June News

As we reach the halfway point of a very challenging 2020, Fitzroy Legal Service welcomes recent confirmation of additional funding from the Victorian and Commonwealth Governments.  We acknowledge Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy and Commonwealth Attorney-General Christian Porter for their leadership.  This funding recognises that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on people’s lives and provides additional resources to meet the increased demand for our services.  We have also recently received support from the City of Yarra's Family Violence COVID-19 Quick Response Grants and the Inner North Community Foundation's COVID-19 Rapid Response Grants.  A huge thank you to all involved.

For an update on some of our work please keep reading below.

COVID-19 RESPONSE

Whilst our Reservoir and Fitzroy Town Hall offices remain closed, our staff continue to work remotely. COVID-19  continues to challenge us to think creatively and look at innovative ways to deliver vital services to clients at a time when they need us more than ever.  Two new initiatives have been undertaken:

1) a specific Covid-19 policing phone line, assisting with:

  • People stopped by police because of the Covid-19 restrictions, including people fined or charged under the lockdown laws and people who have experienced discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate police conduct in relation to the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Legal advice on infringements including court options and summary crime advice, police powers and police complaints. Referrals where appropriate for civil police accountability issues.

2) a telephone advice service established following closure of our evening legal advice services.  Our Principal Lawyer Night Service Adrian Snodgrass and Night Service Coordinator Glen Ludbrook have assisted over 400 clients through this new service.  We have sought to gather client feedback via a short online survey.  When asked "did the legal advice you received make a difference" some of the feedback received has been:

  • "I felt less stressed"
  • "I learnt my rights within the workplace"
  • "I was given very clear advice on who was legally responsible for paying for the property damage.  This gave me confidence to negotiate with the parties concerned and resolve the issue more amicably than expected"
  • "Good outcome at VCAT"
  • "I am very relaxed, no stress on how to deal with the other person's insurance, thanks"
  • "It helped me navigate Fines Victoria much more easily"
  • "Gained a better appreciation of my situation, which led to a fair outcome"

MEDICALLY SUPERVISED INJECTING ROOM (MSIR) ANNOUNCEMENT

For over 20 years our Drug Outreach Lawyer program has worked to support people who use Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD), improving health and well-being.  We have been involved in the MSIR and seen first hand how important such a facility is.  We welcomed both the recommendations put forward by the MSIR Review Panel and the decisive action by the Victorian Government in accepting the recommendations, including extending the current North Richmond MSIR for a further three years and the establishment of a second facility in Melbourne CBD. This decision will save lives. While we work at the interface of criminal justice and harm reduction, the human story behind AOD dependence can be marked by intergenerational trauma, family violence, homelessness and poverty.  Our media release on this announcement can be viewed here.

DAREBIN DRUG OUTREACH LAWYER PROGRAM

A new report, commissioned by the Federation of Community Legal Centres and funded by the Department of Justice and Community Safety, has shone a spotlight on the impact, effectiveness and opportunities for the future of integrated services in Victoria.   Our Darebin Drug Outreach Lawyer program is profiled in this report.

The report, Meeting People Where They Are, Delivering Integrated Legal Community Services, found that integrated services required a long-term commitment and sustained resources to ensure successful outcomes for both clients and partner organisations.    

Community Legal Centres have been working in integrated service settings with other community organisations for a long time in Victoria. Under the model healthcare providers, schools, financial counsellors and other services work together with Community Legal Centres to identify and address social and legal issues adversely impacting clients. The system provides a more holistic approach to helping Victorians most affected by injustice and discrimination by looking at the underlying issues that might be affecting a person seeking assistance and linking them with the relevant services, particularly legal support.

The full report can be found here.

NEIGHBOURHOOD JUSTICE CENTRE

Fitzroy Legal Service has provided co-located duty lawyer and casework services to the Neighbourhood Justice Centre Magistrates’ Court (NJC) for 13 years.  The NJC is Australia's only community justice centre, modelled on the world’s first community justice centre, Red Hook Community Justice Center, in Brooklyn, New York.   To find out more about the work of the NJC, here is a link to the 360 virtual tour.

FACEBOOK LIVE TENANCY COMMUNITY EDUCATION SESSION

We recently partnered with Tenants Victoria to deliver a community legal education session on rent reductions and relief for tenants in hardship.  The sessions was broadcast live on Facebook with FLS Outreach Lawyer Odette Shenfield and Trainee Lawyer Rosie Heselev involved.   To watch a recording of the event go to our Facebook page.

 "I THINK YOU CAN CALL IT HOMELESSNESS WHEN YOU HAVE NOWHERE THAT YOU CALL HOME"

Parity magazine is the Council to Homeless Person's national publication, examining homelessness from personal, local, social and global perspectives.   Members of our Women’s Leadership Group (part of the Women Transforming Justice Project) have contributed an article to the May 2020 "Mental Health, Housing and Homelessness" edition of Parity.  The article can be read here.

STAFF PROFILE - ROSIE HESELEV (TRAINEE LAWYER) 

When did you start at FLS? 

I started at FLS in March 2020 – about a week before the original Covid lockdown. Most of my time at FLS so far has been virtual, but I’ve gotten to know so many faces via regular Zoom and Teams meetings and catchups, and working remotely is still very rewarding.

What attracted you to the role?

This type of role has always been my dream since I knew I wanted to be a lawyer that is, working at a legal service that is dedicated to systemic change while also helping vulnerable people on the day-to-day.

What does your role involve?

I’m a trainee lawyer* which involves rotations through the various sections of FLS. I started with a few weeks in the hustle and bustle of Night Service, before working on policy submissions with the Public Interest Law team. I am now in the Generalist team, working on things from VOCAT applications to COVD Infringements to various other matters. I am taking the opportunity to learn as much as I can, including studying for my PLT.

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Melbourne. I moved to Canberra to study Arts/Law at the ANU when I was 19. I had a great time, living on campus, making friends from all over the world. I also often served beers to Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten at my casual student job.  

What led you to want to study law?

What led me to study law, as cliché as it sounds, was a passion for justice. I wanted a tool I could use to address social justice problems that seemed so stagnant. I still believe that law is an important tool and knowledge set to have when working towards a better world!

What do you like to do in your free time? Any hobbies or travel? If you have travelled, anywhere special?

In my spare time, I love listening to audiobooks, playing the violin, and running! I’m currently training for a half-marathon with my (much-fitter than me) Mum. I have also recently taken up skateboarding – which is terrifying but so fun! Before Covid hit, I was lucky enough to go trekking in Patagonia, and spend carnival in Brazil. Fingers crossed I can get back there again soon…!

*The FLS Trainee Lawyer position is funded through our partnership with Allens, a relationship that has spanned over 20 years.  We acknowledge their continued support. 

2020 LAW HANDBOOK HARD COPY ON SALE

The 2020 Law Handbook was released in February and is the 42nd edition of this important Victorian legal resource.  The hard copy is now on sale.  To purchase your copy go to https://www.fitzroy-legal.org.au/store

END OF FINANCIAL YEAR DONATION

If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation.  Donations over $2 are tax deductible and can be made via our website https://www.fitzroy-legal.org.au/donate.