Environment Defenders Office
Secondment to the Environment Defenders Office (EDO) gave senior associate Natalie Wilkinson the opportunity to step into the thick of topical legal and policy work far removed from the every day commercial world.
As a community legal centre specialising in public interest environmental law, the EDO provides advice and assistance to individuals and community groups seeking to use the legal system to protect the environment and who are otherwise unable to afford private legal services. The EDO represents clients before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) and planning panels, and provides legal advice and support in non-litigious matters. It also operates a telephone advisory service, co-ordinates public conferences, workshops and seminars on all aspects of environmental law, and undertakes policy and law reform activities, such as preparing submissions and taking part in commissions and inquiries.
The four-month secondment to the EDO in 2008, says Wilkinson, was an “extremely rewarding and inspiring” experience. “Not only are the clients, the lawyers and other staff at the EDO passionate about working to protect the environment, the clients are particularly grateful that a service such as the EDO exists, and are quick to make this known.”
The EDO provides legal representation in cases that satisfy its public interest criteria. Clients range from small community organisations, Friends groups and Landcare groups to large conservation NGOs. Many of the cases in which the EDO provides legal representation are in the planning and environment list of VCAT. The legal support provided by EDO lawyers assists clients to have their concerns heard as part of the decision making process.