Photo L–R: CEO of the Federation of Community Legal Centres Louisa Gibbs, acting Victoria Legal Aid Board Chairperson Robbie Campo, Local Aboriginal Justice Worker at Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation Keenan Madden, Victorian Attorney-General the Hon Jaclyn Symes, Managing Lawyer South West - Sunshine Liz Hughes and our CEO Louise Glanville.
Our new strategic plan, Strategy 26, will help us to make the best decisions on how to prioritise our efforts to improve the experience and outcomes for clients and communities, and to support fairer laws and systems over the next four years.
Launched in our Sunshine office on Thursday 16 June, Strategy 26 outlines how we will work towards a fair, just and inclusive society where people can get help with their legal problems and have a stronger voice in laws and legal processes that affect them.
We were honoured to be joined by Victorian Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes for the launch, and other guests, including Acting Regional Coordinating Magistrate Andrew Capell, Federation of Community Legal Centres CEO Louisa Gibbs, and Local Aboriginal Justice Worker Keenan Madden from Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation.
Ms Symes said VLA had an important legacy to uphold, having supported the community for more than 40 years.
‘That’s four decades of going over and above to help vulnerable people in the community to not only navigate the justice system and resolve problems but identify and help people connect with other organisations to really turn their lives around,’ she said.
‘VLA has also educated the community and provided expert advice and continued advocacy, whether it’s funding or policy ideas in relation to legal reform and it’s a relationship that I as Attorney-General of the State certainly value.
‘It’s with this legacy in mind that I’m really excited to celebrate VLA’s new strategic direction.
Our Acting Board Chair Robbie Campo said achieving our vision is not possible without listening more deeply to client voices.
‘I speak on behalf of the Board when I say – we know and accept that to make a meaningful difference for clients and the community, we need to put people with legal needs at the centre of our work and thinking,’ Robbie said.
‘To ensure clients have a strong voice in services and systems affecting them, we will embed client-first approaches by involving clients and consumers in designing, delivering and reviewing our services.’
Care, courage, fairness – and inclusion
As part of Strategy 26 development, our vision and values have been refined and strengthened.
We’ve also added a new value – inclusion, noting the importance of valuing inclusion and diversity in all the work we do, and representing the community and clients we serve every day.
Our CEO Louise Glanville said we strongly support our new value of ‘inclusion’ and our desire to create a culturally safe and inclusive workplace.
‘Fairness, care and courage are important values and are enhanced by the addition of inclusion,’ she said.
‘Inclusion is important, both in terms of how we treat, work with and support our staff as well as how we work in our external environment.
‘Our external advocacy takes many forms including service delivery, strategic litigation and law reform.
‘In these areas, we want Victorian communities and Australia as a whole to be inclusive of all, and each of us to have a space where we can feel safe.’
Prioritising partner relationships
We want and value a collaborative legal assistance sector.
Strategy 26 commits us to collaborate with specialist and generalist community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and private legal practitioners to respond to legal needs.
Federation of Community Legal Centres CEO Louisa Gibbs said this was a strategic direction that builds on existing strengths.
‘We are fortunate in Victoria to have strong ways of working collaboratively in place, due to the careful foresight and planning of those who came before us,’ Louisa said.
‘It’s been the foresight of these early movers and shakers that has led to today’s strong and vibrant legal assistance sector … there are many parts … and these different, complementary organisations operate together to offer a network of legal services, information and education to those who need it most.’
Keenan Madden is the West Metro Local Aboriginal Justice Worker at Kirrip Aboriginal Corporation, one of the many community organisations we work with.
In his address, he talked about the strength of the partnership between Kirrip and the local Sunshine office.
‘We have limited support services out west, however one connection has provided unlimited services and support … VLA Sunshine,’ said Keenan.
The Attorney-General said it was a great example of VLA’s collaborative approach.
‘It’s really wonderful to hear about the positive, deadly support that you’re receiving from Victoria Legal Aid,’ she said.
‘One of reasons I really wanted to be part of the launch today is to acknowledge not only how good Victoria Legal Aid are, but the connections and networks they make with other organisations to bring about better outcomes for Victorians.
‘They’re one of the best organisations and one of the best at it.’
Looking beyond four years
The five outcomes form our strategic directions – increased access to justice for our clients, improved legal understanding in the community, a collaborative legal assistance sector, fairer laws and systems and an effective and sustainable Victoria Legal Aid.
‘Importantly, these five outcomes are also in line with long-term sector strategies with our legal assistance sector partners, state government, and the national legal assistance partnership, so that we are all working together to improve access to justice,’ said Robbie.
Strategy 26 also emphasises our push for early intervention and prevention services to address legal issues before they escalate.
‘For me, early intervention is really at the core of what we need to do,’ Louise said.
‘Our evidence shows that the connection between legal and non-legal advocacy is vital for the health of Victoria Legal Aid.
‘We know people’s lives don’t just exist around their legal problems and given that we are in Sunshine today, we know that this is very much the case in the west of Melbourne.
‘We see, and people tell us, of the intersection between their legal problems, their health problems, their employment issues, their housing issues and their civil debt issues.
‘It’s so important that we continue to keep that knowledge and their experience at the centre of what we do.’
Strategy 26 was developed in consultation with our staff, stakeholders, and client groups at the end of 2021.
Reviewed 21 June 2022