During May and June, the CIJ’s family violence research program will be very busy in the field, conducting focus groups and consultations across a range of projects to increase knowledge about perpetrator intervention systems; court referrals to Men’s Behaviour Change Programs; adolescent family violence; and the experience of women attending court to obtain Intervention Orders.
PIPA in the field
Continuing the huge volume of work conducted in 2017, Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent Violence in the home (PIPA) is heading to Tasmania, where the team will be speaking with practitioners about the context in which adolescents use family violence and the response they receive. These findings will be particularly important, given that Tasmanian legislation currently only recognises intimate partner violence. We will also be hosting the third of our public forums in Hobart, featuring legal experts as well as a parent with lived experience at the intersection of adolescent family violence and disability. Following that, the PIPA team will be testing a proposed response framework with practitioners in Victoria, Tasmania and WA, as well as sharing some of its ongoing findings at the upcoming ANROWS Conference in Sydney in May.
Counselling Order Review Meanwhile, the Counselling Order Review team will be conducting focus groups and interviews across courts and Men’s Behaviour Change Programs to identify the features of a best practice model for a single Counselling Order program within the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. This work is to support and inform the roll-out of Specialist Family Violence Courts across all headquarter courts, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. It will also inform other streams of perpetrator intervention focused work being developed by the court. The team has already completed a comprehensive literature review and consultations with interstate and international experts to provide a solid evidence base for the project – one which points to the complexities of working with people who use family violence, as well as the significant opportunities that exist for positive change.
Perpetrator Intervention Systems As part of an expert team looking at perpetrator intervention systems across Australia, the CIJ’s Elena Campbell will be conducting focus groups across two Victorian regions to examine the way in which systems and specific practices develop at a local level, and how gaps and opportunities exist which are not always visible at the higher level of policy reform. These case studies will contribute to a multi-jurisdictional study, led by Curtin University in WA; and also involving University of NSW; University of Western Sydney and Griffith University
Court Support for Kids Of course, the primary beneficiaries of all of CIJ’s work in relation to perpetrator interventions should always be those who experience family violence. The CIJ’s ongoing focus on improving access to FV Intervention Orders includes a project commissioned by McAuley Community Services for Women. This project examines the needs of women who attend court to apply for an IVO while accompanied by their children and then evaluates the extent to which the Court Support for Kids Program – delivered at Sunshine, Geelong and Ringwood Magistrates’ Courts meets those needs. The CS4K team has conducted a Literature Review, and is in the process of interviewing women, agency staff, legal practitioners and court staff about the challenges that women face when attending court with their children, and the ways in which support can assist women to obtain intervention orders which address their needs.
Ongoing advocacy and advice In addition to its research projects, the CIJ continues to contribute to the implementation of a number of Royal Commission recommendations, including through involvement on the Chief Magistrates’ Family Violence Taskforce; the Predominant Aggressor Identification Working Group; Standard Conditions Working Group seeking to implement reform of Family Violence Intervention Orders and the Family Violence Restorative Justice pilot project.
Office of Public Prosecutions
In 2016, the Victorian Law Reform Commission inquired into the experiences of victims of crime in criminal trials. Among other issues, the inquiry noted that victims are often disappointed by prosecution decisions to discontinue a matter, or to accept a plea resolution to a lesser charge. Research suggests that victims’ concerns about these decisions, at least in part, may relate to the process in which they are communicated as much as their nature or outcome. For this reason, the prosecution’s process for consulting victims is extremely important, and there is a need to ensure that these processes meet victims’ support and information needs as much as possible. The Centre for Innovative Justice has recently commenced a research project that is aimed at providing advice to the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) about how to work with victims of crime in this area. This project will explore victims' experiences of the ways in which decisions by prosecutors are communicated to them through interviews with victims of crime, OPP lawyers, and social workers employed within the OPPs Witness Assistance Service. The project focuses on the communication of particular types of decisions made by the OPP to victims: decisions to resolve charges through the acceptance of pleas of guilty to some but not all charges, and decisions to discontinue prosecutions, aiming to:
identify and understand victims’ experience of being consulted and informed about prosecution decisions in relation to plea resolutions and discontinuance; and
identify areas for OPP improvement in managing these processes and communicating with victims about these processes and decisions; and
propose practical solutions to improve outcomes for victims, the OPP and the community; and
identify areas for further investigation and research.
Court of Appeal Taster Placements –
RMIT JD students, together with VU law students, spent an incredible week at the Court of Appeal, observing three fascinating and high-profile appeals, including the United Firefighters Union appeal against the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s power to conduct a review of the CFA and MFB’s practices relating to discrimination and bullying; an appeal against sentence for a culpable driving matter brought by the DPP and Bauer Media’s appeal against Rebel Wilson’s landmark defamation win. Students were addressed by the presiding Court of Appeal judges, Counsel for the parties in each of the cases and received the Court documents relating to the appeals. Finally, students attended an Industry Lunch with a diverse range of lawyers.
2018 Melbourne Study Tour –
The CIJ’s Innovative Justice Study Tour is being offered again in 2018 in Melbourne. The Study Tour, a Semester 2 JD course, offers students a chance to participate in a week long, immersive tour of Melbourne’s solution focused courts, including the Assessment and Referral Court, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, the Drug Court and the Koori Court. Students will hear from Magistrates, senior justice system professionals and people with lived experience of the criminal justice system.
Applications have now opened, and must be received byTuesday 8 May 2018 via email@example.com using 'Study Tour' in the subject.
Student feedback from 2016 Melbourne Innovative Justice Study Tour: “The study tour was excellent. I’m an OUA student and I highly recommend it to any other OUA students or face to face. It gives you a real insight into the justice system working and there’s a lot more to how we can learn to be lawyers in future”
Keri Neveldsen, OUA JD student
JD Students on the 2016 Melbourne Study Tour with Rob Hulls and Stan Winford
Interested in developing your practical legal skills while making a contribution to the community AND getting course credit? Clinical Legal Education will be offered again in Semester 2. Applications are now open, closing on Friday 18 May 2018. Applications should be addressed to Anna Howard, Student Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Innovative Justice kicks off –
This year RMIT’s Graduate School of Business and Law introduced the new Innovative Justice subject in the JD program. The JD program is the only law school in Australia to offer an Innovative Justice course as a core element. All RMIT JD students are now required to study Innovative Justice, which covers theories and frameworks such as therapeutic jurisprudence, restorative justice, holistic law, creative problem solving and preventive law. Fifty students commenced the first iteration of the course in Semester 1, which has been designed and delivered by a number of CIJ’s staff. This semester, students were required to work together in teams to design innovative responses to the issue of graffiti. The presentations made by students in late April indicated that RMIT is producing a cohort of creative, problem-solving lawyers who are capable of designing and participating in new approaches that are effective.
Course Coordinator, Bronwyn Naylor and Student Mentor, Anna Howard with Innovative Justice students
Fastrack delivers access to justice...again! –
Streamlinefines, a project from the inaugural Access to Justice stream of the Fastrack Innovation Program in 2015 has received a significant grant from the Victoria Government's Public Sector Innovation Fund for a one year trial. The full story of its journey from prototype to pilot can be found here. Streamlinefines is the second project of the A2J stream to receive development funding. The first was FineFixer which was successfully launched last year.
Where are they now?
Karl Shami completed the RMIT JD in 2016. We had a chat with him to see what he's been up to since.
When did you graduate, what have you been up to since then?
I graduated at the end of 2016, and completed a clerkship with the Maurice Blackburn at the end of 2016. I spent the next year working as a paralegal and volunteering at community legal centres. In March 2018 I started a traineeship at Maurice Blackburn, which I am currently undertaking, currently rotating through the Social Justice Practice.
Tell us a little bit about your career journey and why you decided to pursue a law degree?
I always had an interest in social justice. I finished my undergraduate in journalism but realised that it wasn't the right fit for me. I had always considered studying law. I spoke to some people who had studied law who convinced me that with the current market it would be a really bad idea. I'm a stubborn person though, so I decided that studying law would be the best way for me to achieve my ambitions.
How well did the RMIT JD prepare you for your career?
The RMIT JD is an excellent course to get a taste of real world experience and practical training. I had at least one practical based assessment each semester. Speaking to my colleagues who came from other universities this was a unique experience. There was a focus on what the practical experience of being a lawyer was like, and I really think this put me in a good place to enter the workforce.
What involvement did you have with CIJ while studying?
I took part in the CIJ’s New Zealand study tour in 2015. This was easily one of the highlights of my degree and I still talk about it to people now! I also spent six months volunteering at the Mental Health Legal Centre which is a great experience in itself.
Is there anything that surprised you about working in the legal sector?
There is a diversity of work available to you, and there is flexibility to get involved in what you're actually passionate about. I'm very fortunate that I'm currently working in a practice area that aligns with my interests, but I've met plenty of people who pay the bills with their 9-5 work but do some really interesting things on the side - sitting on sports tribunals, drafting policy documents, board members at various charities.
If you had one piece of advice to give law/social work students, what would that be?
Get involved with the opportunities that RMIT and being a student allows you. Sign up for programs and trips, go along to talks, email people for a coffee to pick their brain. As a student you really have the time and ability to take risks and explore options. If you're at RMIT you're at a real advantage to see some of the really interesting work you can do that isn't just private practice in a commercial firm.
Passion with a Purpose
Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration
By Greg Berman and Julian Adler, published by New Press, March 2018.
Written by the Directors of New York's Center for Court Innovation, in eight neat chapters, Start Here presents alternative approaches that have caused a reduction in crime, recidivism and ultimately, incarceration rates in the US. The authors lay out the alternatives to incarceration and the evidence of their success clearly, cutting through populist drones that call for tougher, harsher responses in spite of the current crisis of mass incarceration in the US.
Start Here provides concrete ways in which lawmakers and people who work in the criminal justice system can move beyond theory and into action. Despite its US origin and focus, the road map presented could inform our criminal justice response in Australia. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the approaches endorsed in Start Here were consistent with findings and recommendations of the CIJ’s recent report ‘Recognition Respect and Support: Enabling Justice for People with an ABI’. These included the importance of treating all people – including defendants - with dignity and respect, and of providing appropriate community connection and support as an alternative to prison.
I read the book in two short sittings over two days, thanks to the authors’ clear and engaging style and commonsense approach to a problem that cripples the US, and is threatening to do the same in Australia. A must read for anyone interested in criminal justice responses beyond building more prisons.
By Anna Howard
Putting women’s prisons out of business
Our International Women's Day event - 'Putting women’s prisons out of business: gender responsive justice and solutions in an increasingly punitive world' - hosted in partnership with the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women attracted a large and enthusiastic audience. The panel discussion included two advocates with lived experiences of the justice system and explored and discussed the question of whether we would need a women’s prison at all if we responded more appropriately to male violence.
In Conversation with Julia Gillard In case you missed it, block out your diary for this lunch time event on Thursday 23 August with Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister and now Chair of the Global Partnerships for Education and Board Member of Beyond Blue. Details to come shortly.