5 August 2020 – Volume 201
This Homelessness Week, we're taking a look at how our work helping people with mental health issues overlaps with this national crisis.

‘Defeated and stressed’ —  the struggle to find a home while recovering from mental health issues

When Jacqui was leaving hospital, it was sometimes difficult to find a safe and supportive place to live so she could continue to recover from her mental health issues. In homelessness awareness week, we’re sharing Jacqui’s story about the support that made a difference in her recovery.

Free from prison, into homelessness

When Adam walked out the gate of Port Phillip prison at 4.30 pm on a Friday afternoon, his troubles weren’t over. They had begun decades ago. His story is one of so many we see, where homelessness, family breakdown, illness, mental health and more intersect.

We consistently see the way homelessness, poverty, mental health and legal problems interconnect and affect someone’s life. Everyone deserves a safe and affordable home.

Missed opportunity to improve kids’ lives and raise the age

Our lawyers see children aged 10 — 13 coming before courts and placed in custody. We know this process does them harm, so we were disappointed that the Council of Attorney’s General chose not to raise the age of criminal responsibility last week.

Children's lawyer Majella Foster-Jones spoke to ABC Melbourne's Conversation Hour about why we must #RaiseTheAge and give all kids the same chances to thrive.

Panel practitioner updates

Judge only trials: what you need to know

The Victorian Parliament has passed legislation permitting the trial of indictable Victorian offences in the Supreme and County courts by judge alone. This measure was introduced as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have prepared a comprehensive guidance note on the legislation and what to consider when it comes to judge only trials.

Responses from Courts to stage four restrictions

In light of the imposition of new restrictions on movement and workplaces, as well as increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the justice system, the Courts are moving rapidly to respond.

The Magistrates' Court accelerating the move to online hearings across the board. The Court has issued new practice directions. Further changes are being announced - please continue to check the VLA website for further updates.

Extension of the flexible forum test pilot

We have extended the application of the flexible forum test pilot for a further six months for people who live along the Victorian and New South Wales border who apply for a grant of legal assistance for a family law matter.

Funding the service response to COVID-19

We are using additional state and Commonwealth funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in three key areas. A significant amount of funding will be used to support increased demand for our services, including in regional areas. We’ll also continue to support our staff to work remotely and safely. 

COVID-19 justice sector updates

Read more updates from across the sector about how we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Community news and notices

Law Institute Victoria — 2020 Criminal Law Conference

This Law Institute of Victoria conference will be held on Friday 7 August, from 9 am to 5 pm. It will feature His Honour Judge Cain on the coordination of Victoria’s criminal jurisdictions during COVID-19, as well as His Honour Chief Judge Kidd from the County Court of Victoria and Her Honour Chief Magistrate Hannan from the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

Castan Centre for Human Rights Law Conference

The annual Castan Centre conference is the leading human rights conference in Australia, providing a vital health check on the state of human rights in Australia and overseas. The conference was originally scheduled to be held on Friday 24 July, but due to COVID-19, will now be postponed and held on Friday 27 November. 

Job vacancy at Youthlaw, Lawyer, Family Violence Program

Youthlaw, a free legal service for young people under 25, seeks a passionate lawyer to join our multidisciplinary Family Violence Program team three days a week (0.6EFT) for 12 months (commencing mid-September 2020).

Applications close this Sunday 9 August. Please note interviews will most likely take place remotely on Wednesday 13 or Thursday 14 August.

If you have any community news that you would like included in this newsletter email editor@vla.vic.gov.au. Items will be published at the editor's discretion.

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This newsletter is authorised by Victoria Legal Aid, 570 Bourke Street Melbourne 3000.

Victoria Legal Aid operates on Aboriginal country throughout Victoria. We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land and respect their continuing connections to land, sea and community.

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