Earlier this year we ran several sessions for young Shepparton residents from CALD backgrounds on a range of topics, including police powers; Public Transport Victoria inspectors; how to report a crime; sex, young people and the law; family violence; and careers in the courts and law.
Participants came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Iraq, India, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Albania.
Participants consistently reported an improved level of knowledge about the topic and where to get assistance at the end of the session.
Interestingly, all the participants in the session on police powers reported being stopped by police on the street in Melbourne in the weeks and months following the Apex Gang riot in Swanston Street. Many described altering their behaviour when out and about in Melbourne to avoid racial profiling, including travelling in smaller groups. They also described a very different and more positive experience when dealing with Shepparton police.
The session on careers in the courts and the law opened with a discussion of several high-level appointments of women in the Australian Legal System. Many of the young women participants were surprised, and they were amazed that somebody as young as our presenter could be a lawyer. This not only led to numerous questions and increased interest in careers in the law but highlighted for us the importance of mentoring with newly arrived groups.
The family violence session elicited several stories from participants that taught us that many women who leave relationships reach financial agreements based on traditional cultural laws and have no awareness of their entitlements under Australian Family Law. It highlighted for us that we need to target newly arrived communities to increase their understanding of rights and entitlements under the Australian Family Law system for separating couples.