Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: Western Community Legal Centre (formerly Footscray Community Legal Centre)

ProjectEmployment Law Project




This grant was approved under our previous grants policy (Jan 2014 – March 2017)
Building capacity Fund the outreach and training solicitor to deliver services in Sunshine and Werribee plus train-the-trainer program; support employment of four community workers.
Extending opportunity Increase job-readiness and sustainable employment outcomes for migrant and refugee communities; increase employment opportunities for trainer participants.
Collaboration and partnership Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre in Sunshine, Wyndham Community and Education Centre in Werribee, AMES and New Hope Foundation.

Improved employment outcomes targeted in new project for Melbourne’s West.

Newly arrived communities are more likely to be involved in lowly paid, unstable employment and experience discrimination, but often do not understand their legal rights. Western Community Legal Centre’s employment law project aims to improve employment outcomes through a train-the-trainer program and outreach services in Sunshine and Werribee.

Image Western Community Legal Centre at work

Key to the project has been the training of four community workers who take the project out into the field. By raising awareness of their rights and responsibilities, newly arrived workers will be better equipped to find and retain sustainable employment and avoid exploitation. The project is documenting employment experiences, building a strong evidence base to support advocacy to improve services, policies, laws and legal processes to reduce exploitation and discrimination in the workplace.


  • Since commencing, the pilot legal service has assisted over 125 newly arrived migrant workers from 26 countries.
  • The most common issue has been underpayments and sham contracting with over $55,000 recovered in unpaid wages.
  • Assistance has been provided with unfair terminations, resulting in over $30,000 in compensation and outcomes to help clients find new employment
  • Many clients do not understand Australian laws and processes, do not speak English and would not have enforced their rights without the Centre’s help.
  • The Community Education Program has been delivered to over 500 community members, workers and leaders in face-to-face sessions through the pilot train the trainer program
  • Findings from the Employment Law Project have been incorporated into Western Community Legal Centre’s submissions to and appearance at the Productivity Commission

(The Western Community Legal Centre was formed by the merger of Footscray Community Legal Centre, Western Suburbs Legal Service and Wyndham Legal Service in September 2015)



“Employment is the heart of successful settlement. Our train-the-trainer program will empower community leaders to share employment law information and resources with their communities, improving employment outcomes for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable workers.” Catherine Dow, Employment Project Solicitor