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Australian-first whistleblower legal project to share in $4.8 million in funding

1 December 2022

Victorians who expose misconduct in the public or private sectors will get access to specialist legal support to ensure their rights are protected, with the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner (VLSB+C) providing $320,000 to help establish Australia’s first legal project dedicated to whistleblowing.

Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre will deliver the project, which aims to make it safer for whistleblowers to lawfully call out wrongdoing. It is one of 16 diverse projects to share in a combined $4.8 million in funding from the VLSCB+C, representing a significant investment in improving access to justice for all Victorians, including our most vulnerable. 

Young Aboriginal people at risk of coming into contact with the justice system will be given extra support thanks to two Aboriginal-led initiatives designed to address harm and promote healing. Bunjilwarra will receive $400,000 to employ a youth justice worker for three years to coordinate legal assistance for residents aged 16 to 25 in its unique rehabilitation program. This will enhance the program’s holistic approach to wellbeing through a combined focus on improving health and justice outcomes.

Another $400,000 will go towards piloting restorative justice services in Melbourne’s outer east, helping Aboriginal children and young people connect with family, community and culture. Under the leadership of Dr Lois Peeler, Lotjpadhan will support a network of culturally-safe spaces where people impacted by harm can come together and take part in conciliation. Both projects respond to recommendations published in the Commission for Children and Young People’s ‘Our youth, our way’ report.

Young people in Geelong and the surrounding region will benefit from $500,000 to Barwon Community Legal, which will team up with The Geelong Project and Barwon Child Youth and Family to design and pilot an early intervention program. This will target those most at risk of leaving school or becoming homeless as the result of civil law issues related to family violence, tenancy, fines and debt, discrimination or safety.

Women experiencing family violence will be better informed about what action they can take to secure a place to live, with Justice Connect receiving $185,000 to develop a new digital self-help tool for navigating Victoria’s rental laws. A key goal will be ensuring vulnerable women understand their rights following the strengthening of protections for tenants in 2021.

In a win for consumers, Victorians who have been sold defective ‘lemon cars’ will benefit from stronger advocacy, with Consumer Action Law Centre receiving $273,000 to identify improvements to Victoria’s dispute resolution system, making it easier, cheaper and quicker for people to achieve redress.

Read the full list of funded projects for 2022. Over the past 15 years, the VLSB+C has distributed more than $51 million, helping to fund hundreds of projects benefiting Victorians.

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

“This year’s grant recipients have impressed and inspired us with their vision for fairer, more accessible justice in Victoria, where everyone gets the legal help they need, when they need it, no matter their circumstances.

Some projects offer practical solutions to address entrenched problems requiring our urgent attention, such as the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the youth justice system. Others will help vulnerable people to deal with legal issues affecting their everyday lives. There are also projects that seek to build the evidence base for future reform.

Our grants program acknowledges the important, passionate and tireless work of community legal centres and other grassroots organisations. They are the ones leading change to improve access to justice across the state, and we are proud to support them.”

Quote attributable to Keren Adams, Acting Co-CEO, Human Rights Law Centre

“Whistleblowers make Victoria and Australia a better place. But right now too many whistleblowers are unable to enforce their legal rights to speak up without facing retaliation. This support from the Victorian Legal Services Board will enable the Human Rights Law Centre to establish Australia's first dedicated whistleblowing legal project. We will help whistleblowers to speak up, expose injustice and drive positive change.”

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