Back to basics

You don't always need a lawyer. Sometimes you just need to be pointed in the right direction so you can make a better choice. 

Our checklists can help you ask the right questions so you can avoid talking to us all together (just kidding, please still come talk to us. We're nice, I promise).

We don't recommend you try to bluff your way through criminal proceedings or contractual issues that could cost a lot of money if you get it wrong. Legal & Advocacy can answer your questions in person, over the phone, or via email so please get advice if you think you need to talk to a professional.

Buying a new (used) car

Before buying a car privately (directly from the owner) always do your own checks. ALWAYS. 

Private sellers don’t have to play by the traditional rules, and if something goes wrong, you’ll have to wear it.

Have you: 

Met the seller at their home address (and taken someone with you)?

Checked that the home address is the same as the one on the registration certificate? 

Asked the seller for:

  • current certificate of registration (and check rego history): 
  • a pink slip 
  • proof that the person selling the car is the owner e.g. driver’s licence to (so you can compare with rego info)
  • the registration number
  • the engine number
  • the VIN (vehicle identification number) 
  • the CTP (green slip) Insurer, and confirmed that the policy is current?
  • Arranged for a mechanic to inspect the car and take it for a test drive? 
  • Checked if money is still owing (the loan follows the car, not the borrower so you could be stuck with someone else’s debt, or the car can be repossessed)
  • If you’re making a payment or even just a deposit, got a receipt with the seller’s full details on it? 

Make sure to register the car with within RMS within 14 days of purchase

Before buying from an auction

  • Arrange an inspection prior to auction day (you won’t be able to test drive)
  • Make sure you check what deposit is necessary on the day (it might be 10 per cent or a set fee)
  • Check the currency of the pink slip (registered vehicles) or blue slip (unregistered vehicles) is not more than 28 days old
  • Check if Form 11 is displayed (on the car or the auction)
    • This means that the usual statutory warranties and protections don’t apply
  • REMEMBER if you are the winning bid, you are entering into a legally binding contract to purchase the car

Buying from dealership

Dealers have to stand by guarantees (no money owing, mechanically sound, not stolen etc) so buyers have more protection. 

New Job Checklist

All employees are protected under the Fair Work Act, even if there is no written agreement. But who has time to read that? 

Here's a quick cheat sheet to what you should know before starting a new job so you can get busy thinking up ways to spend all that money you're about to make.

Before you start any job you should ask:

  • Are you a casual, part-time or full-time employee?
  • Are you being paid the correct wage?
    • The minimum for employees over 20 yo is $17.70 (extra if you are a casual employee) so anything less is illegal.
  • How often will you be paid and how?
    • You should be paid at least monthly but check your award as you may be entitled to be paid sooner 
    • It is OK to be paid in cash as long as your employer complies with all their other legal requirements, like pay slips, withholding tax and paying your super 
  • What are your regular hours of work?
    • Casuals should be paid for a minimum of 4 hours each shift. 
  • Are you are entitled to overtime or penalty loadings for weekend shifts etc?
    • This should be "yes" for casuals
  • Do you get an allowance/reimbursement if you have to travel or wear a uniform?

If you don't receive a written agreement from your employer recording these conditions, send an email describing what you discussed and agreed to. For example:

"As we discussed, I have been hired as a casual food server at your restaurant starting on 1 July. My pay is $22.15 an hour (plus super) for two regular shifts of 4 hours every Wednesday and Saturday (5-9pm), and I will be paid by EFT every fortnight." 

Things to do

  • If you have a smartphone, download the "Record My Wages" app from Fair Work so you can easily keep track of the hours you worked (and to make sure you are being paid correctly!)

Give your employer:

  • Tax File Declaration Form
  • Superannuation Standard Choice Form
  • Bank account details

Things to watch out for

  • Are you being paid less than the minimum wage in exchange for equity in the business or mentoring? 
  • Have you been asked to supply an ABN or told you are a contractor?
  • Is the probation or training period unpaid?
  • Can your employer make changes to the agreement or your position without your consent?
  • Does the contract say that you can’t work for a competitor company after your employment ends?
  • Who owns IP (intellectual property)?
    • If you create something as part of your job (e.g., a product, presentation, picture, web content) your employer owns that intellectual property, and can use it however they want. Employees will generally retain moral rights to IP but check your agreement (this may be important if you are a photographer/artist and you want to later display your work in a portfolio).  
    • BUT anything created in your own time, and with your own resources is all yours AND employers can’t claim anything created before you started the job. 
  • Are there any references to employment policies that are not included in the agreement?
  • If yes, always ask for a copy. You could be agreeing to something without knowing what it is.

If you see any of these in a contract (or your boss tells you) get advice!

Always read any contract carefully. If you don’t understand it, don’t sign it. And never be pressured into signing something on the spot or without talking to someone first.

What to do if you've been in a car accident

At the scene of the crash


  • Ask for the other driver’s name, address, contact number.
  • Ask to see their licence so that you get their licence number and current address (important if you need to send a letter of demand).
  • Check if they own the vehicle. If not, get the name and address of owner. 
  • Take photos of the crash scene BEFORE any cars are moved. The position of your vehicle (or the other car) may be important in determining who’s at fault. Also take photos of both cars and any damage (both close up and in context) including the licence plate of the other car.
  • Get the contact details of any witnesses.
  • Take notes of the crash circumstances. Where was the other car coming from, time of day, what was the lighting like, visibility of signs/traffic lights, the condition of the road etc. 
  • Under no circumstances should you make any admissions as to fault as this may invalidate your insurance policy and also prejudice any police or civil action against you. 

Note: You must give your details to any other drivers involved, and to anyone injured in the accident. Never leave the scene of an crash without giving your details (this is an offence).

If someone is injured call 000 immediately, BUT you don’t have to call the police unless:

  • someone is killed or injured, 
  • any drivers are under the influence of drugs/alcohol, 
  • the car needs to be towed 
  • it's a multi vehicle crash or 
  • if the other driver does not provide their details to you. 

If a car needs to be towed, you can organise your own and report it to police later. Police don't have to attend the crash scene but you must report to the nearest police station within 24 hours.

If you are injured, call the Motor Accidents Authority (MAA) Claims Advisory Service on 1300 656 919 ASAP (time limits apply so don’t wait). 

Get quotes! 

If you are insured, you can decide whether to make a claim or sue the other driver. If you make a claim, you will likely have to pay an excess (although most policies provide that if a crash is not your fault, the excess is not payable so check with your Insurer first). Suing someone can be a pain so let the Insurers fight it out instead.  

If you do need to send a letter of demand, click here.

Need more information? 

Check out this fact sheet from Legal Aid


Money doesn’t buy happiness … but nothing in life is free. Want a dollar for every time you hear an unhelpful aphorism? If you’re owed money, or owe it, pretty platitudes about it won’t help you. 

Take practical steps to do something about it before you get swept away and drown in debt.

If you are chasing money…

1. Send a letter of demand 

  • Specify a date for payment (7 -14 days is good)
  • Threaten legal action
  • If they don’t respond, don’t write another letter – proceed directly to Step 2

2. File a Statement of Claim at the Local Court

  • For debts under $10,000: Small Claims Division of the Local Court
  • For debts between $10,000 and $100,000: General Division of the Local Court
  • You don’t need to be represented by a lawyer, and Legal & Advocacy can help you prepare the court documents

3. Get ready to have your day in Court 

  • You will need to show evidence of the debt e.g. a contract, paid invoices, a quote from a business. Small claims cases are heard before as assessor who will mostly make a decision based on the documents you submit

4. If you win, have a dance party! 

5. If the other person doesn’t file a defence, ask for a default judgment against them meaning they have to pay up without it going to a hearing 

6. If they still don’t pay, the court can:

  • Garnish their wages
  • Seize and sell their assets
  • Force bankruptcy

FYI: If you don’t have the postal address of the person who owes you money, you’re stuffed. Use the electoral roll, call council, stalk them off FB. The court can’t help, if you can’t mail them a letter.

If money is chasing you … 

1. Ignore any letter of demand you get in the mail; sometimes people give up. 

2. If they are persistent and you get a Statement of Claim in the mail, DON’T IGNORE IT!

  • We can help you file a Defence 
  • You only have 28 days 

3. If you agree that you owe the money, you can apply to pay by installments to save time and costs

4. If you do nothing the court can order a default judgment (for the entire debt claimed + costs) against you and can: 

  • Garnish wages
  • Seize and sell assets
  • Bankruptcy

FYI: Court judgments are recorded on your credit file for 5 years 

Traffic Infringements & Penalty Notices

So you’ve received a penalty notice in the mail? To ignore, or not to ignore - that is the question. 

You have 3 options:

  1. Request a review through the State Debt Recovery Office
  2. Elect to go to court
  3. Do nothing.

We do not advise option 3. I repeat, WE DO NOT ADVISE OPTION 3! For information on options 1 & 2 click here

If your due date for payment comes and goes, and you do nothing, you will be sent an enforcement order and be required to pay an additional $65. 

However if you ignore the order, s%&t will get real. The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS, or the government department formerly known as RTA) can suspend your licence, cancel you registration, and you guessed it, charge more fees! There may even come a time when civil penalties apply, like having your wages/bank accounts garnished to pay off the debt.

If you have received an enforcement order after non-payment of the penalty reminder, it’s not too late. You may still dispute it here

If you received an enforcement order after going to court, you will need to appeal the decision by contacting the court who issued the order. 

Challenging a fine (SDRO)

If you think you were wrongly issued with a traffic fine, your first step is to write to the State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO) and request a review (do it before the due date listed on the penalty notice). 

There are two approaches to challenge a traffic fine:

Factual basis

What were you accused of doing? Did you do it? How can you prove you didn’t? 

The first question can be answered by looking at the fine. Check the relevant offence here and then look at the corresponding Road Rule.

You should now be able to answer the second question.

Your answer to the third question will depend on the first two:

  • If it was a parking ticket, take photos of your car as parked, the street signs, the distance from other cars, the curb, post boxes, road markings – you may not know what evidence you need until you get home and do some research so take as many photos as you can and delete the ones you don’t need. (though realistically, you should have an idea of what the offence is and what to take photos of).
  • If it relates to a meter offence, include a copy of the valid ticket, or evidence of a broken parking meter
  • If it is a speeding/red light offence, ask for a copy of the photo from the safety camera. Does it show your car/rego? 
  • Were you the driver? If not, nominate the driver here.

If the above is not applicable,

Beg for Mercy

Are there exceptional circumstances for why the penalty was incurred? The most common is a medical emergency and you will need to provide supporting documentation.

Do you have a clean driving record (no offences in the past 10 years?) Note: you can only use this for fines other than parking fines. Also, SDRO will check your driving history, so don’t say you have a clean record if your licence has been suspended 3 times.

Be aware that there are some fines that will not be considered for review on the basis of leniency (mostly where the offence is against public safety e.g. school zone offences, mobile hone offences etc.).  

What happens now? 

There are 3 possible outcomes:

  • The penalty stands, and you still have to pay the fine;
  • You are issued with a caution which means you don’t have to pay the fine but the offence is still recorded against your name;
  • The fine is cancelled because it was incorrectly issued.  

A more thorough breakdown of applicable circumstances can be found in the SDRO Guidelines for review.

Challenging a fine in Court

If a review with the SDRO was unsuccessful, you have 28 days to elect to go to court

You will be sent a Court Attendance Notice which will tell you when you need to attend.

If you plead not guilty, you will be a given a hearing date and a magistrate will decide your case. At the hearing you can give evidence and call witnesses.

If you plead guilty, you will be given an opportunity to explain the circumstances surrounding the offence, which may lessen the penalty. Are there mitigating circumstances? 

In either case, you do not need to be represented by a lawyer. What you need to argue and use as evidence is similar to challenging the fine with SDRO. See here.

You need to assess your case carefully. Unless you genuinely believe that the fine should not have been issued (and you can prove it), we don't advise going to court. If you plead or are found guilty, you will have to pay penalty imposed by the judge (which can be higher than the original fine) plus an additional $88 for court costs. 

Note: You can't have the fine reviewed by SDRO and elect to go to court at the same time. Always ask for a review of the fine with SDRO first. 

Plagiarism Quick Guide

Twinsies! Sorry to bust one of the greatest myths at University but there is no such thing as an acceptable level of similarity.

If you have receive an allegation notice, don’t ignore it or a decision will be made without you. If you have to submit a statement in response, request a copy of your Turnitin report and:

  1. Introduce yourself 
    • Explain your background 
    • What degree are you studying 
    • Your year of study 
    • Are you new to writing referenced assessments?
  2. Acknowledge it and apologise 
  3. Give a brief summary of your understanding of plagiarism and what you did wrong
    • The investigator wants to know that you know  
  4. Explain why it happened:
    • Poor paraphrasing but you tried?
    • Genuine lack of referencing knowledge? 
    • Lack of experience writing researched assignments? 
    • Time poor and stressed? 
    • Carelessness? 
  5. Offer any mitigating circumstances
    • Health issues ?
    • Family problems ?
    • Work commitments? (although this isn't a great reason, we understand that students need to work to support themselves).

Rent Right

Everyone tells you what to do, so we’re going to tell you what not to do.

Most of our advice involves not giving money to strangers.


  • pay more than 4 weeks bond or 2 weeks rent 
  • pay money for a property you haven’t seen
  • pay money without a receipt
  • enter an agreement with a landlord if you don't:
    • know their name or home address (ask to see their driver's licence, it will save time); 
    • have a written agreement; 
  • live in an unsafe/overcrowded property
  • go on a rent strike
  • let anyone threaten or bully you into making an agreement you don’t want (especially if it is written)
  • think that unwritten agreements aren’t legal – they can be and entering into a legal agreement makes you responsible to the landlord for paying rent and compensation if you decide to leave early
  • leave a property without taking photos (to show it is clean and undamaged – this will protect your bond)
  • be afraid to speak up and ask for help 

If you are not sure about something, ask us for advice before you pay any money.

Arc Reception

P:(02) 9065 0900

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A:Gate 5 on High St, UNSW

Legal & Advocacy

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