Helen Macpherson Smith Trust

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Case Study: WEstjustice

ProjectWEstjustice Youth Employment Justice Program - Poverty is not Destiny (the YEJ Program)

Amount$300,000 over two years



Reducing inequality Providing comprehensive solutions to complex problems to enable young people to address barriers to employment and reach their potential
Enabling financial sustainability Establishing proof of theory, developing a business case and exploring long term sustainable funding
Building organisational capacity Combine learning across two areas of specialisation by creating a youth employment justice team and building capacity of stakeholders to identify and address unmet need
Collaboration and partnership Select schools, Victoria University, Sunshine Visy Cares Hub, Wyndham City Council, employment and anti-discrimination law regulators and Commissions, settlement agencies and multicultural peak bodies, Department of Education & Training, Department of Transport, King & Wood Mallesons, and other law firms

Trialling targeted legal interventions for vulnerable young people

Too many young people are injured in our workplaces, underpaid or unpaid, discriminated against, sexually harassed, bullied, and unfairly treated. The Youth Employment Justice Program will empower vulnerable young people to better understand, negotiate and secure workplace rights and responsibilities whilst simultaneously addressing cycles of disadvantage.

Image Vincent Shin, the first of WEstjustice's lawyers to be embedded in a school as part of the School Lawyer Program. Image: Sharon Walker, On Location Photography. Courtesy of Victoria University.

Many young people are not aware of what constitutes a legal problem, how to seek help, and where to go. Vulnerable young people are being placed in jobs with no understanding of their rights in the workplace, heightening their risk of enduring unsafe workplaces and practices. This trial of the Youth Justice Employment Program focuses on young people between the ages of 18 – 25 from the Melbourne’s North-West region. WEstjustice joins ten other major service providers at the Visy Cares Hub in Sunshine, a welcoming and safe place where young people can access a range of wrap-around services, to deliver the program.


WEstjustice specialist teams will establish a steering committee of industry specialists, relevant government departments, and peak body representatives to develop a statewide understanding of the issues and trial strategic solutions. Together they will:

  • Develop a legal health check tool to assist youth support services to identify and refer legal issues;
  • Document the reasons for the reluctance of young people to seek legal assistance, such as failure to identify the legal problem, public transport issues, distrust of the systems, lack of confidence;
  • Scale up the current School Lawyer Program and Youth Law Clinics, and expand reach through the Out of Home Care and In Custody Legal Clinics.
  • Embed employment teams into youth law programs and provide community legal education along with legal advice and representation;
  • Undertake longitudinal studies over 6, 12 and 24 months to measure the impact of engagement, including improved access to justice, quality legal advice and case work, and improved life outcomes;
  • Spotlight the need to increase support, highlight the ineffectiveness of traditional legal delivery models, and identify systemic issues impacting this cohort;
  • Advocate for the model to be scaled across Victoria.


“We are confident that this program will greatly benefit our young people and will continue to build on the comprehensive offering that we already provide.” Dr Karen Heart, CEO of The Youth Junction which manages the Visy Cares Hub, Sunshine.