BY JULIETTE CAPOMOLLA
A trans-led free legal service for trans and gender-diverse people in Victoria will be making its official launch via Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Roberta Perkins Law Project has assisted around 30 clients since its inception in late 2019, but it will stage an official opening on June 15.
During the event, Monash University historian Geraldine Fela will detail the life of Roberta Perkins, a trans rights activist.
Roberta Perkins Law Project lawyer Sam Elkin said this legal service was necessary because the trans and gender-diverse community is still plagued by “unwarranted brutality” and discrimination that runs rampant in Victoria’s justice system.
“This community has historically been criminalised and discriminated against by the courts and police,” Mr Elkin said.
“Many trans and gender-diverse people are financially disadvantaged and struggle to find work, healthy and stable housing, and often don't have some of the informal community supports some of us take for granted.”
According to the Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey conducted by the University of New South Wales, more than 50 per cent of trans and gender-diverse participants had experienced sexual violence. This is four-times higher than a non-trans or gender-diverse Australian.
Mr Elkin said the community still battles discrimination in many aspects of life, such as accessing healthcare services and feeling unsafe in their workplace.
“All of these issues means that we have a long way to go before we experience true equality in Victoria,” he said.
According to a study conducted by the University of Newcastle and Bond University, one in three trans women have been assaulted with a weapon.
“It’s best to really target the community you are seeking to assist, by partnering with a trusted organisation that is known in the community, and being flexible and responsive to each individual's needs,” Mr Elkin said.
“I hope that we can help people to live their best lives, without legal issues and poor treatment holding them back.”
Transgender Victoria spokesperson Sally Goldner said the clinic is “flat-out” with enormous demand for its services.
“I know the community wants to have services where they feel safe, including legal (services),” Ms Goldner said.
“People are using it, without question. I wish that there wasn’t that demand, but realistically, of course there is.”
The Roberta Perkins Law Project partnered with Transgender Victoria last year to address the unmet legal needs of the trans and gender diverse community.
Ms Goldner said the advantage of the Roberta Perkins Law Project is engaging with lawyers who understand the trans experience.
“Sometimes trans people end up wasting a session with a lawyer…being the trans educator,” she said.
“When we have a service that is knowledgeable and supportive and respectful, understands the basics of using pronouns…it gets us in the door to start with, and we know we can just get straight down to the issues.”