31 January 2024
It is a great honour to be writing my first message to you as Fitzroy Legal Service’s Interim CEO. I’d like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all staff, volunteers, members, supporters and board members who have offered great encouragement as I have stepped into this important role.
Profound thanks are also due to our outgoing CEO, Kristine Olaris, who has left the organisation in a robust position to tackle the pressing challenges our clients and communities face.
None is more apparent than the cost-of-living crisis, the impacts of which we are increasingly seeing. Our Night Service has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of clients struggling with rent and other essential costs.
We are seeing many clients who have been notified of rent increases that are either out of step with what is reasonable or mean they would be unable to afford essential items such as food and transport.
Similarly, we are seeing more clients being fined because they were unable to afford public transport fares or who have been unable to keep up with payment plans. In these times, the services delivered by our amazing team of staff and volunteers are more critical than ever.
As well as our longstanding Night Service, these services include our health justice partnership assisting people experiencing homelessness and mental health issues, our family violence outreaches, drug outreach lawyer program, and WILO, an integrated social work and legal service for women and non-binary people.
Alongside responding to rising community need, the next six months will see us stage some incredible peer-led events, including a Job Fair to break down barriers to employment and a celebration of self-advocacy group, Voices for Change.
We will also be hosting events to celebrate our volunteers and launch the 46th edition of our iconic Law Handbook. I warmly invite you to join us in this work and to consider making a donation that’s meaningful to you.
Together we can create a fairer and more equal Victoria in 2024. On behalf of all of us at FLS, we look forward to working with each of you to do so.
Interim Chief Executive Officer