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Funding boost for program supporting vulnerable girls and young women

The Living Free Project, led by Stepping-Up Consortium and the Frankston Mornington Peninsula Primary Care Partnership, works with authorities and a range of services that touch the lives of girls and young women who come into contact with the justice system. The funding is part of the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner’s annual Grants Program.

Lisa Abbott, Living Free Project Coordinator, said delivering coordinated services is the best way to make lasting, positive changes in the lives of vulnerable young people.

‘We know that girls and young women who come into contact with the justice system are often dealing with multiple complex issues at the same time. These may involve homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behaviour, mental health, disengagement from the education system, sexual assault or domestic violence,’ Ms Abbott said.

‘The Living Free Project provides support to girls and young women through outreach and case management, and also focuses on improving how the system responds to our most vulnerable’, Ms Abbott said.

‘Taking a comprehensive approach to managing each person’s case gives us the opportunity to engage girls and young women on the issues they are ready to receive help with. We can then build trust with them and develop a plan to tackle their more complex needs over a longer period of time’.

Living Free is divided up into two streams. The first focuses on girls from ages 10 to 17 who have been reported missing, and provides supported care to both the young person and their family. The second stream supports women aged 18 to 30 years and involves Magistrates, police and lawyers, as well has health and social service providers, all working together to help divert women from further contact with the justice system.

‘We have had some really positive results from this program to date’, Ms Abbott said.

‘Many young women have successfully completed diversion programs through the courts, and have avoided further contact with the justice system since. This not only improves their lives, but the lives of their families, including their children’.

The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner is the regulator of the legal profession. Since 2007 the Grants Program has distributed over $44 Million to more than 200 projects that support the development of accessible legal services, legal education programs and law reform across Victoria.

Living Free is also supported by funding from Gandel Philanthropy and the Ian Potter Foundation. For further information on the Living Free program, please contact Lisa Abbott, Project Coordinator on: 0410 407 034

For further information about the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner’s Grants Program, please contact Alicia Semple, Manager Strategic Communications and Engagement on: 0407 127 701

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