Service wants a solution to the cross-border legal divide

Staff with NSW’s cross-border commissioner James McTavish
Staff with NSW’s cross-border commissioner James McTavish

The unique and confusing legal problems faced by Border residents dealing with cross-border contradictions must be addressed, believes the region’s community legal provider.

In their 2016-17 annual report Hume Riverina Community Legal Service chief executive Luke Rumbold said the provider faced cross-border issues on a weekly basis.

“While this environment can be frustrating, the situation won’t change in the short-term and it highlights the inconsistencies we face that are peculiar to this part of the world,” he said. 

The service said they would continue to advocate for greater consistency in state laws as people close to the Border regularly move back and forth interstate without knowing the differences in laws. 

NSW’s cross-border commissioner James McTavish spoke at the service’s community report, saying work was being done across a number of issues to ensure cross-border living was catered to. 

Mr McTavish said the government had addressed laws that would affect people living on the border and had passed legislation to allow the registration of interstate Intervention Violence Orders.

He said work was also being done in the child protection area.

Principal lawyer Sarah Rodgers said with differing laws on each side of the twin cities, residents could easily find themselves frustrated or unknowingly on the wrong side of the law. 

“We are in a unique environment on the Border and we regularly face cross border legal problems,” she said.

“People dealing with legal problems often have interrelated Victorian and NSW legal problems and it can be extremely complex to get these issues resolved.

“These cross border issues problems continue to create confusion and frustration among the community and we will keep advocating for them to be addressed.”

Mr McTavish encouraged people to share their local cross border problems and knowledge so he can advocating to the NSW Government to issues. 

Ms Rodgers said the legal service was investigating projects to further extend its reach to ensure people needing legal advice on everyday problems.

She said outreach services were currently delivered from Benalla and Wangaratta to Henty and Holbrook, and west to Deniliquin, Finely and Corowa.

Ms Rodgers said partnerships with Wodonga Flexible Learning Centre, NESAY, Gateway Health and Centre Against Violence were allowing lawyers to give more advice to people across the region. 

She said the service saw 1809 clients, a 14 per cent increase on last year, and gave 2291 advices.