Are you trying to bring your parent to Australia?

 

Last week, the Australian government officially announced a new parent visa subclass: The 870 Sponsored Parent Visa.

The 870 visa gives the opportunity for parents of all ages to spend up to five years in Australia with their children. And, to make this visa more appealing, the government has dropped some of the major restrictions other parent visa categories carry.

So, what is the 870 Sponsored Parent visa and who is eligible to apply for it?

 

What makes this visa different?

Unlike other parent visas, the 870 visa doesn’t require the parent to meet the “Balance of Family” rule. Instead, the sponsored parent just needs to have a child (biological, adopted or step-child) who is an Australian citizen, permanent resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen who has been living in Australia for four years.

This is good news for children who have been living in Australia for many years but still have the majority of their brothers and sisters living overseas.

Another important difference between the 870 visa and other parent visas is this visa doesn’t put minimum or maximum age restrictions on the parents – a rule that has previously prevented many migrant’s parents from coming to Australia.

And, while this visa does not lead to permanent residency, eligible parents can stay for the full 5 years, leave the country, then apply for another 5-year visa, meaning they can enjoy a maximum period of 10 years with their children and grandchildren in Australia.

 

What is the application process?

The first step towards obtaining an 870 Sponsored Parent visa is getting the child approved as a sponsor. This will require the child to:

  • Undergo police checks and;
  • Prove they are earning a taxable income of $83,454.80 or more (this can be joint family income).

Then, once the child has been approved as a sponsor, the second step is to lodge the parent’s application within six months of their sponsor’s approval.

When lodging an 870 Sponsored Parent visa application, the parents must be able to prove they:

  • Have sufficient income to provide for themselves while living in Australia, as the 870 visa doesn’t grant the parents any right to work in Australia
  • Meet the government’s health requirements and get private health insurance
  • Meet the government’s character requirements.
  • Have no debt owing to the Australian government (exemptions can be made if repayment arrangements are in place).

 

When can I apply?

While sponsor applications are open now, visa applications can only be lodged after 1st of July.

If you are considering applying for an 870 Sponsored Parent visa, it’s important you take steps to submit your application as early as possible because only 15,000 of these visas will be granted this year.

 

How much does an 870 Parental Visa application cost?

There are two main application fees for this visa:

  • Sponsorship application fee: $470
  • Visa application fee: $5000 for a three-year visa or $10,000 for a five-year visa (this fee is paid in two parts, one upon application and the second prior to being granted).

With such substantial sums of money on the line, many applicants prefer not to risk preparing their own application and use a migration agent instead.

 

How long does it take to be approved for an 870 Sponsored Parent Visa?

As this is a new subclass of visa, there is currently no information available about processing times. It is expected that applicants will receive more information about wait times at least three months after the applications open.

 

How do I get started?

To find out more about this visa type, or to explore other visas that might be better suited to your needs, get in touch with a migration agent at Phoenix Law & Associates.

We’ve helped thousands of people live, work, study and holiday in Australia, and we specialise in helping people who don’t speak English as their first language apply for visas.

Our team includes:

  • Mandarin speaking lawyers
  • Cantonese speaking lawyers
  • Japanese speaking lawyers
  • Farsi speaking lawyers
  • Dari speaking lawyers
  • Hindi speaking lawyers
  • Urdu speaking lawyers
  • Kurdish speaking lawyers
  • Bosnian speaking lawyers
  • Croatian speaking lawyers
  • Serbian speaking lawyers
  • Slovenian speaking lawyers
  • Macedonian speaking lawyers
  • Montenegrian speaking lawyers

Call 07 3607 3274 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au to request an obligation-free consultation. We’re here to help YOU!

 

Are you looking for a way to stay in Australia?

 

This month, the Australian government announced two new special visa agreements that can help skilled and semi-skilled overseas workers with lower english fluency to attain permanent residency… provided they are willing to live and work in designated regional Australian towns.

 

These special work visas  are sponsored by employers through labour agreements officially known as the Designation Area Migration Agreements (DAMA)s under one or both of the existing visa programs [(Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482) and Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186)].

 

They will allow migrants who have hospitality or farming skills to get jobs in areas that have severe labour and population shortages. Currently these areas include south-west Victoria’s Warrnambool region and certain parts of the Northern Territory (where the DAMA is not new, but the offer of permanent residency is).

 

Those who take the government up their offer will need to commit to spending three to four years in the same isolated region before they can access a pathway to permanent residency – a promise that may prove challenging to keep in the Northern Territory’s intense tropical weather!

 

The announcement of the new visa agreements comes as welcome news to many migrants who are facing an uphill battle to stay in the country.

 

In recent years, the requirements for other work visas have become much stricter than they have been in the past. In particular, changes to jobs on the skilled occupation lists have left many migrants no longer eligible to apply for or extend their work visas.

 

A full list of the 117 jobs on the Northern Territory DAMA occupation list can be found here. The list includes lesser-skilled roles such as baristas, delivery drivers, and landscapers – all of which are also eligible for low-english concessions.

 

The Warrnambool DAMA is designed to attract workers to the area’s meat-processing, dairy and agricultural industries – making it a good fit for those who can’t stand the Northern Territory heat, but not ideal for vegans or office workers. The detailed requirements for this region’s new visa will be finalised next year.

 

 

To chat to a migration solicitor about how you can stay in Australia, get in touch with us! We specialise in helping people who don’t speak English as their first language apply for visas.

 

Our team includes:

  • Mandarin speaking lawyers
  • Cantonese speaking lawyers
  • Japanese speaking lawyers
  • Farsi speaking lawyers
  • Dari speaking lawyers
  • Hindi speaking lawyers
  • Urdu speaking lawyers
  • Kurdish speaking lawyers
  • Bosnian speaking lawyers
  • Croatian speaking lawyers
  • Serbian speaking lawyers
  • Slovenian speaking lawyers
  • Macedonian speaking lawyers
  • Montenegrian speaking lawyers

Call (07) 3180 0908 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au for an friendly, obligation-free consultation. We’re here to help YOU!

partner visa application

 

Have you fallen in love with an Aussie?

 

If your partner is an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and you plan to submit a partner visa application so you can remain together, this article is for you.

Here are three easy ways to increase your likelihood of a successful application:

 

1. Join the queue ASAP

Trying to navigate the deadlines and documents the Department of Home Affairs requires can be a nightmare. Sure, all the information is online, but it’s usually sprinkled across so many different web pages and forms that it’s hard to put all the pieces together.

Once you know you want to stay in Australia, the first thing you should do is ask a migration agent which documents you need, how to submit them, and when they’re due.

Make sure you do this well before your current visa expires because partner visa processing is notoriously slow, usually taking 13-18 months per application.

There’s rarely a way to fast track this process: The sooner you pay your visa fee, the sooner you join the queue. So, find out what you need to do to and take action ASAP.


2. Find out which rules are more flexible than others

If you’re concerned that you or your partner don’t meet the visa requirements listed online, there can still be a way to make that visa happen.

Here are two common situations that, at first glance, don’t meet the visa criteria, but can be worked to your favour by a smart solicitor:

  • Short relationships: To obtain a partner visa you generally must have been in a relationship and cohabiting with your Aussie partner for at least 12 months prior to lodging your application. However, if the duration of your relationship/cohabitation is less than 12 months, it’s still possible to obtain a partnership visa. This can be done by registering your defacto partner status with an Australian state or territory, obtaining a relationship certificate, then making a successful submission to waive the 12 months relationship requirement. 
  • Criminal records: You may be disappointed to discover your partner is unlikely to pass the Australian government’s character checks. The Department of Home Affairs has a specific requirement that the visa applicant’s partner doesn’t have a significant criminal record (a term of imprisonment up to 12 months or more). What you might not know, however, is that there are some exemptions which can be granted (such as compelling circumstances), but this takes time and needs to be dealt with early in the process.

With the right advice, you can overcome potential roadblocks that would otherwise delay, or sink or visa approval.  

 

3. Don’t assume the Department of Home Affairs will chase you

When it comes to providing supporting documentation and evidence, the onus is on you to do everything.

Don’t assume that if you’ve left something important out, the Department of Home Affairs will chase you down to ask for additional paperwork. If you don’t have enough evidence, chances are they will just reject your application, leaving you out of pocket for your application fee, and at the back of the queue again.

 

If you need help applying for your partnership visa…

Consider getting in touch with Phoenix Law.

We have solicitors that speak your language, including:

  • Mandarin speaking lawyers
  • Cantonese speaking lawyers
  • Japanese speaking lawyers
  • Farsi speaking lawyers
  • Dari speaking lawyers
  • Hindi speaking lawyers
  • Urdu speaking lawyers
  • Kurdish speaking lawyers
  • Bosnian speaking lawyers
  • Croatian speaking lawyers
  • Serbian speaking lawyers
  • French speaking lawyers
  • Italian speaking lawyers
  • Polish speaking lawyers
  • Russian speaking lawyers
  • Slovenian speaking lawyers
  • Macedonian speaking lawyers
  • Montenegrian speaking lawyers

Call (07) 3180 0908 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au for an obligation-free consultation. We’ll help you any way we can!

 

underpaid migrant worker lawyer

 

damning new report has shown over 50% of Australia’s international students, temporary migrant workers and backpackers are paid as little as half the minimum wage and only 10% ever attempt to recover their unpaid wages.

 
The study, which examined responses from 4322 participants originating from 107 countries, who worked in all Australian states and territories, also revealed only 3% of underpaid migrant workers went to the Fair Work Ombudsman and more than half of those who did recovered nothing.
 

Contrary to popular belief that migrants are content with lower wages, 54% of migrant workers were indeed open to trying to claim their unpaid wages. Yet, they did not do so for a variety of reasons:

 

  • 25% feared they would lose their visa 
  • 22% feared they would lose their job 
  • 42% said they did not know what to do 
  • 15% said their “English was not good enough” 
  • 35% said it was “too much work” did not know how much effort was involved 
  • 28% said they had agreed to the wage, so they had no legitimate reason to complain
  • 26% said that others around them had the same wage and weren’t taking action 
  • 20% were pessimistic about getting a positive outcome 
Australia’s underpayment epidemic is clearly fuelled by unscrupulous employers who rely on migrant workers’ silence.

 

What can underpaid migrant workers do?

 

While most naturalised Australians will tell migrant workers to seek help from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), the reality is that the FWO rarely assists individuals in a meaningful way.
 
First, the FWO has a directive to ensure that ‘at least 90% of requests for assistance involving a workplace dispute are finalised through education and dispute resolution services’. This means that most underpaid workers who contact the FWO will be directed to their website or other service providers.
 
Second, even when a formal Request for Assistance is submitted, the FWO may address the matter directly with the employer or attempt to mediate over the phone – although they have no power to compel the employer to participate. This could jeopardise a worker’s visa and employment.
 
Third, according to the report, “In only a small fraction of cases, an individual Request for Assistance will trigger a formal investigation… while remedies for individual workers may flow from [subsequent] enforcement activities or be a means to achieving their goals, they are not a primary objective in their own right.”
 
In short, the role of the FWO is not to advocate for individual workers, but to ensure general compliance within businesses, and the majority of workers who contact FWO will not get their unpaid wages.

 

How a solicitor can assist underpaid migrant workers

 

Wherever financially possible, it seems the best recourse for migrant workers who are owed money from their employers is to seek legal advice.
 
A solicitor can help migrant workers:
  • Directly negotiate with their employer from a position of legal standing, ensuring their visa and job are not threatened.
  • Gather the required evidence and documentationwhich can be difficult for workers who aren’t issued payslips or are paid in cash.
  • File a claim in court (most often small claims court, but in some cases, a class action may be appropriate). Often, success may hinge upon something as simple as correctly identifying who a worker’s legal employers are and the legal instrument they have breached.
While it is true that some cases may not be worth pursuing, wage theft can quickly add up.
 
An employee who has been underpaid by $10 an hour for 20 hours a week would be entitled to $10,400 a year.

 

What to do when you’re a migrant worker who has been underpaid

 

If you’ve been underpaid, don’t just call the Fair Work Ombudsman. Seek legal advice. Call (07) 3180 0908 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au for a confidential discussion about your circumstances.
 
Our solicitors speak:
 
  • Japanese 
  • Chinese (Mandarin) 
  • Farsi (Persian) 
  • Dari 
  • Hindi 
  • Urdu 
  • Kurdish

If you’re about to sign a lease for business purposes I have three messages for you:

  • Congratulations on your new business venture and;
  • Whatever you do, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING WITHOUT A LAWYER.
  • In fact, don’t even sign any OFFER TO LEASE without a lawyer.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

We’re a law firm, so of course, we’re going to recommend getting a lawyer to review the terms and conditions of your lease.

But what if I told you that commercial leases are one of the areas where lawyers will actually help you save money… A LOT of money?

Don’t believe me?

Take a lot of some of the most common ways businesses lose money on their leases.

1. You Don’t Realise Negotiation Is An Option, So You Pay Too Much

Unlike residential leases, the rent specifications within commercial leases can and should be negotiated.

Landlords usually want to secure a longer lease term (3, 5, or even 10 years) and they may be willing to offer reduced rates (called a rent abatement), a rent-free period (of up to 12 months in some cases!) or fit-out contributions as a incentive for you to sign on.

2. You Get Slapped With Crazy Rent Hikes

If your annual rent review (fixed rent increases) uses a fixed percentage you could end up paying way too much rent within a few years.

A commercial lawyer with experience in commercial leases can help you assess the attractiveness of a fixed percentage increase or even recommend market reviews when appropriate. Frequently our clients can expect to have up to 2 percentage points reduced from initial review rates.

3. Your Competitors Move In On Your Turf

The success of many businesses (especially retail) is often hinged upon their physical proximity to their competitors.

A lawyer can help negotiate exclusivity clauses into the lease that prohibit your landlord from letting your competitors set up shop in the same complex.

4. You End Up Paying for Their Lawyers

Often landlords will include a clause in the agreement that says you’ll have to pay for the costs they incur while preparing and/or enforcing the lease.

A lawyer can help you negotiate out of this cost.

5. You Go Broke

In much the same way that residential leases require a bond, commercial leases also need some form of security from the tenant, such as a bank guarantee or a personal guarantee.

A lawyer can help you understand the serious risks of personally guaranteeing a lease.

And, if these risks are too great for you to take on, they will also help negotiate a suitable compromise with the landlord that avoids putting all of your assets (such as personal property) on the line. This could be as simple as agreeing on an additional bank guarantee.

With proper structuring, you won’t have to worry about going broke and losing your real estate assets if you default on your lease.

6. You Get Kicked Out

Planning on staying a while? If your lease doesn’t include an option to renew, your landlord will be well within their rights to give your business the boot once the original lease has expired (even if they swear they won’t).

A lawyer can help you draft an option to renew that will allow you to continue leasing on similar terms. They will also give you specific renewal instructions so that you get all the paperwork filed according to the correct procedures and within the required timeframes.

Are you currently reviewing a commercial lease and need help making sense of it all? Feel free to email your queries through to Kevin, our resident commercial property expert. Just shoot a message to k.zhang@phoenix-law.com.au or call Phoenix Law & Associates on 07 3607 3274. We’ll help you save money and make sure you rent on your terms.

If you’re asking yourself right now, “Why would I take a lawyer’s advice about how to find a lawyer?”, congratulations. You are the type of person for whom we’ve written this article.

Our answer to your question is simple: Because we work with lawyers day in and day out, we understand them better than anyone else. Follow our advice, and you’ll be able to find a good lawyer when you need one.

Read time: 4 minutes.

Objection #1: “Lawyers only want easy jobs. They always put my case in the too hard basket.”
This complaint is one of the biggest paradoxes within the law industry: Clients want a lawyer who will take on their case, but at the same time they need a lawyer who is honest and sets realistic expectations.

The best way to find out if you have a case worth pursuing is to shop around for multiple opinions. Many law firms offer a free initial consultation, which you can use to find out:

  • Whether your case can be won;
  • What possible roadblocks you may run into;
  • If the lawyer you’re considering has experience winning cases similar to yours;
  • The level of commitment running your case will require from you, and;
  • Their fee structure.

A good lawyer won’t tell you what you want to hear; they’ll tell you what you need to know.

Objection #2: “Lawyers only care about making money, even if I win my case most of the money will probably go to legal fees.”

Even if you have confidence in both the capability of your lawyer and the strength of your case, you still have to decide if you can afford to pursue your matter.

In Queensland, lawyers must provide their clients with a “Costs Agreement”.

There are two types of costs agreements:

  1. Conditional Costs Agreements: These are the “no win no fee” deals you see on billboards and TV. You only pay fees if your case is successful, and your lawyer can’t charge you more than 50% of the total compensation amount in a personal injury case.
  2. Cost Agreements: These agreements include fees and expenses you have to pay regardless of the outcome of your case.

The important things to know about both types of cost agreements are:

  • They must show how the lawyers calculate the costs;
  • They must provide realistic estimates that take into account variables likely to affect the final costs you must pay;
  • They must tell you when and how you’ll be billed and explain any interest you’ll be charged on overdue amounts;
  • You can negotiate the costs within an agreement before you sign;
  • You can ask to receive progress reports throughout your case, and;
  • You can request an itemised bill after you’ve signed.

That said, if the legal work your lawyer carries out costs less than $1,500.00 (excluding GST), they don’t have to provide you with all this information.

Objection #3: “Lawyers are arrogant.”

In our blog “How to Argue Like a Good Lawyer” we discuss why so many unflattering lawyer stereotypes exist. While some lawyers are undeniably arrogant, others simply choose to rely on reason instead of emotion so they will have a better chance of successfully arguing their client’s case.

But, in much the same way that you need to be able to talk openly with your doctor or your accountant, you need to have a good working relationship with your lawyer.

Before your first in-person meeting, you can find out a lot about your lawyer and the culture of their firm by:

Reading online reviews: Some firms are quick to get rid of bad reviews on their Google and official Facebook pages, but you can usually still find out what their customers’ experiences are like by searching forums, clicking past the first page of Google, and reading through comments on their social media posts.

Keeping in mind how large the firm is: A bigger firm may have a reputation for having a large pool of resources to draw upon, but a smaller firm will offer your more opportunities for direct communication with your lawyer and potentially lower fees as well.

Find out if your communication needs are compatible: Good communication is the key to mutually beneficial relationships. Find out from the outset how often your lawyer will communicate with you, if they’re willing to accommodate your preferred method of communication (email, phone calls, letters or even text messages), and how much they’ll charge you for each time you talk.

The Bottom Line

Whether you have a legal matter relating to your business, your family, your person or your property, you don’t have to settle for subpar legal representation.

There are hardworking, fair, and friendly lawyers out there who will do their best to help you out – you just need to know how to find them!

Need legal advice? Call +61 07 3607 3274, email info@phoenix-law.com.au or fill out our online contact form and our team of experienced, friendly solicitors will assist you in any way possible.

Here’s a question for anyone who has ever tried to win an argument with a lawyer:
At what point did you realise that you might be better off just lying down and playing dead until they’ve made their point? Five minutes? Two hours? Ten years?

When it comes to making an argument, great lawyers rely on three traits: Tenacity, objectivity and outcome-driven strategy.

The good news for you is that anyone can learn how to use these mental tools to win a debate. Read on, and you’ll be in with a fighting chance the next time you’ve got a bone to pick!

Read time: 2 minutes.

1. Don’t Get Distracted

Good lawyers win arguments not by muddying the waters, but by sticking to one or two key issues and refusing to deviate from them.

Arguments are not the place to blurt out hypotheticals and half-baked ideas. Avoid the natural urge to bring up unrelated matters when you feel like you’re losing. And, if the other party does this, politely let them know you’ll discuss other issues once you’ve resolved the matter at hand.

2. Stay Cool At All Costs

There is a good reason that lawyers have a reputation for being cold, emotionless creatures (sharks, if you will): This kind of objectivity is what allows you to make informed, balanced decisions.

When you’re arguing with someone remember:

Stick to the facts: Gather as much relevant information you can before you engage in any debate.
Avoid making assumptions: Ask questions instead of making assumptions about other people’s actions or motives.
Take a break when things get heated: If the argument devolves into a name-calling match or someone starts threatening or shouting, call a recess. Whether it is ten minutes or a whole day, this break will give both parties time to calm down, talk to trusted advisors and decide how they want to proceed.

3. Determine What You Want to Achieve Before You Start

Television lawyers are best known for issuing verbal smackdowns. Their fictional adversaries are left reeling, they strut back to their seats looking insufferably smug and their clients can’t seem to get enough of their witty one-liners.

In reality, this is not how brilliant lawyers operate. A great lawyer won’t worry about embarrassing their opponents – instead, they’ll focus on marrying the outcomes their client wants to achieve with the outcomes their client can achieve.

In the words of business mentor Bryan Worn, “The success of a communication is the outcome of a communication.”

Always consider your end game before engaging in an argument or a debate:

  • Do you want to maintain your relationship with the person you’re up against?
  • What are your goals (to be heard, to get an apology or material outcome, to enforce an agreement)?
  • Which of your goals is highest/lowest on your priority list?
  • How likely is it that you will achieve each of your goals?
  • What will you do if you can’t achieve them all?
  • What are you willing to compromise?

Asking yourself “Does saying [x] increase or decrease my chances of achieving [y]?” will exponentially increase the likelihood of you getting what you want in the end.

Every expecting mum has, at some point, pondered what their parental rights are.

From birth certificates to breastfeeding, vaccinations, and returning to work, there’s a lot to think about – especially when you’re dealing with all the wondrous* physical transformations that pregnancy brings!

In this blog, we answer the top four questions new mums ask our family lawyers:

  1. Should I get the father’s name on the birth certificate if we split up while I’m pregnant?
  2. Can I breastfeed anywhere?
  3. What happens if I decide not to vaccinate my baby?
  4. Are part-time or casual employees entitled to time off work when they have a baby?

Read time: 3 minutes.

*Read: Eye-opening, beautiful, unprecedented, sometimes yucky and often challenging

1. Should I get the father’s name on the birth certificate if we split up while I’m pregnant?

It is your right to submit a birth certificate with just your name on it, but you should be aware that this don’t mean the father will never be recognised on the certificate.

The child’s father can also submit his own application to be recognised on the certificate. If this happens, the registry has specialists who will contact both parties to verify the information they’ve received, before making a decision or advising you to get legal advice (depending on your circumstances).

The registrar can make decisions about certain things at their own discretion (for instance when the baby’s last name is disputed), and for more serious matters your issue will be referred to the courts, which can compel you to get the father’s name on the certificate.

If the father insists on having his name on the certificate but you dispute his paternity, the Family Law Court can order him to take a DNA test. If the test proves that he is the father, the court may make an order that forces the registry to include his name on the certificate, and he will automatically be granted all of the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood (providing he poses no risk to the child).

It’s also worth noting that in some cases the court has the power to determine paternity without a DNA test.

In general, unless your child’s father poses an unacceptable risk to their safety, the court has an obligation to encourage a relationship between them. So, unless you have a very good reason to do so, excluding the father from the birth certificate usually isn’t worth it.

2. Can I breastfeed anywhere?

Yes! In Australia, mothers have the right to breastfeed their children anywhere they are comfortable doing so.

The next time someone tells you (directly or indirectly) not to breastfeed in public, tell them to look up the Sex Discrimination Act 1984!

3. What happens if I decide not to vaccinate my baby?

There are two main consequences that parents who don’t vaccinate their kids need to be aware of:

  • Reduced financial benefits: Families that don’t vaccinate kids under the age of 20 aren’t eligible to receive the Family Tax Benefit Part A end of year supplement, the Child Care Benefit and the Child Care Rebate.*
  • No jab no play: Child care facilities are allowed to refuse to enrol unvaccinated children. There are exceptions for kids who are undergoing a vaccination catch-up program or who have a valid medical reason, but simply objecting to vaccinations is not considered a good enough reason to not vaccinate your children. Also, if you decide to enrol your unvaccinated kids at a childcare centre anyway, you won’t get your money back when they are rejected.

*These two payments will be replaced by the new Child Care Subsidy from July 2, 2018.

4. Are part-time or casual employees entitled to time off work when they have a baby?

Full-time, part-time, and casual employees (who have a proper arrangement of regular hours and have been working for their employer for 12 months) are all entitled to take time off when they have a baby.

Once your leave is over, you are also entitled to go back to the same position that you had before you left – although in reality this is often easier said than done.

Everyone’s situation is different, so to find out more about your unique entitlements, check out the Fair Work maternity & parental leave fact sheets.

At Phoenix Law, our understanding solicitors are happy to answer your questions about family law and to work with you to resolve disputes quickly and as painlessly as possible. To get in touch, just dial 07 3607 3274, email info@phoenix-law.com.au or fill in our online contact form.

In an ideal world, media outlets would act as a mirror that reflects society back at itself and gives us much-needed opportunities to examine our actions, attitudes and beliefs. A societal “self-crit”, if you will.

In reality, however, the news media often performs that examination itself, giving viewers and readers pre-packaged ideas about topics most of us won’t research past the headlines.

This potentially polarising approach is particularly problematic when it comes to one topic that most news publications and current affairs programs never get tired of covering: Compensation.

When it comes to portraying “compo” claimants, there seems to be no middle ground in Australia: You’re either a blameless victim or a shameless opportunist.

Blameless Victims: Genuine, Deserving Claimants

The Australian media, and in turn the Australian public, tends to see some groups of people as blameless victims.

These groups include:

  • Victims of violent crime and sexual abuse
  • Customers who have been wronged by a huge corporation and;
  • “Battlers” who have had their rights flouted by the government (The Castle, anyone?).

While it’s easy to sympathise with these groups, there can be unintended consequences when media outlets act as advocates:

  • Emphasis on any accusations before of an official verdict is reached can cause the public to make unfounded judgements about people who may later be proven to be innocent. If claims against someone are later found to be unsubstantiated, the damage the media can do to their reputation often lasts a lifetime.
  • Sometimes the victim’s right to privacy is flouted in favour of the public’s right to know. Even if a compensation claimant is portrayed favourably, the media attention they receive can negatively impact their lives.
  • The media’s tendency to publicise only the most salacious cases may leave people who have a legitimate but not necessarily newsworthy claim to feel as though they aren’t injured enough to seek payment.

Shameless Gold Diggers: Opportunists Looking for Quick Cash

While some compensation claimants can do no wrong in the eyes of the media, many people who make a claim find themselves in the limelight in all the wrong ways.

Claimants the media portrays as shameless opportunists include:

  • Slip, trip & fall claimants who are injured while going about their daily lives
  • Businesses seeking recompense after being adversely affected by government policy
  • Celebrities pursuing large claims
  • Stories about these groups often have less sympathy for a claimant and more of a focus on how large a claim is, how the victim’s suffering could be their own fault, or how ridiculous the premise of a claim may be.

These interpretations, while sometimes valid, have problems of their own:

  • Framing the process of seeking compensation for a public injury in a negative light can make people who are entitled to claim feel too ashamed to act.
  • Focussing on celebrity cases, such as Rebel Wilson’s defamation lawsuit, can perpetuate inaccurate assumptions about who Australia’s laws are designed to protect. The majority of defamation cases in Australia aren’t pursued against media publishers; they’re between everyday people.
  • Publicity surrounding corporate claims often perpetuates ignorance of what compensation is and how it works, neglecting many of the nuances involved in commercial litigation.
  • When it comes to compensation, many Australians have an understanding of the law that is based entirely on media representations of cases. But, these representations can be inaccurate, biased, incomplete or oversimplified, and as such are not an ideal resource for anyone who needs legal information.

In our next blog “Contextualising Compensation: What You Need to Know About Claiming” we fill in the gaps so that whether you’re considering making a claim or you’re just reading about someone else’s case, you’ll be well informed.

Need to know more about compensation law in Queensland? Tell us your story today and we’ll let you know what your options are. Just fill in our online contact form, call (07) 3607 3274 or email info@phoenix-law.com.au and our friendly team will be in touch.

Whether you’re reading about a monster payout in the newspaper, or you’re wondering if you might be entitled to compensation, it’s vital that you have an understanding of compensation that is based on the law, not the media.

What is Compensation?

Compensation is a payment that you are entitled to receive if you suffer harm that was caused by the negligence of someone who owes you a duty of care.

This rather wordy explanation contains several legal definitions you need to be aware of:

Harm refers to all types of injury and loss, including:

  • Physical and psychological injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage and;
  • Economic loss (both past and future)

Negligence is when someone else acts recklessly, carelessly, or without the degree of skill usually expected of them in a particular set of circumstances, and this causes some kind of damage or injury to you.

Duty of care refers to circumstances where a person should have foreseen that their conduct could have injured you. If there is a duty of care, the person who owes the duty must perform it or act to a reasonable standard. Failure to do this is called a “breach of duty of care”. Only someone owing a duty of care to you can be said to have acted negligently towards you.

In Queensland, some relationships automatically have a duty of care.

These include (but aren’t limited to) relationships between:

  • Doctor & patient
  • Landlord & tenant
  • Employer & employee
  • Prison & detainee
  • Manufacturer or supplier & consumer
  • Road user & road user
  • Teacher & student

If you think that your case satisfies these three requirements, it’s time to get some legal advice about what to do next.

How Does Claiming Compensation Work?

How you go about making a claim will depend on the specific facts of your case. For example, in Queensland, injuries sustained at your workplace usually involve navigating the WorkCover system first, whereas claims of medical negligence can go straight to court.

If you’re seeking compensation, you’ll need a lawyer to:

  1. Help you see if you have a case
  2. Explain what you need to do next and;
  3. Prepare the relevant documents so you can lodge your claim within the legislated deadlines.

How Much Compensation Can I Claim?

One of the biggest misconceptions in Australia is that large compensation claims are essentially “money for nothing”.

How much a claim is worth is actually based on very real calculations that take into account:

  • Financial losses suffered as a result of the harm caused: This calculation includes both immediate losses and future losses, which can be quite substantial if the claimant’s ability to work has been affected.
  • The extent of any injuries: Injuries that are severe, or have life-long consequences will incur higher compensation payments than temporary or minor injuries.
  • Damage to personal property: Claimants may also receive compensation for physical property that has been damaged, with unique items usually attracting more compensation than replaceable objects.

Every claim is different, which is why most lawyers will be reluctant to give you a dollar figure until they understand all of the details of your case and have communicated with the other party’s insurer or solicitors.

When Can’t I Make a Claim?

There are some circumstances where you cannot claim compensation. These include:

  • Occasions where any harm you suffer is caused by incidents that are deemed to be “acts of God”
  • When harm occurs as the result of an act of war or terrorism
  • Injuries and accidents that were your own fault (as opposed to contributory negligence, where an incident is only partially your fault)

A good personal injury lawyer will tell you very early on if your claim is likely to be unsuccessful because of any of these factors.

What Is No Win No Fee?

You may have seen lawyers who offer “no win no fee” services. This is a popular type of billing arrangement where you may not have to pay any legal fees if your claim is unsuccessful.

It’s important to know, however, that no win no fee is not a risk-free arrangement.

You may have to pay disbursements (out of pocket expenses your lawyers pay other people, e.g. court fees) and if you lose you may also have to pay the opposing side’s legal fees.

Make sure that you fully understand your solicitor’s billing structure before you sign anything.

I Think I May Have a Claim, What Do I Do Now?

There is a handful of accurate and informative online resources available to Queensland residents who are considering pursuing a personal injury or negligence claim. If you want to find out more before you contact a lawyer, take a look at:

Legal Aid (note: this is a basic overview, Legal Aid does not offer specific legal advice in this area)

The Queensland Law Handbook

WorkCover Queensland (for information about work-related claims)

Or, if you’re not sure what to research, you can contact Phoenix Law to book a free, no-obligation claim evaluation with one of our solicitors. Just call (07) 3607 3274 email info@phoenix-law.com.au or use our online contact form to tell us what happened to you.