Bringing Law Talks to Loddon Campaspe students
Twice a year, Victoria Law Foundation travels to different regional locations and hosts a two-day Law Talk program to help secondary students better understand the legal system.
Our most recent Law Talk took us to Bendigo, where students and teachers from 9 schools in the Loddon Campaspe region joined us at the Bendigo Law Courts and Bendigo TAFE. Across the two-day program, 15 legal sector experts presented on a range of topics from the details of Victoria’s legal system to hints on the VCE Legal Studies curriculum.
We’ll see you in Court!
To start the day, students had an opportunity to visit the new Bendigo Law Courts for a 30-minute Q&A with the President of the Court of Appeal The Honourable Karin Emerton, and Judges of the Court of Appeal The Honourable Stephen McLeish and The Honourable David Beach. Their Honours answered questions from curious students about what it means to be appointed to the Court of Appeal, how they reached their positions, and the type of work they do.
Collin Huddy, a teacher from Rochester Secondary College thought the Court of Appeal session was great. “I mean, you don’t get the opportunity to sit down a couple of metres away from Court of Appeal Judges and just let them share their stories. I thought that was amazing.”
Students also sat a mock jury empanelment at the Courts led by Deputy Juries Commissioner Laurie Rumbold and Bendigo Juries Circuit Coordinator Teresa Jones. The session aimed to help students understand their civic duties, the processes of selecting a Jury, and why it’s an important part of the Court system.
Students were clearly engaged in the activity, and several demonstrated their creativity when providing reasons to be excused from Jury Duty. Laurie and Teresa also spoke about their career journeys and detailed traineeships offered by the Court to recent high school graduates, piquing interest from many students.
Mikaela, currently studying Year 12 at Rochester Secondary College, noted how the traineeship influenced her to reconsider a career in the legal sector: “It changed my mind a little bit… how you can just get jobs straight out of high school [in the Courts]. I didn't know stuff like that, maybe that’s something I could do.”
Students on the first day of the Law Talk were treated with a unique opportunity to sit in the Koori Court with Geoff West, the Koori Court Officer for Bendigo Law Courts. Students sat around the bar table, while Geoff answered their questions and explained the Koori Courts purpose and processes as a more informal Court for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Empowering students through education
At Bendigo TAFE, students heard from the energetic Irene Parker and Nana Asomani-Poku representing the Victorian Ombudsman. Irene and Nana outlined the powers of the Victorian Ombudsman, what government bodies they investigate, and how to make complaints.
Nick Gadd of the Victoria Law Reform Commission also travelled to Bendigo to speak to the students, detailing the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s role in advising legislation and suggesting law reforms, such as those on stalking and cyber-security.
Leah Slattery and Rebecca Edwards from ARC Justice, the local community legal centre, provided insights on Human Rights and their advocacy work, including on the Raise the Age Campaign. They encouraged students to explore the diverse range of careers the legal sector has to offer.
“I remember being told I could only do nursing or business by my career counsellor,” Leah commented, “I would have loved to have heard from someone who was doing the work I’m doing when I was younger. Career counselling doesn’t really give you a huge spectrum of opportunities or a realistic understanding of how far you can go and how well-suited to your own advantages you can actually find work.”
Of particular interest to students was the Young People’s Rights at Work session, hosted by Leon Harper. As a solicitor at Young Workers’ Centre, a community legal centre focused on providing legal advice and representation to workers under 30 in Victoria. Leon provided valuable information on workplace issues affecting young people, such as wage theft, unfair dismissal, and bullying.
“The most useful knowledge I have gained from this experience is around employment laws as I now know what to look out for and how to address any issues in the workplace correctly,” reflected a Year 10 student from Bendigo South East College.
Leaving a lasting impact on students and teachers
Following his presentation, Leon described how these VLF organised events can be incredibly impactful on students and empower them to seek legal help or advice.
“The last Law Talk that we gave we got three or four referrals from the talk itself. Then we had seven or eight more who either were students who attended who didn’t come up to us at the time, or [were] referred by a teacher, friend or family member of people who’ve been at the talk, so it definitely had a huge effect.”
Leah Slattery also commented on how the Law Talks help ARC Justice to focus resources and connect with the community, “It’s just so hard to know what to invest time in and what to spearhead and what there’s interest for, so VLF really do offer the opportunity of the bigger picture across regional and rural areas, and of course Victoria.”
Taylor Wright, a teacher from Bendigo South East College found the Law Talks “highly beneficial given the challenges post-Covid to take students for excursions… and the distance and time it takes to get to Melbourne”.
“It allows students to engage in discussion and reflect on the importance of meeting your civic duties but also to have an understanding of their own fundamental rights and what to do when those are infringed upon.” Taylor said.
Collin Huddy echoed Taylor’s comments, “Well, it’s better than just sitting in a classroom, isn’t it? So, it’s a broader perspective that gives them [students] something to lock their knowledge to help them get a better perspective on how it works in the real world.”
VLF hosts a range of free Law Talks across regional and metropolitan areas for students. As a state-wide service, we aim to provide opportunities for education that may not be otherwise available or easily accessible to regional locations through these programs. We also offer Classroom Law Talks which are smaller sessions held at schools or a local court, and each session is tailored to meet the needs and interests of the students.
If you’re a teacher and would like to know how you can get your students involved, contact our Education Manager Fabiola Superina today: firstname.lastname@example.org