About victorialawfoundation

We help Victorians understand the law and thier legal system. We are a not-for-profit organisation funded by the Legal Services Board Public Purpose Fund.

Introducing the foundation’s new Grants Manager

We’re pleased to announce that Candace Reeves has been appointed permanently as the foundation’s Grants Manager. Candace has been acting in the position for three months and brings a strong focus on social justice to the role. We spoke with Candace to get to know her a little more.

Tell us a bit about yourself when you’re not at work?

Well, I’m passionate about human rights, travel and great coffee. My favourite place so far was India, and my most recent trip was to Scotland to watch my fiancée compete as part of the Canadian hockey team at the Commonwealth Games.

I’m also studying and have only two subjects left before I complete my law degree. When I’m not studying on the weekends, I like discovering new brunch spots and walking my sausage dog, Beanie.

Where were you before coming to the foundation?

I was working as a Senior Legal Assistant in the Human Rights Team at the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office.

What are the most innovative foundation grant projects you have come across?

Our grants funded the establishment of some of Victoria’s key legal bodies, such as Justice Connect’s Homeless Person Legal Clinic and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre. These projects met a real community need, and deliver services creatively in a way that’s targeted to that need – so they’ve had a long-term impact on the lives of Victorians, despite challenges associated with limited funding and resources.

 What sort of projects is the foundation looking to fund?

The foundation grants funding is for projects helping Victorians better understand the law. We’re looking for projects that fill gaps to help address community legal needs, and that can have a significant and long-term impact.

What do people need to know before applying for our grants?

Our general grants are for projects with budgets over $5,000, although we most commonly award between $20,000 and $50,000. We also have small grants for projects of $5,000 or less.

All our grant applicants also benefit from the foundation’s expertise in legal education, publishing and project management. Our staff can offer free advice on plain language, writing, editing, printing, online strategy, events and the legal studies curriculum. This can help develop your project idea, strengthen your application, and improve the overall success of your project.

Any tips on applying?

When writing your application focus on the impact of your project on the lives of Victorians.

We are looking to fund projects that make a real difference so make sure your project has a practical application and there’s a demonstrated need in the community

We can also help you put together your application to give you the best chance of success – so it pays to get in touch with me as soon as you have an idea for a project. I’m always interested to hear about people’s work and to discuss how we might be able to help.

How should people go about applying for a Victoria Law Foundation general grant?

Applications for our next general grants round close on the 17 March 2014 and our small grants are available year-round. You can read our grants criteria, download an application form and find out more about past projects we’ve funded, all on our website.

Make sure you contact us at least six weeks prior to the close date for advice before you apply, but also feel free to get in touch about your project any time to discuss your ideas.

We look forward to hearing from you.

How new community website Everyday-Law can work for you

With the launch of our new legal information website, Everyday-Law.org.au, you now have a one-stop-shop to access all the best easy-to-understand legal information online. The site can help make your plain language materials more accessible to the public and help you support your clients on a range of common legal issues. Here’s how. 

Everyday-Law is a major new website produced by us at the Victoria Law Foundation. It brings together almost 1,500 carefully selected resources developed by organisations like yours, from across the legal sector, government and beyond.

As a result, it makes resources produced across the sector now easier for people to find – by including them in a site that is friendly, yet authoritative, easy to navigate and designed specifically to meet the needs of people in the community searching for legal answers.

While the website is primarily for the public, people working in the legal sector or government can also use the site to find the best available plain language materials for their clients.

All the resources included on the site have been carefully checked to make sure they are accurate, up-to-date and relevant – and they are ranked, so your search will highlight the best available resources for that issue.

Where your clients need more specific legal advice, you can search the site’s Law Help section for free or low-cost legal services to point people to the most appropriate organisation for them. This part of the website provides an online version of our popular hardcopy Law help directory.

“Everyday-Law is the result of nine months of hard work by the foundation to take online legal information to the next level. We’ve come up with an audience-focused site that helps the community find legal answers, search for legal services and learn more about the legal system,” said the Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director, Joh Kirby.

“We encourage organisations across the legal sector, the courts and government to link to Everyday-Law from your own websites, as a resource for the community and for your organisation,” Joh said.

Encourage your organisation to link to www.everyday-law.org.au from your website. We can even provide a logo and a short description just contact our Everyday-Law team on 9604 8100 or email contact@everyday-law.org.au.

Unique video series helping young people understand their legal rights

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A series of videos produced by community legal centre, Youthlaw, is helping young people better understand their rights and access the legal information they need. The first Beyond Appearances series is used in police training and aims to improve relationships between homeless young people and police. A second series educates youth workers and other professionals about legal issues affecting young people. The most recent Street Law Series helps young people to know their rights and avoid getting into legal trouble with Police and Protective Services Officers.

 Youthlaw has found that videos work to make complex legal issues and processes easier to understand. We spoke to Annie Davis, Education Co-ordinator and Outreach Lawyer, at Youthlaw, to find out more.

This is the third time the foundation has funded you to use videos for community legal education.  Why do you keep returning to this medium?

We find videos are an excellent way to get a message across to people and get them thinking about the law and young people in a different way. People anywhere with access to the internet can access videos online and get the legal information they need quickly and easily, It’s also a great way to get information across to young people who are not confident reading or writing because of literacy issues, or to new migrants with limited English.

We started with our series Beyond Appearances in collaboration with Frontyard Youth Services as a way to try and improve relationships and understanding between homeless young people and police in the CBD area. The video is still being used by police in their training. It features young homeless people sharing their experiences of sleeping rough and their interactions with police, both positive and negative, which is really powerful.

Our second series, educates youth workers and other professionals who work with young people about legal issues affecting them. With the help of a cartoonist, the videos were able to make often complex legal issues and processes easier to understand. The videos have been viewed several thousand times. It is a fantastic way for workers to get the training they need as our in-person seminars were often booked out and not always in a location for remote and regional workers to be able to attend.

Our most recent Street Law series tells the story of a young person who comes across a police officer or a Protective Services Officer (PSO). We hope that by watching these videos, young people will be inspired to find out what the law says in each situation and this knowledge might help them or their peers avoid getting into legal troubles by misunderstanding police or PSO powers in future. We also hope that the series will empower young people who may feel marginalised by their treatment by police or PSOs by linking them up with easy-to-understand information about what their rights are and how to make a complaint if those rights are violated.

Your videos generally tell stories to highlight a legal issue.  Why is this effective?

We’re finding the story-telling approach makes legal issues, which can be quite abstract and frankly boring for young people, a lot more ‘real’ for them. We’re finding they prompt serious and thoughtful discussion for young people. Young people get quite involved with the stories and want to know why, for example, the magician got a move-on notice and then a fine and what he can do about it. We hope that if they or their peers find themselves in similar situations in future they will recall what we talked about during the session and go back to our website to find out what the law says and how they can seek legal help.

 Your videos have young people, even some of your clients, informing the scenarios? What are the advantages/disadvantages of creating peer-supported community legal education? 

The stories in the videos were developed in collaboration with students at Youthworx Media and most were based on real experiences. The students there also gave us a lot of feedback and guidance on how to make the videos engaging. Their input has been crucial to the success of these videos as we’re finding young people watching the videos can relate to the stories and the characters.

Peer-supported community legal education has been so beneficial to this project but perhaps just make sure you have enough lead-in time and resources to make collaboration as effective and fruitful as you can – in retrospect it would have been great to have more time and greater scope to involve young people in a project like this even more.

Your videos have used animation and live action footage – how do you choose which filming method?

We ended up using animation for a number of reasons, such as restrictions on filming in locations such as train stations and representing the police and PSO characters convincingly. Another important reason is that it would be confronting for a young person appearing in one of the films to become a recognisable ‘poster boy’/’poster girl’ for, say, weapons searches. Instead, we had young people narrate the stories in their own words and characters as cartoons as way to get around that issue but still keep their voice authentic.

How do you choose the topics for your films?

We were finding more young people were coming to us for legal information and advice about interactions with police as well as PSOs following their introduction to metropolitan train stations over the past few years. With changes to the law, search powers have become a lot more complex. We were concerned that some young people were getting into legal trouble for things like resisting police or refusing to state their name and address, when if they had understood the law in that situation, they might have responded differently. We then consulted with Youthworx students to pinpoint what aspects of the laws around police powers and PSOs young people were most unsure about.

How do your videos reach their target audience?

The videos are available online on the Street Law page of our website at www.youthlaw.asn.au/street-law and you can find them on our Youtube channel www.youtube.com/youthlegal. We released and promoted each episode through social media, such as our Facebook page and Twitter account. We also have a limited number of DVDs available to order and an Education Kit for youth workers, teachers or others who work with young people to use.

What’s the next 12 months look like for Youthlaw?

We just secured funding to develop a mobile and tablet-friendly website that will work much like an app and which we hope will make legal information about dealing with police and other authorities even more accessible We’re consulting with young people to find out exactly what legal information they most want to know about and how we can best get that information to them using a mobile or tablet-friendly website. We’re hoping to incorporate the video content we’ve produced in Street Law into that resource so it has a second life into 2014-5. We’ve also been fortunate to have our Youthlaw Online program funding continue on so we can deliver more legal services in more responsive ways to young people living in remote, regional and rural areas across Victoria.

Apply for Victoria Law Foundation’s General Grants to support your legal project by 18 March 2014.  Visit our website, to find out more.

Your honour, sir, madam, justice, or judge?

Our latest guide

Our latest, easy to understand guide.

Today the Victoria Law Foundation launches a new guide on what to call judges and tribunal members in Victoria.

Have you ever wondered what to call the judge when you are in court? Even for the most seasoned lawyer it can be confusing. Imagine being a new law graduate sent down to court for the first time with a million things to think about and Law and Order episodes running through your head. 

Developed in consultation with both Victorian and Federal courts and tribunals, What do I call the judge? is the definitive Victorian guide on what to call judges and tribunal members in court, at functions, in writing and when they retire. Questions that come up every day for those working in the legal sector.

The guide has been developed to make it quick and easy to use, including a quick reference section and commentary with detail and examples on the conventions.

It’s an essential reference tool for anyone in the legal sector who has contact with the courts including new graduates, solicitors, expert witnesses and support staff. It’s information that up until now has been difficult to find in one place.

Ultimately however it is designed to make the public more confident when they come into contact with the courts. Providing clear guidelines that take away some of the stress of being involved in the court process.

The guide is available free, online and in hard-copy. You are welcome to link to the guide online, or to order copies for yourself, for your organisation or to distribute to your clients, visitors and the public. To order, call us on 9604 8100 or visit our website.


Five things you’ll gain from an internship with the Victoria Law Foundation

Getting experience in the legal sector can be the difference you need to really stand out in the workforce once you graduate. With a Victoria Law Foundation internship, not only will you feel good about working in an organisation that makes a difference, but you’ll expand your networks and get a behind-the-scenes look at a range of alternative legal careers too.

Lizzy Tunnecliff

Lizzy Tunnecliff tells all about her internship with us.

But don’t take just our word for it. We spoke with one of our past interns, Lizzy Tunnecliff, who told us what she got out of her Victoria Law Foundation internship last year.

Lizzy worked mostly in our grants area, looking at the best ways to evaluate the work our grants support, and making recommendations based on best-practice across the philanthropic sector.

So without further ado, here are Lizzy’s top five take-aways from our internship program.

 1.      Adapting skills for the workforce

The internship was fundamental in helping me make the transition from academic to professional writing. I gained a greater awareness of the importance of ensuring your writing meets your employer’s objectives, is reflective of resource limitations or public sector pressures, and incorporates your employer’s preferred style.

 2.      Getting to know who’s who in the legal sector

During my internship I spoke with a number of legal and philanthropic experts from a variety of organisations, including: Victoria Legal Aid, Public Interest Law Clearing House and Deakin University. I really valued their generosity in sharing their expertise and experience in project evaluation within the legal sector. Also, t

he foundation was great at connecting me with eminent members of the legal community. After completing my internship, I began volunteering at an environmental community legal centre which was another great development opportunity.

 3.      Bettering networking skills

My communication skills also developed during the internship. Whether it was attending meetings with potential grant recipients, assisting with the annual Legal Laneway Breakfast, or liaising with legal organisations, I now feel confident when engaging with stakeholders in my current role.

 4.      Dealing with organisational constraints

It was always challenging to hear so many excellent grant proposals from organisations, knowing that the foundation wouldn’t have financial capacity to fund all of the projects.

 5.      Insights into alternative legal careers

The internship program helped me see breadth of career opportunities available in the legal sector in government, not-for-profit and community organisations. After my internship, I was lucky enough to continue working at the foundation in a part time capacity. I had further exposure to the work of the foundation and its impact within metropolitan and rural Victoria. It helped me realise how much I enjoy making a tangible contribution to the community while making use of my legal skills.

 So where is Lizzy now?

After her internship, Lizzy stayed on at the foundation in casual employment; and since finishing her degree she is now gainfully employed in the Australian Public Service graduate program in Canberra. With her experience at the foundation behind her, she’s now working across legislative compliance and interpretation, health and social policy development, as well as having a stint in a Ministerial Office in Parliament House.

How to intern with us

We are now taking applications from current Victorian law students who’d like to join our internship program for 2014/15. To apply, just visit our website or contact us today. Applications close Monday 10 February 2014.

Lizzy’s tips for applying

Aside from academic marks and analytical skills, remember to communicate other qualities such as energy, enthusiasm and an ability to work productively in a collaborative environment, which can be just as important.

To find out more, visit: www.victorialawfoundation.org.au

What’s human rights got to do with it?

Back in January, we nominated one of our grant projects – the establishment of the Human Rights Law Centre – for Australia’s Top 50 Philanthropic Gifts, a celebration of our country’s most significant and influential gifts. The centre is a great example of what can be started and achieved with one of our grants. Now is your chance to have a say in the Public Choice Awards – Top 10 Philanthropic Gifts. Help us make sure the Human Rights Law Centre is recognised in the top ten. To vote, visit http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/top-50-philanthropic-gifts. Meantime, here’s a little reminder about what the centre does and why their work is important.

Victoria Law Foundation

Tomorrow as a part of Law Week, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, Hugh de Kretser, will get up on his soapbox and have a good rant about Selectivity in Australia’s Human Rights Protection. It’s a free lunchbox/soapbox session at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre, so come along and bring your lunch: 12:45pm – 1:15pm, Thursday 16 May 2013.

As a preview Hugh spoke to us about the work of the Human Rights Law Centre and his vision for human rights in Australia.

What does the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) do?
We protect and promote human rights in Australia and through Australian foreign policy. We do this though a combination of evidence-based advocacy, strategic litigation, research and education.

What was your background before joining the HRLC?
I started my career in corporate law at Mallesons, but for the past decade I’ve been working in community legal…

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Law reform in the spotlight

Attorney-General Robert Clark MP in the crowd at the Law Oration 2012

Attorney-General Robert Clark MP in the crowd at the Law Oration 2012

Victorian Attorney-General, the Honourable Robert Clark MP, was in the crowd at last year’s Law Oration. This year it’s his turn to take to the stage to share his views on law reform in Victoria. Book today to make sure you nab a seat at the Law Oration 2013 on 3 October and encourage your colleagues and the people in your local community to do the same. Everyone can participate in law reform and this event is your chance to better understand the issues and join the debate.

In the meantime, this guest blog by the Victorian Law Reform Commission will bring you up-to-date with what’s happening in law reform, and the role of the Commission, the Attorney-General and the community in this process.

Law reform for all Victorians

Anyone who comes into contact with the law knows that the law is not perfect. Sometimes laws can be out-of-date, inefficient, unduly complex, or out of touch with the lives of real people.

Values change. Community standards change. Technology alters our lives in ways once unimaginable. Sometimes, laws don’t do the job they were supposed to do. When that happens, the law needs to be reformed.

Over the last ten years we have seen changes to the laws around adoption of children conceived through assisted reproductive technology, abortion decriminalised in Victoria, a massive increase in the use of public and private surveillance devices – and much more.

All of the above have been the subject of reviews by the Victorian Law Reform Commission, which is the main agency responsible for advising the Victorian government on law reform. The Victorian community had extensive input into all these reviews.

The Commission’s principal work is the fulfilment of references made by the Attorney-General. The Commission also undertakes community law reform projects, which it initiates, often based on suggestions from the public or community organisations. These projects are of more limited scope, as required by legislation.

The Commission has a full-time chair and seven part-time Commissioners, all people of great legal experience. They are supported by a staff of around 15, who provide research, policy, communications and administration support.

The Commission aims to be inclusive, independent and innovative.

Inclusive means that when the Commission reviews a law or set of laws, it doesn’t just consult lawyers and professionals, but consults widely with the community. We seek the views of all Victorians, regardless of where they live (city or country), age, cultural background or socio-economic status. Anyone can make a submission to the Commission, which will be taken into account when the recommendations are written.

Independent means that the Commission’s recommendations are independent of government, the courts and interest groups.

Innovative means being open to new ideas and approaches, while also staying aware of past approaches and solutions and knowing what works.

The Commission conducts reviews of civil and criminal law, across a wide range of areas, making recommendations that are relevant, succinct and achievable. However, the Commission does not itself change the law – that is up to the government of the day, which chooses when and how to act on the Commission’s recommendations.

The Commission recently completed a major reference on succession laws and delivered the report to the Attorney-General. Two other references are well advanced: our review of the Crimes (Mental Impairment and Unfitness to be Tried) Act 1997 and jury empanelment. As part of our jury empanelment consultations, we are keen to hear from people who have been called for jury service, so if that is you, please email the Commission.

A community law reform report on birth registration and birth certificates was delivered to the Attorney-General in July 2013.

The Commission gives close attention to education, particularly in schools and in regional and rural Victoria. Presenters visit schools to speak on unit 3 of the VCE curriculum – law-making – and join with Victoria Law Foundation in the twice-yearly presentation of Law Talks to rural and regional year 11 and 12 students.

The Commission’s work contributes to building a fair, just, inclusive and accessible legal system for all Victorians. The Commission is governed by the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000.

Find out more from the Victorian Law Reform Commission about how you can get involved in law reform, by suggesting a project or making a submission.

The Attorney-General’s oration will be followed by a QA session, facilitated by Victoria Law Foundation Chair the Honourable P.D. Cummins, who is also Chair of the Victoria Law Reform Commission. Book your seat at the oration on 3 October 2013.