June newsletter: Team Youthlaw Run Melbourne + Legal Pod update

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Team Youthlaw Run Melbourne!
Race day is fast approaching!  On Sunday 28 July our team will don their running shoes and participate in Run Melbourne to raise much needed funds to support Youthlaw’s fearless advocacy of young people.  

There’s still time to donate! You can help now by donating to Youthlaw’s team

Your donation will go to support our key programs including our Family Violence Program and Outreach Service. As the only specialised community legal centre for young people in Victoria it is absolutely vital that Youthlaw’s work continue. 

Give what you can because youth justice matters. 

Innovation to Improve Access to Justice
The Legal Pod Program

For the past 12 months Youthlaw has been running the Legal Pod program. Overseen and guided by Managing Lawyer Fleur Hopkins, this program provides free long term legal services to young people aged 18-24 years who have had an out-of-home care experience. Using pro bono resources the program links no less than three volunteer lawyers to a young person. This ‘Legal Pod’ then provides wrap around legal services to the young person for up to three years. It is the first of its kind in Victoria. 

We currently have 9 young people allocated to ‘Legal Pods’ and have capacity for more. 8 law firms have partnered with the program plus over 70 lawyers have expressed interest in getting involved. 

On average each client has 8 legal issues with which the Legal Pod assists including fines, debts, FOI requests for DHHS documents and tenancy matters. This highlights the complex needs of young people transitioning from care, and the importance of providing a comprehensive service to address these needs.  

In the future we hope to set up the program in the Geelong region to improve access to legal services for young people in regional Victoria. 

If you would like to learn more about Legal Pod, or know of a young person who would like legal assistance from our program, contact us by emailing legalpod@youthlaw.asn.au.    
Meet Lisa! Lisa is our dedicated Outreach Lawyer at Youthlaw. She provides legal services to a range of locations across Victoria including Bendigo, Shepparton, Frankston, Fitzroy and Wodonga. Lisa first joined Youthlaw as a vollie in 2011! In her spare time she likes to knit, bake and watch reality baking shows. 
What do you enjoy most about your role? 
Being able to work flexibly and help young people who are unable to come to the city for assistance. I love driving along the highway passing really beautiful landscapes on my way to our different outreach locations. Plus getting to work along side an amazing group of people at Youthlaw is pretty great. 

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
As much as I enjoy the travelling, it does take up a lot of time. It can be difficult remembering to factor this in when managing my time.

Can you tell us about a recent big win you’ve had?
A recent big win for me was seeing a young person really improve their situation from when I first saw them. I was helping them with multiple criminal matters and it didn’t look too good but they had really engaged with their supports and had followed through with their appointments and so we were able to get a really great outcome, all thanks to the efforts made by the young person. 
Prison numbers escalating

We continue our advocacy for the Victorian Government to invest in early intervention to prevent young people entering the criminal justice system and prison.
Prison numbers are at an all time high and the recent Victorian government budget provides for further prison expansion. This is clearly unsustainable, costly and ineffective given the 50% return rate to prison.
Current drivers of growing prison numbers include the tightening of bail and parole laws and increased policing due to extensive recruitment of new police.
We welcome the Victorian Government’s recent announcement of a potential review of the Corrections system with the aim to reduce recidivism and improve prisoner rehabilitation. However, their reluctance to review the strict parole and bail laws is a concern.

Victorian prisons to focus on rehabilitation not recidivism
Women prisoner numbers explode amid state crackdown on male violence
A Failure of Government: Young People are Being Punished for Experiencing Childhood Abuse
The Sentencing Advisory Council recently published the Crossover Kids report which looks at children who are known to child protection among sentenced and diverted children in the Victorian Children’s Court. The report provides a powerful analysis of the historical and current failure to adequately address the trauma of childhood abuse and neglect.

The report tells us that children
known to child protection are
over-represented in the youth
justice system. Of all children
sentenced or diverted in the
Victorian Children’s Court
in 2016 and 2017 38% had a
history of child protection.

Other findings from the report include:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are significantly over-represented among children known to both the youth justice and the child protection systems.
  • The younger children are at first sentence, the more likely they are to be known to child protection.
  • Children who experience out-of-home care are a particularly vulnerable group.
  • Children who experience residential care are over-represented in the youth justice system. 58% of sentenced or diverted children in out-of-home care were in residential care. 
  • Multiple placements in out-of-home-care is common (1 in 2 children had 5 or more placements ). 
  • 1 in 2 children sentenced to custody had a child protection background. 
Previous studies have found early offending to be a strong predictor of re-offending and adult imprisonment

This report is timely given the Victorian Government’s recent budget announcement of significant spending on the expansion of prison infrastructure over the next four years. The report’s findings support our submission that adequately addressing the trauma of childhood abuse and neglect could significantly reduce the number of young people in the criminal justice system. It is past time to acknowledge and address children’s experiences of trauma.

The report is the first of two reports to be published. The second report will look more closely at the child protection profiles of children identified in the first report, for example, examining the type of harm or risk reported to child protection.  We expect the report will reveal that the children most severely sentenced are those who have experienced the most serious harm.

Victoria’s most disadvantaged kids deserve a brighter future
Young people are being punished for being victims of childhood abuse and neglect
Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

Youthlaw recently made a submission to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system. Our key submissions:
  • Registered our concern regarding inadequate mental health assessment and services at the point of justice intervention.  A significant number of young people are being sentenced and jailed in the context of undiagnosed, untreated mental health conditions.
  • Advocated for the expansion of the Assessment & Referral Court List (ARC) to all major Magistrates courts in Victoria. This therapeutic court response enables those with diagnosed mental illness or other neurological conditions to have their sentence deferred while they are supported to engage with support services and receive treatment.
  • Noted the many obstacles to early continuing mental health care.
  • Recommended allocation of funding for highly accessible and flexible mental health services for vulnerable young people.

Stay connected with Youthlaw

Youthlaw has a wealth of information on our Website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

We invite you all to click the links below and stay connected with Youthlaw. 

Youthlaw Facebook
Youthlaw Twitter
Youthlaw Website
We would love to hear from you!

Have you been working on an interesting project?
Seen something relevant in the media?

Send us an email at admin@youthlaw.asn.au
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