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Climate justice a hot topic in record grants round

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) is investing a record $8 million in community-led projects that will deliver fairer and more accessible justice where it is needed most, including in places where climate change risks causing enduring legal problems.

Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Nina Taylor today announced 27 projects to be funded through the latest round of the VLSB+C’s long-running grants program.

Several projects promoting climate justice will share in $1.4 million, with Gippsland Community Legal Service receiving $600,000 to help local communities prepare for future climate disasters from a legal standpoint. Another $500,000 will enable South-East Monash Legal Service to work with communities experiencing disadvantage to assess how climate change will affect them and identify appropriate legal responses. Both projects have the potential to create blueprints for action elsewhere in the state.

First Nations artists will get more assistance in understanding their rights under commercial law thanks to $280,000 in funding to support Arts Law Centre of Australia’s Artists in the Black service. An $80,000 grant to The Torch will also provide training in mural painting to First Nations people recently released from prison.

Job Watch will receive $240,000 to fight workplace discrimination against pregnant women, after research found expectant mums in Victoria are still being sacked, demoted and bullied. The project is one of seven focused on protecting and empowering women, with funding for these projects totalling $2.2 million. This includes grants to address systemic issues related to child protection (Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights, $210,000) and family violence policing (Flat Out, $600,000).

Court users will soon have some furry companions looking out for their welfare, with Bendigo-based Righteous Pups Australia receiving $200,000 to breed and train four justice dogs to work in legal and victim services. Peninsula Community Legal Centre will offer a different kind of pick-me-up, using a $400,000 grant to staff a van that will bring free coffee and legal services to socially isolated communities in urban growth areas.

With unlicensed driving a major cause of contact between young people and police, Banksia Gardens Community Services will be given $140,000 to work with aspiring drivers whose age or background excludes them from existing learner to P-plate (L2P) programs. All up around $1.8 million will go towards initiatives helping to divert young people away from the justice system, including $480,000 for WEstjustice to trial programs aimed at reducing the number of 10 to 25-year-olds on remand in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Read the full list of funded projects for 2023. Now in its 16th year, the VLSB+C grants program has provided more than $59 million to help improve access to justice in Victoria.

A new strategy has been launched to strengthen the program and help the community legal sector in achieving three goals: accessible legal services, holistic and diversionary responses, and fairer laws and processes. The VLSB+C is also making extra support available in the form of new Strong Foundations Grants, which will provide eligible organisations with flexible and stable funding over longer periods.

Quotes attributable to Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Nina Taylor

“It is vital that we continue to support programs that provide better access to justice support, particularly for those most vulnerable in our community.”

“Congratulations to all of the grant recipients – your hard work and dedication to improving the justice system in Victoria for all is an outstanding achievement.”

Quotes attributable to Victorian Legal Services Board CEO and Commissioner Fiona McLeay

“This is a bumper year for our grants program, as we give away more money and support more projects than ever before. You only need to look at the diversity of this year’s 27 grantees to appreciate the program’s reach and the positive impact it has on the lives of so many Victorians.”

“As one of the few funders in this space, we take our role very seriously and I’m pleased to say that with a new strategy guiding us, our contribution to improving access to justice is only set to grow.”

Quote attributable to Simon Suttie, Principal Lawyer, Gippsland Community Legal Service

“Frequent climate disasters are now the reality for Gippsland. This support from the VLSB+C will help Gippsland Community Legal Service empower communities to prepare in advance for the legal implications of more frequent bushfires, floods and storms. In doing so, we hope to reduce their exposure to the risk of long-lasting legal problems and increase community resilience.”

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