The Law Week 2019 program is now live

We are thrilled to announce the Law Week 2019 event program is now available. There are over 200 events across the state to inform and entertain you. With performances, behind the scenes tours, information sessions and plenty of children’s activities, Law Week makes learning about the law easy for all Victorians.

Something for everyone

Uncover our rich legal history, enjoy a theatrical performance, view a film screening or simply enjoy a sausage sizzle. Go behind the scenes at the courts or take part in debates, tours, mock-court trials, legal health checks and music performances.

On Saturday 18 May, enjoy a wonderful day out with the whole family at Courts Open Day. On Sunday 19 May, experience the stunning architecture of the building where our laws are made at Parliament Open Day.

Stop by our Law Week Hub at Fed Square to find out what’s on and pick up a Law Week program.

Check out the full program

The full event program is now available online! Use the filters to check specific days or type of event to find the events you want to attend with ease.

Law Week Grants for 2019 have been awarded

Get ready for Law Week, a dynamic festival of events designed to help people explore the law in fun and informative ways. From 13 –19 May choose from over one hundred free events from court tours, to mock trials to activities for families, and more.

This week Victoria Law Foundation awarded $20,000 in grants to bring 13 of these events to life across Victoria, including legal health checks, information sessions and opportunities to find out where to get help with legal problems. More details will be released shortly.

Regional and new events were given priority for Law Week Grants this year to provide opportunities for those outside Melbourne. We’re excited to see the reach of Law Week extended through this funding.

Check out the full list of Law Week grant recipients.

The official Law Week 2019 program will be available at the end of March. Stay tuned for the full line-up.

The nuts and bolts of sentencing

There was intense media interest at Melbourne’s County Court this morning as Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced Cardinal George Pell for sexually assaulting two choirboys. Promoting transparency of the court, Judge Kidd’s sentencing remarks were broadcast live, including to a large group of media and onlookers outside the County Court.

Judge Kidd imposed a total sentence of six years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and eight months. That means Pell will be eligible to apply for parole after serving this non-parole period. His release after parole is a matter for the Parole Board.

In his sentencing remarks Judge Kidd said –

Finally, sentencing is often simplistically portrayed by some in the public sphere as being an easy and uncomplicated task. From where I sit today, the exercise is far from an easy one. And it is certainly not simple. I am required to weigh all of the relevant matters in this case and then reach a conclusion as to a just and appropriate penalty that reflects all of the circumstances of your case.

Cardinal Pell has already lodged an appeal against the conviction, which is set to be heard in the Court of Appeal on June 5.

How did Chief Judge Kidd come to his decision?

Judges must consider many factors when making a decision on sentencing. These decisions are then made publicly available.

Read Chief Judge Kidd’s full sentencing remarks.

So what do judges have to take into account when sentencing?

The Sentencing Advisory Council’s publication ‘A Quick Guide to Sentencing’ explains the where, when, what and how of sentencing in Victoria.

Experience what it is like to hand down a sentence

Try your hand as a Judge with the interactive You be the Judge…

Farewell dear friend – the Hon. Philip Cummins AM. Chair of the Victoria Law Foundation 2009 – 2014

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of the Honourable Justice Philip Cummins AM. A much-loved friend of the Foundation, his professional commitments revealed his deep and abiding humanity and concern for others.

A Judge of the Supreme Court from 1988 to 2009, Justice Cummins had a distinguished legal career characterised by intelligence and energy, that he continued to demonstrate in the years after his retirement from the Bench in 2010.

Showing his underlying commitment to helping the vulnerable and to improving the law, from September 2012 he served as Chair of the Law Reform Commission, and President of the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies based in London.

Justice Cummins chaired the inquiry into Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry in 2010/11 and served also as President of the Court Network, supporting Victorians in their dealings with the court system.

While Justice Cummins had a sparkling legal career, at the Foundation we knew Philip best as a witty, warm-hearted and generous friend. As Chair of the Foundation from 2009 to 2014, he was particularly passionate about our Education function, cementing our strong reputation in helping Victorians understand the law.

More recently as a Law Talks presenter, he engaged hundreds of young Victorians with his judicial experience, and stories funny, interesting and wise. A beloved member of our team, we will miss him dearly.

Bendigo students get a Headstart for Legal Studies

We want students to get a Headstart on Unit 4 Legal Studies. That’s why we visited Bendigo with experts from the most important legal organisations in Victoria.

Students visited court and found out what it’s like to be on a jury. They heard from the Victorian Law Reform Commission on how laws are improved. And the Dispute Settlement Centre explained how to resolve legal disputes through mediation. Lawyers also spoke on how community legal centres work.

And of course, there were study tips on how to do well in VCE.

For more information about Headstart, or to arrange a session for your students, contact our Education Manager, Fabiola Superina, on (03) 9604 8100 or email.

The Laramie Project – the American true crime story coming to Melbourne


The true crime

In October 1998 a young gay student Matthew Shephard was lured from a bar to the outskirts of town in Laramie, Wyoming. On a bitterly cold night he was tied to a fence, savagely beaten and left begging for his life. He died soon after being discovered the following day.

The horrendous crime, the community’s reaction and legal case that followed were captured in a moving script by the New York’s Tectonic Theater project, which became known as The Laramie Project. The theatre group travelled to Laramie and made a play about what happened, based on the court case transcripts and interviews with family, friends and locals. It has since become one of the most performed plays in America, and is coming to Melbourne, presented by the not-for-profit organisation Bottled Snail production company led by Victorian legal professionals.

What happened next

‘What came of the crime was an outcry in relation to hate crime, and eventually led to former US president Obama enacting anti-hate crime legislation, which was known as the Matthew Shepard Act, says director Nicky Neville-Jones, a Melbourne family lawyer with a background in performing theatre.

‘In America at that time there was no legislation relevant to that particular crime. And I wanted Bottled Snail to take on the project because of the various human rights themes, and the fact that it’s still relevant in 2019,’ she says.

Push for change in Victoria

Twenty years since the Matthew Shepard case, there is a growing campaign to strengthen laws in Victoria to respond to prejudice motivated offences, and violence against the LGBTI community.

In their recent End the Hate report the Human Rights Law Centre called on the Victorian Government to legislate specifically against hate crimes, to ensure everyone including the LGBTI community are treated with dignity and respect.

‘There is concern that existing laws and policies may not effectively deter or combat prejudice motivated crime practice,’ the report says.

In particular, the report calls on the Victorian government to introduce a Hate Crimes Act to ensure all people are equally protected, and to support more research and data collection into the prevalence of prejudice motivated conduct to improve responses.

Lee Carnie, who co-authored the HRLC report with Anna Brown, will be speaking on the opening night of The Laramie Project about the ongoing relevance of the case to Victorians.

Funded by a small grant from Victoria Law Foundation, The Laramie Project will be showing at Chapel off Chapel from 21 February 2019 – 2 March 2019.

Tickets can be purchased from the Chapel off Chapel website.

New campaign to tackle sexual harassment announced at Legal Laneway Breakfast

Over six hundred members of the legal fraternity came together for Victoria Law Foundation’s annual Legal Laneway breakfast in the CBD’s Hardware Lane. The gathering heard about a landmark initiative by the VSLB to tackle sexual harassment in the legal profession, got an update on the Foundation’s work and the new research program.

The year ahead at Victoria Law Foundation

‘The new research function at the Foundation is underway, headed up by Research Director, Professor Nigel Balmer, an international leader in legal empirical research.’ The Foundation is working on a three-year research program to improve Victorians’ access to justice, with more details to be released in coming months, said Lynne Haultain, the Victoria Law Foundation’s Executive Director.

Lynne also reminded all that Law Week 2019 will run from May 13 – 19. ‘We look forward to your participation – backing up again after a bumper year of 220 events last year across the state.’ The Foundation’s annual Oration will take place mid-year, and the third Law and You forum is scheduled for October.

Lynne commended a range of people from across the sector who support the Foundation’s work with schools through the Law Talks and Classroom Law Talks series, which she pointed out make a significant difference in the lives of young people who would not otherwise have that exposure to the law and the people in it.

New initiative against sexual harassment in the legal sector

Legal Services Commissioner and CEO Fiona McLeay launched a long-term campaign to raise awareness, investigate, quantify and address sexual harassment in legal workplaces.

‘Sexual harassment in the profession is unacceptable and it won’t be tolerated,’ she said. Over the next few years the VSLB will investigate complaints, initiate complaints where appropriate, and in either case use their powers to address the problem.

She reported that since beginning her role as Commissioner last year, she has been approached by many lawyers who have asked her to address the problem. ‘It’s clear to me that sexual harassment is occurring in the profession and it’s too common. It’s a serious issue, and we need to address it.’

Ms McLeay said colleagues at the Legal Services Board are concerned the problem is under-reported, with lawyers too afraid to formalise a complaint for fear of negative impacts on their lives and careers.

She asked leaders in the profession to call out inappropriate behaviour to ensure employees have a safe environment, with equal opportunities to succeed.

She also encouraged those who have experienced such behaviour to come forward with complaints, and to support colleagues who have such complaints. The VSLB has developed a special group of staff to take calls and investigate complaints.

Lawyers can contact the VSLB to discuss a matter confidentially, or make a complaint relating to sexual harassment by a lawyer.

Later in the year the Board will launch a survey to investigate the prevalence of this problem.

Ms McLeay reiterated that the legal profession cannot be quiet in addressing this kind of conduct. All lawyers should be able to practise their craft free of harassment of any kind,’ she said. ‘Our profession demands a higher standard of ethics and behaviour.’

The VLF in transition

The VLF is changing its role and we thought it would be useful to summarise the developments which could affect you:

Publications

All but one of our hard copy publications have been transferred to Victoria Legal Aid. These are:

For copies or information, visit the Victoria Legal Aid website.

All the content on the Everyday-Law site will also transfer to Victoria Legal Aid in the very near future.

We still hold Victoria’s Legal System, the easy-to-understand guide explaining how the legal system works in Victoria. You can order copies through our website.

Grants

Our last General grants were recently awarded and we look forward very much to seeing the projects come to fruition.

A new grants structure rolls out in 2019, designed to support the collection and analysis of data in the interests of reducing barriers to justice services.

Find out more about our new grant rounds.

Education

It’s been an outstanding year for our community and schools events and these programs will continue in 2019, including Law Talks, the Education Forum, the Oration and the Law and You forum.

Law Week is 13-19 May 2019 and is already promising to be better than ever!

You can find out more and register an event on our Law Week website.

Research

Dr Nigel Balmer has just started as our inaugural Research Director, and our research agenda will take shape over the next few months. We’ll keep you posted through our Latest News.

2017/18 Annual Report

Our 2017/18 Annual Report has now been tabled. The report showcases our work supporting the community and the legal sector.

Read the report

Follow Lynne on Twitter

The official VLF Executive Director account is up and running. Our Executive Director Lynne Haultain will be talking about developments and activities in the justice sector as well as showcasing the great work of the Foundation.

Follow Lynne on Twitter and say hello!

Our Grants program is changing

Our grants program has long supported projects that have a significant impact on the lives of Victorians and the way they understand and use the law.

From 2019 we will take a new approach to grants, reflecting our focus on civil law and research.

What’s changing?

Our new program will be introduced in the 2019/20 financial year, and will offer two new types of grant:

  • Knowledge Grants – supporting organisations to develop their capacity to collect data, analyse and share information about civil legal need.
  • Community Legal Grants – supporting projects that improve community understanding of civil legal issues and the Victorian justice system.

General Grants are no longer available. We made 5 significant General grants in October and will support those to conclusion. We look forward to sharing the results.

What stays the same?

Small Grants will be available until June 2019 or until the funding is exhausted. From July, Small Grants will continue to be offered and will include applications to deliver Law Week events.

Want to know more?

To learn more about our new grants program visit the Grants section of our website.

Free coffee and free legal advice: Expresso Legal hits the streets in Whittlesea

Lawyers from Whittlesea Community Connection are taking their coffee van, Expresso Legal, to markets, schools and libraries in the Whittlesea area.

It’s a great way to reach those who need legal help, because it opens a relaxed space for people to talk about their legal problems says principal lawyer Chris Howse.

The good news is that the coffee and the legal advice is free. Check out our video to find out more about Expresso Legal.

To find out where Expresso Legal coffee van is going next, ring Whittlesea Community Connection on 03 9401 6666. From January 2019 this information will be available on their website.

Expresso Legal is funded by a grant from Victoria Law Foundation. Find out more about our general grants program

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