Providing legal information and advice to those affected by a natural disaster.

In March 2007, James* made a verbal agreement with the owner of 200 acres of farmland to work as the property manager on the land by tending to livestock, fixing fences, and generally looking after the property. In return, James was able to live in his mobile home on the land.

The bushfires hit the property on 30 December 2019. Both dwellings were destroyed along with much of the garage (which contained contents largely all belonging to James).

The landowner told James to make a list of everything he lost, and he did so. James’ list totaled AU$156,000 worth of content. This consisted of motorbikes, generators, farm equipment, and so on. James believes there was probably another AU$20-30,000 worth of contents which he could not recall in detail.

Shortly after, the landowner told the client he would be receiving an insurance payout of approximately AU$300,000 and that he would be keeping all of it to build a bigger house for himself. The landowner’s original house was from the 1980s, made with cement sheets, worth (at James’ estimation) AU$80,000. James believes the list of contents he prepared was put towards getting the payout amount.

James has moved in with his mother who lives on the eastern Victorian coastline and is in the process of getting a shipping container to move what is left of his belongings to a friend’s property. James does not wish to move back to the fire-affected property. He would like his share of the insurance payout to be able to buy a small piece of land and a mobile home to live in.

Justice Connect is a pro bono referral organization in NSW and Victoria. It works to close the justice gap by connecting people and community groups with the help they need. Justice Connect referred James’ matter directly to a regional firm in the client’s area that had joined Justice Connect for the purpose of helping local people affected by the bushfires pro bono. James was pleased to be referred to a firm that was only a few minutes away from his mother’s house.

*Name changed to protect privacy.