Peter Mac patients, carers and families have access to free legal advice thanks to a health justice partnership with Inner Melbourne Community Legal.

Patients are offered legal support in family law, family violence, work and employment, fines and infringements, housing problems, intervention orders, victims of crime and criminal law.

Legal advice can be sought from a community lawyer stationed at Peter Mac once a week. Patients can self-refer into the program or may be referred by their treating team.

Peter Mac consumer, Heather, describes the service as invaluable for patients who are at a vulnerable time of their lives and need to prioritise their health.  

“It is so important to have all the support available at this time to reduce as much external stress as possible so that the patient can focus on their health,” Heather said.

“Patients, carers and people, in general, do not know what they do not know. So having a service available that outlines the areas of assistance and then guiding them through it is priceless.”

Peter Mac’s Head of Social Work, Catherine Ludbrook, endorses the health justice partnership, and emphasised the importance of the service being free, easy, and responsive

“When patients with a cancer diagnosis need access to legal advice, they often require a timely response and one that does not involve searching for the right service. Providing an in-house and free service has meant streamlined and timely access to advice or referral for patients,” Catherine said.

For Molly Williams, managing lawyer for the Peter Mac program, the service is about providing people with free legal help for everyday issues, from problems paying rent to family issues around separation and children and safety concerns due to family violence.  

“We know people are more likely to turn to a health professional with these life issues than seek out a lawyer,” Molly explains.

“Providing access for people to free legal assistance when they’re getting treatment at the hospital can stop legal issues from escalating and adding additional stress to peoples’ lives when they are also grappling with health concerns. Our lawyers greatly value working alongside health professionals and social workers to get the best outcomes for people.”

In addition to legal support, patients can now also seek support around financial concerns, particularly relating to debts from financial counsellor Deborah Craven.

“Financial hardship can happen to anyone, particularly those experiencing health issues, as it can have a significant impact on patients, their families and carers capacity to earn and service their commitments,” said Deborah.  

With debts and other financial difficulties also often resulting in high levels of stress, engagement with a professional allows patients to discuss their options and alleviate anxiety.

Director of Prevention and Wellbeing Geraldine McDonald says Peter Mac is proud to provide a service that directly supports the wellbeing of patients, carers and families: “We aim to provide all patients with a holistic, integrated approach to cancer care and supporting patients with legal and financial support is an important part of that”.

Inner Melbourne Community Legal (IMCL) has almost a decade of experience operating health justice partnerships having established the first partnership of its kind in 2012 with the Royal Women’s Hospital, followed by the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2015.

“In 2019, we extended our successfully evaluated integrated service model to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. With funding from the Victorian Government, were thrilled this year to be able to commit to delivering free legal help for vulnerable patients for a further 3 years, until 2024,” says Nadia Morales, Director of Strategy, Engagement and Projects at IMCL.

IMCL lawyers are on site at Peter Mac every Thursday morning from 10:00am to 1:00pm (available for phone appointments during COVID restrictions). You can make an appointment by calling Inner Melbourne Community Legal on (03) 9013 0495 from Monday to Friday between 9:00am and 5:00pm.

More information

Peter Mac's Free Patient Legal Service