In our 2023 grants round, we have awarded a record $8 million in funding to support 27 projects being delivered by legal and community organisations in Victoria. These projects will help people across the state gain better access to justice.
South Eastern Climate Justice
South-East Monash Legal Service
$500,000 over two years
This project will help disadvantaged communities in south-east Melbourne proactively address the emerging legal impacts of climate change, with a focus on identifying, preventing and mitigating the causes. It will demonstrate where these impacts intersect with other indicators of disadvantage and engage with communities on strategies that equip them for dealing with the challenges. The project will also create opportunities for collaboration and capacity building within the climate justice sector.
Understanding and removing barriers to self-representation for renters in Victoria
$200,000 over two years
This project aims to increase the number of renters asserting their rights at VCAT, with a particular focus on helping the legal sector better understand the experiences of renters who represent themselves. It will involve collecting data and making recommendations to improve support. The project will also use established internship programs to empower graduate law students to play a more active role and foster their interest in social justice.
Safer systems, safer families: addressing systemic disadvantage for Muslim communities during child protection interventions
Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights
$210,000 over three years
This project will explore child protection (CP) interventions from the perspective of Muslim mothers and adults, including those who experienced CP interventions as children. It will pilot an integrated response to identify and address barriers and challenges, providing legal and casework support for Muslim women to reduce the risk of CP cases progressing to court. The findings will help make the case for policy and sector reform, while developing capacity within communities and among practitioners to improve outcomes for Muslim and migrant families.
Restorative responses to young people engaging in harmful sexual behaviour
Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University
$350,000 over two and a half years
This project seeks to complement Victoria’s existing responses to harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) among children and young people. It will lay the foundations for a specialist restorative justice program that provides an avenue for children and young people who have been harmed by HSB to experience meaningful justice, while at the same time minimising their contact with the criminal justice system.
Access to justice for First Nations artists
Arts Law Centre of Australia
$280,000 over two years
This project will promote self-determination for First Nations artists, maximising their access to justice and increasing their financial sustainability. An engagement officer will be employed by Arts Law to help improve access to their Artists in the Black (AITB) service. The new role will be co-located in a First Nations organisation in Victoria and will provide information about artists’ rights and fair commercial art practices. It will also connect artists to legal advice and other resources.
Migration Lawyer Project
Fitzroy Legal Service
$460,000 over three years
This project will respond to recent changes to the Migration Act by seeking to increase access to justice and improve holistic legal responses for people from migrant backgrounds. It involves building internal skills and expertise at Fitzroy Legal Service and other community legal centres to ensure migration law is integrated with existing areas of legal practice.
Mainstreaming climate change in legal education
La Trobe University
$55,000 over one year
This project will help ensure Australian law schools consider the implications of climate change for all areas of law and legal practice as part of their curriculums, with the aim of producing more climate-conscious lawyers. It will develop resources such as an open access textbook, and establish a community of practice among legal academics to help promote it. The project will also look at how to overcome any barriers preventing climate change from becoming part of legal education.
Painting new pathways to employment: a work-integrated social entrepreneurship project
$80,000 over one year
This project will help First Nations people recently released from Victorian prisons to find culturally safe, meaningful and ongoing employment as they reintegrate into the community, reducing their likelihood of reoffending. It includes an annual training program on mural painting to help participants expand their knowledge, learn new skills, and gain the confidence to be employed on publicly commissioned projects.
Preparing for the legal impacts of climate disasters in Gippsland
This project will demonstrate the value community legal centres bring to preparing communities for future climate disasters. It will provide legal services and education to Gippsland residents, engaging them with legal issues related to climate disasters and ensuring Gippsland Community Legal Centre plays a role in future responses. The project will also develop resources that can be used by other communities and the wider legal sector.
Family Reunion Legal Clinic Program for permanent resolution of status visa holders
$400,000 over two years
This project will establish a program to provide free, expert legal assistance to people who previously held temporary protection visas and have since been granted a permanent resolution of status (RoS) visa. People granted this visa are eligible to sponsor family members to come to Australia, with most having been separated from them for at least ten years.
Beyond survival: policing family violence
$600,000 over three years
This project will respond to issues related to family violence policing, including poor practice and failures of duty, which compound the risks faced by vulnerable women. Working at both the individual and systemic levels, it will address harms such as “misidentification”, police-perpetrated family violence, and biased or discriminatory policing. The project will also intervene to help prevent the criminalisation of victim-survivors.
Wallumatta Legal Victoria
$330,000 over three years
This project will see Wallumatta Legal – a low fee not-for-profit family law firm – partner with the University of Melbourne and DLA Piper to establish an office in Melbourne and deliver services across Victoria. It aims to increase access to justice for "the missing middle" – low and middle-income earners who are ineligible for Legal Aid but cannot afford private practice fees. The project will also demonstrate how a low-fee law firm model can be scalable and self-sustaining.
From BARS to safety: bail and release support for women exiting custody
Law & Advocacy Centre for Women
$300,000 over two years
This project provides immediate and intensive support to women leaving prison after a short period in custody. It will assist them with transportation, clothing, emergency accommodation, food and mobile phones. The project will also ensure women are released into a safe environment which does not set them up to fail, addressing a gap that otherwise sees them left without the help needed to transition back into the community.
Legal pathways to recovery
inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence
$300,000 over two years
This project will empower people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who experience family violence to better understand Australian laws and the legal pathways available to them. With a focus on casework and legal education, it will include innovative and culturally safe legal clinics, including for groups, run in collaboration with RMIT University. These aim to build capacity among both inTouch clients and RMIT students.
StreetLaw over Coffee
Peninsula Community Legal Centre
$400,000 over two years
This project will use free coffee as an engagement strategy for providing legal services to isolated and disengaged communities across south-east Melbourne. A coffee van staffed by a lawyer, a community engagement officer and a barista will visit disadvantaged neighbourhoods and urban growth areas where people often do not access free legal services due to a range of factors. These include language barriers, financial hardship, disability, mental health issues or family violence, and limited access to public transport and other services.
Empowering women: pregnancy and beyond
$240,000 over two years
This project will respond to research that found pregnant women in Victoria continue to be dismissed, demoted and discriminated against in the workplace. It will aim to improve the experiences of pregnant women at work through a mix of education, early intervention, direct service delivery and advocacy, while building relationships with government, healthcare, legal and community service providers to inform a potential longer-term healthcare partnership.
Safe journeys: justice, health and home
Whittlesea Community Connections
$185,000 over one and a half years
This project will build on a health justice partnership between Whittlesea Maternal and Child Service (MCH) and Whittlesea Community Legal Service, which commenced in 2022 and provides wrap-around legal support by directly linking a family violence lawyer, project worker and MCH nurses. The second phase will add a much-needed migration law component, while strengthening referral pathways and continuing to actively work to remove barriers for mothers accessing legal support.
Transforming outcomes for youth in the west
$480,000 over three years
This project will spotlight the critical system reforms needed to address the number of young people aged 10 to 25 from Melbourne’s Western suburbs who are on remand, including the overrepresentation of First Nations, African and Pasifika children and young people. It will test, trial and evaluate scalable programs and services, engage with stakeholders at a high level, and deliver a ground-breaking collective impact project across three suburbs.
Cultural inclusion support services at Dandenong Magistrates' Court
$150,000 over one year
This project will provide a culturally inclusive support service for users of the Dandenong Magistrates' Court that empowers their families and friends to participate with them in court processes. A specialist team of local volunteers will be recruited and trained to provide assistance, referrals and information. They will also work with communities and agencies in the area to build knowledge, understanding and trust in the legal system.
Breeding and training justice dogs
Righteous Pups Australia
$200,000 over one year
This project will breed and train four justice dogs that will go on to work full-time in legal and victim services. The dogs will be placed throughout the Victorian legal system, with expressions of interest already received from the Melbourne Children’s Court, Child Witness Services, Supreme Court, Bendigo Law Court and Domestic Violence Services. The project will also provide for the dogs’ ongoing support.
Developing good practice for a responsive, bi-cultural community legal workforce
Moonee Valley Legal Service
$270,000 over one and a half years
This project will develop guidance for the community legal centre (CLC) sector on creating and sustaining a representative and bi-cultural workplace. It will provide paid opportunities for diverse young people to gain professional experience in law and social work. The project aims to promote good bi-cultural workplace practices at CLCs by emphasising the need for diversity in leadership, lawyering, associated social work, office administration, as well as among volunteers.
Improving the effectiveness of Victorian environmental law
Environmental Justice Australia
$250,000 over two years
This project will support community and non-government organisations in using and testing the rights available to them under the Victorian Environment Protection Act 2017. The aim is to protect the environment and human health from pollution and waste by ensuring pollution laws achieve their full potential.
Enhancing risk assessment practice at the Victorian Children's Court Clinic
Swinburne University of Technology
$100,000 over two years
This project will assist the Victorian Children’s Court Clinic (CCC) in applying an evidence-based framework when assessing risk among families experiencing child maltreatment and family violence. It will also examine how magistrates, judges and CCC clinicians use risk assessments in such cases. For the first time in Victoria, child maltreatment risk assessment tools will be validated, with the aim of improving the court’s ability to safeguard Victorian children.
21Plus: a safe driving program for young people
Banksia Gardens Community Services
$140,000 over one year
This project will address barriers faced by young people who are ineligible for learner to P-plate (L2P) driving programs, including those aged over 21 or from CALD backgrounds who often have problems verifying their identity. It will devise a new program that supports identity verification, deals with fines and warrants, and leads on to an L2P for disadvantaged young people aged 18-25, with the goal of reducing their contact with police for unlicensed or disqualified driving.
Reducing serious incidences of restrictive practices in aged care settings
Aged Care Justice
$102,000 over two years
This project will educate people in aged care, their families and friends on what constitutes an unlawful restrictive practice, as well as how they can access legal support and exercise their rights in the face of widespread use of such practices in aged care settings. The project will work with legal practitioners and organisations, aged care advocacy groups and sector stakeholders to target those at risk.
Project assisting African Australians
Comm Unity Plus Service (Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre)
$400,000 over three years
This project will provide legal assistance and deliver capacity-building activities such as outreach services and education sessions to young African Australians in the Brimbank and Melton regions. It will help them identify and respond to legal issues earlier, so as to reduce their overrepresentation in Victoria’s criminal justice system. There will be a focus on ensuring services are culturally informed, accessible and safe for African Australians to access.
Young women's economic empowerment
Northern Community Legal Centre
$400,000 over two years
This project will provide vulnerable young women with the legal support, confidence, knowledge and skills they need to achieve financial independence and safely transition to a life free from violence. It prioritises early intervention and includes access to wrap-around legal assistance embedded in women’s health settings. Capability-building workshops will also be co-designed and delivered to empower young women to navigate Australia’s civil and family law systems.
Restorative Justice Scoping Project: Identifying a culturally appropriate and safe model of restorative justice for African-Australians
$120,000 over six months
This project will develop a culturally-safe justice model/framework that moves beyond punishment to healing for victims and offenders. The focus will be on African-Australian young people aged 10-25 who have been convicted by Victorian Law Courts for criminal offences. Africause will collaborate with the Centre for Innovative Justice (RMIT) and other relevant stakeholders, including members of the African-Australian community, to deliver the project.