Springvale Monash Legal Service works in partnership with communities in the South East of Melbourne to find solutions for issues that affect them, and work together to address systemic disadvantage. While we provide legal assistance to individuals, we recognise that structural inequalities cannot be addressed through casework alone. Using a preventative approach, we undertake community development projects, provide legal education and contribute to law reform to strengthen our community. Community development plays a key role in our work towards a legal system which is fair and accessible for all.
SMLS uses social justice and human rights frameworks when undertaking community development projects. We celebrate the diversity of our communities, and collaborate with them to work towards positive change and redress power imbalances. Ultimately, we aim to empower and support members of the community to use the law and legal system to protect and advance their rights, and broaden their awareness of their responsibilities.
Some of our recent Community Development projects include:
In 2015, SMLS and Springvale Monash Legal Service and Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre worked in partnership on StopWatch, a targeted community legal education campaign on Victoria Police’s 12 month trial of ‘stop and search’ receipting. The project worked with community groups and organisations to provide information and education on the trial, and to increase community knowledge of, and engagement with the project. In the first three months of the project, over 100 people participated in workshops to increase their knowledge of their rights and responsibilities when interacting with Police and PSOs.
SMLS has been working in partnership with AMES to provide legal education workshops every term to their students. The project aims to increase their knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities, and familiarise them with the Australian legal system. Providing tailored information through activity-based workshops, the program is designed to complement and support individuals on their settlement journey. Participants are provided with practical legal information, where they can seek assistance from, and the different ways a lawyer can assist with problems that do not involve the police or the courts.
We delivered a series of information sessions to women from a range of cultural backgrounds in partnership with Springvale Community Aid and Advice Bureau and Southern Migrant Resource Centre. The sessions were created in a response to a lack of information targeting women on matters such as responsible car ownership, motor vehicle accidents and dealing with infringements. The women who participated in the project reported in an increase in knowledge of the topics presented, and participants received three free driving lessons from RACV.
Making Rights a Reality is a program which ran in partnership with South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault (SECASA), which provides additional assistance to adults who have experienced sexual assault, and who have an intellectual disability, an Acquired Brain Injury, or use aids to communicate. This project was developed to address some of the systemic issues within the justice system which impacted on individuals with disabilities. A need for improved advocacy for victims with a cognitive impairment and/or who required aids to communicate was identified through the Sexual Offences Reform consultations. Making Rights a Reality aimed to address the gap in advocacy through a dedicated legal program and by building on the existing services provided by SECASA. Working with counsellors from SECASA, SMLS assisted people make claims from the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal. An evaluation report of the project is available here.
Visioning Justice provided radio-documentary training for young people to build their public speaking and advocacy skills in partnership with 3CR Community Radio. The project aimed to build the capacity of participants to develop a vibrant collection of radio documentaries about a range of experiences with the law. It provided young people with an opportunity to provide alternative narratives and media messages to contribute to policy debates on youth justice.