Helping to identify the law in the everyday

Victorian Law Week made learning about the law easy for thousands of people with a program of over 200 events held throughout the state, including in-person, online, and on-demand.

Friday, June 16, 2023

From Gippsland to Loddon Mallee, from Hume to Barwon South-West, and everywhere in between, engagement across the regions was impressive.

Our partnership with Neighbourhood Houses Victoria played a vital role in bringing Law Week to regional Victoria. In Morwell, participants heard from the Victorian Ombudsman and Tenants Victoria, addressing common housing issues such as mould in rental properties and challenges with landlords. Tracie Lund, Manager of Morwell Neighbourhood House in Gippsland, emphasised the importance of direct access to professional support and advice, “It is not only valued, but critical for many in our community.”

Participants travelled from all over the region including Lang Lang and Warragul for an event at the Phillip Island Community Centre focusing on legal processes for family violence and relationship breakdowns. The discussion included Intervention Orders, mediation, child custody, and property settlements. Greg Thompson, the centre manager, said people were enthusiastic and grateful, with most staying for an additional hour after the presentations to ask one-on-one questions of Shan Stevens from Gippsland Community Legal Service and Elise Moseley from lawyers David Luscombe and Associates.

Private law firms also hosted events aimed at helping local communities gain legal knowledge. Angela Cox, a disability lawyer based in Melbourne, conducted an information session on advocating for children in the NDIS appeals process. Creating a supportive space where people could learn about the process, share stories, and develop their skills, one couple said these events helped them feel "seen in the shadows" and armed them with useful information that gave them hope.

Sally Nicholes, managing partner of Nicholes Family Lawyers, said, “Law Week provides an opportunity to contribute resources, information and support to those who may need it the most. To this end, we are honoured to take part each year and offer our services, with hope that we can improve the lives of those in vulnerable situations.”

A panel presented by VLF, which included representatives from the legal, housing, and social services sectors, discussed the adaptations and changes in response to emergencies and disasters. Recent experience of flood, fire and pandemic have provided valuable lessons on how to support people's legal needs during and after such challenging events.

Adding a touch of humour to Law Week was comedian, writer, and actor Kitty Flanagan. In an interview with Executive Director Lynne Haultain she discussed her popular sitcom "Fisk" and its unique approach to legal practice, candidly admitting that ‘probate’ wasn't a term she understood before the creating the show. By focusing on everyday issues like wills and estates, Fisk makes legal content relatable and entertaining, in contrast to the typical high-stakes, court room legal dramas.

The Law Week program also offered a glimpse into the court system, such as the Supreme Court Library Tour, a talk by Chief Magistrate of Victoria Justice Lisa Hannan at The Magistrate’s Court, and the Coroners Court of Victoria’s popular mock inquest on identifying unknown human remains. Another crowd-pleaser was Bottled Snail Production’s stage performance of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution, at the Old Magistrates’ Court a sell-out across all four shows.

Online events were abundant and covered a broad range of issues. The Law Institute of Victoria conducted a live webinar exploring home ownership and the common issues that arise with new and existing homes. The eSafety Commissioner held a session to enhance awareness and knowledge of prevalent scams like online fraud and phishing. The Energy and Water Ombudsman's webinar covered energy bill payment issues, disconnection rules, complaints, and consumer rights and responsibilities. This and much more online content is still available on demand.

We travelled to Gippsland to host a two-day program for VCE students. Experts from Victoria’s courts and other legal institutions presented on different topics related to the Legal Studies curriculum and students had the opportunity to speak with legal professionals directly. Katie, a student who attended the program, said, “I really enjoyed getting to go to the courts and see how the different courts work. I found especially interesting how the Koori court worked.”

Lynne Haultain wrapped up the week expressing hope that everyone who attended Law Week had the opportunity to learn and benefit from the expertise in the law. She also recognised the indispensable role of sponsors in making Law Week possible.

‘We extend our gratitude to Victoria Legal Services Board & Commissioner, Victorian Ombudsman, Victoria Legal Aid, Department of Justice & Community Safety; as well as all the Event Organisers who play such a vital role in helping Victorians understand their rights, find answers, and discover available legal assistance.’

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