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.

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

New manuals for boards of community organisations

We are passionate about helping Victorians understand the law and the legal system. In most instances, our focus is on helping the broader community understand common legal issues and overcome barriers to legal services. But we also believe its crucial to support the organisations that deliver services to Victorians. Our Executive Director, Joh Kirby, shares her thoughts on our latest collaboration with Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS).

‘If you have been reading the papers over the past few weeks, you would have noticed that a high profile Melbourne school has been faced with a few governance issues lately. While every organisation is different the situation highlights the complexities of being a member of a voluntary board, even one made up of high profile corporate professionals.

There are over 35,000 registered not-for-profit organisations in Victoria. These are generally run by small groups of committed individuals with limited resources, funding and staffing. If you are a member of a not-for-profit board, you, like all board members, need to consider issues such as finance management, governance, compliance, policy and procedures, and employment. If you have limited experience in these areas and are working as a volunteer, this can be really challenging.

While some of the issues faced by not-for-profit boards are similar to those faced by corporate boards, there are some differences. As a result, there is a need for good quality information that speaks to the particular skills and sensitivities of these organisations.

The foundation, in conjunction with the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS), has published a series of manuals for community organisations. The newest in the series, launched this year, focuses on employment. The manual covers key areas such as legal obligations, recruitment, training and pay, in the foundation’s trademark clear, no-nonsense language. The other two manuals in the series cover governance and management issues and developing policy and procedures.

So, the next time you are asked to sit on a board of management for a local sporting group, community organisation or not-for-profit, consider reaching for one of these manuals to help you navigate yourself quickly and easily through your new responsibilities.’

Order these and other foundation publications from our website.