VALS – in a nutshell
VALS is an Aboriginal Controlled community organisation that operates throughout Victoria. We provide legal assistance to persons of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background in the areas of Criminal, Family and Civil law, as well as crucial non- legal services and supports to the Aboriginal Community, including general welfare support and checks, support for Aboriginal people in police custody, targeted community legal education and policy and law reform work.
VALS maintains its strong client service focus through the role of Client Service Officers (CSOs) who act as a bridge between the legal system and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. VALS is actively involved in community education, research and advocacy around law reform and policy development, and we strive to:
• Promote social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
• Promote the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to empowerment, identity and culture;
• Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enjoy their rights, are aware of their responsibilities under the law and have access to appropriate advice, assistance and representation;
• Reduce the disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system; and
• Promote the review of legislation and other practices which discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The VALS volunteer program
VALS relies on the support of an enthusiastic cohort of volunteers to increase its impact and ability to assist our Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander clients. We offer a range of volunteer opportunities across the whole organisation, which are outlined in greater detail below.
In line with the depth of the work VALS engages in, the work volunteers will undertake through the volunteer program can vary greatly depending on which part of the organisation they are placed in. Some of this work will be exciting, some of it less so. Importantly, any student who wishes to undertake a volunteer placement at VALS must
be flexible enough to accommodate any such work request from their supervisor or other authorised VALS staff members.
Volunteers should be aware that Court related work will not be a regular occurrence and will only be undertaken at the request of and under the direct supervision of a VALS solicitor or volunteer coordinator.
As noted within the Application Form, the VALS volunteer program consists of both a General and Community volunteer program, as well as a specialised VALS Infringements clinic program.
The VALS General and Community Volunteer Program is designed to allow applicants to participate in two six-month rotations in any of eight areas of our organisation, which are briefly described below:
Social Justice Policy: This team focuses on the policy issues affecting VALS clients and other members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities more broadly. By assisting with VALS’ policy submissions and other systemic advocacy work, this team advocates for fairer and more equitable treatment and legal outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members.
Community Justice Programs: This team comprises both VALS’ local justice workers and client service officers, and provides critical non-legal support both to community members in custody, as well as those ordered to comply with community corrections orders. Members of this team also provide crucial support in assisting VALS to deliver its legal services to community members.
Criminal law: This team assists community members with in-court representation, duty lawyer services, advice, referrals and information in relation to both summary and indictable crime matters.
Family/Youth law: This team assists community members with in-court representation, advice, referrals, information and outreach assistance with family law matters, including child protection, DHHS issues, intervention orders, and Children’s Court criminal matters.
Civil law: This team assists clients with court representation, advice, referrals, information and outreach assistance across a range of civil law areas, including tenancy, discrimination, police and prison complaints and victims of crime assistance applications.
Unlike the VALS General and Community Volunteer Program, the VALS Infringements Clinic is focused solely on clients with infringements issues. This program gives volunteers an opportunity to manage their own file load under the direct supervision of a VALS lawyer. VALS Infringements Clinic volunteers will not rotate through other VALS practice areas, and will spend 12 months working exclusively on infringements files.
However, where opportunities arise for VALS Infringements Clinic volunteers to be exposed to other areas of the organisation’s operation, the volunteer co-ordinator will try to facilitate this where feasible.
Descriptions of the type of work applicants may be required to undertake in relation to any of the above practice areas can be found in the appendix to this document.
Induction and training
All successful candidates will be required to attend and participate in a full day induction and training session prior to commencing their volunteer placement.
Register your interest by completing the VALS-Volunteer-Application and email along with your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 29th January 2020.