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Our Expertise

Pro Bono

As experienced and enthusiastic believers of Pro Bono, at Russell Kennedy we strive to make a difference and create positive change for our community.

We are a signatory to the Australian Pro Bono Centre's Aspirational Target for pro bono legal work and have proudly exceeded the Target in recent years. We are very active in our community, with many staff members volunteering their time and expertise to committees, boards and various community-focused roles.  

We give back to the community.

For Russell Kennedy, Pro Bono legal work involves the provision of free legal services which will enhance access to justice for disadvantaged persons or organisations and/or promote the public interest.

Russell Kennedy also provides non-legal pro bono services, such as free community legal education, policy and research work for law reform, administrative and litigation support, staff secondments to community organisations and financial or in-kind assistance.

Australian Pro Bono Centre’s Aspirational Target

Russell Kennedy has been a signatory to the Australian Pro Bono Centre’s Aspirational Target since 2011. The desired target is a minimum of 35 hours of pro bono legal work per lawyer, per year.

Our Pro Bono Priorities

Russell Kennedy is committed to providing access to justice to people who have a special vulnerability.

We assess pro bono referrals in light of their relevance to human rights principles. 

We also pay tribute to our staff through the annual presentation of our Pro Bono Award to a member of our team who has significantly contributed to our pro bono efforts.

Our clients

We provide pro bono legal assistance and other forms of support to a large number of not for profit organisations including the Cancer Council of Victoria, Legacy Melbourne, The Luke Batty Foundation, the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House), Environmental Justice Australia, East Timor Hearts Fund, Hanover Welfare Services, the Mental Health Legal Centre’s Board, Sacred Heart Mission and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

Our lawyers also participate in the Fair Work Commission Duty Lawyer Scheme and the Cancer Council's Pro Bono Legal Referral Service.

Russell Kennedy considers it essential to establish innovative partnerships with community legal centres, social services organisations and relevant government bodies.

Notable work

Emma Dunlevie our Pro Bono Manager was the recipient of the 'Access to Justice Award' for 2018 as part of the 14th Victorian Legal Awards.

The award recognised Emma’s work in building innovative partnerships with the Community Legal Sector, and her coordination efforts in the refugee sector at a time of critical legal need.  For many years, she has managed strategic refugee and citizenship litigation, the ASRC/RK legal clinic for asylum seekers, and chaired the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minor Consortium. Emma’s leadership has resulted in many hundreds of vulnerable people receiving legal assistance.

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Citizenship delays 

In 2016, in collaboration with the Refugee Council of Australia, Russell Kennedy successfully challenged the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s unreasonable and discriminatory delays in granting citizenship to people from refugee backgrounds in BMF16 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection [2016] FCA 1530.

This case was significant and potentially affects over 10,000 people awaiting a decision on their citizenship application.

Asylum Seeker Clinic

Since February 2016, Russell Kennedy has partnered with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to run a fortnightly clinic to assist “Legacy Caseload” asylum seekers prepare their protection visa applications.  Russell Kennedy is proud of this partnership which assists the most vulnerable in our community and seeks to address an unprecedented situation of unmet legal need and lack of legal funding. Read more here.

Access to Justice Award 2017

Russell Kennedy is proud to be part of the Legacy Caseload Working Group which received the Access to Justice Award in the 13th Victorian Legal Awards.

The Legacy Caseload Working Group was initiated by the LIV in 2015 to explore options for responding to the unmet legal need arising from the “fast track” process and to ensure a coordinated response in providing legal assistance.

Partnership with Peninsula Community Legal Centre

Russell Kennedy also has a long-standing partnership with Peninsula Community Legal Centre. Under this partnership we provide training in specific areas of law, legal advice, and mentoring programmes, along with ad hoc initiatives. A key focus of our pro bono work is in providing services that strengthen the capability of lawyers and community sector workers to support women and children affected by family violence.

Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

Russell Kennedy chairs the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors (UHM) Consortium, which engages in advocacy and litigation to obtain the best possible outcomes for young refugees and their families.  In September 2014 the UHM Consortium was the recipient of the national Children’s Law Award for Outstanding Legal Representation.


Russell Kennedy successfully acted for a Hazara asylum seeker in the significant decision of Minister for Immigration and Citizenship v SZQRB [2013] FCAFC33.

This established important legal precedents and led to the reassessment of the refugee applications of hundreds of asylum seekers.

The Luke Batty Foundation

Russell Kennedy worked with Rosie Batty to set up a foundation in honour of her late son Luke. Rosie campaigns tirelessly to increase awareness of domestic violence and support for its victims, and was named Australian of the Year for 2015.

Criteria for pro bono selection

All applications for pro bono assistance are means tested or referred from Justice Connect, a community legal centre or other not-for-profit organisation, and are assessed against Russell Kennedy’s Pro Bono Policy.

An individual or organisation may not meet the means test but may otherwise qualify for pro bono assistance if the matter raises an issue of public interest which would not otherwise be pursued if not for pro bono assistance.


The firm is a proud member of Justice Connect and the Law Institute of Victoria legal assistance scheme (LIVLAS) and will accept referrals in matters where we have the capacity and expertise to assist. 

Justice Connect's Not-for-profit Law Information Hub is now available nationwide. Previously this service was only available to not-for-profit organisations and charities in Victoria and New South Wales. For rural and regional charities and other not-for-profits, access to legal services is particularly difficult and expensive. To access helpful free resources and services available online for not-for-profit organisation, including fact sheets, webinars and more, click here.