VALS is committed to supporting members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through ongoing community based legal education VALS also offers training and development opportunities to members of the mainstream communities that are passionate about supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Victoria.

We also employ a number of talented legal professionals that are happy to make themselves available for plenary speaking, guest speaking and keynote presentations. Our staff are passionate about giving voice to the voiceless and sharing the stories of individuals that want their stories to be shared with the broader community.

VALS also operates a CLE bus, equipped with resources and materials to support communities. The VALS bus is often seen travelling through rural Victoria sharing resources and creating a sense of community with our clients.

Would you like to access some of our community legal education resources,? We design resources for all ages and communities, click here to access the VALS Digital Library.

Our Impact

The Community Legal Education program continues to operate Statewide, delivering legal information sessions to community and attending community events with the Justice Bus. Though funding has been an issue this past year to have events cover the whole state of Victoria, VALS continues to look for funding opportunities to increase innovative ways for CLE to educate and help Aboriginal communities to know their rights.

Our programs

VALS Community Education Program has had success with solicitors informing community about the Civil Law and Family Law. During these sessions several issues were discussed, for example:

  • Child Protection Debt issues             
  • Child Access Rental
  • Grandparents Rights 
  • Funeral insurance
  • Intervention Orders Wills

An important element of CLE is networking with other agencies to bring specialised information to Community groups. Workers from mainstream agencies need to be compassionate and caring to people’s problems. Partnerships with other Legal agencies such as Victorian Legal Aid and other Community Legal Centre’s provides additional support.

VALS CLE works together with other Legal CLE officers and VALS Community Justice staff such as VALS Regional Client Service Officers on projects to increase legal awareness and give legal options to community members needing legal help.

Outreach engagement is an essential part of VALS CLE and it’s bringing VALS solicitors into community for people to be able to talk face-to-face with a solicitor about their matters or just ask questions. VALS have wonderful engaging solicitors who outreach throughout the year and CLE is very grateful for our legal teams to find time to do these sessions. Both community members and solicitors enjoy these sessions as they are informal and people can enjoy a lunch and learn more about each other. It’s also a great way for solicitors to see and feel the hardships facing Aboriginal regional communities and hear stories that are important to their understanding when helping Aboriginal people.

Our future

CLE is looking forward to 2020 as further projects are in the works to be launched across the state and there will be further engagement in other regions of Victoria.

VALS endeavors to obtain more funding to help the CLE program undertake more outreach in the coming year as knowledge is power. VALS Community Justice staff such as VALS Regional Client Service Officers

To determine eligibility VALS will:

  • enquire as to the Aboriginality of the client;
  • enquire as to perceived or actual conflict of interest;
  • enquire as to compliance with the Means Test;
  • consider the merit of the client’s matter.

Aboriginality
The first time someone uses VALS they must provide proof of their Aboriginality using the Confirmation of Aboriginality Form. This form must be signed and sealed by the Officer Bearers of a recognised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation.

Conflict
VALS must not decline to provide assistance to an eligible person, group or body on the grounds that the other party to the matter is an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. In circumstances where the relationship between the parties to a case would result in a conflict of interest, that conflict must be managed in accordance with the Victorian Legal Practice requirements and Policy Direction 9 – “Managing Conflicts of Interest” – of the Attorney-General’s Department Policy Directions for the Delivery of Legal Aid Services to Indigenous Australians (2008).

VALS will not act if a conflict of interest exists. A conflict of interest may be an ‘actual’ conflict of interest or a ‘perceived’ conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can involve:

  • Clients who have different interests, such as VALS may have advised or acted for person “A” (old client) who has an interest that conflicts with person “B” (intended new client).
  • Clients and VALS, such as a VALS staff member or Board Member has an interest that conflicts with an intended new client. Conflicts involving client-provider relationships are:
    •  An owner, director, manager, employee, contractor or agent of VALS and/or;
    • An employee of the Department; and/or
    • A close relative (spouse, de facto, parent, sibling or child) of any of the above.

VALS provides assistance on a first in best dressed basis (i.e. provide direct assistance to the party who approaches VALS first). VALS will refer the other party to another legal service provider or “brief out” the client to a private lawyer (subject to the client meeting the requirements for brief outs). Where appropriate, VALS may act for one client and provide assistance by brief out to the other.

Means Test
Where a person seeks casework assistance, VALS must ensure that applicants satisfy the Means Testing provisions of the Policy Directions.

VALS must ensure that all applicants for legal casework assistance satisfy one or more of the following requirements:

  • Under 18 years of age;
  • Main source of income comes from Community Development Employment Projects; (CDEP) participant wages or Centrelink (or equivalent) benefits; or
  • Gross household income is under $52,000 per annum.

Note: Household income includes the income of your partner, spouse, relative including an adult child who you live with.

The Means Test will be administered in two parts:

Part A: Requires the completion of a small number of questions relating to the applicant’s personal circumstances and income level.

Part B: Is required where applicants do not satisfy the criteria in Part A. It requires more detail about the applicant’s income, assets, employment status and number of dependents.

Merit Test
Discretion will be used to determine if a particular case has merit.