Two Dubbo-based lawyers have stood shoulder to shoulder with other agencies at Coolah to offer legal advice and support to victims of the Sir Ivan fire.
Legal Aid NSW colleagues of the pair have also travelled from Sydney to work with them at the disaster recovery centre established at the town in the aftermath of last month’s devastating blaze.
The bushfire ripped through more than 50,000 hectares and destroyed 35 homes, 131 outbuildings, a hall and a church.
Legal Aid NSW Dubbo lawyer Jessica Allan said there could be a range of issues facing people in the area.
“For anyone who has driven through Coolah and nearby townships these past few weeks, the sheer force of this bushfire and the devastation it has caused is plain,” she said.
“For those who have lost their homes or their livelihoods, and for entire communities that are doing it tough as a result of these fires, this is going to be a long recovery.
“That’s why it's important for those affected to know that if they are facing legal issues as a result of this disaster, we are here to help – whether that's today, or six months from now.
“Here at our Dubbo office we offer a weekly clinic that focuses on everyday legal issues.
“You can sit down with a lawyer to receive free, independent advice about things like insurance, your rights as an employee, or what your legal options are if you have been affected by a bushfire and are having trouble keeping up with your mortgage or other loans.
“If you can't make it in to town, give us a call.”
Legal Aid NSW lawyer Brenda Staggs, who specialises in helping people who have been affected by natural disasters, said: "One thing I see again and again in my work is families who are confused about their insurance coverage or have trouble making claims.”
“In cases where they can't return to their homes after a bushfire, people sometimes end up paying for hotels out of pocket or staying with relatives when they shouldn't have to. We encourage people to seek legal advice if they are unsure about their rights.
“For most people, a disaster on this scale is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, so they are dealing with things they have never had to consider before.
“But our lawyers have helped hundreds of people who have been through bushfires, floods and other natural disasters. Chances are, we have already helped others address the same legal issues you are confronting now.”
In addition to its statewide network of 24 local offices and nearly 250 regular outreach locations, Legal Aid NSW has a dedicated disaster recovery team with lawyers who are specially trained to help people who have been affected by bushfires and other severe weather events.
People affected by natural disaster can contact the Legal Aid NSW Disaster Response hotline on 1800 801 529.
You can also call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au to find details about a Legal Aid NSW service near you.