GROWING UP during the 1990s recession left an indelible mark on central Victoria's Damian Stock.
Those experiences could prove invaluable when he takes the helm at Bendigo and Shepparton's ARC Justice in late August.
"I think it's fair to say I grew up in some pretty disadvantaged circumstances and from that time always had an eye on the structural forces that impacted regional families and communities," he said.
ARC Justice announced its new chief executive on Wednesday.
It oversees Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre, Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centre, and Housing Justice.
Mr Stock will start at ARC Justice at a time when people face hardships somewhat similar to those of the 1990s.
"Back then it was difficulties finding work and a statewide reduction in income," he said.
"These days, employment rates are better but housing prices have gone through the roof. I have to tell you, it's just unaffordable in most places where the jobs are."
And the people facing economic hardship are still the ones who get caught up in legal trouble connected to debt and housing, Mr Stock said.
"There are ways of addressing those legal problems that are often really interwoven with people's life situations," he said.
There is more we can do to help people identify what are legal issues and how to resolve them.
"That is something that ARC Justice has done really well, particularly with its Housing Justice team, its focus on family violence, child protection and assisting people with minor criminal matters."
Mr Stock said there was plenty more that state and federal governments could do to help increase the amount of private and public housing being built.
He made the observation as Haven; Home, Safe warned that stretched support agencies were struggling to help increasingly complex cases.
ARC Justice chair Andrew Chittenden said Mr Stock's time at Melbourne community legal services would be invaluable.
"Damian's vast experience integrating legal services with partner organisations, particularly in health, education, housing and homelessness, and to deliver early intervention services, will enable our organisation to have a greater impact on those who need it most," he said.
Mr Stock is a lawyer and community law leader who most recently oversaw the merger of IMCL and Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre.
He has also served as chief of staff at homelessness and housing group Launch Housing, a principal lawyer at Tenants Victoria and managing lawyer of a program at Victoria Legal Aid.
ARC Justice thanked Annika Kearton and Hayley Mansfield, who have filled in as interim chief executive officer during the search for a permanent replacement.
"We applaud the exceptional work by Ms Mansfield and Ms Kearton guiding the organisation through the pandemic which saw need for support increase dramatically," Mr Chittenden said.
If you're reading this it's because you're a loyal subscriber to the Bendigo Advertiser. If you want to get more out of your subscription join the discussion on the Bendigo Advertiser's subscriber group on Facebook today.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.