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Mary's Story

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At age 63, Mary was confronted with the very real prospect of bankruptcy and homelessness. 

Mary was born and raised in the Northern Territory. She married and had three children. Sadly, her marriage was marred by years of violence from a controlling and alcoholic husband. Mary eventually left her husband and relocated to Adelaide.

Mary’s husband passed away several years later, but left behind a terrible legacy. Years of abuse, together with the trauma of a difficult birth of her youngest child, had left Mary suffering from PTSD and depression. Mary’s husband had also left Mary with a significant debt. During their marriage, he had bullied her to borrow to fund a speculative investment. Unknown to Mary, the investment failed, leaving behind a substantial unpaid debt to the lender. The lender eventually commenced enforcement proceedings against Mary for a debt which had grown to over $100,000. Mary was overwhelmed by the fear of losing the home she shared with her daughter and grandchildren in Adelaide’s northern suburbs. Her mental health suffered and she started to lose her hair.

Mary’s plight was brought to the attention of JusticeNet’s Federal Courts Self-Representation Service when she attended court with her daughter. The service intervened to delay the bankruptcy proceedings and assess Mary’s options. Initially, it seemed that her best course was an orderly sale of her home to pay off the debt. Mary was referred to JusticeNet’s State Courts Self-Representation Service to investigate the removal of a caveat. However, discussions with JusticeNet staff also revealed the awful circumstances of the debt. JusticeNet’s Pro Bono Referral Service recruited a law firm to help Mary on a pro bono basis.

The firm warned off the caveat, but more decisively, they helped Mary negotiate with the lender. When made aware of the true circumstances of the loan, the lender was ultimately persuaded to forgive the debt and withdraw the bankruptcy proceedings.

*not her real name

First published 15 Apr 2019
Image credit: Anelale Najera

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