By Ann-marie B.
Pictured Above: Arlia Fleming
Pushing closed the door to her office, Arlia Fleming sits down in front of the Zoom screen. The afternoon sunlight filters softly through the windows at her back, picking up the bright pink highlights currently decorating the lengths of her blond hair.
Fleming is a Lawyer, a feminist, and she was recently elected as the newest president of the Central West Women’s Health Centre (CWWHC) board.
Growing up in a single parent household had a huge impact on the person that Fleming became. Inspired by a Legal Studies class in high school about the different ideas of justice, coupled with an awareness of the difficulties that her own mother had experienced, Fleming pursued a career that allowed her to use her natural empathy to help provide justice for vulnerable and disadvantaged people.
“I volunteered with a Community Legal Centre during my undergraduate law degree and I saw the difference they made to people’s lives,” says Fleming. “I never wanted to be one of those lawyers who charged hundreds of dollars an hour for their services, I could never see myself doing that.”
Volunteering at that Community Legal Centre on the Northern Rivers exposed Fleming to a strong community that was inclusive and supportive of people regardless of their background, and this way of working aligned perfectly with Fleming’s own innate sense of justice and equality.
Since graduating, Fleming has worked in the family and domestic violence space in both NSW and Western Australia, working mainly with women and especially Aboriginal women. Her current role is Manager and Principal Solicitor of Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre (EECLC) in Katoomba, NSW.
“We cover the whole of the Blue Mountains out to Orange,” she says. “We have a huge focus on family and domestic violence, sexual assault, and attending AVO list days at the local courts across the region.”
The similarities in the clients seen by EECLC and CWWHC encouraged Fleming to get involved with CWWHC at a board level.
“I’m interested in supporting women’s only services because they provide that safe space for women to come and receive help for a variety of different things. My mum was involved in the Women’s Cottage in Richmond when I was in primary school,” she says recalling a long-lost memory. “It was a bit like a Women’s Health Centre, just a warm, friendly, inviting kind of space. That was my first exposure to being in a women’s only space.”
These lifelong personal experiences, as well as the knowledge she has gained running a small not for profit organisation, gives Fleming the perfect background to take on the role of board president at CWWHC.
“I’m very pleased to be able to support Karen and the rest of the CWWHC team to hopefully be able to grow a more sustainable Centre.”
And so, from the little girl who accompanied her mother to the Women’s Cottage, to the feminist lawyer working hard to provide justice for the disadvantaged, Fleming really has come full circle.