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Discrimination toolkit

Getting help

Getting Help cover pictureDo I need a lawyer?

You can take legal action for discrimination without a lawyer, but discrimination law is complex, and you might have a better chance of getting a good result if you have a lawyer advising or representing you.

The people who work at the ADB and the AHRC or the courts and tribunals cannot give you legal advice.

Although you are allowed to represent yourself, a lot of people find this hard, especially if the person they are complaining about has a lawyer.

A lawyer can lodge a complaint with the ADB or the AHRC on your behalf, but they will need to get permission to represent you at a conciliation conference.

You do not need permission for a lawyer to represent you in NCAT, the FMC or the FCA.

Even if you can't afford to pay a lawyer and can't find a lawyer who will represent you for free, we still think that it is very important to at least get some legal advice as early as possible.

How should I prepare for seeing a lawyer?

When you get free legal advice, you often don't get much time with the lawyer. If you do these things before you meet the lawyer, you will be able to make the most of the time you have with them:

  • write out (or type, if you can) your story about what happened to you. This is called a 'statement' (see How do I make a complaint? for what to include in your statement);
  • collect any documents that are relevant to your case; and
  • think about what you want to achieve by making a complaint - is it a practical solution to your problem (for instance, having a ramp installed at your local supermarket), a monetary solution (for instance, payment of lost wages if you were fired) or do you want your hurt feelings recognised (for instance, with an apology and/or some compensation).

Take your statement and all the documents with you when you meet with the lawyer.

Where can I find a lawyer?

There are many places where you can get free legal advice. The names and phone numbers of these services are in the Useful Contacts part of this Toolkit.

Some of these services might be able to actually represent you in your discrimination case. Talk to them about what type of help they can give you.

Legal Aid NSW

Legal Aid NSW is a government organization that provides legal services to socially and economically disadvantaged people in New South Wales.

Legal Aid NSW has lawyers in Sydney and in many regional centres of New South Wales, and they can give anyone free legal advice about discrimination.

If you go to Legal Aid NSW to get advice and you want them to represent you, ask the lawyer who gives you advice whether this is possible. If it is, you will need to apply for legal aid.

To apply, you need to fill out a legal aid application form and give it to a person at the Legal Aid NSW office or send it to the address on the application form. On the application you can ask for a lawyer who works at Legal Aid NSW to represent you, or for Legal Aid NSW to pay a private lawyer to represent you.

You should attach a copy of your statement and any other documents about your case to your application form so that Legal Aid NSW has as much information as possible about your case.

Legal Aid NSW looks at all these things when they decide whether they can represent you:

  • your financial position - how much money you earn and what assets you have;
  • whether you have a good case - what your chances of winning are;
  • how much money you might get if you win your case compared with how much it will cost Legal Aid NSW to represent you;
  • whether your case involves issues that will help others in the community; and
  • whether you have any 'special disadvantage' that might make it harder for you to represent yourself (such as intellectual or physical disability, or being under 18 years old).

See Find a Legal Aid NSW advice service for contact details.

Community legal centres

Community legal centres are non-government community based organisations that provide free legal services, especially for people who are disadvantaged.

Most community legal centres can provide free legal advice and information about discrimination (either by phone or in person), and sometimes they can represent you as well. They can also give you referrals to other organisations - legal and non-legal.

See Useful contacts - advice and Community legal centres for contact details.

LawAccess NSW

LawAccess NSW is a government service that provides free legal information and referrals to people in New South Wales over the phone. In some circumstances you might also be able to get free legal advice over the telephone - if you live in a regional or remote area for example. You can get information about discrimination law by calling LawAccess NSW or by visiting their website. LawAccess NSW can also refer you to a lawyer if you need further legal advice.

See Useful contacts - advice for contact details.

Private lawyers

If you can afford to pay for a lawyer, the NSW Law Society can give you the names of lawyers who might be able to help you with your case. Remember to ask the lawyer how much they will charge you.

See Private solicitors for contact details.