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Free legal advice – last chance for farmers and small businesses

Free legal advice for farmers and small businesses affected by recent bushfires is due to finish at the end of June.

Eligible small businesses and farmers are encouraged to apply for the Commonwealth-funded Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme through their lawyer now. Under the scheme, small business owners and primary producers can apply for funding of $2000 to help with their legal costs and and up to $5000 for related expenses. Additional funding is available in reasonable circumstances.

John Kambas, of JFK Legal, a firm that has assisted bushfire affected clients through the scheme, said the scheme provides much needed assistance to communities that have been hit hard by the bushfires. “The bushfire scheme provides comfort to the clients and community knowing that a lawyer can go in to bat for them and it will cost them nothing.”

In addition, Mr Kambas said that the application process was quick and easy and that providing legal assistance to those who were affected by the bushfires has been a positive for him. “It also helps me knowing that I will be helping out people in need and will get paid for doing so,” he said.

After the 2019/20 bushfires, many farmers and small business are still dealing with a wide range of legal problems, such as insurance disputes, commercial leases, contract disputes, planning and employment issues. Legal Aid NSW CEO Brendan Thomas said many legal issues typically only become apparent weeks or months after a disaster.

“For more than a decade, our lawyers have given advice and legal assistance to those affected by disasters such as bushfires and floods,” Mr Thomas said. “Until now, farmers and small businesses have not been eligible for legal aid. I commend the Commonwealth Government for its decision to support farmers and small businesses by providing funding for this scheme.”

Help is also available from the Financial Rights Legal Service or through the Justice Connect Pro Bono Portal. For information on the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme call the Legal Aid NSW Disaster Response Legal Service on 1800 801 529 or email: [email protected]

The Local Government Areas (LGAs) covered by the Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme are:

Armidale, Ballina, Bega Valley, Bellingen, Blue Mountains, Byron, Central Coast, Cessnock, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Eurobodalla, Glenn Innes Severn, Hawkesbury, Inverell, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lismore, Lithgow, Mid-Coast, Mid-Western, Nambucca, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Richmond Valley, Shoalhaven, Singleton, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys, Tenterfield, Tweed, Walcha, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly.

How does the scheme work?

If you are an eligible small business owner or farmer a private solicitor can apply for a grant of $2000 to assist you to resolve your legal matter arising from the 2019/20 bushfires, and up to $5000 for related expenses. Additional funding is available in reasonable circumstances.

If you have more than one bushfire related legal problem your solicitor may receive more than one grant for legal services and expenses.

Where else can I get help?

You can also get free legal assistance for bushfire related legal issues by: · contacting the Financial Rights Legal Centre or on 1300 663 464 · visiting Justice Connect’s Bushfire Community Support Page.