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Law Week focuses on everyday legal questions

 Law Week focuses on everyday legal questions

By Karin Derkley

Access to Justice 

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A new focus on specific legal issues aims to emphasise Law Week as a community information event, the Victorian Law Foundation CEO Lynne Haultain says.

"There may have been a misunderstanding in the past that it was for lawyers and judges and others involved with the law. This year, we've taken an issues-oriented approach that focuses on questions that might be in people's minds, such as I have got a challenge with my landlord, or my boss, or my partner? – and this is where you can go for some insight."

This year around 140 events are taking place across the state between 17 and 23 May. While many are still being held online following last year's highly successful move online during the first COVID-19 lockdown, others are taking place in person, subject to COVID-19 contingencies.

Ms Haultain says that while holding events online has been invaluable for access to general interest events, events which offer information on specific legal issues are ideally held in-person. "As lawyers know, tech is great – but it's not always ideal."

The LIV is presenting three online webinars: Why are the mental health and aged care systems failing Victorians?; Women in the workplace - superannuation, the pay gap, and pushing for equality; and Understanding when you need an immigration lawyer.

LIV vice president Molina Asthana is also participating in an event on Governance in sport - encouraging diversity and inclusivity.

Law firms have taken on an increased number of events this year, with 20 firms hosting sessions, particularly in the regions and suburbs. Ms Haultain says she suspects the new format focusing on issues will attract even more practices in future years.

"My hunch is that with this new format more firms will see opportunities. Participating in Law Week is an opportunity to have a firm's name better known in the neighbourhood, and it's also a useful way for firms to get some 'intel' about what it is that people are concerned about and how they might respond in terms of their practice."

Among the sessions likely to prove popular this year are those looking at the issue of job security, small business issues, and the changes to rental legislation, Ms Haultain says.

"People are really interested in work rights in the post-COVID-19 world, and there’s lots of sessions around issues for casual employment and young people and work, and the gig economy. COVID was a particular moment for those sorts of questions in people's minds and post-COVID is too."

A session called No Jab No Job will discuss whether employers can mandate vaccination, what happens when one or more colleagues refuse to be vaccinated, what that means in terms of exposure to risk, and what employers' rights and responsibilities are.

Events around consent and sexual offences, one from Deakin and another from Youthlaw, are also picking up "huge interest, because it’s the hot issue at the moment", Ms Haultain says.

"On those rights type issues, it’s about confidence building: what is the law, where are the lines and what can you do if you feel that they've been transgressed?"

A number of sessions will deal with questions around wills and estates, family law and neighbourhood disputes and tree issues, Ms Haultain says.

Lawyers in Libraries will play a big role in this year's Law Week. "That's been a real development over the last couple of years to try and put the law in front of people wherever they are, rather than requiring them to come into town or go out of their neighbourhoods."

Attendees to each of these sessions will be furnished with information about the legal support they can seek out to deal with their issues, including Victoria Legal Aid, community legal centres and the LIV’s Find A Lawyer service.

Among the more general interest sessions, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass will be presenting at a live event at the State Library on how the agency deals with complaints, including recent high profile issues such as the hard lockdown of public housing towers during COVID-19 last year.

State Coroner John Cain will discuss with forensic medicine experts how the Coroners Court deals with alcohol-related deaths in an online event moderated and hosted by the ABC’s Brian Nankervis.

Court dogs Lucy and Kiki will also appear online in a session presented by the Office of Public Prosecutions, showing how the professionally trained dogs are used to reduce the stress experienced by victims and witnesses.


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