Jo Renkin - IMCL Board Member
Jo Renkin has been an IMCL board member for two years, and has had an even longer association with the legal centre through her pro bono work on behalf of her law firm, Lander & Rogers.
Lander and Rogers has been working with Inner Melbourne Community Legal for many years, and through this work and her continued interest in the organisation, Jo Renkin was inspired to join the board of IMCL.
“I thought that it would be a really terrific way to bring some knowledge of private profession and the general legal landscape to the deliberations of the board,” Jo explains.
“I have always admired the work IMCL does, and it is a leading community legal centre with a terrific strong future. It was quite an honour to become a custodian of the organisation – I was thrilled.”
Jo says she is energised by the work that IMCL does for the community, and by the culture within IMCL.
“The staff are really fantastic, and there is a great group of people around the board, so I feel like we’re really well placed to be that supportive of an organisation that has been and will continue to grow and thrive for a very long time.”
The Board: the right skillset for a hands on approach
The board meet regularly to discuss strategic plans, how the organisation is going, and finances, all while grappling with real issues of legal need and a huge increase in unmet legal need, finite resources, and changing funding patterns. There is also constant review of different programs or different services, and the IMCL staff are integral to that process.
“Staff members are really across their areas of work and can provide some really mature analysis on what we are getting the best out of, what needs rethinking, what relationships need work,” says Jo.
“They are really the ones helping us with information so we can make the best sorts of decisions.”
“One of the lovely things at these meetings is that we often have a staff member talk about the work they do. It gives us a great idea of the work that’s being done – often we make decisions and discuss things with a future focus, but we are not in the true grit of the work.”
“It’s fantastic to hear the stories, and why it’s meaningful for the people working at the organisation. It is also beneficial for them to hear from us too because it maintains that connection. We work really closely with the current staff and CEO, regularly checking in and being on the front foot with things that are coming up.
The board has made a concerted effort in the past few years to working most effectively, particularly strengthening its structures and way of operating.
“The current board has a range of skill sets around the table and that is a very strong place to be,” explains Jo.
“As old board members retire, we have carefully considered whether we have the right number of people, the right skill sets around the table, the right connections to both the community and to the other stakeholders of the legal centre, and if we need to make any adjustments make them at that time.”
IMCL’s reach in the community
Jo has witnessed the legal service develop over the years, and has seen it grow into more of an outreach and community-serving organisation.
“IMCL has gone from waiting for clients to come to it, to looking outside and doing lots of outreach, like forming and strengthening relationships with homeless people, starting up a strong health justice partnership at the hospitals, and working really closely with people who live in the various housing commission areas right across the catchment area.”
“IMCL has not been afraid to make some difficult decisions at different times and the people that have worked at the organisation are committed, passionate and really motivated to do the best they can, and to seek the right outcomes for the clients.
“This means knowing the community and how to best work with them, do our best for them, support their legal needs and assist them in their interaction with the legal system.”
Feedback from the community
Hearing client stories is how Jo sees first hand the impact of IMCL in the community.
"When you hear the client stories that’s really the way you see the impact. It's great to hear from clients themselves. Radio National’s Law Report aired some terrific feedback from clients which really went to the heart of what effect all this work is having. Because clients in their own words were able to say this has made a difference to me. You don’t always get feedback from clients, so when the clients or even the hospitals and support workers are saying we need IMCL, you know that IMCL is having an impact on the community."
"I also see the numbers and hear from the lawyers about how they see the processes and their advice flowing through, and I can also hear from the lawyers from my firm who take on referrals or work collaboratively with the IMCL staff to get certain outcomes and hear that things are happening to the benefit of the clients."
A bright future for IMCL
Jo sees IMCL in a strong position for the future, due to the culture within the organisation and its growth in the past ten years.
“We are in such a terrific position going forward. We have really great people working with some of the outreach programs, really deep relationships with organisations, and strong health justice partnerships, which are all very foundational aspects of the organisation.
“This gives us scope to scale these programs up, or find new reiterations, and even respond to any emergent legal need in the community because we have some much more sophisticated processes of analysis.”
“I have always admired the work IMCL does, and it is a leading community legal centre with a terrific strong future."