September newsletter: Kids burdened with COVID fines + student legal centre swamped

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Hi *|FNAME|*,

Youthlaw is Victoria’s free, dedicated legal service for people under the age of 25. Providing intensive legal support can change a young person’s life. It prevents them from becoming entrenched in the justice system and frees them to engage in work and education.

Read on to find out how we are making an impact.

You’re receiving this newsletter because you have an association with Youthlaw or we thought you’d find it of interest. If you don’t want to receive newsletters in future, scroll to the bottom to unsubscribe.


Ariel Couchman, CEO
Our Work
Kids burdened with $1600 COVID fines
The COVID laws can be confusing. Youthlaw is helping more than 20 young people who have received $1652 COVID fines. Some of these children are as young as 14 and all are facing disadvantage, including one client who is living in state care. 

One of our clients is Ravi*, a 17-year-old asylum seeker, who was out for an early morning walk with a friend when a stranger approached them asking for directions, breaching the two-person rule. Police issued Ravi with a $1652 fine.

Ravi is worried about how he’ll pay, and scared his visa application may be affected. A number of community centres, including Youthlaw, have expressed concern about how police powers are being exercised during the COVID pandemic, as reported in The Guardian: Victoria Police powers under scrutiny after fines issues for exercise and going to supermarket.

Youthlaw Advocacy 

We’re a fearless voice for the legal rights of young people.

Call for police to issue masks, not fines

In July we joined the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan, to call for police to keep young people safe by handing out masks, not fines.

Our media release points out that lumping teens with enormous fines that they’ll never be able to pay doesn’t make the community any safer, and only brings young people into contact with courts. Read the article in The Age.

This postcard explains the law around masks, and encourages people to contact us if they’ve been fined.
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Youthlaw student legal centre swamped
The impacts of COVID-19 have caused a surge in demand for legal advice from young people via our RMIT student legal service.

There have been double the amount of services delivered to young people in the six months to June, compared to the same period last year. 
Students are finding themselves in dire situations, having lost the casual jobs they relied on to pay the rent and bills. Our student legal service has been a lifeline for these young people.

Concerns over expanded role of PSOs

Youthlaw has major concerns about a proposal to expand the use and powers of Protective Service Officers (‘PSOs’) in public areas such as shopping centres, main streets and crowded places.  
The Police and Emergency Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 Bill is being debated in parliament next week. Assistant Commissioners need only to establish ‘urgent or unforeseen circumstances’ for PSOs to be deployed en mass to any area in Victoria. Additionally they can designate areas and deploy PSOs (under supervision of police) where it is deemed to be necessary or desirable for community safety or reassurance of the public and is needed to ‘assist police’ or ‘deter crime or anti-social behaviour’ or ‘provide reassurance’ to people in the area.

There is no evidence that PSOs improve community safety. Young people, vulnerable citizens and Aboriginal Victorians are among those who will bear the brunt of this increased policing of public space .PSOs are insufficiently trained and yet provided with the weapons provided to police. This is a toxic and dangerous combination.
Read our blog Victoria becoming a police state on the quiet

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Supporting young people experiencing homelessness

Lula* left home when she was 15 to escape an abusive parent. She spent 12 months couchsurfing and living in crisis accommodation. Lula was referred to Youthlaw by a homelessness agency after she received several fines for travelling on public transport without a valid ticket. Each fine was $83, and she had no way of paying them.

Our lawyers are now helping Lula to make an application to have her fine withdrawn.
Without a safe home, young people are vulnerable to exploitation and victimisation, and offending behaviour. More than 1-in-4 of Youthlaw client are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. 

Raise the Age campaign

Right now in Australia, children as young as 10 can be arrested, hauled before the courts and put in prison. We have been spearheading a campaign that calls on the Government to #RaiseTheAge of legal responsibility to 14. Read more here.
On 27 July, the Council of Attorney Generals met to discuss the issue, but put off making a decision until next year. You can join in the calls to raise the age using the #RaiseTheAge hashtag.

Become a member

Becoming a member of Youthlaw is free. Growing our membership base helps us adds weight to our policy positions and public stances .

As a member of Youthlaw you will receive our e-newsletter, invitations to special events and invitation to General Meetings. You will also have the opportunity to provide input into key policy issues we are working on, and are eligible to nominate for our Board of Management.

Membership is open to individuals or organisations. 

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