The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s (ASRC) Fast Track Clinics have won the Innovation Award at the Volunteering Victoria State Awards.
The ASRC Human Rights Law Program (HRLP) is a community legal centre which provides free, expert immigration legal services to people seeking asylum. With the service already under pressure, the Government’s decision to apply a tight deadline for receipt of protection claims for persons seeking asylum who were subject to the government Fast Track process, put thousands of people in an impossible position of having nowhere to turn to get help preparing their applications.
Thinking “outside the box” to solve a complex problem, the ASRC’s HRLP created Fast Track legal Clinics at a time when resources were stretched to the limit. The initiative made use of precious available resources to devote maximum effort during a peak workload.
The Fast Track Clinics were designed to ensure people seeking asylum received quality advice and assistance, with the aim of completing entire applications for protection in one sitting.
The operation mobilised extra resources through creating an innovative partnership between corporate legal services volunteers and ASRC volunteers. The team also enlisted help from the Law School at La Trobe University. Law students and volunteers received training which enabled them to support the immigration lawyers to tackle the long waiting list of clients created by the newly imposed tight deadline.
ASRC also drew in community support by sourcing donations through social media. The well-received #keepthemsafe campaign raised more than $400,000 which funded dedicated “Fast Track” solicitors and administrators. Importantly, 188 legal professionals came forward to provide pro-bono assistance through ASRC’s Fast Track Clinics.
Amy Simpson, Legal Practice and Volunteer Coordinator at ASRC, reflected on the effectiveness of the program:
“The volunteer assistance has been critical in providing essential legal services to so many people facing this challenging protection visa application process. The HRLP’s Fast Track work, including our Fast Track Clinics, assisted over 700 clients (approximately 890 people including family members and children) to lodge applications for protection visas before the 1 October 2017 deadline. Furthermore, this program has had a wider benefit for the community.”
Achieving the most important objective of the Fast Track program ensured people seeking asylum were provided with access to legal support and representation.
The impact of this significant undertaking not only made an enormous difference in the lives of disadvantaged individuals, but also represented an incomparable education opportunity for the legal practitioners involved at all levels.
Congratulations to ASRC on their well-deserved Innovation Award at the 2017 Volunteering Victoria State Volunteer Awards.
You can read the full list of winners here.