service is to make sure that everybody gets access to the law. If only people with money can access the law, the law isn’t really working and that has an impact on society.”