Your Matters Matter – Jean

Humanitarian Stories

Your Matters Matter – Jean

By Andrew Osborne

Jean, a pensioner who suffers from depression and anxiety, was referred to Salvos Legal Humanitarian’s Goodna office by a private law firm after Jean was refused Legal Aid.  Jean needed assistance with an Application for a Peace and Good Behaviour order and supporting affidavit brought against one of Jean’s neighbours.

It all started approximately two years before, when Jean agreed to help her neighbour in the small block of units where she lives with the writing of a letter. Her neighbour did not have strong writing skills and Jean thought it would be a good gesture to help the neighbour. In gratitude, Jean’s neighbour presented her with several pieces of needlepoint. They were a gift and a symbol of thanks for Jean’s help.

In May 2016, Jean was alerted by loud banging at her front door. When Jean went to the door see what was causing the noise, she saw that it was the neighbour she had assisted with the letter writing. Her neighbour started to shout and hurl abuse at Jean, demanding the return of the needlework and saying words to the effect of, “you’re not worthy of it”.

At this stage, Jean had no idea what her neighbour was talking about. However, it quickly emerged that the neighbour was referring to the pieces of needlepoint that were given to Jean some time earlier.

The verbal abuse continued for several weeks, with Jean’s neighbour continuing to threaten and abuse Jean when she went outside her unit. It also happened that during this period a number of Jean’s prize-winning plants were poisoned or stolen. Jean had her suspicions but could prove nothing.

One day in June 2016, everything changed. Jean had made tea for a wheelchair-bound friend and had spent the afternoon with her. After having a lovely time with her friend, Jean prepared to return to her unit. As she headed towards her unit, Jean was confronted by her neighbour with whom there was growing tension. Her neighbour began speaking very loudly to Jean, saying words to the effect of, “I am coming to pick up my things”.

Jean, assuming that her neighbour was talking about the needlework, informed her neighbour that she believed that she no longer had the items.

Jean had recently cleaned her unit and could not recall seeing the needlework.

This news angered and upset Jean’s neighbour, who immediately started shouting that she was going to Jean’s unit for “her money”. Jean, in an effort to avoid a confrontation with the neighbour and be safe, tried to enter her unit. As Jean went to open her front door, the neighbour tried to rush past and enter Jean’s unit.

Jean was pushed against her own front door while her neighbour, now extremely angry, started screaming in her face words to the effect of, “you call yourself a Christian?”, as well as numerous curses, while raising her hands towards Jean’s face in a threatening manner. At this point Jean was rescued by a friend who took Jean to a safe place to calm down.

Later that day, Jean visited the Police Station with her brother, where she was advised to seek a Peace and Good Behaviour Order. While there were no further physical altercations between Jean and her neighbour, the verbal abuse and damage to her plants continued.

The referral from the private law firm was timely. Salvos Legal Humanitarian appeared for Jean in Court, where dates were set for the filing of affidavits, and a date for a preliminary hearing was set. Affidavits for Jean and her witnesses were prepared, filed and served on the other party. In addition, letters were provided by Jean’s GP and her psychologist, who detailed how the abuse was negatively impacting Jean’s mental health.

Armed with this information, there was regular contact between Salvos Legal Humanitarian and Jean in order to try and ease her anxiety regarding the matter. During this time Jean was able to find the needlework that had been the core of this issue.

At the next Court date, the Magistrate showed great understanding and asked whether there was any possibility for the matter to be resolved before he set a date for trial. Here were two senior citizens whose friendship seemed to have sadly deteriorated in recent times.

Following discussions with our client, an agreement was reached where the neighbour would cease all contact with Jean once Jean returned the needlework.

Jean was happy to agree to this, and the application brought by Jean was withdrawn and dismissed.

Jean contacted us a few days later to let us know how much she appreciated our assistance. She explained how the stress caused by the situation had exacerbated her mental health issues, and said that since the agreement, it was like a burden had been lifted and she felt free for the first time in many months.  Our assistance not only led to an outcome that all parties were happy with, but also allowed Jean to move on and once again enjoy life.

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Your Matters Matter – Jean