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Friday, May 14, 2021

Building a better community

Youth homelessness and women in prison are topics that need be addressed, according to the 2019 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year, Farzana Choudhury.

Ms Choudhury, who is a senior solicitor at Canberra Community Law, works in Street Law – an “outreach legal service for people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness”.

Practising law for over five years, Ms Choudhury says she was always interested in “social justice issues more broadly, being able to help people experiencing disadvantage”.

Illustrating her passion to help, Ms Choudhury established Street Law’s health justice partnership with the Junction Youth Health Service as well as the Women in Prison Legal Empowerment Sessions (WIPLES).

The health justice partnership sees a lawyer working alongside health practitioners and youth work staff to address the unmet legal needs of young people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.

“I thought this might be a good idea because I had heard about health justice partnerships, but they are relatively new in Australia, and with youth homelessness a real problem in the ACT … I wanted to try and make our services as accessible as possible for young people.”

According to Ms Choudhury, WIPLES came about from discussions with the Women’s Centre for Health Matters, of which she is board chair, and issues “around services, particularly for women in prison”.

WIPLES is a series of legal education seminars and advice clinics with the goal of supporting and empowering women in prison. The project started in April this year with support from Capital Giving, and has also received a grant from the Chief Minister’s Charitable Fund.

Ms Choudhury also volunteers with several community organisations, including the Night Time Legal Advice Service, Beryl Women Inc, Homeless Connect Canberra, and the International Tenants’ Beryl Women Inc Day.

“Maybe I’m just a bit of a go-getter,” she smiles. “I think I’ve always been interested in building a better community and using the skills that I’ve got to do that.”

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