Coffee with… new faces at the Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

Coffee with… Chris Walsh, Director Partnerships and Community Development

Describe your work/role at Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC).
I have recently joined ECLC as Director, Partnerships and Community Development based in Box Hill, working across the 6 local government areas in the East and spreading my time at our Box Hill, Boronia and Healesville and our outreach sites to lead, support the Intake and Assessment, Partnerships and Community development teams at ECLC.

I see the role, as building upon the many efforts of our leadership team, delivering community legal education and development activities as part of our broader legal advice, services and health justice initiatives and responses provided by ECLC.

I also have an interest in contributing to and supporting the many strategic initiatives occurring in the East, continuing to seek new partnerships and opportunities that may further support the range of emerging needs across our catchment.

What sort of work were you doing prior to starting ECLC?
I have held various roles in our community sector for over 30 years, more recently working alongside the Southern team at the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. The Southern Aboriginal Community shared so much with me during this time, humility, people’s resiliency often in adversity, ongoing systemic racism and of the many historical injustices experienced by our first Australian peoples since colonisation. My life was enriched because of this experience.

What excites and motivates you in your role?
I had always heard about the good work undertaken at ECLC and a colleague of mine rang me to say this job was advertised. My family and I live in the East and I felt it was time to work again in the east again after an 18 year gap.

It is good to return, see some familiar faces, some changes to organisations and hopefully in time contribute to relevant areas of work that intersect with ECLC and Community Legal services.
We have a real team culture at ECLC and I think working with other colleagues is always so refreshing, enabling creativity and innovation in the work we strive to do.   The agility of ECLC is refreshing as is the energy and creatively of people who are part of ECLC has helped my early days to be most enjoyable.

What is most challenging about your work?
Many others may appreciate this thought, but I always think, finding enough time in any day to do what we would need to achieve is always for me, a struggle. Sometimes we all get so involved in what we doing and believe in – that each day just flies. If anyone has good advice on not being “so time poor” I am all ears!

What strengths do you see in the EMR Community that you work with?
My short time at ECLC reminds me of how important it is to work in a grass roots community organisation that has reach to Community and impact on those people most in need.
Some of the early stories I have heard while attending meetings have helped me understand the impact of; and benefits local service delivery still has, on Community and for people accessing services.

I have been constantly reminded about the strength of partnership between health, legal and community services organisations and for new opportunities into the future.
There is no doubt the EMR network of services is very skilled at working with each other to improve our integrated systems, influencing others and bringing meaningful service system change.

Where do you recommend in Box Hill for Coffee/ Lunch/ People Watching?
For the last number of years if I have been catching up with old eastern colleagues, we have done so at the Red Cup Café in Whitehorse road Box Hill. Great coffee and a changing menu. And now I can walk there from my office!!

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?
Some days I feel we have lost sight of the importance of a good old fashioned “neighbourhood approach” enabling people, neighbours, local community to feel safe, supported and connected with each other. Stories of people feeling isolated and lonely, brings many challenges particularly with older members of our community. I am genuinely concerned with the increase of elder abuse that is happening in our Community.

Although there are many great things happening, I believe that with collaboration we can still do so much more!

Coffee with…Teresa Donegan, Elder Abuse Prevention Co-ordinator, Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC)

Describe your work/role at ECLC.
Co-ordination of the Eastern Elder Abuse Network (EEAN), Community Education & Professional Development on elder abuse prevention and identification; provision of secondary consultations and supporting ECLC’s free from violence elder abuse project in partnership with Swinburne University.

What sort of work were you doing prior to starting at ECLC?
I was working for Knox City Council as the Coordinator of Age Friendly Planning, for nearly 7 years. Prior to Knox I have worked across the functions of case management, community development, service and project management; mainly in the aged and disability sector in Melbourne and London.

What excites and motivates you in your role?
Making a difference in the elder abuse space by working towards creating a society where people of all ages can live and thrive with mutual respect for each other.

What is most challenging about your work?
Elder abuse is a challenging topic, which has only been recognised as part of family violence since the Royal Commission in 2016.  Therefore, it is a new work space where service response is underdeveloped, under resourced and a primary prevention framework is still in the dreaming phase!

Can you give us your perspective on preventing violence against older women in our community?
The primary prevention of violence against older women in our community essentially requires the same multifaceted response as that for the primary prevention of violence against women with the added focus of ‘ageism’! One of the current challenges of elder abuse is that the evidence base for the known drivers of elder abuse is still in formation but my experience is that ‘ageism’ typically features in all forms of violence against older women. Due to the lack of an established evidence base many in the field say that elder abuse is about 20 – 30 years behind family violence. Consideration of the impacts of intersectionality within elder abuse has only commenced: I wonder whether the intersection of gender inequity/ageism/elder abuse requires a whole of government and community response to enable the primary prevention of elder abuse against older women to become a reality?

What strengths do you see in the Eastern Region Community?
My experience of the Eastern Region is that there is a great willingness amongst service providers to work together and collaborate to make a difference. There is much potential for collective impact in the East!

Where do you recommend in the outer east for lunch?
The Drop In Café, 5/260 Dorset Rd, Boronia (good coffee & food with eclectic furnishings!)

If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?
I would like to live in a world where ‘isms’ are history! Respect for all ages, all abilities and all people would be the norm…

If you weren’t working at ECLC right now, what would you be doing?
Travelling, Volunteering and doing some contract work facilitating elder dialogue and project work aimed at creating an age friendly world!


We acknowledge the Wurundjeri people and other peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional owners of the land on which our work in the community takes place. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.

Sign up to IEPCP E-News