I was fortunate enough to complete a Law Week job shadow program with Victim Assist Queensland (VAQ) at the Rockhampton Courthouse.
Victim Assist Queensland is an assistance scheme providing support to victims of crime in Queensland to access appropriate services and financial assistance to help recover from an act of violence. More information can be found here.
During my placement I job shadowed Louise, one of VAQ’s three victim coordination officers in Queensland. The role of these officers is to support victims as they go through the criminal justice system and help them apply for financial assistance if needed. They specialise in helping victims with information and court processes, understanding legal terms, writing Victim Impact Statements and helping them apply for financial assistance in order to recover from the act of violence. The Victim Coordination Officer provides assistance to victims through their court process and try to make the process as smooth as possible for both the victim and the court. This process can often be perceived by the victims as confusing and complex, especially during times of high-stress or emotional trauma caused by the act of violence inflicted upon them.
Attending a morning tea hosted by the Cancer Council to network with like-mined people and organisations
During the time of my placement, Louise was quite busy attending many programs and meetings, all of which I was lucky enough to attend and experience the wonderful diversity of her role. Between courtroom sittings, helping clients and meeting many talented and busy people such as Magistrates and Family Law workers each day was as fulfilling as the next.
On my first day, we attended a morning tea hosted by the Cancer Council as a way to form “networks” with local businesses and people working in similar fields. Louise and I got the opportunity to meet people from organisations such as Relationships Australia to learn about what they’re doing to help victims of domestic violence.
Another program I was privileged to attend and assist with was the “Love Bites” program. This program is aimed at high school students, predominantly year 10 students, and focuses on domestic violence and sexual assault. In this program the students are split into two groups in order to address both topics. One group will spend the first third of their day learning about domestic violence and the impacts it has whilst the other group does the same for sexual assault. They then swap for the second third of their day. The last third is the combination of what the students have learnt in the form of art. The aim of this program is to educate young adults about what a respectful relationship is and to allow them to identify and hopefully minimise or prevent these issues from occurring to them.
(From left to right): Kate (Roseberry Community Services), Louise (Victim Assist Queensland), Sergeant Vicki (Capricornia Police District), Jo (Uniting Care Community) and Ashlee facilitating the Love Bites program at a local high school
One of the roles Louise has adopted at the Rockhampton Courthouse is providing information in the form of brochures, pamphlets and posters in order to assist anyone with information regarding crimes committed against them and to make the confusing process appear simpler. This month (May) also happens to be Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month and so Louise tasked me with the job of creating a window display full of information regarding awareness, assistance and financial help inside the Courthouse foyer.
Although only a short shadow, it provided an excellent insight into the area I am interested in pursuing. I am used to seeing Law as more of a “black and white” ideology framework, where the Law is applied to each case and then given a based outcome. However, during my placement I was able to see an approach with a more social work focus. This was introduced through Louise and also the Magistrate I met, with the ideology of preventing reoffenders by also offering help programs and services instead of just punishments. Not only did this program benefit my future career path but also my current studies at school. During my shadow program I was also learning Family Law at school, which included domestic violence, and it became a major benefit of being able to put that knowledge to use and broaden my knowledge through hands-on job activities.
Overall, I am very grateful for being able to participate in this program as part of Law Week and implore anyone with a passion or interest in Law to get involved. It was a very fulfilling and educational program that was able to put some realistic perception to the general idea of how our legal system operates.
Helping Louise share information for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month with a foyer display.
Providing information about the Love Bites program to a local high school.