Better lives through better partnerships

One of the big, ongoing challenges facing Justice Connect is public understanding of just how much help a lawyer can be. When someone has a problem like homelessness, or debt, or a violent family member, they probably don’t think their problem is a legal one. The problem is “I have no money, no house and no one to care for me” or “I’m scared to go home, but I also don’t want to go into care”.

Life’s problems often have a legal solution. That was the thinking behind setting up our Health Justice Partnerships – a new model of working with older people experiencing elder abuse established by our Seniors Law team.

And it is the partnership that is central to our success. By placing one of our lawyers in a healthcare setting, health professionals can be trained to spot the signs of elder abuse, and our lawyers can be there, on-site, to help people as and when they need it.

One such partnership is our collaboration with cohealth, personified by the work of Jess Eastwood and Faith Hawthorne. Jess, a dietician at cohealth has worked closely with Faith, a Justice Connect lawyer who works out of the various cohealth locations around Melbourne.

“Faith is a worker in a health centre. She’s a health worker…she’s one of us,” said Jess.

“When you have to go outside the organisation you feel you have to explain yourself – or know a little bit more about what you’re talking about – and sometimes you don’t have a clue where to begin.

“The closeness of the working relationship, the ability to pick up the phone and have an open and frank conversation can happen because we are working together, in the same organisation. When you are having to work with a third party…it is a little more distant,” she said.

“Clients have a relationship with the workers and with Faith. We can introduce her as someone who works with us. Not just a referral to a legal service. I think it is fantastic that she is here with us. Sometimes I just call her to sound her out,” Jess said.


“Elder abuse is the hidden face of family violence. When we think of ‘family violence’ we may not think of an adult child mistreating their ageing parent,” Faith said.  

“In just two years, we’ve helped hundreds of people through our partnership with cohealth. The partnership works because health professionals appreciate the value of legal help, that it can improve lives,” Faith said.

Working with Jess, and with other people at cohealth, who have been so generous with their time and support, has made it so much easier to be there to help older people who are at risk.”

Justice Connect now operates four Health Justice Partnerships in Melbourne and Sydney, with cohealth, St Vincent’s Hospital, and the Alfred Hospital.