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.

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Stop parking fines from ruining your day – all the information you need is in one spot.

Have you ever been shopping and lost track of time? Then you walk past another person’s car seeing them getting and ticket. You walk faster towards your car and have that sinking feeling as you see a fine on your windscreen. Stop parking fines from ruining your day.

Confused about where to park? Our guide can help!

Confused about where to park? Our guide can help!

Parking fines are a recurring issue that frustrate drivers on a daily basis. Parking signs can be difficult to understand. Parking rules tend to differ between councils. Once you receive a fine, information on your rights and options can be difficult to find. To help, Victoria Law Foundation has produced Parking, the law and you, a free, easy to understand guide to parking laws in Victoria.

Developed in consultation with local councils, the guide simplifies parking rules and signs. It includes pictures of the most common signs and an explanation of what they mean, helping drivers to to work out where they can and can’t park.

One of the main reasons people ignore fines is not knowing what to do next. Depending on your circumstances the guide outlines your options and also explains where to go for more information and help.

Parking, the law and you will help you to navigate through parking laws and avoid fines.  It is perfect size to keep in your car and refer to on the move.

Download or order Parking, the law and you or contact our publications team on 9604 8100 or publications@victorialawfoundation.org.au to find out more about our free publications.

US National Archives says no to mindless zombies

The introduction of the US Plain Language Act in 2010 required federal agencies to use ‘clear Government communication that the public can understand and use’. This was followed up with executive orders which called for regulations to be ‘accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to understand’.

Whether you agree or disagree with the introduction of such a law, there’s no denying that it’s given some organisations the push they needed to improve the way they communicate.

We’re particularly fond of these plain language tips from the US National Archives (no mindless zombies here, thanks). And we’re encouraged by the growing number of organisations and politicians who are speaking out in support of plain language and seem to understand its benefits for people who use government services and for the services themselves.

In 2011, after completing a Churchill Fellowship on best practice in community legal information, our Executive Director called for similar legislation for Australia.

What do you think?

Plain language and good communication part of access to justice

Executive Director Joh Kirby at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference

Executive Director Joh Kirby at the National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference

Victoria Law Foundation was proud to support last month’s National Access to Justice and Pro Bono Conference in Melbourne. It’s theme – communication – is at the heart of our work in helping Victorians understand the law and legal system, and the high calibre of speakers did not disappoint.

Plain language took centre stage for the opening plenary session. University of Cape Town’s Professor of Law Halton Cheadle made an impact with his address on the drafting of the South African Constitution, highlighting the benefits its plain language approach sixteen years on. Our own Executive Director Joh Kirby offered an Australian perspective, and shared the findings of her Churchill Fellowship on best practice community legal information. Read Halton’s conference paper or read why Joh thinks good communication matters in the debate about access to justice.

Internationally recognised plain language expert Christopher Balmford (Words and Beyond) kicked off the second day of the conference, offering valuable insight and practical advice for improving the quality of legal writing. His recommended resources (and more) are available on the plain language section of our website.

For much of the conference Joh was happily bailed up by people who share our vision for making the law easier to understand. Copies of our Better Information Handbook were in constant demand. And the conversation continued online, drawing comments on Twitter from those attending the conference as well as legal practitioners and plain language advocates across the globe. We were overwhelmed by this support.

In October, to coincide with International Plain Language Day, Joh will present at an International Plain Language Conference in Vancouver. We’ve also just announced our next three free plain language workshops for legal practitioners in Victoria. Details are on our website.

We’d love to hear about your efforts to use plain language in your legal work, so please join the conversation on this blog or on Twitter (#plainlanguage).

Law help guide reaches over 100,000 Victorians

There’s someone standing in the foyer of a council building in Sale looking for help with a problem she has with her boss. There’s a student in Melbourne trying to get a sense of how the legal system works. In Horsham, a police officer helps a member of the public who doesn’t know where to turn. The 2013 Law help guide is out in the world and all kinds of Victorians have been picking it up, right across Victoria.

As of this week, over 100,000 copies of the Law help guide have been distributed across the Victoria. It’s a huge number – of which we are truly proud – but even after all the research and planning that goes into putting a publication like the guide together, it’s only when you have direct feedback from real life people that you get any real sense of the impact it has on communities.

The Law help guide is a small, easy-to-use pamphlet about where to start if you think you might need legal help. The law can be quite confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so the Law help guide talks you through your options and gives you an idea of which organisations might be able to assist you.

As the orders for the 2013 edition come through, we have been speaking to a range of people who use the Law help guide for various different reasons. Councils are ordering copies for people who come in to complain about services, libraries are keen to stock them for those who don’t know where to start their research on a problem of their own, and community organisations are finding that members of the public are coming to them with legal questions they’re not equipped to answer. Even law schools are realising it’s a great idea to give students a sense of what services are available to the public beyond just a private lawyer in a law firm.

The law can seem confusing and even a little scary if you don’t know where to start. It’s great to know that over 100,000 copies of the Law help guide are not only available for all Victorians, but that that it is making a difference to the lives of those who need it the most.

You can download or order the Law help guide here, or contact our publications team to find out more.

Stay committed to plain language

Cleaning out some files a few weeks ago, we uncovered a Ministerial statement on plain language by the then Attorney-General the Hon. J.H. Kennan, MLC. This statement was a key step forward for plain language in Victoria.

There’s no doubt that a lot has changed since it was published in the 1985 but we’ve still got a long way to go.

On the eve of International Plain Language Day, Victoria Law Foundation is urging the legal profession and government to remain committed to the use of plain language to help Victorians understand the law and the legal system.

In a media release today, our Executive Director Joh Kirby recognised the role Australia – and in particular Victoria – has played in plain language legal drafting. But she acknowledged that more needed to be done to stamp out complex, convoluted and inaccessible language at every stage of the legal process. Read the full release.

Happy International Plain Language Day!