Michelle Barclay - Westfield Local Heroes 2020
Canberra Community Law
Committed. Compassionate. Driven.
Michelle Barclay is an empathetic, hands-on-lawyer who goes out of her way to support vulnerable people.
She started at Canberra Community Law as a volunteer, but her charitable work has become her career.
Michelle has led Canberra Community Law’s Women in Prison Legal Empowerment Sessions initiative at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. She offers legal information sessions to address problems women in prison face followed by one-on-one legal advice, and she does whatever she can to connect the women with services that can help them.
One of Michelle's wins is helping prevent women in prison from being evicted from their homes. "This has meant that these women have somewhere to be released to and ensures that their children can return to their family home," she says. "I also help reduce debts which removes an additional financial burden for the women upon their release and allows them to focus on re-establishing themselves back into the community."
Another area in which Michelle is making a difference is with people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.
She is passionate about providing information and advice in plain and accessible language that people in crisis can understand.
So far, Michelle has helped about 20 people get their birth certificate which can be hard to do when you are homeless and don't have ID. This then allowed them to get a tax file number so that they could work, claim support from Centrelink or access ACT public housing.
"The amazing thing about my work is that it often positively impacts my clients and, in some cases, can be life-changing," says Michelle.
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation. Canberra Community Law will be able to keep its prison program running for another three months.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here