Welcome to the final edition of the CIJ newsletter for 2016. What a year it has been; the world mourned the loss of beloved artists and leaders, conflict continued around the globe, surprise election results became the norm, and in social justice there has been progress in some areas and setback in others.  In this climate the Centre is redoubling our efforts to develop practical ways to ensure that the justice system acts as a positive intervention in the lives of its users. Read on for all the Centre's latest news.

Research with Impact

The CIJ’s research and consultancy work has continued to expand in 2016, with further exciting announcements to come in 2017. A snapshot of the diversity of the CIJ’s 2016 program includes: 

Fair Work Commission – Evaluation of Pro Bono Program 

This built on previous evaluations conducted by the CIJ in 2013 and examined the extent to which improvements to the FWC’s Pro Bono Program – in which a network of law firms provide targeted, pro bono legal advice to parties involved in certain unfair dismissal claims – have improved the benefits for users. The evaluation indicated that the CIJ’s previous recommendations had made a significant difference to the program’s operation and that the majority of participants were valued the service that they had received. The CIJ’s report and recommendations for further reform can be found here.

The CIJ thanks independent evaluator, Lucy Macmillan, for her thoughtful approach, hard work and contributions to this evaluation.

Update on problem gambling and the criminal justice system

Earlier this year the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation commissioned the CIJ to examine the intersection of problem gambling and the criminal justice system. The CIJ’s project has focused on how gambling presents to and is dealt with by the courts and has consulted widely with the judiciary – including Supreme and County Court judges, as well as a substantial number of Magistrates – as well as with public and private lawyers and court personnel. The CIJ has also consulted with family violence service providers, as well as offender support, financial counselling and Gambler’s Help counsellors to glean a clearer picture of how gambling can lead to offending, as well as the other way around. 

In addition to a detailed literature review and these consultations, the CIJ has also:
  • Conducted an audit of the submissions to the Royal Commission into Family Violence to identify the extent to which gambling is a backdrop to family violence;
  • Studied sentencing remarks of over 100 County Court cases;
  • Collaborated with VLA to conduct surveys of clients using duty lawyer services. 
The aim of the project has been to open courts and legal services to the potential for gathering data about gambling; as well as to grapple more broadly with the notion of contact with the criminal justice system as a hidden form of gambling harm. The CIJ is due to report this month will work with the VRGF on an Action Plan to accompany the report’s formal release, early in 2017. 
Elena Campbell discusses the lack of awareness around problem gambling in the justice system
Family Violence Intervention Orders – User testing of standard conditions
In 2015 the CIJ conducted extensive consultations and research at the request of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to assist with the proposed revision of the standard conditions of Family Violence Intervention Orders. In a further phase, the CIJ has now received approval to proceed to ‘user testing’ the conditions with focus groups of perpetrators (linked with Men's Behavioural Change Programs) and victims (linked in with specialist services), early in 2017. These focus groups will offer crucial insight into the clarity and value of the proposed new standard conditions and support the implementation of another Royal Commission recommendation

Multidisciplinary Response Models Southern Melbourne Integrated Family Violence Partnership
As reported in previous newsletters, this CIJ was commissioned by the Southern Melbourne Integrated Family Violence Partnership – a region with the highest reported rates of family violence in the state – to recommend a model for multidisciplinary, inter-agency responses to particular cohorts of families impacted by family violence. The CIJ’s recommendations were designed to address specific gaps identified through consultations which could dovetail into the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations. The CIJ has since briefed representatives from the Departments of Premier and Cabinet, Justice and Regulation and Health and Human Services on behalf of the Partnership and is delighted to see that the work has already served as a prompt for greater interagency working in the region.

Life Changing Experiences 

Fastrack Innovation Program
The Fastrack Innovation Program is over for another year!  The social justice stream of the program is a partnership involving Victoria Legal Aid, the Federation of Community Legal Centres, the RMIT University Fastrack Innovation Program and the Centre for Innovative Justice to promote the design, development and adoption of technology solutions to improve access to justice.

This year, 22 students took part in the social justice stream and produced a bumper crop of innovative and creative solutions to improve service delivery across the legal assistance sector, tackle exploitation in the workplace and help those in financial hardship avoid utilities disconnections. You can read about the team’s solutions on our blog here. 
Snapshot of this exciting program

Taster Placements

Despite exams and assessment, November has still been a busy month for a number of keen students selected for opportunities offered by the CIJ.
Fair Work Commission
Four RMIT JD students spent one week at the Fair Work Commission, shadowing Commissioners, working with Registry staff and becoming familiar with the many aspects of its work. Though the placement was the first of its kind offered through the CIJ to RMIT JD students, it exceeded the expectations of the first round of students.

"From the morning I nervously weaved through the protesters to get in the entrance of the Commission building on the Monday to when I walked out on Friday afternoon, inspired by the people I had met and the work I had seen, I learnt far more about employment law and how the Commission functions than I thought possible".
- Ash Thomas, RMIT JD Student

You can also read JD student Jack Faine's reflective piece on our blog on the CIJ blog.

The CIJ will be offering a range of exciting opportunities new and recurrent to students in 2017, which will be advertised before the commencement of Semester 1 2017. Students should keep an eye on emails and blackboard notifications where upcoming opportunities will be advertised early in the new year. 
RMIT JD Students Olivia Dean and Jack Faine
Human Rights Commission
Five RMIT JD students are in the final stages of the project, busily pulling together their consolidated report for the Australian Human Rights Commission. Through assessment of the impact of a federal human rights charter on recent migration, discrimination and national security cases and legislation, the report will be an important academic contribution to the debate about whether a federal human rights instrument is needed.

On 3 November, the students were able to re-energise at the Refugee Legal dinner mingling with human rights lawyers, including one of their mentors David Manne and hearing from Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis, one of the world’s leading orthopaedic surgeons, an author, human rights activist and refugee about the impact of migration policies on individuals.
Human Rights Project students with mentors, David Manne, Refugee Legal and Emilie Howie, Human Rights law Centre, Anna Howard and Stan Winford
Human Rights Project students in action with mentors David Manne and Emilie Howie
Multidisciplinary Practice update
The multidisciplinary practice, a partnership between the Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) and the Mental Health Legal Centre (MHLC), was established earlier this year and is providing practical, hands-on experiences for social work students at MHLC. There is now a social work presence across a number of MHLC's programs with 7 social work students on placement this semester. The CIJ has also supported 2 social work students to complete their placement at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) this year.
The MHLC provides legal assistance to clients with mental health concerns that are exacerbated by, or causing, legal problems. People that access legal assistance from CLCs rarely experience legal problems in isolation from other forms of disadvantage.  The integration of social work in a legal context has meant that clients receive a holistic support service for not only their legal issues, but associated social issues.
The social work students in the MDP have been fundamental to the integration of social work services in the MHLC.  The students have been attending regular meetings at the women’s prison clinic; performing intake calls and follow up for the night time legal advice line; conducting an evaluation of MHLC’s Night Service; and undertaking a comprehensive file review into VALS’ police complaints files and recommending improved complaints processes.
There are substantial benefits in integrated legal and social work services for clients, staff wellbeing and for long-term economic savings through the de-escalation of legal and other issues. The client benefits are far reaching and at its core means that vulnerable Victorians are less likely to continue to come into contact with the criminal justice system, and less likely to get caught up in a ‘referral roundabout.’ We look forward to continuing this great work into the new year and thank all who supported the creation and development of the multidisciplinary practice at CIJ/MHLC this year
RMIT Social Work students Fiona Carey and Joanna Moden outside VALS

CIJ Events  

Career Mentor Forum

JD and Social Work students who attended the Career Mentor Forum on 13th Oct had the opportunity to speak to our fantastic career mentors in an intimate setting.  CIJ thanks John Cain, Victoria’s Solicitor for Public Prosecutions, Office of Public Prosecutions; Liberty Sanger, Principal, Maurice Blackburn; Carolyn Burnside, Barrister at Law; Ruth Barson, Director of Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre; Elissa Scott, Summary Crime Program Manager, Victoria Legal Aid and Marina Basile, General Counsel, Property, Law Squared for inspiring the students and providing valuable career advice.  

"Being so close to exams it can become easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, but I gained a sense of relief and motivation from attending the forum. I was also fortunate enough to make some invaluable connections on the night."   
Amy Roseman, JD Student
Rob Hulls with Liberty Sanger, Marina Basile, John Cain, Carolyn Burnside, Ruth Barson and Elissa Scott

In Conversation with the Victorian Ombudsman  

Deborah Glass was back at RMIT after the successful forum, Prisons: Unlock Our Thinking held earlier this year. This time Deborah talked about her fascinating career journey, her experiences working in a variety of roles and sectors from banking, financial services regulation to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, all good grounding for her role as Victorian Ombudsman. She also touched on her recent Investigation into public transport fare evasion enforcement report.

You can listen to a podcast of the event here.

CIJ in the media

Passion with purpose

Last month Rob spoke to the dynamic Shen Narayanasami, Human Rights Campaign Co-Director at GetUp! and  Executive Director of No Business In Abuse about her work in human rights advocacy.

CIJ out and about

Coming up for 2017 are the following CIJ speaking engagements:

21-22 March 2017 – Utilising data for evidence-based policy – Focus: Risk in policies being set despite lack of evidence/data

6-8 April 2017 – Non-Adversarial Justice Conference – Park Royal, Darking Harbour – Speaker: Stan Winford
On behalf of all the staff at the Centre, we hope you have a joyful festive season and a happy and fruitful 2017! 

The CIJ staff are:
Rob Hulls - Director
Mark Madden - Deputy Director
Elena Campbell -Manager, Policy and Research 
Mina Hilson - Centre Coordinator
Stan Winford - Principal Coordinator, Legal Programs
Anna Howard - Project Coordinator, ABI Project and Volunteer and Placement Coordinator
Nareeda Lewers - Project Officer, Restorative Justice Project
Kat Ogilvie - Social Worker
Cordelia Rice - Admin Officer, Research and Policy
Heidi Phillips - Admin Officer
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