Public Interest Law Careers Guide - Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

Field of Law

Indigenous; Community Legal Centres

Stage of career

Secondary; Undergraduates; Graduates; Practising Lawyers

Contact Details

Address: 273 High Street Preston VIC 3072
Phone: 03 9418 5999
Visit the VALS website
Contact person: Contract through email
Email: vals@vals.org.au

Description of Organisation

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited (VALS) was established as a community controlled Co-operative Society in 1973. VALS plays an important role in providing referrals, advice/information, duty work or case work assistance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the State of Victoria. Solicitors at VALS specialise in one of three areas of law, being Criminal Law, Family Law and Civil Law.

VALS strives to:

  • Promote social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Promote the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to empowerment, identity and culture;
  • Ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enjoy their rights, are aware of their responsibilities under the law and have access to appropriate advice, assistance and representation;
  • Reduce the disproportionate involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the criminal justice system; and
  • Promote the review of legislation and other practices which discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

Number of legal positions within organisation:

There are three different areas of practise- criminal which has around 12 lawyers, civil which has around 4 and family which has 5 lawyers working in these areas.

Human rights officer?

No.

Information for secondary schools

Do you have work experience placements for secondary school students?

Yes

Contact person for work experience placements: vals@vals.org.au

Do you host school trips or send speakers to schools?

No, but there is a community legal education program

Contact person for school trip and/or speakers: vals@vals.org.au

Information for university students/graduates

Do you have a graduate clerkship program? (involving practical legal training and admission to practise)

No. There is a volunteer program- 6 monthly intakes- interview volunteer positions

What are you looking for in a graduate?

Any university students- not law specific- from any year level are welcome to apply. Volunteer experience is required and the individual should be willing to work in social work/ law. The legal service is also looking for individuals with an interest in Aboriginal affairs and human rights.

Qualifications/skills required: Volunteering experience

What electives/areas of study are viewed favourably?

None. Looking for a wide skill set.

What prior work/volunteer work is viewed favourably?

Other Community Legal Services

How many students do you take a year?

Generally between 20-40

How does one apply

Before intake commences there is a volunteer page put up on their website which is where you can download the application. People are welcome to send their resume to the email (vals@vals.org.au) outside of the dates for application.

Dates for application

1 Mid-year intake- in June/July + 1 start of year intake with applications opening in November

Do you require your applicants to be recent law graduates? If so, how recent?

No. Can be from any year level.

Interview process

In the interview there will generally be 3 staff members from different areas of the program- for example the criminal/administrative/social justice programs. It will be a 15 minute volunteer interview asking general questions such as Why they would like to volunteer with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, What past experience they may have and the skills they can bring to the organisation.

How many law graduates do you employ outside your graduate program, and what sort of roles do they fill?

Generally law graduates would work as paralegals or lawyers- such as with the Criminal Law section

Do you have a minimum Grade Point Average standard for an applicant’s academic record?

No

If there are any fails on a candidate’s academic record how will they affect the recruitment process?

Up to the principle legal officer in the individual sections of this Legal Service. For volunteering work this has no effect.

What sort of volunteer opportunities are available?

There is one general volunteer program. Once someone is in the volunteer pool they could be shadowing a solicitor or be in the community justice programs or higher administration for example- the opportunities available varies with the different requirements of the tasks.

Contact person for volunteers: vals@vals@org.au

Information for practising lawyers

What are you looking for in a permanent employee?

Experience in relevant practice area. Cultural awareness.

What prior work is viewed favourably?

Experience within Aboriginal organisations or community legal services.

On average, how many positions become available per year?

Approximately - 3 to 5

How many applications do you receive for these?

10 - 20

Where do you advertise your positions?

On our website, occasionally on employment websites like SEEK and newspapers.

Do you use a recruitment agency?

No

Advice for applicants

Research the role and apply.

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