Meet our Youth Crime team

Meet our Youth Crime team

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Youth Crime Program Manager Anoushka Jeronimus jumps into her description of the team she manages as incredibly dedicated, hardworking and a team that no one wants to leave.

‘Children’s law is a very particular jurisdiction – lawyers who want to do this work do it because they are passionate about it,’ says Anoushka.

‘So it’s a colourful and outgoing team, not afraid to voice their opinion, which is a good thing, because you want people to be robust when working through the legal and non-legal issues that our young and often vulnerable clients face.’

The team works closely with our child protection lawyers, and is supported by a skilled administrative team.  

The people

The Youth Crime team at Victoria Legal Aid

Pictured L–R: Lawyer Danielle Svede; Administrative Services Officer Diana Lazarevski; Lawyer Maggie Buchanan; Deputy Managing Lawyer Jenny Anderson; Administrative Services Officers Jase Domantay, Damien Farnfield and Juliana Papak; Advocate Michael Sharkey; and Youth Crime Program Manager Anoushka Jeronimus (absent: Lawyers Fiona Hintum, Dani Keogh and Kim Ison; Advocate Danielle McKeown; and Senior Lawyer Anna Leith).

Making up the Youth Crime team are Deputy Managing Lawyer Jenny Anderson, who came from the community legal centre sector and is currently doing her PhD on the history of the Children’s Court, and lawyer Fiona Hintum who decided from a very young age that she wanted to be a children’s lawyer.

Drawn to working in the youth space, lawyer Danielle Svede transferred from our Warrnambool office, as did lawyer Danielle Keogh from Sunshine.

Senior Lawyer Anna Leith is a long-standing member who has a passion for legal education in the youth space, and just about to take over the co-ordination of the Youth Referral and Independent Persons Program is Maggie Buchanan.  

We’re also lucky to have accredited children’s law specialist advocates Michael Sharkey and Danielle McKeown, also an accredited criminal law specialist.

Anoushka is an accredited children’s law specialist too. Before working with us she had clocked up experience in Mexico and Cambodia where she worked with vulnerable youth, and in Darwin with Aboriginal women and children in remote communities.

Anoushka explains that the losses are perceived differently to those in the adult jurisdiction.

‘Engaging a young person with a support service to get a job or go back to school is considered a real win, as is a positive group conference experience.

‘Our goal is to avoid or minimise the stigma that attaches to a young person before the court – and a big part of that is identifying and advocating for responsive, therapeutic outcomes.  

‘At this pressure point we’re a really important person in a kid’s life, and we need to make sure that we’re consistent and reliable.

‘We get kids who come back and request us by name, and others who a pretty non-verbal saying thank you.

‘They just want to know that they’re being backed and listened to – that someone is looking out for them.

‘There are still difficult cases, where very little will work – but the majority of interventions are positive experiences.’

Anoushka says that the Youth Crime team works hard to foster good relationships, including with police prosecutors and support services.

She says that the team ultimately wants to be best it can be for the children and young people it represents.

‘A statewide legislated diversion scheme for first-time and low level offenders is something the team is committed to.

‘We’d also love to see a reduction in our client load because that would mean that the system is working well.’

The work

It’s not surprising we’re unable to snap a photo of all the team – they’re kept so busy covering a wide range of duties.

A typical spread of tasks involves staffing our telephone advice service for young people and lawyering at the Melbourne Children’s Court, with whoever is rostered on as the duty lawyer appearing on behalf of clients who have existing or new matters, and those in custody.

They also service the metropolitan Children’s Courts in Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Frankston, Heidelberg, Ringwood, Sunshine, and at the Moorabbin Youth Justice Centre.

‘There’s a lot of ringing around to support services, finding out what’s happening in the youth services space and with young people,’ says Anoushka.

‘And at the end of the day, there’s a bit of "oh my god, you won’t believe…” and laughter because humour is an important way of debriefing – the work and the cases are often tough stuff.

‘You’re reminded every day that even though they’ve committed an adult offence like a burglary, they are kids… and that’s why our job is so important.’

Help for clients

For free information about the law and how we can help you call Legal Help on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday, 8.45 am to 5.15 pm.

We also have information about the legal rights and responsibilities for young people and how diversion gave a young boy a second chance.

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