Legal Aid NSW's Nohara Odicho on making legal info more accessible through storytelling

The community engagement officer talks her road to working with the organisation’s Refugee Service

Legal Aid NSW's Nohara Odicho on making legal info more accessible through storytelling

Nohara Odicho started out providing refugees with mental health support, but quickly realised the importance of the justice system in assisting with the plight of displaced individuals. As someone who holds a passion for social justice, Odicho transitioned to working with lawyers within Legal Aid NSW’s Refugee Service to bolster access to justice.

Odicho emphasises the need for compassion in working with refugees, and in her work has realised in particular the plight of women experiencing domestic violence. This has led her to package necessary legal information in a way that’s accessible and safe – as a children’s book.

In this interview, Odicho talks about the work undertaken by Legal Aid NSW and its Refugee Service, the unique vulnerabilities of refugees, and how storytelling can help explain legal concepts.

What drew you to work with the legal profession?

Prior to my current role as community engagement officer with the Refugee Service, I worked in the settlement sector providing mental health support to newly arrived refugees. I found that working with refugees requires compassion, and a genuine desire to support and empower individuals who have experienced displacement and persecution. Working alongside the lawyers in the Refugee Service helps me to ensure that the justice system is accessible to newly arrived refugees.

What led you to work with Legal Aid NSW?

I have a passion for social justice, helping others and ensuring equal access to justice for all. Working with Legal Aid NSW allows you to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals by advocating for disadvantage communities and providing assistance to vulnerable and disadvantaged clients, such as low-income individuals, victims of domestic violence, refugees, or people with disabilities.

Why focus on working with the Refugee Service?

The Refugee Service is a state-wide specialist service of Legal Aid NSW that helps to improve refugees' legal literacy through community legal education and increased access to legal services. The service helps clients with civil, family legal issues in metro Sydney and regional areas by providing free legal advice face to face or over the phone. We also provide assistance and representation to clients.

The Service involves collaborations with various stakeholders, including other Legal Aid teams, NGOs, government agencies, and community groups and this provides opportunities to build networks and establish partnerships with these organisations to address the needs of refugees effectively.

What led you to advocate for domestic violence victims in particular?

Refugees often face unique challenges and vulnerabilities, and these can be intensified when they are also victims of domestic violence. They may experience language barriers, limited social support networks, cultural differences, and fear of deportation. Advocating for domestic violence victims among refugees helps address these specific vulnerabilities and ensure their safety and well-being.

Part of my role is to manage the Community Legal Education program at the Refugee Service which involves information sessions and community events where we meet clients in informal settings and talk about their rights and responsibilities. During these events I noticed many refugee women would be too scared to take resources on DV or family issues at outreach sessions or public events. This led us to create The Ribbon, an easy, safe and colourful children’s book in the client’s own language complete with a number on the back for clients to contact the Refugee Service.

Why utilise children’s literature as an avenue for legal resources?

Children's literature can simplify complex legal concepts and present them in a way that is understandable and relatable to readers. By using storytelling techniques, colourful illustrations and engaging narratives, legal information becomes more accessible and less intimidating. It is a good story which also accesses woman with young children, who might not otherwise access our Service.

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