Current focus areas
Smart Justice is a project which aims to enhance the safety of all Victorians by promoting an understanding of criminal justice policies that are effective, evidence-based and human rights compliant.
There are now over 30 organisations involved in Smart Justice. For more information about the project, including fact sheets on topical criminal justice issues - from mandatory sentencing to crime prevention, visit the Smart Justice website.
Reducing the risk of misuse, injury and death from Tasers
Community legal centres have long argued that Tasers are not the panacea to reducing police use of a firearm. There are substantial dangers that Tasers can kill or harm when used on vulnerable groups or in particular ways. Evidence from around the world suggests that Tasers are prone to misuse by police. We also know that use of lethal force by police can often be avoided by better police training and tactics.
The Federation’s report, Taser Trap - Is Victoria Falling For It?, brings together internal Victoria Police documents obtained by the Federation through freedom of information legislation, as well as publicly available information and the experience of community legal centres, to warn the Victorian public that death and serious injury in connection with Taser use in Victoria is a real possibility.
You can view the documents referred to in the report here.
Police accountability - reducing the risk of injury and death from police firearms use
The Federation is currently seeking funding to continue our work on monitoring Victoria Police firearm use and minimising the risk of injury or death through advocating improved training and procedures.
Over the past three decades, Victoria has had more fatal police shootings than any other state. Not because Victorian police are encountering more mentally unwell or dangerous people than their interstate counterparts, but because their training, culture and tactics have not equipped them properly.
Recently, Victoria Police has acknowledged the need to improve its tactics and trainings. Improvements undertaken are reducing the risk of avoidable shootings. Yet, the process is fragile and faces a number of hurdles, including the roll out of new police semi-automatic handguns and the recruitment 940 protective services officers who will be armed but will receive only one third of the training of police officers.
The Federation is currently seeking funding to continue our work in this area, including in relation to monitoring Victoria Police firearms use, assessing the risks around the training and management of firearms use, and recommending changes to minimise the risk of injury and death from inappropriate or avoidable use.
Contact Michelle McDonnell for further information about our police accountability work.
Coronial law – preventing avoidable deaths and supporting bereaved families
In 2008 the Federation helped to make some important changes to Victoria’s coronial legislation, but there is still much work to be done to establish a ‘joined up’ Australian coronial system that is sensitive to the bereaved, and that learns from past deaths in order to prevent future avoidable deaths. In 2010, the Federation convened a historic meeting which resulted in the formation of the Australian Inquest Alliance and the beginnings of our Australian Coronial Reform Project.
In March 2013 Dr Norman Swan launched the Issues Paper that we produced on behalf of the Alliance, Saving Lives by Joining Up Justice. This Paper outlines why we need coronial reform and includes 11 recommendations for change.
Civil law – improving access to civil justice
Civil law continues to be the area of greatest unmet legal need in Victoria. We are working to identify, highlight and recommend ways of addressing gaps in civil law services, focusing on specific areas such as employment law, migration law, social security and tenancy.
We are working to identify, highlight and recommend ways of addressing gaps in civil law services, focusing on specific areas such as employment law, migration law, social security and tenancy.
The Federation is continuing to work on effecting positive change to family violence policy. We are currently working on improving the operation of Safety Notices, preventing the re-victimisation of family violence victims through inappropriate prosecutions and preventing the inappropriate prosecution of fines against family violence victims.
Your Rights on Track with PSOs
Your Rights on Track was a community legal project aimed at supporting commuters who may be affected by the Protective Services Officers (PSO) roll out.
The project ran from 2012 to 2015 and was coordinated by the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) in partnership with Smart Justice for Young People and the Mental Health Legal Centre. The project monitored the introduction of PSOs, provided feedback to the Government and Victoria Police, and kept the media and the general community informed of issues with the PSO roll out.
Tracking Protective Services Officers: Insights from the first three years details the project findings. The report documents cases of Protective Services Officers exceeding their powers by demanding personal information from commuters without legal justification and where no offence has been committed, forcibly searching commuters who do not comply, and using excessive force in a range of circumstances, including against vulnerable people.Recommendations include the removal of firearms from PSOs, requiring PSOs to request personal information only when legally justified, better public reporting and independent monitoring of use of force by PSOs and of the fines they issue, and greater flexibility for Victoria Police to deploy PSOs where they are most needed, rather than deploying them on every station, including those where little or no crime occurs.
We also ran a training session for lawyers and community workers to explain the powers of PSOs and commuters' rights.