Message from Maria Shaw, National Pro Bono Manager
Welcome to my final edition of Pro Bono Press – in it, we celebrate Volunteer Week and the important work all our volunteer professionals do to assist people affected by cancer. We also highlight the hard work of our student interns and volunteers, which is critical to the operation of the Pro Bono Program. We couldn’t do it without you!
To highlight the importance of volunteer contributions to the Pro Bono Program, we talk to Dan Creasey, Partner and Head of Pro Bono and Responsible Business at Colin Biggers & Paisley about the firm’s involvement in the Program. We also hear from our student volunteers about their experiences – I was moved by all their comments. One of our volunteers remarked “I really enjoy speaking with clients over the phone and doing my bit to make what seems to be an impossible situation better.”
It is also a bittersweet edition for me as it is my last before I finish up at Cancer Council. Sarah Penman returns to the National Manager role at the beginning of July. It has been a wonderful 12 months, and I am proud of all we have achieved together to assist people affected by cancer.
A recent highlight is the start of our new partnership with the Financial Planning Association of Australia. We are also grateful for our work with AMP financial planners across the country, as well as the support from the AMP Foundation. We are confident these relationships will lead to more financial advisors volunteering across Australia alleviating the financial burden of many of our clients. We also hit a milestone earlier this year when our 15,000th client was referred to the program for assistance.
On a broader Cancer Council level, there have been many exciting events taking place across the country including Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. Later in this edition we touch on the launch of this event in NSW at which one of our case managers, Michelle Smerdon, spoke about the campaign’s theme this year to ‘gather, share, give’ and how it resonates with the Pro Bono team.
That just leaves me to say farewell, thank you to you all once again, and welcome back to Sarah. I very much look forward to keeping in touch with the team and seeing this amazing program go from strength to strength.
Maria Shaw, National Manager, Pro Bono Program
Catching up with Dan Creasey, Partner and Head of Pro Bono and Responsible Business at Colin Biggers & Paisley
This edition of Pro Bono Press spotlights the contributions made by one of our pro bono partners, law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley. We spoke with Daniel Creasey, a partner at Colin Biggers & Paisley who heads up Colin Biggers & Paisley’s Responsible Business Group.
How long has Colin Biggers & Paisley been involved in the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program and how does it fit into the firm’s wider pro bono practice?
We have been involved in the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program for around three years.
Our involvement in the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program stems from a genuine commitment to pro bono work and forms part of our wider responsible business objectives. We want to ensure that our legal practice interacts with our clients, our people and our community in a leading, responsible, inclusive and sustainable way. The work we do with Cancer Council aligns with these objectives. It gives our lawyers another opportunity to get involved in meaningful pro bono work, while helping people who need it in the community.
What types of matters does the firm typically assist clients who are referred through the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program with?
Over the course of the last few years, we have assisted clients with a wide range of matters including insurance, early access to superannuation, Centrelink disputes and general debt related issues.
Can you touch on some of the highlights in terms of client outcomes?
There have been several highlights over the years we have been involved in the Program and various teams in the firm have achieved some great results for clients.
A couple that stand out include the successful resolution of a life insurance claim for a terminally ill man resulting in a payment of $200,000, and the important employment law advice we provided to a woman undergoing treatment for cancer who had been unfairly dismissed by her employer.
Engaging with the community
In the last few months, Pro Bono Program Coordinator Cindy Berghofer and Case Manager Michelle Smerdon packed their bags and travelled up the NSW coast to the Gold Coast to engage with these communities to ensure we are providing assistance to more people in these regions. Cindy and Michelle met with health professionals who refer clients to the program to talk about the breadth of support the program can offer to people affected by cancer. We also met with lawyers and financial planners who generously volunteer their time – and even asked us to send them more referrals so they could assist more people! It was wonderful to be on the ground in the community to see the tangible impact the program has.
Many of the referrers we met with wanted to hear more about the workplace support we can offer to people. Many people affected by cancer will have to reduce their working hours to undergo treatment or may need to stop work altogether. We can put individuals in touch with human resources advisors to provide them with advice on their leave and flexible working entitlements, whether or not they need to disclose their diagnosis and how to negotiate with their employer for these rights. Human resources advisors can also give advice on returning to work after treatment.
Gather, Share, Give – Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea
Throughout May and June, 26,392 workplaces, communities, families and friends around Australia popped the kettle on and settled into some tasty treats for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea. Over 2.6 million dollars was raised across Australia, with funds directly helping Cancer Council to continue its vital work in cancer research, prevention and support services.
The theme for this year’s Biggest Morning Tea was gather, share, give, which resonates strongly with the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program. Together, we gather information from people affected by cancer who cannot afford to pay for advice on their legal, financial, workplace or small business issues. We then share and connect these individuals with professionals in the community, who give advice and assistance to those most in need. Pro Bono Case Manager, Michelle Smerdon, had the opportunity to speak at the launch at Luna Park in Sydney, acknowledging the incredible work of our Pro Bono service providers and volunteers across the country.
A few words from our volunteers about why this program is important to them…
We recently celebrated National Volunteer Week, acknowledging and thanking our wonderful volunteers for the critical work they do to help us work towards Cancer Council’s mission to beat cancer. In order to connect people affected by cancer with professional volunteers, we rely on a dedicated team of volunteer law students who assist in unpacking client’s legal and financial needs and identifying the best avenues for assistance. We spoke with some of our volunteers, Jason Goyal, Sophie Anderson and Matt Kearns, about their experience with the Cancer Council Pro Bono Program.
“As a law student, my internship is professionally rewarding: not only do I get to be part of providing greater access to the law, but also I receive the opportunity to develop invaluable lawyering skills: particularly interviewing. I am hugely proud of the work that we do at the Cancer Council and the Pro Bono Program.” Matt Kearns
“I think volunteering is important because volunteering provides us with a unique opportunity to understand and help people that are disenfranchised and disadvantaged.” Jason Goyal
“I find it most rewarding when I can finalise a client’s case through drafting a referral for a volunteer professional who will hopefully be able to provide the client with the advice they are seeking, as I know that I have played an important role in facilitating this assistance. It is particularly rewarding when we receive positive feedback from clients, or hear about successful outcomes for clients.” Sophie Anderson
Calling all volunteer professionals with multiple offices
The Pro Bono Program is always looking for professionals to volunteer their time across the country and in all different communities. If you are already volunteering for our program and have more than one office location, we’d love to hear from you! It would be great to register your additional offices to provide help to people in need in those communities. Please email us at email@example.com if you have multiple offices where you can assist people affected by cancer!
Daffodil Day is just around the corner! The Pro Bono Team really enjoys getting involved in Daffodil Day and this year will be no exception. Daffodil Day is a national day of hope on Friday 25 August. In keeping with this year’s theme, ‘For Someone I Know,’ you and your office can get involved this Daffodil Day, by volunteering for someone you know at a local stall to help sell fresh daffodils and merchandise to the community. For more information visit daffodilday.com.au. As always, we appreciate all the support and advice you provide to people affected by cancer through the service.
Pro Bono in the news