University and Community Paralegal Clinics: A Decade of Collaboration between Indonesia and Australia

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 ZulminarniThis 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.


Episode 17: Ashley Chow and Christian Lane

In this episode of the Scarlet Letter, I chat with two of our current Monash Law students, Ashley Chow and Christian Lane. Ashley and Christian have recently been involved in setting up a new resource for law students called A Reasonable Standard: Wellbeing for Law Students ( A Reasonable Standard features student-created content centring around mental health and wellbeing, and aims to combat the stigma surrounding mental health, failure and the isolation experienced by many students.

Check out the latest episode of our podcast, the Scarlet Letter.

Family Violence, Gender Equality and Sustainable Development at Monash University

On World Human Rights Day, the last day of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, I wanted to share with you the text of the keynote address I gave at Monash University on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on 27 November 2018.

This piece was published in Monash Lens today.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts, please comment below. Thanks!

Gender equality: it’s everyone’s business

On 6 December 1989, Marc Lépine walked into an engineering class at École Polytechnique de l’Université de Montréal. He separated women from the men in class and shouted to the women, “You are all feminists” as he shot the women, killing 14 and injuring 13. He then killed himself. Lépine, it appears, was disgruntled at how he perceived women were able to advance at the expense of men.

The anniversary of this event falls in what we now recognise in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. These 16 days are a UN campaign run from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. These are the days when we galvanise action to end violence against women and girls around the world.

I want to be clear about what gender equality is. Gender equality means that women, men and gender-diverse people are able to participate fully in all spheres of Australian life, contributing to an inclusive and democratic society.

Gendered violence

Globally, the first systemic international review of the prevalence of violence against women found that gendered violence affected more than one third of all women. An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day.

Across Australia, one in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15. More than one in six women in Australia (16 per cent) aged over 18 has experienced physical violence at the hands of a current or former intimate partner since the age of 15 years. This compares with one in 17 men.

So far this year, 66 Australian women have died from violence, far more than the often-quoted figure of one women per week. In case you thought things were getting better, in 2017 this was 53 deaths. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 3.1 times more likely to report experiencing violence than non-Indigenous women. A disabled woman in Australia is twice as likely to experience violence from a cohabiting partner than a woman without a disability.

On university campuses, the picture does not, unfortunately, look better. The Australian Human Rights Commission showed us that about half of all university students in Australia reported being sexually harassed at least once in 2016, and 6.9 per cent of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. Female students were almost twice as likely to be harassed and more than three times as likely to be sexually assaulted than male students.

Men were most likely to be the perpetrators. Very disturbingly, students who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander were more likely than women who did not identify as Indigenous to be sexually assaulted or harassed at university. Students with a disability and those who identify as bisexual or gay, lesbian or homosexual were more likely to report sexual harassment or assault in university settings than other students.

Students reported knowing the perpetrator about half of the time. Where they knew the perpetrator, more than two thirds of those harassed said that the perpetrator(s) of the most recent incident was a student from their university.

And these numbers, we know, do not represent the true picture of family violence; 82 per cent of women and a whopping 95 per cent of men who experienced violence by a current partner have never reported it to police.

Gender equality

In 2015, I worked as a policy and research officer at the Royal Commission into Family Violence. There I led the commission’s work on the intersection of family violence with family law and child protection. The commission produced a blueprint for identifying, responding to and reducing family violence in Victoria. The Victorian government has committed to an ambitious whole-of-government reform agenda to create the most comprehensive response to family violence in any jurisdiction, ever.

At the royal commission I learnt about the connection between family violence and gender inequality. In his opening address, counsel assisting the royal commission Mark Moshinsky stated:

“What causes family violence? … Some things are clearly known, and they can be a useful starting point. In the context of intimate partner violence against women, multi-country surveys indicate that in countries where men and women have more equal relationships, the prevalence of intimate partner violence against women is measurably lower. This suggests a strong correlation between gender imbalances and violence against women.”

In other words, there is a clear causal link between family and sexual violence and gender inequality. We tend to look at the causes of violence against women from a range of perspectives, including individual, relationship, community and societal level risk factors that led women to experience intimate partner and sexual violence (known as the “ecological model“).

Focusing on the big picture, what are the causes of family violence on the community and societal level?

At a community level, factors that support violence against women include:

  • weak community sanctions against violence;
  • limited access to sanctuary for abused women; and
  • poverty.

At a societal level, factors that support violence against women include:

  • where men are viewed by society as superior and of higher social status compared to women;
  • where men are socialised to believe that they are superior to women, should dominate their partners and endorse traditional gender roles;
  • where men have economic and decision-making power in households;
  • where women do not have easy access to divorce; and
  • where adults routinely resort to violence to resolve their conflicts.

These factors point us in the clear direction of gender equality when we as a community are trying to think about family and sexual violence prevention. If we want to make our community feel and be safer for women, it can’t just be gender and women’s specialists who do the work.

Nor can we see violence against women solely as a women’s issue. The same social structures that enable men to harm women also restrict men. Last month, the Men’s Project realised the first comprehensive study on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30.

They found that among these young men, a set of beliefs that they brilliantly termed “The Man Box” is alive and well in Australia today. This set of beliefs within and across society places pressure on men to be a certain way:

Young men who most strongly agree with these rules reported poorer levels of mental health, engaged in risky drinking, were more likely to be in car accidents and to report committing acts of violence, online bullying and sexual harassment.

We need to think about the problems that men and women face not as competing priorities for change but as part of the same toxic social problem.

It’s all of our job to fix this.

Global evidence gathered to date clearly demonstrates that improvements in gender equality accrue significant economic benefits, including greater productivity, higher GDP and reduced government spending. Every day that we fail to deliver gender equality, we pay the economic price.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development connects and balances environment sustainability, social inequality and economic development. Sustainable development does address living within our environmental means, but it’s much more than that. It also enables us to consider what we need to create strong, healthy and just societies that meet the needs of diverse people. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations members in 2015 aim to promote economic prosperity and a fair go for all while safeguarding a thriving environment.

Sustainable development holds great potential for us in thinking about our most difficult social problems, including gender inequality and violence against women and girls.

We can look at gender equality across all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Additionally, goal five relates specifically to gender equality and requires us to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. The goal has nine targets associated with it:

What I think is most remarkable about sustainable development is that it requires us to work in interdisciplinary ways. By connecting social inequality with environmental sustainability and economic development, we have to think big and beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries that tend to thrive within universities.

No matter what you do or who you are, it is your job to make our community safer for all of us, regardless of gender, sexuality, race or disability.

We can no longer claim that the task of addressing gender is someone else’s business. We need to be the change we want to see in the world.

This is an edited extract of a speech delivered by Dr Becky Batagol at the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women, at Monash University.

This article was first published on Monash Lens. Read the original article