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LIV President's Blog 2012

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Going to Gaol for good

Going to Gaol for good

On 31 May, I took part in the 8th annual Whitelion Bail Out Fundraiser, which saw 160 ‘inmates’ comprising individual and team entrants, spend three hours in the Old Melbourne Gaol in an effort to raise money and awareness for youth at risk.
This was my first year at the Bail Out after only recently learning about the fundraiser through a link on the LIV’s Young Lawyers Section Facebook page.
 
The Bail Out process
In the lead up to the night, participants are asked to raise $1000 bail in order to ‘secure’ their release from lock-up.  I managed to raise my bail in time to ensure that I was over the line going into the night.
 
Looking and feeling the part
On the night, I arrived at the Old Melbourne Gaol with some apprehension about what I had signed up for. As I cloaked my bag and stepped into my dark blue jumpsuit, I soaked in my surroundings. There were many other people donning jumpsuits and there were several law enforcement officers ready to take down anyone for relatively even the slightest sign of non-conformance. From the officers, there was screaming. So much screaming!

As the night progressed, we had our fingerprints and mug shots taken and were escorted into cells where we had, along with 15 of our fellow ‘cellies’, some time to absorb just how isolating the experience of going through the criminal justice system can be for a disadvantaged young person. Oh and of course, every so often, the screaming from the officers would kick off again. Later, the screaming would make a transition to dramatic cries for help from outside our cell doors.
 
Actors playing real people playing actors?
The theme of this year’s event was ‘identity’. In line with the theme, the courtroom scene highlighted some of the challenges that face fair-skinned Indigenous people and recent asylum seekers – both groups experiencing similar cultural crises. This scene also gave Magistrate Brian Barrow and former Attorney-General Rob Hulls an opportunity to try their hands at acting. Luckily, Mark Holden was on hand to give them some insider tips and tricks. He acted as Counsel for the prisoners, including myself, in trying to secure our bail.

The second half of the night was split into 5 minute segments including a drug and alcohol orientation that is currently provided to inmates in Victorian prisons, an address by Jeremy Donovan, the national spokesperson for GenerationOne, and a monologue about how Whitelion is addressing the growing number of faceless youth getting lost in the system, followed by a final word from Mark Watt, co-founder and CEO of Whitelion.
 
Notable mentions
Rod Quantock, perhaps best known for his role in the Captain Snooze ads, did a fantastic job as MC. And Glenn Manton, co-founder of Whitelion and former AFL footballer; never has a man with a toothbrush and a furrowed brow instilled so much fear in me! This fundraiser is incredibly unique and boldly goes where other fundraisers won’t. By venturing into the pain and the isolation, Whitelion is able to raise vital awareness and funds for disadvantaged young people.
 
Who is Whitelion?
Whitelion is a non-profit community organisation that provides youth-focused services including education assistance, drug and alcohol services and employment support with an overall objective of assisting young people at risk to have the courage to choose a better future.
 
Want to get involved?
If being locked-up isn’t for you, consider volunteering for Whitelion in a different capacity. On the other hand, if you think spending some time behind bars for a good cause is a cracker way to spend a free night, pledge your support to Bail Out 2014. wwww.whitelion.asn.auw
The Big Picture
The whole experience has shown me the importance of keeping youth out of the criminal justice system, because it is no place for children. We SHOULD be putting preventive measures in place to keep children out of the system to begin with.  It’s clear in the latest study from Sentencing Advisory Council, that jail is not always the right place for first time offenders, nor does it stop youth from re-offending.
 
Do you agree that young offenders need to be dealt with by protective and supportive welfare services, rather than the harshness of the justice system?
 
Rachael Clifford is a Young Lawyers Section member and a JD law student at Monash University. You can follow Rachael on Twitter: @rachaelfionac

 
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