23 October 2023

Volunteering with Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) from 1982 for close to 25 years, solicitor and former Australian Government Solicitor, Michael Kingston reflects on his time at FLS and the ongoing need for community access to law.  

There’s a need to address the here and now, while also looking to the horizon. I believe Fitzroy Legal Service does that.

Michael Kingston, solicitor and former long-serving volunteer

Graduating from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Laws in 1981, Michael started his justice career as an Articled Clerk at a commercial law firm while volunteering Monday nights at FLS under the supervision of long-serving volunteer and life member, Brian Wright. Brian has served as a Magistrate since 2004. 

“Working with Brian and others at FLS I learnt a lot about the law and FLS’s diverse client base,” Michael said. “It provided me with experience in different areas of law that I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.”  

“Certainly, through the 80s and 90s, there was a core group of people who volunteered consistently on Monday nights. We’d get together and go out for dinner afterwards to discuss our night and whatever else was going on.” 

“I would hear that there were different cultures across the night-time volunteer team, and Mondays were particularly known as having a happy culture (which is not to say the other nights didn’t)!”  

Building a diverse and impactful career that spanned corporate law as a Partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques and inhouse counsel for BHP through to being a Barrister and Chief Legal Officer for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Michael describes his pro bono cases as some of the most rewarding.  

“One case involved a man’s battle to be recognised as a refugee and for him (and his wife and children) to be allowed to stay in Australia. We lost twice, I think narrowly, in the Federal Court seeking to set aside a decision denying his refugee status,” Michael adds.  

“Then the ASRC prepared a submission asking the then Minister for Immigration, Amanda Vanstone, to exercise her personal discretion to allow our client to stay. When the client rang to tell me the Minister had agreed to let him stay, it was one of the best moments of my legal career.”  

As a former board member of the Human Rights Law Centre, when it comes to legal change, Michael believes in the value of a dual pronged approach of ‘keeping the lights’ on by doing the necessary day to day legal work whilst also pursuing legal reform.  

“Systemic change might be five years or more away. That leaves real problems today that need resolving. That’s people with legal problems who need help and somewhere to go.”   

“There’s a need to address the here and now, while also looking to the horizon. I believe FLS does that.”  

Drawing on his extensive volunteering at FLS, Michael reflects on the many ways the law impacts on people’s lives. “There’s a big difference between working with a client who is an individual with a case going on, versus working with someone who is an employee of a large company with a legal problem.” 

“Access to law is partly about education, but fundamentally it’s about money. Many people don’t have access to legal aid, and they rely on community legal services like FLS to navigate pressing issues.”  

“Sometimes access to a lawyer removes a legal problem and it usually at least makes a problem easier to understand and deal with. Whether it’s helping to explain a document or helping to navigate default notices, a simple intervention can have a big impact.”    

Over 40 years later and Michael continues to connect with his peers from volunteering and helps FLS to keep the lights on. “There’s the age-old question of whether you give to the local food bank or pilot the proposal to change the world. There’s probably room for both.”  

Something we couldn’t agree with more. FLS’s volunteering program is powered by over 270 volunteers, 190 of whom support the Night Service which has served over 3000 community members last financial year.  

Michael Kingston was the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) from 2016. Previously he has worked as Chief Legal Officer of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and as a partner at Mallesons Stephen Jaques.

Find out more about volunteering with FLS and how you can support the Night Service today.

Other news

July 8, 2024
MEDIA RELEASE: Victorian Government must fix outdated and unfair driving laws that punish those prescribed medical cannabis    
Read article ›
The Law Handbook 2024
July 8, 2024
Fitzroy Legal Service launches 46th edition of The Law Handbook    
Read article ›
Carol Andrades, Former Fitzroy Legal Service Board member and long-term Night Service volunteer
July 4, 2024
Five minutes with former Fitzroy Legal Service Board member and longstanding volunteer, Carol Andrades  
Read article ›
Night Service victim-survivor of gendered violence
June 12, 2024
Gemma’s case is not unique (CW: gendered-violence) 
Read article ›
FLS appoints new CEO Hamish McLachlan
May 30, 2024
Fitzroy Legal Service’s Board appoints new CEO, Hamish McLachlan
Read article ›
Job Expo for Lived and Living Experience
May 23, 2024
Groundbreaking jobs expo to challenge barriers for women locked out of employment 
Read article ›
May 17, 2024
Fitzroy Legal Service and Q+Law celebrate IDAHOBIT Day
Read article ›
Australia must do more to secure a ceasefire in Palestine
May 14, 2024
Australia must do more to secure a ceasefire in Palestine
Read article ›
FLS's free Divorce Clinic
April 30, 2024
Family Law and Family Violence team reignite FLS’s Divorce Clinic
Read article ›
A msg from the CEO, Hamish McLachlan
April 30, 2024
Message from the CEO – April 2024  
Read newsletter ›
Amity Mara, Manager, Policy, Advocacy and Projects
April 29, 2024
Five minutes with Amity Mara
Read post ›
April 15, 2024
Migration Bill denies safe pathways for people seeking asylum in Australia
Read post ›
March 28, 2024
Message from the CEO – March 2024  
Read newsletter ›
Rebecca Johnston-Ryan, Service Director and Principal Lawyer, Night Service
March 27, 2024
Five minutes with FLS Night Service Director and Principal Lawyer, Rebecca Johnston-Ryan
Read post ›
March 26, 2024
FLS welcomes new volunteers for 2024 
Read post ›
March 15, 2024
FLS submission to amend Australia’s Family Law Act  
Read post ›
February 29, 2024
Message from the CEO – February 2024  
Read newsletter ›
FLS 2024 Trainee Lawyer
February 29, 2024
Welcoming FLS’s 2024 Trainee Lawyer
Read post ›
A message from the CEO, January 2024, Hamish McLachlan
January 31, 2024
Message from the CEO – January 2024  
Read newsletter ›
January 18, 2024
Fitzroy Legal Service doors remain open this Invasion Day
Read post ›
Hamish McLachlan
January 9, 2024
Introducing FLS Interim CEO, Hamish McLachlan  
Read post ›
November 28, 2023
In the future, people like Thuy will no longer face unfair barriers
Read post ›
November 8, 2023
FLS announces CEO departure following a legacy of purposeful growth
Read post ›
June 30, 2023
Reflections on a harm reduction intervention in the Inquest into Veronica Nelson’s passing
Read article ›
Human Rights News
June 19, 2023
Victoria Police breaches human rights and its own policies at cannabis legalisation rally
Read article ›
May 26, 2023
FLS submission on a medically supervised injecting service in the City of Melbourne
Read post ›
March 31, 2023
Q+Law: A new legal service with and for LGBTIQA+ communities
Read article ›
March 10, 2023
FLS joins calls for a Supervised Injecting Service in the CBD
Read article ›
January 24, 2023
Fitzroy Legal Service joins in calls from Aboriginal, legal, and human rights organisations for the urgent reform of Victoria’s bail laws.
Read article ›
October 13, 2022
Vale Uncle Jack
Read article ›
October 22, 2021
Human Rights don’t stop at prison gates. It is time to end routine strip searching of people in prison!
Read post ›
View all news ›