The Amazing Denise Gardner
Last year, 2017, marked Denise Gardner’s 27th year of employment at the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre and in November 2016 Denise received the 2017 Tim McCoy Award* for outstanding contribution above the call of duty in protecting and promoting human rights and justice for people and communities in Victoria.
In front of a crowd of more than 300 CLC workers and luminaries of Victoria’s legal assistance sector, Denise shared in the $1000 prize money and will go down in community legal centre history now alongside a long list of extraordinary CLC activists, programs and centres who have been past recipient’s.
Denise is perhaps the longest serving, continuously employed legal worker in the entire Victorian community legal sector.
For most of the twenty-seven years with us Denise has worked as a Migration Agent, seeing many hundreds of clients from the most war-torn parts of the planet and has borne witness to the relentless changes to global migration patterns, Australian Government refugee policies and Immigration Department name changes.
Denise has listened to, helped, supported and reunited families from Chin and Karen regions in Burma, Ethiopia, Sudan, El Salvador, Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Tibet to name just a few. Many of Denise’s clients haven’t seen their husbands, or wives or children for years, some for decades. Almost all of her clients have experienced horrific abuse, torture or imprisonment. On many occasions Denise has accompanied her clients to the airports as they wait to see their loved ones again after so many years. Her desk is surrounded by photos of smiling families hugging Denise with utmost appreciation.
We are immensely proud to have Denise here at Flem Ken. Denise’s long history at the centre means that her knowledge of the community is second to none. Her skills and experience is immensely valued not just by us, but by so many clients, workers and families throughout Victoria.
* The annual award is given in the name of social justice advocate and community lawyer Tim McCoy (1956-1987).