Ensuring children have free access to legal assistance empowers and protects them.
When 16-year-old Sarah* was removed from Australia by her mother and left in another country with no passport and threatened to be married against her will, she reached out to Youth Law Australia, a not-for-profit organisation that provides free, comprehensive and confidential legal advice online to people under the age of 25.
“This matter really stuck with me because of the level of assistance we provided [Sarah]. Her advocate in Australia was able to connect her to us and we were able to give her legal advice, practical guidance on how to stay safe, and engage a lawyer to provide her with representation and bring her back safely,” says Ahram Choi, the Principal Solicitor for YLA.
Ms Choi says a high percentage of children and young people face legal issues. “The literature around legal need has identified that more than 50 percent of young people between 18 and 24 experience a legal problem every year, and we estimate about a quarter of young people under 18 experience a legal problem every year,” she says.
“Not all community legal aid will be able to advise young people on things like their civil issues. It’s definitely an underserviced area.”
Previously called the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre, YLA was established in 1993. In the last financial year, they provided advice on more than 1500 legal matters from children all over Australia submitted through their online portal, from school uniform breaches and cyber-bullying matters through to issues of forced marriage and child abuse.