That's a wrap! – There’s a famous Einstein quote about how doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Whilst many parts of the justice system and the way it operates might fit within that definition, the CIJ has made innovative, practical inroads into changing the system for the benefit of all its users.
Whether through our groundbreaking work in a range of restorative justice projects such as culpable driving and for Worksafe & Transport Accident Commission, our work in family violence, including Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent Violence in the Home (PIPA), Intervention Orders, or the Design Thinking and the Law workshops being embraced by our stakeholders including the Courts, or the life changing experiences we offer our students, we are making a difference. We have become the “go to” place for those who are passionate about innovation and collaboration to ensure that the justice system acts as a positive intervention in the lives of its users. The CIJ also made a submission to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, which can be found here.
I’m also pleased that other jurisdictions, including the Northern Territory and Queensland Governments, are acknowledging the work of our Centre and indeed seeking advice from us in relation to improving their youth justice systems and human rights regimes.
2018 will be another exciting year at the Centre as we expand our work in the RJ and human rights space and offer students continued and broadened clinical legal education experiences. Einstein also said that life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving. The CIJ will certainly continue moving forward in 2018.
- Rob Hulls, Director, CIJ
Research with Impact
Criminal justice system contact as a form of gambling harm? –
In October the CIJ was delighted to launch its report examining the intersection of gambling and contact with the criminal justice system. While our legal system still does not ask questions about people’s gambling behaviour, the CIJ’s research revealed that gambling problems are a ‘sleeper’ issue in the justice system – ‘in the mix’ of offenders’ lives more often than the community might expect. The CIJ’s research also revealed that multiple pathways can take people between gambling and offending and back again. These include women who have experienced family violence and are either coerced into offending or who fall into debt when they seek refuge from the violence in gambling venues.
As the CIJ always tries to ensure that the process is as meaningful as the product, we were delighted that, as part of the project, VLA designed and conducted ‘snapshot’ surveys of clients in its summary crime lists at four separate court locations. Asking questions about gambling for the first time, VLA established that a substantial number of clients were experiencing some sort of harm from gambling. Similarly, participation in our research prompted the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to include gambling in its professional development training and, for some Magistrates, to start to ask questions in their court. As one Magistrate said at the launch of our report ‘I have changed my practice as a result of your research'.
The CIJ hopes this work has opened the door to questions being asked and data being collected on a more systemic basis, and will continue to advocate for greater awareness, including through ongoing speaking engagements and collaborations with agencies who provide support to gamblers
Listen to our podcast interview with Ken Wolfe, a man who generously shares his lived experience of how his decades-long gambling habit ultimately led him to offending.
L to R: Tanya Langford, Elena Campbell, Be Westbrook (Peel Youth Services).
The Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent Violence in the Home (PIPA) Project has completed another important phase, in which the bulk of its data collection has occurred. Through August to November the PIPA team conducted focus groups and interviews with nearly 150 practitioners from over 50 different services who come into contact with adolescent violence in the home. This included practitioners from the participating jurisdictions of Tasmania, Victoria and WA, where we also conducted our second public forum at Edith Cowan University. You can listen to the podcast of that forum here.
The work supporting the implementation of RCFV Recommendation 85 – mapping the roles and responsibilities of agencies in relation to perpetrator interventions – has also been completed. Between May and November the ‘Rec 85 team’ spoke to practitioners from 25 different service areas, including education; primary health; Alcohol and other Drug services; law enforcement; legal assistance; Culturally and Linguistically Diverse(CALD) services and many more to introduce the framework of roles and responsibilities developed by the CIJ and to hear how their practice might sit within this framework in the coming years. As services begin to gain a more sophisticated understanding of how to work with people who use family violence, the CIJ also conducted focus groups with perpetrators to test how these service interactions might be viewed. Findings from these focus groups and broad observations from the consultations will be included in a report to Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) early in the new year.
Integrating the indefensible –
Nobody wants to think about serious violent offenders in the community’s midst. So horrified are we by seemingly random crimes such as the homicides of Jill Meagher and Masa Vukotic, that most people just want the offenders locked up and out of sight. We assume that it is government’s responsibility and government’s responsibility alone to manage these frightening individuals. Where they are released from prison (as most offenders will be) we expect that it is the government’s task to supervise and reintegrate them.
Yet evidence tells us that the broader community – the community outside the machinations of the criminal justice system – has a significant role to play in terms of this task. What’s more, the fact that most of these offenders always existed on the margins in the first place, we have to recognise that they were probably never integrated to begin with. Hot off the press this month, the CIJ’s Discussion Paper, Integrating the Indefensible was launched at the end of year celebration of the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO), who do some of the hard yards working with serious violent offenders once they are released. The paper calls for a conversation about how the community might step up and acknowledge that we need to get better at integrating highly damaged people who commit damage themselves – even if it’s to prevent them from doing it again.
Woor-Dungin in Parliament –
L to R: Stan Winford, Professor Bronwyn Naylor, Simone Spencer, Wenzel Carter & Christa Momot receive the Award.
The CIJ’s Stan Winford has been working on the Woor-Dungin Criminal Record Discrimination Project for some time and so it was great news that on 21 September, Victoria’s Attorney-General, the Hon Martin Pakula MP, acknowledged the work of Woor-Dungin’s project in bringing to light the historical practice of charging children with neglect (and other ‘offences’) that led to them receiving criminal records. The Attorney-General said that he was “extremely concerned about the nature of these historical practices” and indicated that he had “asked the Dpeartment of Justice and Regulation to advise me about actions to address these historical practices, including any legislation that may be required to correct these records, so that care and protection orders for children are recorded appropriately”. The work of the project also resulted in a motion successfully moved in the Victorian Parliament on 15 November 2017 calling for a formal apology to Victorian care leavers affected by these practices, and report on the response of the government to this issues, which received significant media coverage.
Socialising the law: Combining social work and legal skills in a changing justice sector –
The CIJ is partnering with Professor Penelope Weller, Director of the JD program, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University; Dr Chris Maylea, Lecturer in Social Work, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University; and Elissa Scott, Director, Neighbourhood Justice Centre on a ground-breaking cross-disciplinary study looking at the respective skills of lawyers and social workers and how these different skills can usefully be combined in order to deliver a holistic service that meet clients’ needs.
In this project we have interviewed a unique sub-set of practitioners who have qualifications in both law and social work, shedding light on the benefits that combining these skill sets bring to practice. We have also spoken with lawyers and social workers who work in multi-disciplinary legal practices - legal practices that employ lawyers and social workers to work collaboratively. Multi-disciplinary legal practices are a relatively new approach to service delivery. Understanding more about how they are operating in practice will assist the sector to further develop this promising model.
The Socialising the Law study is generating new insights into how lawyers’ and social workers’ strengths can be used to complement each other, and how to address barriers that can impede lawyers and social workers from working effectively together. The findings from this study will have direct relevance to legal and social work practice. The project will be reported on during 2018.
For further reading on issues facing social workers and lawyers in a multidisciplinary practice, read CIJ's Social Worker, Kat Ogilvie's blog here.
Shadow a Magistrate Taster Placement –
During September, eight RMIT JD students participated in the shadow a Magistrate program. In pairs, students spent a week shadowing a Magistrate while they sat on the Assessment and Referral Court, hearing the cases of people charged with criminal offences who experience mental illness or cognitive impairment. For most students, this was the first time that they had observed a therapeutic model of justice in practice, and the experience challenged the views they held about the criminal justice system's function.
William Reid shadowed Magistrate Ann Collins and made the following reflection:
"In Semester 2 this year I undertook the ‘Shadow a Magistrate’ internship at the Victorian Magistrates Court. I was very fortunate to shadow Magistrate Ann Collins in the Admissions and Referral Court (ARC).
At the beginning of each day, myself and my fellow intern were briefed on the case of each individual due to attend the court. We then spent the middle of the day observing the ARC process, and the afternoon debriefing and reflecting in Magistrate Collins’ chambers. Magistrate Collins was incredibly generous with her time and energy.
Overall, I was struck by the remarkable impact the ARC program had on participants. As a citizen and general observer, the program highlighted to me the distinctive impact that being heard and valued by the court has on an individual in a particularly vulnerable mental/cognitive position. As a law student, the program fed my passion for therapeutic justice, and clarified my interest in mental health law.
- William Reid, JD student
This placement opportunity, as well as many others, will be available in 2018 to RMIT JD students. A prospectus of student opportunities through the CIJ will be available before the end of the year.
New Zealand Study Tour insights published –
RMIT University law and social work students recently undertook a week-long study tour to Auckland, New Zealand where they visited the Rangatahi Youth Court, Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment and the Court of New Beginnings. The study tour had a profound effect on these students and their ideas about how justice can and should be delivered. Recently, the students’ reflections were selected for publication in Therapeutic Justice in the Mainstream which is part of an international project that seeks to promote the use of therapeutic justice approaches in mainstream legal settings. The students’ reflections can be accessed here.
The Centre for Innovative Justice team has undertaken a design-thinking workshop at their strategic planning retreat in December with Ingo Karpen and Bronwyn Naylor as part of the process of developing the new Innovative Justice course, a new core subject for RMIT Juris Doctor students to commence in 2018.
Events: Passion with a Purpose
Fastrackers bring Order to Court –
Question: How do you begin solving the problems of chaos in our courts, improving the effectiveness of volunteer legal services and reducing the over-representation of people with an acquired brain injury (ABI) in the prison system?
Anna Howard, Mentor, Centre for Innovative Justice; Ask Why? team members Sheney Varghese, Georgie Abela and Ruth Harland; Jess Richter Mentor, Centre for Innovative Justice
Members of the MAPS team, Siobhan Tiernay, Shanice Nagy and Abhay Prasad
Peter Williams, CEO, Deloitte Centre for the Edge; David Gilbert, Director, Fastrack Innovation program; Rob Hulls, Director, Centre for Innovative Justice; members of the Live Case team,Miriam Beuthien, Alima Waniganayake and Anna Rysenbry, winners of most outstanding team award; Kate Miller, Executive Director of Legal Practice, VLA; Melanie Poole, FCLC
7 Dec – Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Speaker: Rob Hulls 11 Dec – Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture – Speakers: Rob Hulls and Stan Winford 11 Dec – VACRO Report launch – Speaker: Elena Campbell 7-8 June 2018 – COAT Tribunals Conference – Speaker: Rob Hulls
On behalf of all the staff at the Centre, we hope you have a joyful festive season and a happy and fruitful 2018!