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Steve Myall program to help 'westie' law graduates

Steve Myall program to help 'westie' law graduates

By Karin Derkley

Students Training Programs 

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A new graduate legal program will honour magistrate Stephen Myall’s long connection with Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Mr Myall’s connection with the west went back well beyond his five years as a magistrate at the Sunshine and Werribee Courts. He practised as a criminal lawyer in Footscray with Andrew George and Rob Stary in the 1990s, before becoming a magistrate in 2005.

Victoria Legal Aid’s regional managing lawyer for the western suburbs Tamsin Mildenhall says Mr Myall dedicated his professional life to defending the interests of the region.

“He was always interested in the clients out here and in the kinds of local issues that arise in these suburbs - such as the high proportion of people on remand not being brought into court,” she says.

That interest extended to new lawyers who came before him in the courts, Ms Mildenhall says. “His Honour was particularly interested in the professional growth of lawyers who chose, as he had, to spend their professional lives practising in this area.”

“He was known both within the profession and by those who came before him as compassionate and genuinely interested in social justice.”

The Steve Myall Graduate Program will give a western suburbs student the chance to work for nine to 12 months at Victoria Legal Aid’s Sunshine office while they complete their post graduate studies.

Ms Mildenhall says the program will present a great opportunity for “westies” who often lack the “cultural capital” to gain employment as a lawyer.

“It can be difficult for young law students who have grown up in the west and don’t know anyone else who works in the law to get their foot in the door – even to do voluntary work.”

The young person chosen for the inaugural program will be paid full-time to work at the Sunshine VLA office while they complete their year of practical legal training. They will get the chance to shadow lawyers in the Sunshine Magistrates Court and spend time with prosecutors as well as with private practitioners.

“We’re looking for someone who can demonstrate a strong connection to the western suburbs, who has lived here and has a particular interest in social justice out here,” Ms Mildenhall says.

“We really want someone who understands the needs of this community. If you’ve grown up in the west you’ve got a better understanding of what people are facing when they come to court and how they got there.”

Mr Myall’s partner Joanne Duncan says she is thrilled with this initiative to honour Steve’s memory.

“This program has the ability to change someone’s life experience in the same way the criminal justice system has the ability to turn lives around,” she says.

“It is a fitting tribute to a man who devoted his working life to doing all he could to make sure the legal system was fair and accessible to everyone”.

Applications for the program will open in May 2019. More information is available at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/about-us/careers.

Mr Myall took his own life on 14 March 2018.

For help or information, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

 


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