3MBS and Neighbourhood Justice Centre up and running

3MBS had its open day at the Abbotsford Convent yesterday, but I didn’t make it. I would like to hear from anyone who did. When you walk past the building with its St Hellier’s Street frontage, though, you can peer in the window at the announcers doing their thing live, and see the vast CD library as well. The current broadcast is piped through a speaker at an appropriately demure volume.

Meanwhile, the Neighbourhood Justice Centre at 241 Wellington St in Collingwood has actually heard a case now, on Wednesday morning, and is set to get into full swing this week. It has only one Magistrate at the moment, former social worker and lawyer David Fanning, until recently Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children. This Age article is worth a look. I’ll pop my head in soon and give a fuller report. It seems that there is to be an open day on 16 May 2007 as part of Law Week. The government says of the Centre:

‘The first Neighbourhood Justice Centre to be established in Australia will open in
Collingwood in January 2007. It is an innovative approach to justice that will
respond to the crime and safety needs of the City of Yarra community and improve
access to justice.

What is the Neighbourhood Justice Centre?

The Neighbourhood Justice Centre (NJC) is
the first community justice centre in Australia
It will focus on addressing local crime and
safety issues and improving access to justice
for people who live in the City of Yarra.
It will include a court; on site support services
to assist victims, defendants, witnesses and
local residents; mediation; community safety
programs and community meeting rooms.
The Centre’s approach is unique and involves
working in partnership with residents, traders,
police and support agencies in both the
establishment and the ongoing development
of the NJC. It is a pilot funded by the
Victorian Department of Justice.

Why is the NJC located in the City of Yarra?
The catchment area for the NJC is the City of
Yarra which includes the suburbs of Fitzroy,
Richmond, Collingwood and Abbotsford. The
City of Yarra is an ideal site for the NJC pilot
as it is a vibrant and progressive community
which has solid and innovative networks,
programs and facilities. In addition, the City
of Yarra experiences significant social
disadvantage and considerable crime. This
means that there will be a busy court at the
NJC.

What is the NJC Court and the role of the Magistrate?
The NJC Court brings together the
jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court (which
includes the Victims of Crime Assistance
Tribunal and a Crimes Family Violence List),
the Children’s Court (Criminal Division) and
some Victorian Civil and Administrative
Tribunal Lists to form a court where one
magistrate can hear all a of person’s matters.
The NJC Court will concentrate on hearing
cases where the court user (defendant or
applicant) resides in the City or Yarra or
where the subject matter arose in the City of
Yarra. The NJC has one principal Magistrate –
Magistrate David Fanning – who was
appointed in September 2006. He will preside
over all cases at the NJC. This will enable a
more holistic and comprehensive resolution to
legal problems for the benefit of the
individual affected and the wider community.

What services will the NJC provide?
The NJC will house a range of services
including drug and alcohol, mental health,
housing, employment and financial
counselling. There will also be a Screening,
Assessment and Referral Team (SART) that
will work closely with the services and the
NJC Magistrate. The SART is a multi-
disciplinary team that will deal with the
complex cases that often present in our justice
system and involve multiple interlinked
problems, such as homelessness, mental
health and substance abuse. The NJC service delivery models are
currently being finalised in collaboration with
existing service providers in the City of
Yarra.

Will mediation services be available at the NJC?
Yes, access to telephone and face to face
dispute resolution advice, as well as referrals
for mediation in appropriate cases, will be
available to those who use the NJC.

What input will the community have into the NJC?
Input from the local community is an essential
element of a community justice centre. This is
a continuing process through public forums,
focus groups, one-on-one interviews,
workshops and working groups.

In April 2006 a Community Liaison Committee (CLC) was established with
twenty people representing local residents,
traders, Kooris, service providers and Yarra
Council. The Committee meets monthly and
liaises with the community on key justice
issues as well as exploring local experiences
of the justice system.

How will we know if the NJC is working?
The NJC will be evaluated by independent
evaluators to ensure that it is achieving its
intended outcomes. The NJC is based on a
community justice centre concept and the
evaluation of other overseas models in the US
and the UK has produced encouraging results.

Further information
Contact the Neighbourhood Justice Team on
Ph: (03) 8684 1561
Email: njc@justice.vic.gov.au
www.justice.vic.gov.au/neighbourhoodjustice’

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