"I find volunteering with FLAC rewarding both professionally and personally" – interview with Aoife Masterson, on National Volunteer Week 2019

16 May 2019

Aoife Masterson volunteer16052019

Interview with Aoife Masterson - FLAC Volunteer Assistant

What clinics do you volunteer at?

I volunteer as an assistant at the Aungier Street clinic and I usually do the general clinic, but also do the family and employment law clinic.

You started the student FLAC in Griffith College. What did you know about FLAC before you started it?

So I started the student FLAC in Griffith because I had seen some information booklets on the PILA and FLAC events, so I got curious about what FLAC was and saw that it provided legal assistance and that there were student societies that already existed in other colleges.

So what made you volunteer at the FLAC clinics?

What made me volunteer was that I started volunteering in the FLAC clinics when I was working with FLAC. I suppose I saw that there was a need for volunteers and that there was a huge demand on the FLAC clinics. So that’s how I found out about the FLAC clinics, and why I volunteered.

Over the years, the clinics haven’t got any less busy. At the time when I was working in FLAC, and even as a student I knew that there were difficulties with the cost and delays in people accessing legal aid or a private solicitor, and since I’ve been volunteering that hasn’t changed.

What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of assisting at the clinics?

I find volunteering with FLAC rewarding both professionally and personally – personally I find it really rewarding as you meet people in really difficult situations and at the end of the clinic, maybe their situation hasn’t changed but you know that they are more empowered to deal with the situation as they have more information. So even if they are going through a tough time, you have been able to assist them in some way. Even if you can’t find an exact solution, you can still put them on the right path. It focusses people’s minds on the issue, and it turns from a blanket issue to specific matters that they need to address.

Also professionally, meeting colleagues and people who have a similar interest – and (taking) the CPD courses.

What would you find the most challenging part of volunteering at FLAC clinics?

I think the most challenging is that so many people come in and you only have 15-20 minutes with each person – so no matter what the issue, you can’t spend any longer with them and you don’t get to follow up with them.

People may be waiting some time before they get to see you so their issue may have snowballed in the time between when they have booked the appointment and they have got to see you. Even if it is only a matter of days, if it is a landlord and tenant issue that can develop quite quickly. There are not enough people (volunteers) for the need!

Finally…what would you say to anyone considering volunteering?

I think that it is the most rewarding thing, personally, that I have ever done. A lot of the time people who come into the clinics are looking for advice, and they are looking for an independent point of view – someone who is not a friend or family member, but someone who is going to give them solid advice. And sometimes it can even just be very practical advice that isn’t necessarily legal – just something that they need guidance on. I would say that you would be surprised at how much you know! It’s also a great way of keeping up-to-date on your general legal skills. I work in human rights and policy so it’s a great way for me to keep up-to-date on developments generally. And you have the resources there, so if it is something you’re not sure of on the night you have access to a computer and you can always say to someone to call back to a specialised clinic.