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Law Week triumphs despite COVID-19 restrictions

Law Week triumphs despite COVID-19 restrictions

By Karin Derkley

Access to Justice 


Two months ago the COVID-19 lockdown put a question mark over whether Law Week would even happen this year.

Now, the Victoria Law Foundation (VLF) is celebrating the wrap-up of a hugely successful week, with hundreds of people attending many sessions despite most of the more than 100 events being held online.

The VLF is also applauding the increased involvement of private firms and practitioners this year who, along with the Law Week "backbone" of community legal centres, provided phone-based information and advice sessions, as well as podcasts and webinars.

VLF CEO Lynne Haultain says one event, the "Inquest into the Death of The Artist Formerly known as Prince" presented by the Coroners Court of Victoria and Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and hosted by Brian Nankervis (pictured above), had to stop taking registrations at 500.

335 attended another, in which Professor Felicity Gerry QC of Deakin Law School talked about the legal challenges in the corporate reporting of slavery in supply chains and tackling human trafficking in organised crime.

Other popular sessions with hundreds of attendees included two looking at police powers, one presented by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, Vthe ictorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Victoria Police, and another conducted by Fitzroy Legal Service, the Police Accountability Project and Justice Connect.

Ms Haultain says being held online meant more people were able to attend the sessions.

"These are numbers we never would have been able to achieve in normal circumstances," Ms Haultain says. "We just wouldn't have had venues big enough or the capacity of people to travel to be there."

"It meant that it doesn't matter if you're in Portland or Mallacoota. As long as you had access to the internet you could participate – and that made these sorts of events so much more available to people who are interested but not able to physically attend."

A session run by Inner Melbourne Community Legal Centre and WEstJustice for international students looking at housing, employment and safety concerns during the pandemic period had a big audience from an often difficult to reach group. "I'm not sure we would have got that in a physical space, but because people could tune in, there was a really strong response."

Private firms as well as community legal centres were generous in providing information and phone advice sessions, Ms Haultain says.

"The profession really came to the party this year in terms of understanding that at this particularly weird juncture people really need an insight into what their rights and responsibilities might be. We appreciated the fact that so many of them came on board and we look forward to them continuing to be engaged because it makes such a difference."

While Law Week organisers are looking forward to next year’s events being able to be held “in real life” Ms Haultain says the accessibility of this year’s online format will change fundamentally what the program looks like in the future. “There may well be live in person events which will also be available as webinars at the same time or that are recorded and then later put online.”

Many of this year's sessions were recorded and others were already in the form of podcasts or video recordings, and can still be viewed or listened to via the Law Week website. The recordings will be made available for a limited time only.

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