Pro Bono

At Gilbert + Tobin, pro bono is a vital part of who we are and what we do. We are proud proponents of social justice and since the firm’s beginning in 1988, pro bono work has been an integral part of our practice.

We focus on the issues that impact on the day-to-day lives and opportunities of our pro bono clients through both casework for individuals and law reform and other work towards structural change. We work with not-for-profit organisations that support people who have been marginalised or are facing disadvantage to establish strong legal foundations for their work and to build their capacity.

We have a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disabilities, refugees and human rights issues, but our services are not limited to these groups or areas.

Our Approach

At Gilbert + Tobin our pro bono program is grounded in addressing the issues that adversely impact on the day-to-day lives of our pro bono clients– issues such as discrimination, failure to provide decent housing and education and escaping persecution. 

We act to address the immediate injustices and on structural change to replace inequality with opportunity. 

We provide practical and strategic advice to not-for-profit organisations that support people who have been marginalised or are facing disadvantage to create strong legal foundations for their work and to build their capacity.

We have a particular focus on supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities, people with disabilities, refugees, and on human rights issues, but that focus does not limit our work.  We also actively seek to make our pro bono legal services available to people living in rural and remote areas.

Our pro bono legal practice is led by a team of six full-time pro bono lawyers with expertise in the areas of law of importance to our clients, working with lawyers across the firm who contribute their time and their own expertise.

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Reflecting our pro bono practice itself, the pro bono team has expertise across a range of areas of law that impact on or provide opportunities for our clients.  We are experts both in the relevant law and also in developing strategic approaches to find meaningful outcomes for clients to problems that can seem intractable.

Our expertise includes:

Governance in support of self-determination

Our lawyers work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to establish legal structures to support self-determination, from local decision-making through to multi-party arrangements enabling engagement with government to our work on a constitutionally recognised Voice to Parliament.  We work closely with our clients to develop innovative and bespoke governance structures and agreements that enable community decision-making in a culturally appropriate manner.

Indigenous economic development

We act both for individual Indigenous entrepreneurs in their first three years of business, helping them to establish a solid legal foundation for their enterprise, and for groups wishing to develop economic opportunities through the use of land.

We have a particular interest in supporting communities to develop renewable energy and carbon banking and have expertise in the development of tourism, particularly eco tourism.

Recognition of rights to land

While we generally do not act in Native Title claims, we act for people and organisations in other forms of complex land-related issues such as possessory title and constructive trusts.  We also act to establish appropriate legal structures to hold land for families and communities.

Judicial review

We represent clients to review a range of administrative from funding decisions to the allocation of licences to our work with asylum seekers and people with disability.  We provide assistance at each level of the appellate process.

Through our award-winning partnership with the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) and Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC), we represent refugees and asylum seekers in protection visa claims at all stages from initial application to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and in the Federal and High Courts.

We act for people with disability to appeal decisions denying them access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme or denying them funding for the supports they require under that Scheme.

We are developing a practice seeking to review decisions made by government departments about children in care and in education through the lens of administrative law.

Discrimination and Human Rights

We represent clients in all areas of discrimination including employment, goods and services, education, housing and accommodation and on any ground, with a particular focus on race, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

We appear before the State and Territory anti-discrimination bodies, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Civil and Administrative Tribunals, the Federal Circuit Court and the Federal Court of Australia

In addition to discrimination against individuals we act to challenge discriminatory law and policy in the Australian courts and represent clients in communications to the United Nations Human Rights Committee alleging human rights breaches by the Australian Government.

We share our expertise, delivering training on discrimination to communities and not-for-profit organisations and represent clients to enable them to be heard in inquiries and Royal Commissions.

We have long worked to enforce the fundamental human rights of our clients including the right to education and to a decent, habitable home.  Through our estate planning project, we enable our Aboriginal clients and parents and carers of people with cognitive disability to control who will make decisions for them when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.

Not-for-profit law

We have extensive experience advising not-for-profit organisations that work for people who have been marginalised or are facing disadvantage on all their legal needs including corporate governance, tax, employment, property and leasing matters, intellectual property and commercial and funding contracts.

We support our not-for-profit clients on projects that build their capacity and allow them to achieve even greater impact.

We work with our not-for-profit clients to help bring their expertise to bear on the structural changes that are required to address the injustices their clients face and to create opportunities for their clients through our law reform and policy work.  

Developing the access to justice sector

We work with other law firms, government and the community legal sector to improve access to legal services including through advocating for the sector, providing expertise to firms developing or growing their pro bono program and working together to maximise the support available from and the impact of the work of the sector.

Law and policy reform

We have extensive expertise in law and policy reform, utilising avenues including test cases and representative actions, appearing on behalf of clients and in our own right before Parliamentary inquiries and Royal Commissions, preparing submissions, UN Human Rights Committee complaints and general advocacy.

Outreach

In addition to the pro bono work we do at Gilbert + Tobin we have a range of outreach programs where we provide legal advice through organisations best-placed to meet the needs of some of our most marginalised clients. We provide advice at the Marrickville Legal Centre, the Asylum Seeker Centre, the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre and via telephone at the Western NSW Community Legal Centre and Central Coast Community Legal Centre.

We also work closely with local organisations to conduct legal clinics everywhere from Brewarrina to Campbelltown.

Gilbert + Tobin won Corporate Citizen Firm of the Year.

Australasian Law Awards 2020

Gilbert + Tobin won Pro Bono Practice of the Year.

Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards 2018

Gilbert + Tobin won the Innovation in Rule of Law and Access to Justice Award for their automation project with Australia’s leading refugee NGO, Refugee Advice and Casework Service.  

Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards Asia Pacific 2018

Gilbert + Tobin won Corporate Citizen of the Year.

Australasian Law Awards 2018

Gilbert + Tobin won the Pro Bono Partnership Award for their work on habitable housing for tenants in RRR areas in partnership with Legal Aid NSW Cooperative Legal Service Delivery Unit in the Moree & North West Region of NSW.

Law and Justice Foundation awards 2017