Spreading ‘power of legal knowledge’

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Spreading the “power of legal knowledge” throughout the community is the aim of Community Law Otago through its Law for Tea sessions.

The series of monthly talks on everyday aspects of the law, presented by Community Law Otago volunteers at the Dunedin City Library, has so far covered tenancy issues, employment rights and consumer law.

In the next session, to be held at 5.30pm on Wednesday, August 22, speakers will give insight into police powers, particularly in situations such as arrests and searches, and what the responsibilities of the public are.

Law for Tea co-ordinator Libby Waalkens (22), a fifth-year law student at the University of Otago, said the sessions were an extension of the regular outreach efforts of Community Law Otago.

As well as working with clients to offer free legal advice and information through its Princes St community law centre, volunteers also give talks to a broad range of community groups.

“Our usual talks are for specific groups, and are targeted to topics of interest to them – we try to take away any jargon and make it more accessible,” Miss Waalkens said.

“In these public sessions, we are focusing on the most common topics of interest to people.”

The Law for Tea sessions are presented by a group of 30 volunteer senior law students, who study information on the topics they present using resources created by Miss Waalkens.

“It’s helpful for the students to be involved in the talks. They gain valuable knowledge and skills which they can put into practice later,” she said.

“As much as anything, we are there to help people to realise their own issues and to spread the power of legal knowledge.”

Co-ordinating the Law for Tea sessions has also been a valuable experience for Miss Waalkens, who says it is one of the best things she has done at university.

“It has helped me in so many ways, and I know the skills I have learned will be useful when I head out into the real world of law,” she said.

“All the law student volunteers are amazing – we are lucky with the people we have got.”

Community groups interested in having a speaker from Community Law Otago are invited to email legaledu@dclc.org.nz