Legal service opens with welcome to country

February 6, 2019 BY

A new start: The Ballarat and Grampians Community Legal Service was cleansed with a smoking ceremony by Bonnie Chew as it opened its doors on Friday. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

THE newly renamed Ballarat and Grampians Community Legal Service officially opened their new Chancery Lane premises last Friday afternoon.

BGCLS staff and the legal community gathered outside the offices at 12pm for a welcome to country and traditional smoking ceremony conducted by Wathaurong traditional owner, Bonnie Chew and an address from Chairman, Scott Sherritt.

Attendees were able to tour the centre that offers free legal assistance and that’s been fitted out for the needs of their clients and 12 staff.

The space includes three interview rooms, a shared admin space, an area for community presentations and an extensive upstairs space for hosting and educating law students undertaking paralegal work.

Downstairs, there is a quiet, reflective place for staff to relax and be mindful, if they are working with some of the service’s more sensitive or difficult cases.

Upon entry, visitors are met by the service’s strong values printed next to the doorway.

They are integrity, inclusivity, confidentiality, accountability and collaboration.

Centre manager, Lisa Buckland said a smoking ceremony, which is believed to have healing and cleansing properties, was a great opportunity to let everyone know BGCLS is a culturally safe place where clients can feel comfortable and welcome.

“We’re open to everyone. Of course we’re a legal service but it’s more important to us that people know that we’re a community service,” she said.

“It’s intimidating seeing a lawyer, they’re nervous enough as it is, let alone coming into a place that just doesn’t feel right, so we’ve put a lot of thought into it.”

The not for profit organisation provides legal advice, information and education for free to people living, working or studying in the Central Highlands and Wimmera.

BGCLS is also very proud to have been the first centre to receive white ribbon accreditation and the new centre is easily accessible for people of all abilities.

The service will celebrate 30 years in June. BGCLS was formerly named Central Highlands Community Legal Centre and ran from premises in Dawson Street.

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