Filling out government and legal forms can be complicated, but a Launceston Community Legal Centre program assists Northern Tasmanians through the arduous process.
The Legal Literacy Volunteer Program has been running since 2011, with demand on the service almost quadrupling since its first year.
It was established to complement other free legal services by using highly trained volunteers to support community members with complicated forms.
Tasmania has some of the highest rates of poor literacy in the nation, leading to unnecessary escalations in legal settings such as people going to see a lawyer for assistance with filling out forms, making applications or drafting notices.
Legal literacy volunteers are trained to help community members understand their rights, strengths and limitations, as well as recognising when an issue needs to be referred to a lawyer, financial advisor or any other relevant expert.
Launceston Community Legal Centre chief executive Nicky Snare said the intervention often resulted in clients obtaining timely legal advice and assistance, and often a de-escalation in the matter.
"We don't do the stuff that hits the headlines, but do stuff that assists vulnerable people like the elderly," she said.
Volunteers are based across the state's North and North-East, with many located at Centrelinks and Neighbourhood Houses throughout the region.
More than 220 volunteers have undergone training through the program and there were about 65 volunteers who were active in the program at any one time.
Training sessions for volunteers run regularly, but the sessions are also available free to the public and there is no obligation to become a volunteer if people attend.
"What we've found is people need to know where to go to access information to know what their rights are," Ms Snare said.
The three C's - confidentiality, conflict of interest and self-care - were key elements of a volunteer's training, Ms Snare said.
Checking for conflicts of interest was extremely important for volunteers as many work in the regional communities they reside in.
What we've found is people need to know where to go to access information to know what their rights are.Nicky Snare
"Confidentiality is forever, and self-care is being aware of the impact tricky situations have on the volunteer," Ms Snare said.
The training modules have a strong focus on the responsibility of being a volunteer, but each session also has a particular learning outcome.
Ms Snare said they have experts from the tenants union, lawyers and other agencies who run training sessions for the volunteers.
Successful volunteers are not only armed with knowledge from the training, they're also given a binder of information and resources about services and organisations potentially relevant to their future clients.
"For our volunteers, one of the drawcards is the kudos of being a legal literacy volunteer," Ms Snare said.
This week, Kristy Fawdry was recognised for seeing more than 500 people through the program in the past five years.
A community support worker at George Town Neighbourhood House, Ms Fawdry has assisted hundred of people in her community through her legal literacy role.
Her outstanding work and service to the community was celebrated by the legal centre and Treasurer Peter Gutwein at an event on Thursday morning.
Ms Fawdry said the legal literacy work was very rewarding.
"I'm happy to help where I can," she said.
A large portion of clients who seek Ms Fawdry's help need assistance with Centrelink forms and setting up MyGov accounts.
"The majority of what I do for legal literacy is Centrelink-based. I do other stuff too, but that's the main component of it," she said.
"The forms are difficult, but also not everyone is tech savvy."
Ms Fawdry was the first legal literacy volunteer to reach the 500-client milestone, although many others have clocked up more than 100.
Community members finally getting payments after months of waiting was a highlight for Ms Fawdry.
George Town Neighbourhood House community support manager Simone Lowe said having a literacy volunteer at the facility who could see clients without an appointment was key to the success of the program.
"It is really good because when people come in and get the support from the LLV program we speak to them about other services at Neighbourhood House," she said.
"It is a really good linking tool: people come in, have their needs met and then have some community engagement afterwards."
A lot of community members who seek assistance from the legal literacy volunteer end up returning to take part in one of the Neighbourhood House's programs, Ms Lowe said.
Although majority of support required is with Centrelink forms, a number of people come in for advice about neighbour disputes, property ownership, aged-pension requirements and divorce.
"It is that instant access to specialised advice," Ms Lowe said.
The community legal centre recently received funding through the 2019 Solicitors' Guarantee Fund Grants for the volunteer program.
The money is only enough to keep the program running until June 30 this year.
A four-year funding request has been submitted to the state government and Ms Snare is hopeful the money will be allocated in the upcoming state budget.
"We've battled for the past five years for funding for the legal literacy program," Ms Snare said.
If the program is successful in securing the cash the legal centre plans to more forward with a statewide expansion of the legal literacy volunteer program.
Each year the legal literacy volunteers provide nearly 17,300 hours of work to the community.
The legal centre is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free legal advice and assistance to the Northern community.
A drop-in after-hours legal clinic runs at the centre every Wednesday from 5.30pm to 7pm.
The clinic is not means tested and is run by experienced volunteer lawyers from private firms in Launceston.
It operates on a first come, first served basis and, due to its success and demand, they often need to turn people away.
"We always direct people who we turn away to the free Legal Aid advice line or give the person options if we can't see them," she said.
The community legal centre's office is on York Street in Launceston.