Gabrielle's story

Gabrielle McManus -  former VGSO secondee and permanent Moray & Agnew secondee lawyer, 2011- 2015

Gabrielle was a VGSO secondee when she wrote this Solicitor's Report in the 2010-11 Annual Report. Soon thereafter she became an employee as a permanent Moray & Angnew secondee lawyer until 2015. She's now a Principal Lawyer at McManus & Co and still regularly catches-up with her former IMCL colleagues. 

“I’ve been a keen follower of  North Melbourne Legal Service [now IMCL] for some time. Throughout my years as a solicitor at the VGSO, I’ve kept my ear to the ground (and often just within earshot of colleagues’ conversations) with a view to securing a secondment at NMLS. And now here I am. Mission accomplished.

“Tales from the coal front of the challenges faced by secondee solicitors at NMLS tickled my adventurous streak long ago: ‘there’s never any toilet paper’ cried one incredulous secondee; ‘there was some god-awful smell wafting from my carpet. I had to buy an oil burner’, another (resourceful) colleague told me; ‘the filing system? Do you mean piling system?’ a system-focused secondee once quipped. To them, these quibbles may have represented the inconvenient daily practicalities of working for a not-for-profit community legal centre. To me however, they bore the scent of urban adventure.”

“And so, in early 2011, with a heart full of enthusiasm and a head set on saving the world, the  VGSO mercifully allowed me to ride off to the hamlet of North Melbourne to take my place at 504 Victoria Street.  Having heard of the conditions, I was careful to pack all the necessary precautions. The contents of my luggage very closely mimicked those one would take to a third world country. I packed a water bottle, an air filterer (plant), teabags and sugar, pens, a fan, a light and a well selected collection of documents in case I got into trouble (my practising certificate, The Law Handbook, the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989, and  a list of VGSO colleagues’ phone numbers for emergencies.)


“Despite the grungy entry, the office of NMLS was amply stocked with toilet paper, tea and milk. Filing trays, clean surfaces and oversized whiteboards rendered it shockingly apparent that that the place was well managed and skilfully staffed. A larger than life roster alerted me to the twice daily sifts of volunteers, a monthly calendar indicated there was no shortfall of court appearances, and the office was abuzz with the activities of a busy NMLS team. In short, my grand illusions of allowing my natural affinity for chaos to shine were instantly shattered.”

“As a new arrival, I was lucky to have such exceedingly welcoming, wise and worldly colleagues to help me settle in.  Their smarts and skills came however as no surprise, as the outgoing VGSO secondee (recently returned to take up the position of principal solicitor – Emily Clark) had forwarned me of the team’s virtues before arriving.

“[…]my long awaited adventure…certainly played out in my work… the importance of the matter for my client, and their ‘need’ not ‘want’ or ‘fancy’ to address the issue renders the matter no longer something I should and must look at, but something I want to look at.

“Another enjoyable aspect of my work at NMLS is found in participating in various outreaches and drop-in clinics we conduct. The be able to provide immediate legal assistance in response to the community’s need is quite an amazing feat.

“To sum up, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work here. I can quite honestly say that I love my work at NMLS. It has given me much deep connection to, understanding of, and appreciation for the community I live in, and the unique significance of law to each individual’s life. It has made me realise how integral access to justice is and how I, as an individual, can assist. I expect that, given NMLS’ steadily increasing service trajectory, its committed team of workers, volunteers and supporters, and its exciting new projects, NMLS will continue to grow and prosper well into the future and I eagerly look forward to assisting it”.

You can find out more about IMCL's current staff here.  

“I love my work at NMLS. It has given me much deep connection to, understanding of, and appreciation for the community I live in, and the unique significance of law to each individual’s life.”