Health Justice Australia, supporting collaborations between health and justice to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable communities.
Sandi was at a regular appointment with her drugs counsellor Jesse when she started talking about problems she was having at work. She wasn’t being paid superannuation, was being forced into a traineeship and badly treated by management. Sandi’s story raised some red flags for Jesse but he wasn’t sure what to do about them.
Luckily Jesse works in a health justice partnership, which means the healthcare team includes a lawyer who helps patients with their legal problems. The lawyer suggested Sandi check her MyGov account and her payslips to understand her superannuation balance, review her Award rate on the Fair Work website and then call the state-wide Youth Legal Service for specific advice.
“My friends won’t believe me when I tell them that a lawyer helped me; I will be able to tell them what I have learnt,” said Sandi. It was advice – and knowledge – Sandi can use for the rest of her life.
Only 25% of the factors that lead to poor health can be fixed by healthcare – and yet many people bring up a multitude of issues during health service appointments. Poor quality housing, fines and debt, violence, abuse and neglect have a huge impact on individual health but the services to help with them sit outside the health system (like legal assistance).
Health professionals can’t be experts in employment or any other area of law, but they can have trusted relationships with the legal professionals who can address the underlying problems that make their patients sick. Health justice partnerships allow patients to access legal help in the health settings where they’re already comfortable seeking help.
In Sandi’s case, her employment problem was starting to undermine all the work she had been doing with her drug counsellor. In other cases, health justice partnerships address the link between family violence and poor health; between mould in public housing and respiratory problems; between debt, fines and increased anxiety.
Health Justice Australia was established in 2016 as the national centre of excellence, supporting collaborations between health and justice to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable communities. They highlight the innovations made by individual health justice partnerships and help translate the lessons into system-level change.
An example of this is the Health Justice Australia work to have legal help included in a range of setting such as: integrated mental health services; advocating for these kinds of service collaborations to support women and children at risk of family violence; and exploring opportunities for early intervention with families at risk of having their children removed due to child protection concerns.
Since Health Justice Australia’s establishment, health justice partnerships have grown from around 40 to over 100 collaborations between health and legal assistance services across the country.
Health Justice Australia is supported by various trusts within Equity Trustees’ Children & Young People focus area as well as our Sector Capacity Building Fund.