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The CIJ’s Student Program and adapting to COVID19

For Semester 2, the CIJ has been working closely with our community legal centre partners LACW, Young Workers Centre and Youthlaw to offer ten online internship opportunities to RMIT Juris Doctor students.

The CIJ’s Student Program

The Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) works to progress law reforms that adapt the justice system to the needs of those who come into contact with it. It has built its reputation on developing practical, human-centred justice innovations based on evidence-based policy from its ground-breaking research. Built into the CIJ’s core work is creating life-changing student opportunities through its student program; an essential feature of the CIJ’s operating model.


Why it is important

The student program is fundamental to the CIJ model for two key reasons:

  1. It promotes systemic change: Engaging students who will be entering the justice system profession. Introducing new ways of thinking about justice before they begin their career is an opportunity to create a cultural change in the justice sector.
  2. Students offer a fresh perspective: Involving students in project work can bring a fresh perspective, where they can make a valuable contribution by inciting new ways of thinking about old problems.

From research through to advocacy, student participation and engagement has been integral to the success of the CIJ’s work.


Innovation Hub & Life-changing Student Experiences

The CIJ is co-located with three community legal centres at RMIT’s Social Innovation Hub. These partnerships bring together RMIT as an education institution, the experience of the community legal sector and the research, policy development and advocacy skills of the CIJ. The activities and collaboration arising from this hub offers students the unique opportunity to engage, train and contribute to an environment of innovation that shares knowledge, resources and expertise including multidisciplinary practice.


Multidisciplinary Student Placements

The CIJ collaborates with our co-located partners to offer multidisciplinary placements for students through an integrated practice model. The CIJ facilitates law students, social work students, and financial counselling students to work alongside one another to learn, collaborate and understand the other’s discipline. This experience models the best practice interactions of the different professions within the community and justice sectors. It encourages students to work together with other disciplines to problem-solve for their clients and prepares them for collaborative engagements moving into their career.


Adapting to COVID19 in Semester 1

In semester one, the CIJ adapted its student program to continue its engagement with students while RMIT moved to remote learning. This included regular communications providing students with an overview of justice issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic. A weekly newsletter distributed to Juris Doctor and social work students explained related legal policy connected to issues such as police powers, homelessness, over incarceration of women, the effects of the Victorian bail laws on the high number of people on remand in prisons and the issue of deaths in custody in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.

To complement the newsletter, the CIJ ran a weekly interview series called How did you get here? featuring a variety of legal professionals who shared their career journey. The series sought to offer students a better understanding on the breadth of career pathways a law degree can offer. Students were invited students to participate in an interactive session and the format sought to engage and connect students while studying remotely.


Student Program Moving Forward

The CIJ has been working closely with our community legal centre partners LACW, Young Workers Centre and Youthlaw to offer ten online internship opportunities to RMIT Juris Doctor students. The online internships are project based and have been co-designed with our partners to include research into the effects on legal service responses as a result of COVID-19 as well as designing and developing community legal education resources.

Open Circle, the CIJ’s restorative justice service, is also engaging two student interns to assist with research into best practice in restorative justice conferencing to assist develop resources whilst also providing the opportunity gain exposure to restorative justice principles.

The CIJ is also working the Neighbourhood Justice Centre, the only community justice centre in Australia, to offer an online taster placement for students that will include a virtual tour of the Centre located in Collingwood as well as the opportunity to hear from community lawyers from Fitzroy Legal Service and Victoria Legal Aid and learn more about the therapeutic justice model that the Court operates.


Opportunity for Outreach

The CIJ has taken the opportunity to engage secondary school legal and political studies students that are required to undertaking remote learning due to the pandemic. Recognising the difficulty for many VCE students, with the disruption to classes and cancellation of excursions, the CIJ has developed a secondary school outreach program offering schools an online presentation from CIJ Director Rob Hulls on justice issues and law reforms related to the CIJ’s work.  The outreach program has successfully engaged 14 schools from Metro Melbourne and regional Victoria as well as 1 indigenous school program to present and discuss the justice system, legal policy, law reform and the work of the CIJ.


Education, student participation and student engagement continues to be a key focus of the CIJ’s work.