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.

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.

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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Kick start your legal project

Do you have an idea for a legal project that has the potential to change the way Victorians think about the law and the legal sector?

Our next grants round is now open and we’re looking for legal projects to fund. Not sure if your project fits? Read our Grants and Awards Manager Erin Dolan’s tips for applying for a foundation grant. And remember you don’t need to be a legal organisation or legal practitioner to apply.

Contact Erin today and talk to us about how we can help you get your project off and running. Applications close on 10 September 2013.

In our most recent grants round we awarded grants to these five great projects:

  • Human rights in three minutes
    Castan Centre for Human Rights Law will create a series of three minutes videos explaining which human rights are protected by Victorian law.
  • Discrimination Law Clinic
    The Disability Discrimination Legal Service will create a new state-wide Discrimination Law Clinic to help the legal and community sector to identify and address all types of discrimination, including age, race, religion, gender and disability.
  • VCAT planning appeals
    Environment Defenders Office (Victoria) will develop online video guides to help Victorians have a greater say in planning decisions being considered by VCAT.
  • Victorian trial of supported decision making
    The Office of the Public Advocate will offer isolated people with intellectual disabilities support to make their own decisions by matching them with an appropriately trained volunteer.

You Decide Who Decides – helping you choose a power of attorney

On Friday November 30, our Grants and Awards Manager Erin Dolan attended the launch of You Decide Who Decides. This project by the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) was funded by a grant through our Grants Program. We spoke to the OPA about what makes this project so unique.

This Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) has an exciting new online tool to help people make decisions about making powers of attorney. ‘You Decide Who Decides’ is an interactive online tool that takes you step by step through the different types of powers of attorney and the things you might need to consider when choosing one. It takes you through the stories of different characters as they choose who should be their power of attorney.

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We funded this innovative project as it will increase the availability and access of legal information to Victorians and we believe this is a different way to provide information about a common legal topic.

You Decide Who Decides is already live and ready to use on the OPA’s website. Manger of Policy and Education John Chesterman says this project is a great community education tool.

‘You Decide Who Decides not only looks at why people may need a power of attorney, but more importantly helps them answer the question: who should I appoint?’.

John says that while the elderly are most likely to use the tool they hope lawyers will make use of it too. ‘Powers of attorney is something all adults should consider, not just those who are older.’

OPA provides information about powers of attorney, to help people make a decision about appointing someone to make decisions and manage their affairs in the event that they are unable to do so for themselves.

This new resource adds to the OPA’s existing range of tools around powers of attorney including fact sheets and online information. Take a look at You Decide Who Decides or get more information about the OPA.

Find out about our Grants Program and how to apply for a grant through the Victoria Law Foundation.

What makes a good small grant project?

Only four months into the financial year and we’ve already given away five small grants worth a total of $23,239. Each project is proof that you can do a lot with a little, and we’re looking forward to seeing the outcomes.

In the meantime though, our grants team is on the lookout for new projects to fund so we asked our Grants and Awards Manager Erin Dolan what she thinks makes a good small grant.

What is the small grants program?

It is for legal projects with a budget less than $5000. There is no opening or closing dates, so you can apply at any time and you’ll usually get an answer within two weeks. Such a quick turnaround is rare in the world of grants, but we’ve streamlined the process to make sure we can respond quickly to meet an immediate need. The application form is really easy to use and you can give me a call do chat about your project before you even start filling it out.

How could an organisation use a small grant?

Our small grants are perfect for organisations who need to act quickly, have an idea for a low-cost high-impact project, or who need money to scope a larger project. Obviously they must be legal projects that benefit Victorians, and they still also need to meet our grants criteria.

What type of projects have you funded with a small grant?

Our small grants have funded a huge variety of projects, such as DVDs, postcards, fact sheets, guides and special events. Organisations have also used our small grants to extend their research or implement important or unexpected recommendations.

We’ve featured a couple of great small grants on this blog already, including some really powerful videos by Youthlaw. But there are many more examples of small grant projects on our website.

Has a small grant ever led to a larger general grant?

Absolutely. Our small grants have definitely been used as ‘seed’ funding, which can help an organisation to decide if a project is worthwhile or has the right focus before they invest too much time and money or ask for a larger grant.

For example, St Kilda Legal Service was awarded seed funding from the foundation to find out the most effective methods of delivering legal information to street sex workers and the legal issues most relevant to this group. They used their findings to support an application for a larger project. In 2011/12, we awarded them $20,144 to implement a targeted education campaign informing street sex workers of their legal rights.

Is there any type of project you would like to fund but haven’t?

I really like big ideas that can start with just a small amount of seed funding. It would also be great to see some submissions for new technology grants such as for smart phone apps.

How should organisations apply?

Call me and have a chat about your project. I definitely prefer to speak to applicants about their projects before I receive an application. I can usually get an immediate feel for whether or not your project meets our criteria. And, if necessary, I can call on a member of our team to offer you specialised publishing, education, communication or plain language advice.

Visit our website for more information.

Grandparents, grandchildren and family law

“Longevity is a public health achievement, not a social or economic liability. On this International Day of Older Persons, let us pledge to ensure the well-being of older persons and to enlist their meaningful participation in society so we can all benefit from their knowledge and ability.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Monday was International Day of Older Persons, a day to celebrate the contribution and achievements of older people.

With all the talk about the burden of our ageing population, it’s easy to forget the important (and changing) role that older people play in our community. So, to mark International Day of Older Persons, we thought we’d share the story of a grant project that has had a positive impact on the lives of older people in Moreland.

Grandparents, grandchildren and family law
Becoming a grandparent can change your life. Many grandparents play a very hands-on role in the lives of their grandchildren, relishing every opportunity to participate in their care and development. But when a family breakdown happens, the role of a grandparent can change significantly – in some cases, the role of the grandparent can increase as they provide extra support or care. In other cases, some grandparents are given little or no contact with their grandchildren.

Family law in Australia recognises the importance of maintaining family links in children’s lives, particularly in divorces or separations. But it seems grandparents rarely seek legal advice or information about their rights following a family breakdown.

In the tight-knit Australian Greek community in Moreland, Moreland Community Legal Centre and the Australian Greek Welfare Society found that few grandparents understood that they had any legal rights when a family breakdown happens.

In 2011, Victoria Law Foundation awarded a general grant to Moreland Community Legal Centre, in partnership with the Australian Greek Welfare Society, to provide legal information for grandparents in relation to family law and access to grandchildren.

As part of their project, they spoke to more than 300 grandparents at three community legal information sessions to understand the issues they faced. They produced six fact sheets, in Greek and English, covering issues such as family dispute resolution, family violence, child protection and financial support for grandparents. A key part of the project was to promote children’s welfare and the role of the grandparents in relation to the welfare and development of children.

According to our Grants and Awards Manager Erin Dolan the project is a good example of how to develop legal information that meets the needs of the people you are trying to help.

“Although the project was not without difficulty, Moreland Community Legal Centre and the Australian Greek Welfare Society listened to the local community, heard what grandparents were saying to them, and the factsheets and legal information sessions were very successful as a result,” said Erin.

Moreland Community Legal Centre Principal Solicitor Scott Ashley said the project has had a number of unexpected outcomes. “The factsheets have really helped to raise awareness of our services, and we are seeing more older people coming to the centre with a variety of issues since the factsheets were launched. The project has also made the Board of Moreland Community Legal Centre rethink their priorities, to make sure it is best meeting the needs of the ageing migrant community in the area.”

Download the factsheets or read the final report of the project. Find out more about our Grants Program or apply for a grant for your legal project.