News

Employment Opportunity - SFVC Administration Officer

The Fitzroy Legal Service is seeking applications for a new position which will support our service delivery as part of the Specialist Family Violence Court (SFVC) at Heidelberg Magistrates Court.

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September News

Whilst our offices remain closed, FLS staff continue to work tirelessly to support and advocate for our clients.  The impacts of COVID-19 on the Victorian community have been significant and will continue to be felt well into the future.  This difficult situation 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.   We also continue to advocate to ensure that the restrictions and use of extraordinary powers are lawful, proportionate and justified, and supported Liberty Victoria's call that "the Victorian Government limit any extension of the state of emergency to a maximum of six months, and to commit to four-weekly reviews within that period to ensure that limits on human rights and freedoms will only continue where necessary".   We were disappointed to be advised by Victoria Police of a change in their approach to policing the COVID-19 restrictions, moving from the previous approach involving education and guidance to a stronger enforcement approach.  Our COVID-19 telephone advice line continues to be offered to provide free legal advice to individuals who may have received a fine, had an internal review rejected by Victoria Police and/or been treated unfairly or targeted.

FLS was thrilled to recently receive support for three initiatives.  We have been funded to be involved in the roll-out of the Specialist Family Violence Courts Model at Heidelberg Magistrates Court, in conjunction with Victoria Legal Aid.  The purpose of the new new model is to deliver client centred quality legal services in the Specialist Family Violence Courts that are easy to access, safe to use and integrated within the family violence service system.   We have also received an Information, Linkages and Capacity Building Grant from the Australian Government Department of Social Services.  This grant will allow us to work with Voices for Change to support self advocacy for people with acquired brain injury and lived experience of the criminal justice system.  Through the support of the Victorian and Federal Governments, we will embark on a redevelopment of The Law Handbook website, to ensure that plain language legal information is more accessible to members of our community, assisting them to address their legal problems and ultimately positively impacting on community health and wellbeing.

For further updates please keep reading below.

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Community Lawyer, Civil Law

The Fitzroy Legal Service seeks applications for a new position of Community Lawyer, Civil.  This position is offered as a twelve month contract and will provide civil advice and casework services, with a focus on disputes over employment, tenancy and debt arising from the COVID pandemic.

How to apply

Candidates are requested to email the following as one PDF document:

·A covering letter, no longer than one page;

·A document which addresses the key selection criteria; and

·A resume which includes details of education, work and volunteer experience.

Applications should be addressed to Adrian Snodgrass, Principal Lawyer Night Service, and emailed as soon as possible but no later than 5pm Wednesday 9 September 2020 to asnodgrass@fls.org.au.

The full recruitment information document can be accessed by clicking here or reading below.

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2021 Trainee Lawyer

Fitzroy Legal Service seeks applications for our 2021 Trainee Lawyer position.   

  • Law students who commenced their final semester of their law degree in 2020 are eligible to apply;
  • Students who have recently graduated from law and who have not been admitted to practice may also apply; and
  • Law graduates who are currently undertaking PLT (but are not yet admitted to practice) are eligible to apply.

If you are already admitted to practice you cannot apply. If you are currently studying law but will not commence your final semester in 2020, you cannot apply.

Applications open    10am, Monday 24 August 2020                 

Applications close    11.59pm, Monday 7 September 2020

The full recruitment information document can be accessed by clicking here or reading below.

As we anticipate a high level of interest in this position, please email any enquiries to Claudia Fatone, CEO, cfatone@fls.org.au

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Media Release_11 August 2020

Media Release

For immediate release: Tuesday 11 August 2020

Increased police powers must not be free kick for discrimination

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Media Release 20 July 2020

Media Release

 | For immediate release: Monday 20 July 2020

Andrews Government must reduce the number of people in prisons as part of response to COVID-19

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Media Release: A Constellation of Circumstances Report

MEDIA RELEASE: 7 JULY 2020

New report shows why women’s remand numbers must stay down

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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.

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MSIR announcement

The Federation of Community Legal Centres and Fitzroy Legal Service have welcomed both the recommendations put forward by the Medically Supervised Injecting Room Review Panel and the decisive action by the Victorian Government in accepting the recommendations.

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UPDATED 2 MAY: Supreme Court rules Victorian Government prima facie breached duty of care to person in prison in their response to COVID-19 pandemic

In an important decision, the Supreme Court of Victoria has found that the Victorian Government has prima facie breached their duty to take reasonable care for the health of a person behind bars during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The case, an urgent injunction brought by Fitzroy Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, on behalf of a person in Port Phillip Prison with acute health needs, argued that people in prison are sitting ducks for COVID-19, and that it will only take one case to enter the prison for there to be an outbreak, which could not be stopped even if responsive measures are taken.

While the Court didn’t make any findings of fact given the case was heard as an interlocutory hearing, the Court did find that there was a prima facie case that the prison authorities breached their duty of care to safeguard the health of the person in prison, and that the Government must act compatibility with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights. 

Monique Hurley, Senior Lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, said that this decision shows that the Victorian Government isn’t doing enough to safeguard people in prison against COVID-19.

“Everybody deserves to be safe during a pandemic. But prisons are overcrowded and have substandard hygiene practices at the best of times. Right now, they are a COVID-19 tinderbox. This case is an important win for the rights of people behind bars in Victoria who want what we all want - to be safe. Ultimately, the Victorian Government should be looking to responsibly release certain groups of people from prison. The evidence is clear - once COVID-19 enters a prison, it will spread like wildfire,” said Hurley.

Expert evidence was given during the case showing that if COVID-19 enters the prison, it will spread more quickly than in the community, like it has in other closed environments including cruise ships, migrant worker’s dormitories and nursing homes.

The Supreme Court heard that no risk assessment of Port Phillip Prison has taken place in relation to COVID-19. While the Court did not order the release of the client, the Court ordered that a risk assessment examining the COVID-19-related risks to people in prison be carried out at Port Phillip Prison, and that any recommendations made as a result of that assessment should be implemented.

The case paves a potential pathway for people at heightened risk of COVID-19 to argue for their release in future.

Karen Fletcher, Managing Lawyer, Fitzroy Legal Service said that the Victorian Government and private prison operators have a duty to protect the people in their prisons from this pandemic.

“It is not enough to have elaborate policies on paper, they must be implemented on the ground. There is an obligation under Victorian law and international human rights law to provide the same level of healthcare in prisons as available in the community. Our client’s evidence is that the reality is that this is not happening in prisons,” said Fletcher.

In addition to the court ordered risk assessment at Port Phillip Prison, the Andrews Government must now make COVID-19 testing available to all people in prison as part of the current testing “blitz” of people in Victoria.

The Human Rights Law Centre and the Fitzroy Legal Service are calling for all Australian governments to reduce the number of people trapped in prisons by:

  • Granting leave to those most at risk of COVID-19, including people with underlying health conditions, and working with those people to ensure they have safe accommodation;

  • Granting early release to people in prison who are close to the end of their sentence;

  • Granting parole to people in prison who have been convicted of low level offending and who pose a low risk to the community if released; and

  • Allowing people on remand – who are yet to be found guilty of any criminal offending – to more easily access bail.

This news item was updated Saturday 2 May at 9:00PM

Read: Human Rights Law Centre’s explainer on Prisons and COVID-19.

Read: Supreme Court ruling here.

Read: Summary of interlocutory hearing judgment in Mark Rowson v Department of Justice, Corrections Victoria and the State of Victoria [2020] VSC 236

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519