WEstjustice 2022 Budget Submission

WEstJustice 2022 Budget Submission 2022 - Summary

WEstJustice is seeking government support to continue to provide vital legal services in the Western suburbs. Melbourne’s Western suburbs are generally underfunded and underserviced, despite having some of the fastest growing and highest needs populations.

WEstJustice has maximised initial philanthropic and state government grants to secure valuable legal outcomes across our impact areas of culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people experiencing gender-based violence, young people, and economically vulnerable people.

Our services and programs are place-based and focus on early intervention, which diverts people away from the legal system and avoids significant costs to government. Each has been tested, trialled, evaluated (or in the process of), codified and now requires longer-term funding for WEstJustice to continue to provide these services to our communities.

This Test, Trial, Evaluate, Codify and Scale approach means that the risk for government investment is low, but the fiscal and human returns are high. Moreover, we believe these programs will complement existing government policies and maximise their efficacy in the communities we support.

Our key priorities for the 2022/23 Victorian Budget are:

1. Restoring Financial Safety Program

This program successfully removed the debt and financial entanglement that often prevents women from leaving violent and abusive relationships.

Our recent report shows how this enables women to rebuild their lives and prevents longer-term homelessness and impacts of ongoing abuse. The program is codified, and the proposed funding would enable the program to continue in the West on the current scale. This program has already recovered over $900,000 for women experiencing economic abuse and family violence and saved $365,000 in avoided court costs.

2. Youth Employment Justice Program

The Youth Employment Justice Program is a school-based project that has helped young people to assert, and better understand, their workplace rights and responsibilities and prevents costs to government resulting from workplace exploitation, discrimination, and wage theft, as detailed in our report.

The proposed funding would enable Westjustice to trial and develop a state-wide school-based work rights career development program and continue to provide a youth employment law service. This early intervention program circumvents the many issues impacting our young workforce and reduce the costs of workplace disputes, along with the associated costs of disengagement from employment.

3. Work Rights and Responsibilities Legal Support Service

Critical to successful employment is an understanding of employment rights and responsibilities by both the employers and employees.

The Work Rights and Responsibilities Legal Support Service is a statewide legal education program that trains employment brokers and connectors to ensure that they are placing young people and culturally diverse Victorians including members of the African communities in safe and compliant workplaces. By ensuring that brokers and connectors are equipped with relevant knowledge and information, issues such as exploitation, discrimination and wage theft can be prevented, or at the very least, identified addressed before they cause continued and further harm.

The proposed funding would allow this program to be offered to different intermediary groups as professional development, and provide refresher training to the current cohort.  

4. Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Program  

Over the years, the Youth Law Program has successfully educated young people regarding their legal rights and responsibilities at places where they go to access education, employment, youth programs, and mental health services.

We have recently developed a Youth Crime Prevention and Early Intervention Program with Victoria Police, which prevents young people from entering the criminal justice system at the earliest opportunity through more extensive and effective use of warnings and cautions.

The funding would continue to provide the legal services component to young people and resource the strategic role, along with the funds to evaluate the project including a cost reduction analysis.

5. Travel Assistance Program

This program would get young people back onto public transport to get to school, travelling safely (in masks) and using the QR coding system (see more on benefits of the program in this report).

This funding is both necessary and urgent – Victorian school kids cannot afford to miss any more days of school. The unrecoverable fines for non-compliant travel are costing the government more than $16,000 per infringement[1] plus additional expenses for the administrative processes and court costs. Free CBD transport currently costs the state government between $10-12 million. State-wide prepaid Mykis for disadvantaged kids, and kids in crisis, is only marginally higher and would provide significant and wide-ranging benefits for this cohort of children.

Westjustice has completed the research and evidenced the case for DoT to scale, subject to funding. This is a practical and necessary COVID-19 recovery initiative.

6. Target Zer0

Target Zer0 is a ground-breaking, multi-stakeholder ten-year plan to eliminate youth criminalisation in Wyndham, Melton and Brimbank and simultaneously, the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people, children and young people in out of home care, African, Maori and Pasifika and other minority ethnic children and youth in the youth justice system.

Victorian Government’s Youth Justice Strategic Plan 2020-2030 recognises that Aboriginal and CALD youth are overrepresented in the justice system and advocates for innovative, culturally appropriate interventions. The funding would allow WEstJustice to incubate this innovative program with a strategic, secretariat function and a monitoring and evaluation framework.

7. Settlement Justice Partnership

This program identifies the legal issues and misunderstandings of newly arrived families and communities. These communities are vulnerable to shams, exploitation, and discrimination.

Given the financial disadvantage experienced by many of our newly arrived communities, we need to ensure that these negative legal consequences don’t impact on their safe housing, job security and mental health. Although part of the FCLC Integrated Services Program, it did not receive an extension in the last budget through administrative error. We recommend including this program with the other nine currently funded programs.

Even without the funding extension, we have decided to continue this project until the outcome of the 2022 Budget. Without further funding, this program will be discontinued, which would result in wasted government ($200,000) and Westjustice ($250,000) investments.

8. MyName

There is a large Myanmar community living predominantly in Melbourne’s Western suburbs, most of whom have been resettled through Australia’s humanitarian program from refugee camps in Malaysia, Thailand and India.

Myanmar is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse countries in the world with over 100 different ethnic groups, with different languages and cultures. The differences with cultural naming practices have resulted in many people being named incorrectly upon arrival in Australia. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria (BDM), in partnership with Westjustice, undertook a pilot project to assist members from these communities to change their names under BDM’s change of name process. Our current MyName Project was born out of that pilot and is now operating in two Western suburbs settlement services through the about Settlement Justice Partnership Program.

The coronavirus has impacted on our capacity to deliver these services, yet the demand is still great. We are seeking additional funding to extend this project for an additional two years.

9. Early Resolution Services

We service many people regarding family violence matters in the Western suburbs across two busy and overburdened Magistrates’ Courts – Werribee and Sunshine.

We have been involved in a recent pilot to offer early resolutions services in an attempt to avoid or expedite Court proceedings. Although this project is in its early stages, we have already seen the potential for significant avoided Court costs, resulting in cost savings to government. We are seeking funding to continue this program and evaluate the cost savings to government over three years, in time for the new Wyndham Justice Precinct and expansion of the Sunshine Magistrates Court.

This program would also help to implement the Victorian Government’s Family Violence Rolling Action Plan 2020-2023, which advocated for early referrals to legal services as a way to improve service delivery and integration.

 

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[1] This is just in costs of legal services to children with fines, and does not include the substantial cost of enforcement which is yet to be calculated. Victorian Ombudsman, Investigation into public transport fare evasion enforcement, 2016, paragraph 196, https://assets.ombudsman.vic.gov.au/assets/Reports/Parliamentary-Reports/1-PDF-Report-Files/Investigation-into-public-transport-fare-evasion-enforcement.pdf?mtime=20191218144859.

 
 

WE are located

  • Footscray
  • Werribee
  • Sunshine
Footscray

Level 1 / 72 Buckley Street, Footscray VIC 3011

Tel: + 61 3 9749 7720
Fax: + 61 3 9749 8276
Email:  admin@westjustice.org.au

Office hours:
Monday to Friday, 9.00am-1.00pm and 2:00pm-5:00pm. (Office currently closed due to COVID-19 situation)

Please call us to get legal help (appointment time needed).

Werribee

Level 1 / 8 Watton Street, Werribee VIC 3030 | Mail: PO Box 2199, Werribee VIC 3030

Tel: + 61 3 9749 7720
Fax: + 61 3 9749 8276
Email:  admin@westjustice.org.au

Office hours:
Monday to Friday, 9.00am-5:00pm. (Office currently closed due to COVID-19 situation)

Please call us to get legal help (appointment time needed).

Sunshine

Visy Cares Hub, 80B Harvester Road, Sunshine VIC 3020 | Mail: PO Box 627, Sunshine VIC 3020

Tel: + 61 3 9749 7720
Fax: + 61 3 9749 8276
Email:  admin@westjustice.org.au

Office hours:
Monday, Wednesday & Friday, 9.30am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-4.30pm. (Office currently closed due to COVID-19 situation)

Drop-in service on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9.30am-4.30pm, for people up to 25 years old ONLY. (Office currently closed due to COVID-19 situation)