AGS wins Pro Bono Program of the Year

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AGS wins Pro Bono Program of the Year

In the glittering ball room at Star City Hotel in Sydney on Friday night 9 August, AGS was recognised for its outstanding pro bono contribution and was proclaimed Pro Bono Program of the Year at the Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards 2019.

AGS's commitment to pro bono legal services around Australia has continued to grow since it became a signatory to the Australian Pro Bono Centre's Aspirational Target in November 2008. Since then, AGS has increased its pro bono contribution annually and in 2018–19, AGS undertook a total of 9,641 pro bono hours valued at more than $2.8 million.

AGS's dedication to pro bono has previously been recognised at the 2014 ACLA In-house Lawyer Awards where we won the Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility Award.

Our nomination submission covered details of the strategy of our program; its social impact and how we promote a strong pro bono culture. The nomination was supported by very strong references from 4 of our clients whom we provide pro bono support – the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC); Arts Law Australia; Care Inc which operates the Consumer Law Centre and the Australian Pro Bono Centre (APBC). Carmel Franklin, the CEO of Care said this about the Debt Clinic, a new initiative we launched in partnership with the Consumer law Centre in September last year:

'The initiative has had a positive impact on the lives of clients facing court action to debt and the lawyers have been successful in assisting to secure repayment arrangements for very vulnerable clients and in some cases, reduction in earnings and redirection orders … Our collaboration with AGS has been very positive allowing the CC to provide legal advice and ongoing support to many people in the community who are experiencing financial stress. AGS provide an outstanding pro bono service.'

The CEO of the APBC, in referring to our pro bono placements which have provided an added 'hands-on' resource to these organisations and facilitated the provision of added services to disadvantaged members of the community, noted that:

'The fact that AGS does provide this level and type of support to a number of community organisations in Australia is significant. Remarkably, AGS is one of the largest providers of secondee hours per annum on a pro bono basis to community organisations, another reason why they are a vital part of the pro bono landscape in Australasia.'

There is still a lot of work we can do to assist those in the community who are marginalised and disadvantaged but events like the awards night are a good reminder that our efforts to date, big or small, have made an impact in improving access to justice. The award reflects the work and contributions of many – our National Manager Pro Bono Services Geetha Nair thanked The Australian Government Solicitor Michael Kingston and COO Louise Vardanega for their total support and commitment to the program, and to our many lawyers from all practice groups who have given up their time and expertise to undertake pro bono work, our National Manager Business Services Toni Claydon and staff of Training and Practice Services for their invaluable assistance in the management of our program.