Rhonda Gocher - former client, volunteer, office manager, board member, 1991- 2004
Rhonda has a unique connection to IMCL going back to 1991. From client, to volunteer, to salaried office manager, to community development worker and ultimately to becoming a member of the committee of management, Rhonda experienced all sides of the organisation. She describes how seeking legal help changed her life and lead to a long association with the service.
First a client
Rhonda first came to one of NMLS’s evening drop-in clinics for help with a "sexually transmitted debt" in 1991. She was a local, living around the corner from the centre and couldn't afford legal help. On the night she was seen by a volunteer barrister who had an understanding of commercial debt.
“He worked evenings, days, weekends. I remember being in his chambers one Saturday afternoon, weeping as I had to go through the whole story again. But he put it all down and went through the system. He saved me, saved my sanity.”
From volunteer to employee and member of the committee of management
The resolution of her legal matter was only the start of her journey with NMLS.
Feeling an enormous sense of gratitude and respect for the work of NMLS, she offered to become a volunteer.
"I sought assistance and then I became a volunteer. I just came to the front desk one day and said 'I really appreciate the help you’ve given me'. And I asked 'is there anything I can do to help'? And they said, 'well what can you do'? And I said, what do you need doing?" Rhonda recalls.
"So I used to sit on the front desk for the volunteer nights whenever I could because I was also working somewhere else at the same time".
Later on in 1991, a salaried position came up as office administrator and she took it up, adding community development work to her role during over the course of her 8 year employment.
Down the track in 2003 she was invited back to NMLS to join the committee of management, where she served as a member for almost 12 months.
Connecting with local community members
Rhonda recalls that the doors were always open at NMLS for anyone who wanted to drop-in.
"It was all about the members of the community. We didn't necessarily triage back then. I remember Francesca. Francesca was an old Italian woman would just come in to talk to me. She didn’t have a legal problem. She just liked to talk about her parrot, who she said would talk to her all of the time. I’m not sure whether she ever actually had a parrot, but she certainly used to talk about it. Francesca was a part of our legal service community, but also a part of the wider community. I remember the wider community," she reflects.
You can find out more about IMCL's current staff here.
“If I had to choose one word to explain my time at Inner Melbourne Community Legal it would be life changing.”