The Victorian Legal Assistance Forum promotes collaboration and co-ordination in the delivery of legal services for socially and economically disadvantaged people in Victoria.
Disaster Legal Help Victoria – Victorian Legal Assistance Forum
Insurance Response Team
VLAF is seeking 10-12 volunteer lawyers to participate in a new Insurance Response Team.
The lawyers will respond to insurance enquiries and disputes in the aftermath of a disaster event. Team members will be required to attend follow up meetings in disaster areas 1-3 months after the event to assist consumers with lodgment of complaints to internal and external dispute resolution.
Team members will be provided specialized training in insurance and dispute resolution law to assist them to undertake this role.
Maximum time involvement is expected to be 1-3 days per event.
Please contact Simon Roberts, VLAF Project Officer,
on 9269 0545 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Lessons well learnt at campaign forum
Some campaigns have a charmed passage, others can take decades of hard slog. Over 50 people attended the Lionel Murphy Centre on 3 October 2012 to listen to seasoned campaigners reflect on what works and what doesn’t in strategic advocacy in the legal assistance sector. Joy Acquaro, General Manager, Law Institute of Victoria facilitated the event with the help of Dan Nicholson, Associate Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity, Victoria Legal Aid who teased out the detail of each approach in the panel session. Read More
Children in the System – Minors in the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Debate
Venue: Lionel Murphy Centre, 360 Queen Street Melbourne
Date: Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Time: 9.00am until 1.00pm
This forum will focus on the plight of young asylum seeker and refugees, and their interactions with government, the legal system and agencies. It will aim to address key problems and lead to better coordination of effort across sectors. The forum will feature a keynote address by children’s rights expert Mary Crock of Sydney Law School, followed by a panel discussion. The panel of speakers will address the following issues:
- the manner of processing, detention and guardianship under the Minister
- International treaties and domestic law
- issues specifically facing this group including language, mental health, schooling and employment issues.
- the role of the guardian and what can be done to ensure these young peoples’ rights are protected and their needs are addressed
- how can services collaborate when addressing the needs of these young people? Would a centralised case management system work?
Facilitated by: Helen Yandell, Director, Springvale Monash Legal Service
8.50am Registrations Open
9.00am Welcome and Opening Remarks, Helen Yandell
9.10 am Keynote address, Professor Mary Crock, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
- Professor Mary Crock, Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
- Joel Townsend, Program Manager, Migration Law, Victoria Legal Aid
- Bernadette Marantelli, Manager of Youth Support, Centre for Multicultural Youth
11.00am Morning Tea
11.20am Workshops – exploring approaches and providing alternatives to the current practice of service delivery to refugee children
1.00pm Closing Remarks
RSVP by Wednesday, 24 October 2012 to Sina Oum – email@example.com or (03) 9269 0138. Video conferencing will be available through VLA regional offices by prior arrangement. Please indicate if you wish to attend via video conferencing. Please indicate any dietary preferences. For more information contact Simon Roberts – firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9269 0545
Strategic Campaigning – Lessons Learnt
Venue: Lionel Murphy Centre, 360 Queen Street Melbourne
Date: Tuesday 2 October 2012
Time: 11.00am until 2.00pm
VLAF is bringing together some of the Sector’s best campaigners to discuss what was done well and what could have be done better in past campaigns. The forum consists of presentations on completed campaigns focusing on strategic litigation, media strategies and advocacy skills. It will have an expert on hand to evaluate the outcomes.
This forum is for policy and research staff, managers, community development and legal education practitioners and anyone in the Sector who wants to learn more about mounting a strategic campaign.
Facilitated by: Joy Acquaro, General Manager, Law Institute of Victoria
- Michelle McDonnell, Policy Officer, Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) Inc – Smart Justice
- Catherine Leslie, Lawyer, Mental Health Legal Centre – Strategic Litigation
- Peter Noble, Loddon Campaspe Community Legal Centre – Missing Persons
- Megan Fitzgerald, Fitzroy Legal Service – Spent Convictions
Dan Nicholson, Associate Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity, Victoria Legal Aid, will evaluate each campaign and join in the group discussion
RSVP by Friday, 21 September 2012 to Sina Oum – email@example.com or (03) 9269 0138. Please indicate any dietary requirements. Video conferencing will be available through VLA regional offices by prior arrangement. Please indicate if you wish to attend via video conferencing. For more information contact Simon Roberts – firstname.lastname@example.org or (03) 9269 0545
VLAF Forum Report - Guardianship
Forum leads to united action
Top (L to R): Eleanore Fritze, Robin Mills, John Chapman, Chris Atmore, Catherine Leslie, Anne Goghlan, Alisair Craig Bottom Left: John chapman, Eleanore Fritze and Chris Atmore
Over fifty people attended the VLAF forum on the future of Guardianship in Victoria. Robyn Mills, Program Manger, Mental health and Disability at VLA, facilitated the event and set the scene with a history of guardianship in this state. Eleanore Fritze (VLA), Chris Atmore (FCLC) and John Chesterman (Office of the Public Advocate) explained the details of the new proposals in the Victorian Law Reform Commission report on Guardianship. These three speakers then joined Anne Coghlan President of the Guardianship list at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) Catherine Leslie from Mental Health Legal Centre and Alistair Craig from State Trustees, in a discussion on the need for reform and what the new system for guardianship would look like. As a result of this forum VCAT, OPA, FCLC and State Trustees are proposing to jointly approach the government to get its backing for the recommended changes to this important area of law. The reforms that all the organisations involved in the forum agree on are:
- Increased powers to OPA
- Move from substituted to supported decision-making
- Increased powers to VCAT to review decisions of OPA and State Trustees
- Resources for CLE to ensure the changes are know about
- Greater funding for representation
If you would like a DVD of the event then please contact the VLAF project staff VLAF@vla.vic.gov.au 03 92690545
Links to the three presentations on the content of the Report are included below:
VLAF Newsletter - Winter 2012
The latest VLAF newsletter is available here and includes a report on the recent employment forum.
VLAF Forum Report - Employment
Top photo: (L to R) Kristen Hilton, Fiona Knowles, Erin McCoy and Zana Bytheway. Bottom Photo: the attentive participants in the VLAF Employment Forum
The number of clients seeking help for employment law problems has been steadily growing in recent years and in recognition of this trend VLAF hosted a forum on “Employment Law in Victoria” on 29 May 2012. The forum brought together not only workers from the legal assistance sector, but representatives from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Fair Work Australia (FWA) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to discuss the current problems and look for adequate solutions.
Hugh de Kretser, the Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centres, facilitated the event and started proceedings with an overview of the type of casework involved. He highlighted the complexity of addressing individual client needs given that employment law is at the intersection of state and federal jurisdictions, OH&S laws, awards and agreements, anti-discrimination legislation, human rights commissions and tax and superannuation law. He also stressed the complex referral options include community legal centres (CLCs), VLA, private firms and unions. By many measures, employment law matters continue to be amongst the most frequent legal issues and CLCs and VLA have tracked a large unmet demand in the area. At the same time, there was a big reduction in the resources allocated to the specialist Victorian CLC, Jobwatch. Hugh’s overview was followed by a panel discussion, including Kristen Hilton, Director, Civil Justice, Access and Equity, Victoria Legal Aid, Fiona Knowles, Principal Lawyer Discrimination, Fair Work Ombudsman, Erin McCoy, Industrial Officer, ACTU and Zana Bytheway, Executive Officer, Jobwatch. Each of the panel members set out how their organisation was addressing employment law client demand:
- Kristen explained that VLA has measured a strong demand in this area through its Legal Help phone line, and is hoping to address some client needs through its new Equality Law practice.
- Fiona outlined the various strategies used by the Ombudsman to address demand, including tools on FWA’s website, alternative dispute resolution, investigations of small claims that go to the Federal Magistrates’ Court and investigations that lead to prosecutions under the Fair Work Act.
- Erin explained that the union movement’s capacity to help non-members was limited, and that it was best to be in a union to ensure proper representation in an employment dispute. The ACTU has a small call centre. However, many of the issues brought to it are pre-existing and it is then up to individual unions to decide whether they can represent a client. The call centre refers cases out to Jobwatch and VLA.
- Zana explained the funding pressures on Jobwatch over the past year, which have led to a dramatic decrease in its capacity to help clients, with over 60% of demand through its phone line being unmet in recent times. With new funding from the Federal Government, Jobwatch will be able to help many more clients through its holistic approach to client problems.
After the panel attendees broke out into three workshops on:
- Professional Development
- Existing referral mechanisms
Reporting back from the workshops it was apparent that participants from within and outside the legal assistance sector were keen to continue the dialogue around capacity building, better referral procedures and ongoing advocacy to ensure a proper level of resources is allocated to employment law in Victoria.
The Future of Guardianship - Time for Change?
Venue: Lionel Murphy Centre, 360 Queens Street Melbourne
Date: 19 July 2012
Time: 9.00 am – 1.00 pm
This VLAF Forum will provide an overview and exploration of the content of the recently released Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) report into guardianship laws
The report made comprehensive recommendations for reform that will be important to the lives of many Victorians, particularly those who experience disabilities. It is important that the legal and broader communities are aware of the report and the recommendations.
This forum will be of interest to all workers in the legal assistance sector who deal with clients with a disability along with community workers, support workers, carers, members of the general public and decision makers.
Facilitated by Kristen Hilton, Director, Civil Law Services, Victoria Legal Aid
- Anne Coghlan, President of the Guardianship list at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)
- John Chesterman, Office of the Public Advocate
- Catherine Leslie, Mental Health Legal Centre
- Chris Atmore, The Federation of Community Legal Centres
- Alistair Craig, State Trustees
- Eleanore Fritz, Victoria Legal Aid
VLAF Forum Report
Are you culturally competent?
One of the most vexed questions in the legal aid sector is how do we plan for service delivery for clients from diverse cultural backgrounds when they have limited or no understanding of our legal system. For example many of us are familiar with and have worked with clients who think that any interaction with the courts and police means ‘big trouble’.
The Victorian Legal Assistance Forum (VLAF) CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Working Group identified this as a major issue for legal aid sector workers and hosted a forum on the 16 February 2012.
Over 80 people attended the VLAF Forum, The Question of Culture – dealing with CALD Communities, to hear Michal Morris, from the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health in Carlton present the keynote address. The context of culture - how organisations engage with recently arrived and refugee groups is mission critical to planning programs in this sector. Her talk addressed this issue and looked at the question of what a culturally competent organisation looks like and what steps can be taken to reach that goal. More
VLAF at the Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference
Plain language legislation key to quality legal information
New legislation is likely to have the most significant impact on the quality of legal information for the public, according to a Churchill Fellowship report by Joh Kirby, Victoria Law Foundation Executive Director and VLAF Main Forum member. Download the report here
VLAF Forum Report
Policy Forum points the way to policy wins
“There is no magic bullet” was the unofficial theme of the VLAF Policy Forum on 15 September 2011. This forum was initiated by the VLAF Policy Working Group. The working group aims to build capacity and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of policy work in the sector. The forum attracted many participants from Community Legal Centres, Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Legal Aid and non legal organisations. An interesting group of panel speakers provided strategies, tactics and knowledge to the participants about undertaking policy and campaign work. More
VLAF submission to inquiry
Now you have a policy…what next?
Strategic campaigning – building capacity in the Sector
Date: Thursday, 15 September 2011
Time: 2.00 pm - 4.45 pm
Like all the organisations in the Sector, yours has vision, passion and commitment to law reform. You won the grant to do the research report that proves beyond doubt that you have the best response to a legal need. You have then crafted the perfect policy document. Now all you have to do is convince the Government to fund the project … Not so easy. This forum will give you the tools, skills and knowledge to start this work.
CALD forum delivers legal education showcase
Grandparents in Moreland, newly arrived families in Shepparton, young people in Dandenong and Flemington and refugees in Thailand. What do they have in common? All were the focus of the presentations at the VLAF CALD community legal education forum held on 20 July at Victoria Legal Aid.
The Forum, entitled “Early Intervention is the way to go”, was attended by over 60 participants who were taken through a range of community legal education projects. The projects showcased good practice and methodology in legal education by presenters from VLA, Moreland Community Legal Centre, Springvale Monash Legal Service, AMES, the Department of Justice, and National Legal Aid. The attendees came from state and federal government departments, migrant and welfare agencies, the health sector, the courts, the private legal sector and even interstate guest from NSW LAF and the Law and Justice foundation, along with VLAF members and many CLCs.
Legal Referral Services - the best way forward in Victoria
The Panel L–R: Mark O'Brien, Tenants Union of Victoria, Samiro Douglas, WIRE Women's Information, Barbara Whyte, Victorian Department of Health, Samantha Horsfield, VLA, Gregor Husper, PILCH
The future of legal referral in Victoria was the hot topic at the latest Victorian Legal Assistance Forum (VLAF) held at the Lionel Murphy Centre on 22 June.
More than 50 people heard keynote speaker Jane Pritchard from Law Access in NSW speak about the balance of legal to non-legal staff, conflict checks, liaison on referral information across the sector, funding, evaluating the program, training and record keeping.
Law Access NSW is a free government telephone assistance service for people who live in that state and works closely with all the major stakeholders in the sector in providing relevant legal information, advice and referral. It assists 198,000 callers per year.
A panel discussion also conversed about a variety of issues including databases, staff composition (lawyers, para-legals, volunteers), and even the difference between information and advice
The event gave the VLAF Legal Referral Working Group plenty to think about in its efforts to provide Victoria with a system of referral that is robust, works in most cases and, most importantly, helps in the early resolution of the legal problems of our clients.
If you would like a copy of this forum on DVD please contact VLAF.
The steps to family reunion
Providing legal help to reunite young refugees with their families
The Victorian Legal Assistance Forum (VLAF) launched its ‘The steps to family reunion’ report on Monday 2 May highlighting its project supporting young refugees who need legal help to bring their families to Australia.
Debt seminar launches VLAF forums for 2011
Dennis Nelthorpe speaking at the forum. (WMV Download)
Contact VLAF if you would like a copy of the DVD of this event.
- Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria
- Federation of Community Legal Centres
- Law Institute of Victoria
- Public Interest Law Clearing House
- The Victorian Bar
- Victoria Law Foundation
- Victoria Legal Aid
- Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service