Launch – Visioning Justice

By Tess Jaeger

The Visioning Justice radio documentary project was recently launched at the Arena Project Space. Magistrate Pauline Spencer officially opened the launch, with performances by Still Waters Black Women’s Storytelling Collective and presentations of documentaries produced by the project’s participants.

Funded through the Legal Services Board Grants Program, Visioning Justice is the culmination of many years’ hard work on the part of collaborators from Springvale Monash Legal Service (SMLS), 3CR Community Radio and a very talented crop of young community volunteers.

The project aims to counteract the effects of marginalisation and disadvantage young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds often experience living in and around Melbourne. The radio documentaries produced by the eight young people who were part of the project “are intended to speak directly to government decision-makers, the police, courts and other agents in the justice system as well as the wider community”.

“change must be informed by both sides, however polarised they may be”

Helen Yandell, Director of the Springvale Monash Legal Service, made an introductory speech at the beginning of the launch, thanking those who had come together in support of the project. The Arena Project Space is a small converted warehouse in Kerr Street Fitzroy, close to Melbourne’s iconic Brunswick and Lygon Streets. The venue, which seats around thirty people, proved too modest for the swathe of enthusiastic audience members who grew in numbers over the course of the evening.

One of the documentarians, Daniel Haile-Michael, spoke about his involvement with the project, noting with optimism that “change must be informed by both sides, however polarised they may be”. Temar John spoke about how the project began in late 2010, and how those who took part were trained in radio interviewing and editing for documentary.

Performances from Still Waters were true to the often harrowing struggles the poets and their families had experienced while living in Australia. It was humbling to be part of a small audience, listening to these few poems shared aloud with many people, including myself, whose own lives would never approach such insights into these unheard Australian stories.

The documentaries are a testament to the project’s inherent social worth: you absolutely need to hear them.

During her official launch address, Magistrate Pauline Spencer spoke of the rare opportunity Visioning Justice offers to build the bridge between people’s experiences and the justice system, and the importance of legal services like Springvale Monash. The project presents a chance to build confidence in those whose work it showcases, exposing their personal experiences with the justice system to others with the power to effect change from the top down.

Bec Smith, Project Worker for Visioning Justice, played selected excerpts from the project and members of the audience were offered a free copy of a CD compiling each of the radio documentaries. Each of these reflects the profound impact the justice system has had on the project participants’ lives – from idealising the law to lamenting its failings and seeking change. The documentaries are a testament to the project’s inherent social worth: you absolutely need to hear them.

Official launch proceedings ended with a booming rap piece from Luka Apollo Tang, followed by an opportunity to sit and reflect at listening stations set up in the project space, and comment through vox pop.

You can listen to Visioning Justice podcasts by visiting the 3CR website.