by Cate Sumner, Director, Law & Development Partners.
Cate Sumner and Nani Zulminarni, National Coordinator, PEKKA, Empowering Women Headed Households CSO, presented at the first of our public events on 5 December 2018 on FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES ON FAMILY LAW AND CHILD MARRIAGES CASES IN THE COURTS OF INDONESIA. Cate and Nani also presented at the University and Community Paralegal clinics in Indonesia at the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education Conference hosted by Monash University 28-30 November 2018. A more detailed analysis of women’s access to the family law courts in Indonesia can be seen at: The Second Decade – Looking Back, Looking Forward: Women’s Access to the Religious Courts of Indonesia, Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, Faculty of Law, Melbourne University The Second Decade – Looking Back, Looking Forward: Women’s Access to the Religious Courts of Indonesia No 16 (2018) by Cate Sumner with Nani Zulminarni. This blog post draws from their presentations.
Cate Sumner, Nani Zulminarni and Rachel Spencer at Monash University’s newest law clinic in Melbourne’s CBD.
The hosting by Monash University of the International Conference on Clinical Legal Education and the first symposium of the Feminist Legal Studies Group were occasions to reflect on how Monash University’s Law Clinics have contributed to improving women’s access to the family courts in Indonesia over the last decade in partnership with DFAT’s Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice.
This year Monash University celebrates 43 years of running legal clinics that simultaneously support clinical legal education opportunities for students while delivering legal advisory services to thousands of citizens who would otherwise not be able to afford a lawyer. In November 2005, Monash University’s Family Law Assistance Programme (FLAP) legal clinic at the Dandenong Family Court of Australia welcomed judges and court administrators from Indonesia’s family courts for its Muslim citizens, the Religious Courts, for the first time.
Fast forward to 2010 and a visit to the Monash FLAP clinic from Indonesia’s Supreme Court Vice Chief Justice, judges, officials from Indonesia’s Agency for National Development Planning and CSO activists involved in drafting a Supreme Court practice direction that provided the legal basis for legal aid posts in the Religious Courts. By 2018, the number of Religious Courts with legal aid posts has risen to 229 and the number of clients assisted at these legal aid posts in 2017 alone is over 185,000 women and men. As women are applicants in seven out of 10 cases brought to the Religious Courts, these legal aid posts are a service supporting women’s access to the courts for their family law cases, along with circuit court services in remote areas and the waiver of court fees for women and men facing financial disadvantage. These legal aid posts have been funded through the Indonesian national budget process since 2011 and the numbers of women and men assisted will soon reach over a million people.
In 2014 and 2015, a number of Monash University Law Faculty travelled to Indonesia to collaborate with their peers from twelve Indonesian law schools to discuss clinical legal education methods and materials. This collaboration included the community paralegal clinics run by PEKKA, the largest female heads of household CSO in Indonesia. When PEKKA was established in 2001, it aimed to address the multi-faceted poverty women heads of household face in Indonesia, particularly in conflict areas, and initially focused on women’s economic empowerment. In 2006, PEKKA began its legal empowerment programme in response to the range of legal identity and family issues faced by the PEKKA community and in 2014 commenced its community legal clinics (Klinik Hukum or KLIK). Twelve years on, PEKKA paralegals have assisted over 150,000 women and children with birth and marriage certificates, other legal identity documents as well as support to access health insurance and education scholarships.
Nani Zulminarni, founder and Director of PEKKA, emphasised at the first symposium of the Feminist Legal Studies Group that, ”The Monash University student clinics as well as Women’s Legal Services Victoria were very important examples for PEKKA to observe as we thought about how to establish a community paralegal service in Indonesia five years ago.”
With more than a decade of collaboration and exchange between Indonesian university legal clinics, PEKKA community paralegal clinics and Monash University, a range of student mobility scholarships now open up new possibilities for knowledge sharing and research. Law students undertaking a research subject as part of their degree can apply for Monash University travel scholarships to enable them to undertake primary research overseas. Both the New Colombo Plan and ACICS Law Professional Practicuum enable students to combine clinical legal interests and exchanges in Indonesia. 125 New Colombo Plan scholarship recipients were announced for 2019, including 14 students who will be based in Indonesia:
As Jazmine Elmolla, a recent Law graduate from Monash University commented on her time in Indonesia: “The most important thing was it gave me the opportunity to see how research is carried out in the field. I observed that the process of conducting student legal clinics at the UIN [Universitas Islam Negeri] was the same as at Monash University but carried out with fewer resources. Same process, same goal, same enthusiasm.”
Connecting Monash University’s Law Clinics and student mobility grants, aimed at providing students with a global perspective and network, should enable new multi-disciplinary exchanges that benefit communities both in Australia and Indonesia. The next decade of collaboration between Indonesian and Australian universities and CSOs will probably explore technology solutions that will bridge the gap between student clinics offered in state/ provincial capital cities and community paralegals, like those working in PEKKA’s clinics, at village level. The Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice supports a Women and the Law programme as part of its five-year collaboration with government and CSO partners in Indonesia.
Nani Zulminarni is the founder and Director of the largest female heads of household
organisation in Indonesia – PEKKA. For over 17 years, PEKKA has changed the way women heads of households are considered and the public services they can access for themselves and their children. In 2006 PEKKA developed a legal empowerment program in response to the marriage and family issues faced by the PEKKA community. Since then, PEKKA has trained over 2000 women as paralegals who, in turn, have assisted over 125,000 women and children with their legal issues. In 2014, PEKKA launched its legal aid clinics (KLIK), through which it provides legal advisory services to individuals at village level. Ibu Nani has received many awards in Indonesia and internationally. In 2014, she received the Lotus Leadership Award in the US for her commitment to improving the lives of young women in Asia.
For 25 years, Cate Sumner has worked in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacifc, focusing on access to justice, legal identity, human rights and judicial reform. Her career spans work with the international law frm Baker & McKenzie in Cairo, the United Nations (as a Refugee Affairs Offcer in the Gaza Strip and as Legal Offcer in Jerusalem) and the International Development Law Organisation in their offices in Manila and Sydney. Cate established Law & Development Partners in 2005 to bring together law and development specialists working in Asia and the Pacifc. Its focus is on improving access to justice for women, people with a disability, and vulnerable children. A particular focus has been how these groups are able to access the formal justice system and civil registration systems. Cate has worked in Indonesia since 2005 as an adviser on access to justice and legal identity programmes and has contributed analytical and policy papers to a range of international organisations and policy think-tanks ranging from UN Women, the World Bank Justice for the Poor Series, the Centre for Global Development and the Lowy Institute for International Policy.