Since its inception, the philosophy of SMLS has always been the provision of accessible and comprehensive legal information and assistance as well as community legal education to disadvantaged members of the community. SMLS provides members of the community with the means, which may otherwise be unavailable to them, to become informed about their legal rights and how to enforce them.
SMLS aims to empower and support members of the community to understand and make use of the law and the legal system to protect their rights and to increase their awareness of their legal responsibilities. A high proportion of our clients are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and have limited access to the legal system due to language barriers, lack of formal education and financial disadvantage. To ensure that these clients receive the fairest outcome possible, their matters may be taken on by the legal service. This does not in any way detract from our ethos of maximising the community’s ability to assist themselves.
SMLS is located in Springvale, within the City of Greater Dandenong. The vast majority of our clients live or work within this municipality, however there are no geographical restrictions to our service and people from anywhere in Victoria are eligible to seek assistance from us. The needs of the people within our community, and indeed the community itself, are ceaselessly changing, necessitating that we constantly adapt to meet those needs, to ensure the ongoing provision of exceptional legal service.
Springvale Monash Legal Service has served the legal needs of the community since 1973. The legal service owes its existence to the passion and innovation of Monash University law students and academics, who identified and sought to redress the imbalances in access to legal advice and assistance to members of the community.
In 1971, Monash Law students commenced a telephone referral service called the Monash Student Legal Referral Service from the Melbourne Citizens Advice Bureau in Russell Street, Melbourne. The service operated as an access point, directing callers to appropriate sources of assistance. In 1972, Monash Law students went one step further, beginning another service at the Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau, where students interviewed clients face to face. The service provided legal advice and referrals for clients, as well as letter writing, negotiation and representation.
Springvale Legal Service (SLS), as it was then known, was launched on 27 February 1973. Later that year, the Law Faculty at Monash University proposed the establishment of a Professional Practice Unit, to be run at the legal service. Professional Practice became part of the curriculum in July 1975, thereby cementing the exciting relationship between legal education and legal service delivery at SLS. The close relationship between the legal service and Monash University was further strengthened in July 1987, when the service changed its name to Springvale Monash Legal Service.