Entrepreneur and Venture Advice Clinic Outreach on Kangaroo Island – Bushfire Recovery and Business Beyond

On 6-7 September 2021, we were invited to Kangaroo Island by the Bushfire Community Legal Project and the Department of Innovation and Skills, as student advisors of the Entrepreneur and Venture Advice Clinic (EVAC). In response to the 2020 bushfires which were particularly devastating on Kangaroo Island, Community Legal Centres SA (CLCSA) established the Bushfire Community Legal Project to provide legal support and outreach to the affected communities. 

We were invited to present to the local community in the Kangaroo Island Business Hub in Kingscote on the key aspects of law that should be considered when starting up and running a business, as well as to conduct a series of local client interviews as part of EVAC’s legal advice services. EVAC is a free legal service, offered within the Clinical Legal Education program at the Adelaide Law School. Within EVAC, students provide free and confidential legal advice to small businesses and individuals on legal matters under the supervision of expert legal practitioners from Cowell Clarke and O’Loughlins Lawyers.

Day 1

We arrived in Kangaroo Island a mere 25 minutes after we set-off from Adelaide, and began our 2-day trip with a tour around some of the Island’s bushfire-affected areas. Holly, who works in the Bushfire Community Legal Project from CLCSA, talked to us about the impact that the 2020 bushfires – the largest bushfires in Kangaroo Island’s recent history – have had on business, farming, and tourism on the Island. The devastation was apparent in the blackened trees still lining the roads, and the national parks almost entirely destroyed by fire. But, amongst that devastation, we also saw signs of regrowth, and of a community rebuilding.

Holly talked to us about the ongoing recovery process. She described how Kangaroo Island’s unique plant-life is gradually regenerating, and how its diverse wildlife population is slowly returning to the fresh vegetation. She spoke of the strength of the Kangaroo Island community, rebuilding their homes and livelihoods and already preparing for the next bushfire season. At the end of our tour, astounded by both the staggering extent of the bushfires and the resilience of Kangaroo Island’s residents, we were eager to meet some locals and present our Entrepreneur and Venture Advice to them.

The presentation, which took place in person in Kingscote and over Zoom with attendees across KI, was a huge success. In our presentation, we addressed seven fundamental components of setting-up and running a business, including business structures, intellectual property law, contracting, insurance, Australian Consumer Law, insolvency, and business succession. Though our estimated presentation time was one hour, the attendees were so eager to ask questions that we ended up talking to them for over two hours!  Overall, the presentation fostered interesting discussion with attendees on a broad range of legal topics, and also provided a number of new considerations for their current or future business ventures. 

Day 2

On the second and final day of our visit to Kangaroo Island, we were given a practical opportunity to develop our interviewing and communication skills. These interviews took place in the Kangaroo Island Business Hub, a shared community space where we had given our presentation to an engaged and enthusiastic audience the previous night, managed by Susi and the Department of Innovation and Skills.

With five interviews booked and a waitlist ready, it was clear that Kangaroo Island residents were interested in accessible legal advice for their businesses and start up ideas. Due to COVID-19, this was the first opportunity in 2021 for EVAC Advisors to conduct client interviews face-to-face; a majority of the interviews were also not booked with any background information or context provided. As a result, we were required to engage in a fact-finding process that differed greatly from the interviews previously conducted over Zoom in Adelaide. The clients were not only accommodating to the restricted volume levels we had to consider while conducting interviews, due to the nature of a shared community space, but also caught us up on the relevant farming and context-specific terms with grace.

The interviews were conducted by two students, while the third student prepared for the upcoming interview by gathering information from the next client. The varied legal issues faced by clients and discussed in the interviews provided us with an opportunity to consider complex legal problems across a spectrum of business fields. From agricultural breeding questions to generational trust issues, our day of interviewing provided invaluable practical experience. 

Once the interviews were completed and we had finished packing up our workspace, the only thing left to do was head to the airport and wait for our flight back to the mainland. While our trip was short and sweet, the practical experience in public-speaking and client interviewing this opportunity provided was invaluable. Being able to assist a community previously devastated by bushfires with access to free commercial legal advice was an extremely rewarding part of our visit to Kangaroo Island.

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