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The Shopfront Story

The Shopfront is a joint project of the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, Mission Australia and The Salvation Army. The legal services are provided by Herbert Smith Freehills on a pro bono basis, and our case work service is provided by Mission Australia. All three parent organisations contribute to the running costs of the service.

The 1989 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report, "Our Homeless Children" (commonly referred to as the Burdekin Report) highlighted the fact that homeless young people frequently suffered human rights violations and were especially disadvantaged in the legal process. Members of the Freehills pro bono committee wanted to help redress this situation. They began to make contact with a number of welfare and community legal organisations to discuss the feasibility of a pro bono ("for the public good") project of this type.

In 1993, Freehills formed an alliance with the Sydney City Mission, which was at the same time thinking of setting up a youth information centre and had rented a shopfront in Darlinghurst Road for this purpose. It was thought that a legal service operating from the information centre would complement the information service and would be of great benefit to homeless young people.

As time went on and there was more demand for the legal service (and no recurrent funding for a youth worker!), the information and referral role became secondary to the legal service. But the Shopfront has never been an ordinary legal service. Its aims from the beginning have been preventative, remedial and educational. The Shopfront would assist clients to see the legal problem in its wider context and to use a legal crisis as a catalyst for change. It was important to have strong links with other services so that clients could be assisted in a holistic way.

In 1997, the Shopfront moved to the Salvation Army building in Victoria Street, and the Salvation Army became a partner in the project.

This innovative and effective partnership was recognised in 1999 when the Shopfront was a finalist in the Prime Minister's Awards for Business and Community Partnerships. 

In the same year, our principal solicitor, Jane Sanders, was named NSW Children's Lawyer of the Year by the National Children's and Youth Law Centre. In 2000, another of our solicitors, Jane Irwin, received a certificate of high commendation in the same awards.  

At the NSW Law and Justice Foundation’s Justice Awards in 2004, the Shopfront received the inaugural Pro Bono Partnerships Award.

In 2008, the Shopfront’s principal solicitor, Jane Sanders, was awarded the Law and Justice Foundation’s Justice Medal.

In 2009 we were able to add a caseworker to our team, thanks to the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) Mental Health Legal Services Project.  Since 2011 the caseworker role has been funded by Mission Australia with assistance from the Mantana Foundation for Young People.

In 2014 The Shopfront Youth Legal Centre celebrated its 21st birthday. Click here to read more about the Shopfront, and our achievements over the first 21 years.  

In 2021 we entered another partnership with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) to establish the Aboriginal Social Justice Graduate Program.  Again we would like to acknowledge the generous contribution of the Matana Foundation for Young People.

Shopfront celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2023. Click here to see a slideshow showing some of our milestones.

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