Quarterly News – July 2018

It has been a busy few months at Fitzroy Legal Service. We’ve gotten involved with campaigns around mandatory sentencing and family law system reform, ran a community information forum on racism for Law Week and continued to deliver high quality legal services and education programs. We couldn’t do this without the dedication and hard work of our incredible staff and volunteers, and the support of our wider community – thank you.

CAMPAIGN TO STOP MANDATORY SENTENCING CHANGES

The Andrews government has introduced a bill into Victorian Parliament proposing to impose a mandatory minimum of six months imprisonment for anyone convicted of assaulting an emergency worker. Fitzroy Legal Service strongly opposes this move and has banded together with others from across the community, health and legal sectors to call on the government to drop the proposal. You can read our joint statement here and our submission to parliamentarians here.

Mandatory sentencing is an ineffective and dangerous policy that does nothing to address the challenges faced by emergency workers. As Executive Officer Claudia Fatone said:

“This type of punitive action only further entrenches violence by not addressing the root cause of the issue. Mandatory sentencing does not prevent crime, it only exposes people to a path of crime. We need to make sure punishment is proportionate and most importantly, effective. Rehabilitation programs and community corrections orders give us the opportunity to set someone on the right path so they can contribute to the community.”

There was no consultation with the sector other than discussion with two union representatives, completely overlooking those who will be disproportionately affected by the changes. As our Manager of Social Action, Policy and Law Reform Meghan Fitzgerald said, “whenever there's an election period there's a law and order race to the bottom.” Listen to the whole interview on 3CR’s Women On The Line here.

You can help by contacting the Premier, Minister for Police and your local member and asking them to stop this unjust law coming into effect.

 

FUNDRAISING SUCCESS: $18,865 RAISED FOR PUBLIC INTEREST LAW WORK

Our recent fundraising campaign was an outstanding success, raising $18,865 for our public interest law work. This generous support helps us maintain our independence in the fight against government overreach and the trampling of community rights.

Huge thanks to our donors: Steven Baras-Miller, Fiona Beckwith, Alice Bedlington, Doug Boquist, Vera Boston, Simon Bowden, Aimee Bradley, John N Bryson, Shelley Cogger, Javed de Costa, Matt Dixon, Claire Febey, Patrick Fitzgerald, Julian Gardner, Jeff Giddings, Karen Gurney, Leah Healy, Judy Horacek, Gary James, Ben Jessup, Paul Kidd, Laneway Artspace, Angela Langan, Henrik Lassen, Jeremy Levine, Luisa & Scott, Harriet Mantell, Sophie Mariole, David Martin, Travis Mitchell, Tory Montgomery, Bronwyn Naylor, Kelly Rae, Charles Rich, Graeme Robinson, Jane Sharp, Kim Shore, Daan Spijer, William R Stent, Jo Swiney, Nick Tweedie, Ben Walkenhorst, Jon Webster, Benjamin Zika and a number of anonymous contributors.

Special thanks must also go to artist and documentarian Cameron Rose, who donated his time and talent to produce our campaign video. Click here to see some of Cameron’s work.

 

LGBTIQ LAW CLINIC REOPENED

The LGBTIQ family law legal advice clinic is back in operation, running on the first Wednesday of each month. Four half hour appointments are available, commencing from 6.30 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling (03) 9419 3744.

 

OUR WORK IN ACTION

Our lawyers were recently able to help a woman fleeing domestic violence. Community Lawyer at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, Angus Cameron and Senior Lawyer (Family Law and Family Violence) Ella Crotty worked together to assist a client find secure accommodation and connect them with critical support services. Through representations at VCAT they were able to secure a tenancy for the client with the Department of Housing, Angus obtained an interim Family Violence IVO, and Ella was able to secure parenting orders from the Federal Circuit Court for sole use and occupation of the home. Ella and Angus also worked with case managers at CoHealth to set-up Centrelink payments. This collaboration achieved hugely beneficial things for the client and held the Department of Housing to account for their behaviour.

In the client’s own words:

“I have all sorts of negative things going on in my life at the moment. Many complex issues.  It's very refreshing to be able to come to such a daunting place as a courthouse and feel like someone is looking after you. Thank you.”

 

KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS AND STANDING UP TO RACISM

As part of this year’s Law Week, Fitzroy Legal Service co-presented a community information session on tackling racism in the community. The well attended We Stand Together event produced lively discussion around the laws surrounding racist behaviour, how to report racially motivated crimes, and how to access services that can help.

The event was run in partnership with the City of Yarra, Carringbush Adult Education, cohealth, MiCare, Neighbourhood Justice Centre, Victoria Police, and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.   We thank the Victoria Law Foundation for their support of this event through its Law Week grants program.

 

STAFF PROFILE: PAUL KIDD

Paul Kidd is driven by a passion for social justice. “I consider myself incredibly fortunate and privileged and want to be someone who stands up for the vulnerable and marginalised.”

Paul began as a trainee lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service in March this year. His transition to the legal profession comes after many years in public health advocacy.

“I have a much longer story than most law graduates as I came to the profession quite late in life,” Paul said. “I previously studied journalism at UTS in Sydney and have occupied a range of positions in the HIV/AIDS response, helping to shape media and education messages around HIV stigma and treatment. More recently I have been busy as an activist focused on the criminalisation of HIV transmission and exposure.

“In 2014­–15, I led a campaign to repeal section 19A of the Crimes Act 1958, a very serious criminal offence created at the height of AIDS hysteria in the early 1990s, and which unfairly targeted people with HIV as a risk to public safety. In mid-2015, I got to sit in the Speaker’s gallery at the Victorian Parliament and watch that very problematic offence, which people with HIV had opposed for more than 20 years, get repealed. That was pretty cool.”

Paul was motivated to join Fitzroy Legal Service so he could undertake his practical training in a community legal setting. “Fitzroy Legal Service’s legendary status as a pioneer in the community legal space made it my first choice,” he said.

His work has included stints across each of the organisation’s practices, as well as contributing to public interest law work. “I provide paralegal support and shadow the lawyers in each area,” Paul said. “This gives me the opportunity to experience the various practice areas and the lawyering styles of different practitioners. I’ve also had the opportunity to be involved in drafting our submission to the ALRC family law review, and a number of other non-legal tasks.”

Paul lives in rural Victoria with his husband and takes the opportunity to experience other cultures when he can. “We live a very sustainable and grassroots life, growing and making a lot of our own food and enjoying the natural surroundings. I’ve travelled a fair bit; a highlight was travelling through Syria a few years ago – a beautiful, welcoming and country that has since been tragically plunged into war.”

 

PROPOSAL FOR INNOVATION IN THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM

Fitzroy Legal Service and Darebin Community Legal Centre recently made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission’s review of the family law system. The submission highlighted the importance and need for a more holistic, community and family-centre approach.  The submission proposed the establishment of a pilot Family Justice Centre, modelled on the Neighbourhood Justice Centres (NJC). The NJC model houses a single Court with the combined jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court, Children’s Court, Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal and VCAT, as well as legal services, assisted dispute resolution services, treatment and welfare agencies, community-based crime prevention and justice education organisations. The proposed Family Justice Centre trial is an opportunity for world-leading reform by creating a truly innovative, family- and community-centred system to resolve family disputes in a holistic, client-focused and culturally responsive way. Critically, we propose social work mediated processes with involvement of lawyers, not the other way around. The emphasis would be on resolving disputes, where possible, without court involvement. Read the complete submission here.

 

LAW HANDBOOK CONTRIBUTOR PROFILE: DRU MARSH

From delivering papers as a kid to co-writing the cycling chapter of The Law Handbook, lawyer Dru Marsh has always been keen on bikes. “I started as a paperboy when I was 14 and have been glued to my saddle ever since,” he said. “Participating in the cycle law section was a natural progression.”

Dru is a Senior Legal Policy Officer at EPA Victoria. He studied law at Monash University, motivated in part by the enthusiasm of his high school legal studies teacher. His proudest moment came convincing a Court to accept a diversion on a criminal charge for a client: “a small gesture from the Court, but potentially a life-changing impact on the client.”

Dru began contributing to The Law Handbook (LHB) two years ago, initially working on the environmental law chapter. Most recently he co-wrote the chapter on cycling law, after prompting from his EPA Victoria colleague – and longtime LHB contributor – Glenn Osboldstone. “Knowing me to be a keen cyclist, he invited me to assist in this year’s update,” Dru said.

Solving problems and empowering people with an understanding of not just the ‘what’, but the ‘why’ of legal issues is at the heart of Dru’s work. This unsurprisingly led to becoming a LHB contributor.

“As a resource, The Law Handbook is both accessible and reliable – two critical features for providing practical assistance that is often way out of your comfort zone,” Dru said. “I have volunteered in a range of Community Law Centres over the past 10 or so years – The Law Handbook has been an important resource at all of them.”

“I think it’s notable that discussion is still continuing on the merits of adopting a 'one metre' rule in Victoria. This would require at least 1 metre distance when vehicles are overtaking bicycles in 60 km zones and at least 1.5 metres where the limit is more than that.”

The 2018 edition of The Law Handbook is available for purchase here.

 

WAYS TO SUPPORT OUR WORK

There are a number of ways to support the work of Fitzroy Legal Service staff and volunteers:

1) Become a Member – Membership is open to any individual to apply.

2) Purchase The Law Handbook – Grab your copy of The Law Handbook, a practical guide to the law in Victoria, updated by over 80 legal experts. It provides free, comprehensive information about the laws that affect Victorians in everyday life. The Law Handbook 2018 is available in hard copy, eBook and individual PDF chapters.

3) Make a tax deductible donation – Every $ counts. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.