A NEW legal kit is helping migrants and refugees to pass safely through Australia's legal minefield.
Launched at Footscray's Phoenix Youth Centre on Friday by Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, What's the law? addresses some of the most common legal issues faced by new arrivals.
The kits, developed by Victoria Legal Aid (VLA), will be used by English language teachers in the Adult Migrant English Program to help new arrivals adjust to life in Australia.
VLA managing director Bevan Warner said people starting life in an unfamiliar country needed to understand Australian laws.
"Combining knowledge of rights and responsibilities before the law with English language training makes sense and is cost-effective for all concerned, including the taxpayer," Mr Warner said. "Activities many of us take for granted, like beginning to drive, signing contracts with utility companies and renting a home, can be confusing for new arrivals."
The kits, including a DVD with stories in simple English, activity sheets and notes for teachers, will reach more than 50,000 new arrivals taking part in Adult Migrant Education programs each year. The kit was launched in Footscray to recognise the Footscray Community Legal Centre's central role in its creation.
Seeing the difficulties new migrants and refugees face dealing with legal matters as they try to settle into Australia, the centre worked with Adult Migrant Education Services to produce a series of digital stories before taking the concept to VLA.
Mr Warner said the kit was developed when it became apparent many of the legal problems faced by new migrants arose from simple misunderstandings. "Without language skills, this system can be confusing and hard to negotiate," he said. "By tackling problems head-on through education there's a reduction in the amount of time and money spent in the legal system."
Ms Roxon said the kit offered a simple answer to a complex problem.
"Driving, renting, buying a car, knowing what to do after a car accident - these are all basic issues that can quickly become a legal problem without adequate understanding," she said.
Ms Roxon paid tribute to the hard work of community legal centres such as Footscray in ensuring vulnerable people were not sidelined in society.
What's the law? is available at legalaid.vic.gov.au