Kerry O'Brien's Secondment to Redfern Legal Centre during COVID-19

  • Media
October 14,2020
Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) is a community legal centre based in Redfern, Sydney. It is the oldest community legal centre in NSW and delivers specialist legal services in a range of fields, including financial abuse, police and government accountability, tenancy, and credit and debt.
From May to August during the height of COVID-19, Kerry O'Brien, who is a Senior Associate in Corporate and Dispute Resolution, worked one day per week at RLC assisting the Employment and Migrant Worker Legal Service.
People's employment and work have been significantly affected in what has been a period of rapid change. Employment laws and some people's entitlements under awards have also changed at short notice, including the introduction and application of the JobKeeper regime.
Kerry's work at RLC included telephone appointments with members of the community, often migrant workers, seeking advice. These people commonly presented with concerns about their pay, being stood down from their employment, made redundant or terminated from their employment. Often they were concerned that they had been discriminated against in how they had been selected over their colleagues, and thought that their age, disability or background was the real reason they were let go or had their hours reduced.
Kerry also assisted RLC to undertake litigation, which is typically too resource intensive to take on without pro bono assistance. The most significant litigation matter resulted in a settlement of $17,500 in general damages at mediation in the Federal Court for the client, a worker terminated from a shop assistant position because he had a minor vision impairment.
Three weeks into employment, the worker volunteered to a manager that he had a disability which had some impact on his peripheral vision. Two days later, the employer told the worker that he would not allow the employment to continue because the worker had not proactively disclosed his disability (which did not impact on his ability to do his job safely) during the interview.
The client was very happy with this settlement outcome at mediation.
"I have been volunteering with RLC for a long time one night each week, but this was a fantastic opportunity to provide a dedicated period of time to the centre and its clients during a period of high need. CBP is a leader in its pro bono offering and I know that the support that we provide through activities like this makes a real difference. My time with the Employment and Migrant Employment Legal Service practices at RLC was enjoyable, and I'm grateful to Kristen Lopes for facilitating my time away from CBP to do this." Kerry O'brien