• Tony Bosworth

Hawkesbury farmers and small businesses urged to apply for free bushfire legal assistance

Primary producers and small business owners in the Hawkesbury who haven’t sorted out any legal matters arising from the devastating 2019-20 bushfires are being encouraged to talk to their local solicitor about accessing free legal advice through the Commonwealth funded Bushfire Legal Aid Scheme.

A maximum of $7000 is on offer for each issue and you can apply for additional funds if you have additional matters.

Issues could include insurance disputes, commercial leases, contract disputes, banking, planning and employment issues.

But you need to get a move on – the final lodgement date for the legal assistance is June 30.

Under the scheme, primary producers and small business owners who are not eligible for free legal aid can ask their private solicitor to apply for up to $2000 of funding to help resolve a legal matter arising from the bushfires, and up to $5000 for related expenses.

An eligible business or primary producer with more than one bushfire related legal matter may receive more than one approval for legal services and related expenses.

This funding is in addition to legal assistance already available for individuals after a disaster.

President of the Nepean/Hawkesbury Law Society, Windsor solicitor Rod Storie, said legal issues arising from the bushfires could include insurance disputes, commercial leases, contract disputes, banking, planning and employment issues.

“If there are farmers and small business owners that are yet to resolve legal issues arising from the bushfires, they should talk to their solicitor about applying for this funding as soon as possible,” Mr Storie said.

“This process doesn’t involve a lot of red tape and solicitors don’t need to jump through hoops to apply for these grants.

“Solicitors just need to register once via Legal Aid’s Grants Online Portal - if they are not already registered - and then they can apply for the grants,” said Mr Storie.

President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, said she was incredibly proud of the legal profession’s efforts to help individuals, families and communities both during the bushfire crisis and on the road to recovery.

“Private solicitors and law firms have provided many hours of pro bono legal assistance to individuals, families and businesses dealing with legal issues from the bushfires,” Ms Warner said.

“Solicitors have been at the coalface of recovery efforts in bushfire ravaged communities around the state and have played an important role in helping their clients to navigate the trauma of the disaster,” she said.

“Solicitors are very much part of the fabric of the community that they serve, and natural disasters like bushfires, floods and drought impact everyone in the community, in many ways.”

Pic - Sora Shimazaki

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