Law is probably not the first thing you think of to help to build resilience and capacity in communities impacted by catastrophic fire or other natural disasters. But information about the law, the legal rights of landowners and other community members and how to access legal services are critical – not only in responding once a fire has occurred, but also in prevention of future risks.
Information about their legal rights and obligations can empower those in bushfire-affected communities with the knowledge and the tools to avoid, de-escalate and resolve legal issues promptly, without fragmenting local and community relationships. And it’s not just about legal rights either. It’s about how to navigate the process of recovery – collecting evidence of loss, whether to repair, make claims under insurance, or participate in litigation.
The Bushfire Legal Help Community Outreach is jointly delivered by the Legal Services Commission (Adelaide Hills and Yorketown) and Community Legal Centres South Australia [CLCSA] (Kangaroo Island and Yorketown). CASPR will be undertaking an evaluation of this model, unique to SA, funded by the Attorney General’s Department.
A recent grant of $35,000 from The Law Foundation of SA Inc will enable Flinders Legal Centre [FLC] and LLAW3302 Law in Action students to support the Bushfire Legal Help Community Outreach by:
- identifying legal issues regarding clearance of native vegetation (to reduce fire load and minimise future catastrophic fire risk), and the challenge for landowners and occupiers in understanding (and complying with) their obligations
- mapping and clarifying the interlocking legal landscape regarding clearance of native vegetation under the Native Vegetation Act 1991 (SA), the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 (SA), the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), and the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 (SA).
- creating new content to assist CLCSA lawyers to better advise landowners and residents regarding their rights and responsibilities in relation to
- native vegetation clearance (to mitigate against future fires becoming catastrophic)
- consent and notification requirements for the Native Vegetation Council, Country Fire Service and Kangaroo Island and Yorke Peninsula Councils
- developing a legal app or apps to increase availability and accessibility of legal information for those affected by natural disasters such as bushfires.
This exciting project will allow Flinders Law students to gain insight into the importance of legal information, services and advice to enable access to justice for communities affected by natural disasters.
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-Associate Professor Tania Leiman