Interview with Tess McGuire, Founder of ‘Watch Us Lead’

By Lily McCaffrey

 I was so impressed when I discovered that my old friend and fellow JD student Tess McGuire had started a new program, ‘Watch Us Lead’. The program strives to connect Year 12 girls who come from low socio-economic areas with young women who are either studying or working in a professional field. I sat down with her and asked her some questions.

What inspired you to start Watch Us Lead?

I have always been passionate about gender equality and ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to quality education, as in seriously, I feel like I was born with this passion.

Watch Us Lead is for me the small contribution that I can make in enabling Year 12 girls to have the opportunity to be exposed to different ideas about what they could pursue in the future. It is my hope that this exposure will encourage them to dream big and will help them overcome the challenges that high school girls, in particular, often face in regards to coming to terms with how confident and ambitious they should be in a climate that discourages them from pursuing certain pathways.

Tell us how Watch Us Lead works as a program.

Watch Us Lead holds monthly sessions with a small group of Year 12 girls where we bring in two different speakers, both of whom are young women but come from diverse backgrounds. They then present to the girls what it is they do, whether it be studying or working in a professional field and how they got there. They explain their narrative and the challenges they have faced along the way and then engage in discussion with the girls so we can help them to understand that these challenges are often universal.

Why do you think that young women are in need of a program like Watch Us Lead?

I think as a young woman personally, I have drawn such immense inspiration from seeing other young women achieve or even aspire to achieve in different areas. I think we still live in a society that strongly discourages young women from being naturally ambitious and from entering into certain masculine fields. Participating in Watch Us Lead means that the girls can directly see, in front of them, another woman who looks just like them and who is succeeding, and I think it is so important to ensure that every girl believes in herself.

I understand that you ran the first session of Watch Us Lead with girls from Hume Central Secondary College about a month ago. How did that go?

It was actually such a fantastic experience. It was incredible seeing the faces of the girls light up as they met with two young women, both doing different things. One, a cadet engineer working for a national engineering consultancy company. The other, a young woman who had studied a degree in public health promotion and now works for different organisations that strive to alleviate health problems. There was one moment when the cadet engineer was explaining different jobs that engineers can do and she explained that the role of a chemical engineer is to actually create make-up and that they work for all of the international cosmetic brands. One girl was so shocked to hear this news and it was hilarious because she blurted out, ‘Oh my goodness I love chemistry, and I love make up! Who knew?’ It was so great to see them respond in such a positive way to learning about these different pathways that they could perhaps pursue in the future.

 It sounds like your program has already made a difference! It’s very commendable that you have started up this new initiative whilst studying law. How have you managed to balance both?

I think it is true what they say, that it is better to ask the busier person to do something because they actually get it done. This is a program that I have wanted to start for years and an idea that has been percolating in my mind for some time. Last year, I just said to myself that there are no more excuses and that if I didn’t get it done before finishing studying I was worried it would never happen.

In terms of managing the balance, I’ve started it at a very small scale, so that it is not too demanding administratively, but that it has the potential to grow and I will be able to do that on my own terms, when I have the capacity.

 How can people get involved in the program?

I am actively looking for young women who can participate as speakers. Any person who knows of a young woman who is still studying or working, and is a confident and gregarious person, get in touch with them and encourage them to put up their hand or just volunteer them and I can get in touch with them directly. It really is a great opportunity to stand up in front of other young women and gain some speaking experience through sharing your narrative with a group of people who are there to listen.

What are your hopes for the future of Watch Us Lead?

The long-term plan is for it to be able to expand and partner with more schools, particularly in low socio-economic areas where the need is greater for these resources and programs. In terms of right now, we are focussing on the girls from Hume Central Secondary, with our priority to make their experience of Year 12 the best it can be.

 You contact Tess and keep up to date with Watch Us Lead by liking the facebook page, ‘Watch Us Lead’.

 

 

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Fight for the Minimum Wage

By Jacob Kairouz

There is no doubt that the Fair Work Commission’s decision on 23 February to cut penalty rates will cause hardship to students all over the country. However, there is a more pressing problem with our industrial relations model that is not receiving enough attention. Underpayment of award rates has become so commonplace in hospitality workplaces that ironically many of us will not be worse off under FWC’s latest decision. A lot of workers are already being paid less than the award rate, effectively less than the minimum wage, and never even received penalty rates in the first place.

As an experienced hospitality worker it is easy to find a job. However, as I discovered the last time I looked for work, it is far from easy to find a job where everyone is paid fairly and lawfully. I had six job interviews at different cafes around town earlier this year and none of them paid their staff the award rate. In one upsetting conversation a cafe owner said to me: ‘No single worker is worth $30-$40 per hour. It’s just ridiculous.’ Hesitantly, I had to agree that no one is worth $40 because the award wage is almost half of that sum. He continued, ‘I don’t pay penalty rates, I pay my staff a fair rate depending on their experience.’ But he never intended to pay me a ‘fair rate’. Most of these cafes offered me between $17 and $20 per hour as a casual worker. But I know what I am worth. The minimum hourly rate is currently $23.64 and $28.37 on weekends.

While university graduates might be in a position to negotiate a salary, hospitality workers certainly don’t have the same bargaining power. We are unskilled workers and employers will not usually be willing to fork out for someone more experienced. The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was meant to protect workers from exactly this problem. The object of the act is stated at s 3 (c):

Ensuring that the guaranteed safety net of fair, relevant and enforceable minimum wages and conditions can no longer be undermined by the making of statutory individual employment agreements of any kind given that such agreements can never be part of a fair workplace relations system.

The Fair Work Act has definitely failed on this premise. Howard’s Australian Workplace Agreements are gone but illegal individual agreements are everywhere. The Ombudsman does not have the resources to actively investigate and enforce minimum wages. Because of this the market price for labour has dropped far below the award rate. We need only look at the controversy around 7/11 and Dominos to see just how easy it is for employers to steal straight from their employee’s pockets.

Unfortunately, wage fraud is even more common than the media has suggested and not at all limited to big franchises. A friend of mine worked at a reputable coffee roaster in South Melbourne and was underpaid more than $1600 over four months. All the staff there were being paid $20 per hour as a flat rate with no paid leave entitlements: $3 short of the minimum wage. Eventually she worked up the courage to confront the HR team and ask for the money. Luckily they admitted the mistake and back-paid in full but most people wouldn’t be so fortunate. I know of others who complained to their bosses and faced the sack soon after. Perhaps worse than this, many workers don’t even know when they’re being underpaid.

On paper, we have one of the fairest industrial relations systems in the world. On paper, there is no need for union involvement because the minimum safety net is already so generous. But this just doesn’t translate into reality. The Fair Work Ombudsman has failed to enforce minimum wages so we need to start doing it ourselves. As law students we have to use our negotiation skills and knowledge of the law to encourage vulnerable workers to stand up for equality. The only way to make a difference is for all of us to act together, reporting unlawful activity to the Fair Work Ombudsman or to the unions. Before we can campaign for better penalty rates we need to campaign to be paid the minimum wage.

LAWS50059: Gibbons, United Nations, and human trafficking

By Sophie Kaiko

Over the summer, I took part in the independent legal internship subject. I had a fantastic time, and I would highly recommend this class. Here is some more information about how it works and why I enjoyed it.

What did you do?

I spent three months working with the United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (which is a huge mouthful, but luckily is more frequently known as UN-ACT). UN-ACT is a project which looks at human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS: Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand and Vietnam). The project spans across each of these countries, with a regional management office in Bangkok. I was working in the regional management office. On a daily basis, I did a lot of research work, as well as some administrative and communication work. I spent a significant amount of my time looking at laws and legislative frameworks in the GMS, and I also looked a lot at public policy and government procedures.

What did you enjoy about your position?

 I liked applying what I knew about law to real situations. I didn’t feel like I was working in a vacuum, or that the cases I was reading were just for academic debate. I also really enjoyed working in a large, international organisation where I was working on briefs that related to headline news events. In addition to learning a lot at my desk in the office, my team was great at bringing me along to other events and conferences. As a result, I was lucky in that I got an insight into the anti-trafficking work done in the region. I also got to meet many interesting, competent and friendly people, which made the whole experience very fun.

What didn’t you like so much?

There are way too many acronyms at the UN. Also, working in a huge international office (with more than 2000 employees on site) meant that English was the main form of communication, so I learnt a lot less Thai than I would have liked.

 Outside of work, what else did you do?

I had a really fun summer, and got to do lots of exciting things! I went SCUBA diving in Koh Tao, rock climbing in Krabi, and saw some gibbons in Kao Yai. The gibbons were a real highlight, so I have attached a photograph of one. I also ate lots of delicious food, and made many friends.

That sounds pretty alright, how did you set this up?

  1. I applied for the internship through this website and was accepted.
  2. I contacted the legal internship people at university. I think you need to give them about a month’s notice, so would recommend doing this super early. They are incredibly helpful, so if you’re interested, book an appointment and go ask all the questions you can think of asking.
  3. Contact Centrelink if applicable, and submit all the documentation to say you are studying abroad. This means you continue to receive payments while overseas (which is a huge benefit, that I wish I had known about earlier, as it would have allowed me to apply much earlier!)
  4. Eat all the Pad Thai.

Gibbon!!!

 

Beaches + Islands= postcard perfect summer holidays

Law Camp Report

By Crista Gekas

I realise that in writing this article, I am breaking the old adage, “what happens at law camp, stays at law camp.” For those of you who did attend law camp, I insist that any stories divulged in this article will not implicate you in any sort of crime or misconduct (although I am willing to name the best and worst dance moves).

In many ways, law camp harked back to the old days of school camp. Some 150 students gathered on the footpath with bags, doonas and costumes in tow. Crowds jostled around sheets of paper allocating buses and cabins. There was idle chitchat about the coming three days and some early signs of nostalgia for LMR.

To the innocent bystander, the situation seemed relaxed enough. In fact, I’m sure any reasonable person would not see cause for panic. However, this did not stop the whirlwind of anxiety that quickly ensued in my head. Each decision the night before law camp seemed to be of life or death importance. Should I choose the sensible, slightly thinner blue blanket, or the much warmer “Bob the Builder” blanket? Conscious of my fledgling legal reputation, I made a conservative decision and chose the blue blanket.

I digress. Skip ahead six or so hours, and everyone is changing into their white t-shirts for the evening “scribble party.” Donning my “I LOVE MÜNCHEN” t-shirt, I set out with a set of textas and a creative spirit, albeit tinged by a slight hint of scepticism. With the music blaring and the beverages free flowing, however, I couldn’t resist the mysterious pull of drawing strange pictures on people I had only met moments ago. Whilst my doodles were fairly average and at best inappropriate (“Call Stephen”), and the group resembled a glittery, demented cult by midnight, the scribble party was a weirdly effective exercise in group bonding.

By the second and final night, law camp was in full swing. I had mastered my hand at Ping-Pong that afternoon, and was feeling confident that I’d nailed my 90s themed costume. Though it wasn’t so much 90s “themed” as much as it was pulled straight from the 90s (honourable mention goes to my Dad for letting me unashamedly raid his wardrobe). That night, each decade was to choreograph a dance routine and battle it out against competing decades, for a chance to win tickets to the end of exams party no less.

But suggestive dance moves aside, the MULSS is deserving of a huge thank you for organising Law Camp 2017. The whole thing went off without a hitch, although we would’ve been too busy dancing to notice otherwise. I met some fantastic people over the weekend, and the experience definitely made for a more relaxed transition into my first week of law school.

 

Life and Photography: Images by Stefan Ladd

By Stefan Ladd

These photographs were taken in February 2017, in Melbourne. My aim was to capture the everyday experience of living and studying in this incredible city. In a sense, they are memories. In another, they are a record of what it was like to live and breathe at this time, and in this place.

Naturally, our city will continue to evolve.
As a result, some beauty may inevitably be lost. Photos, not just of the tallest buildings, but of the smallest alleys and haunts, provide an important record. To that end, this series is but the smallest of contributions.

Heavy Gigging

By Declan Fry

Over the holidays, and during the first week of semester, I had the chance to check out a couple of shows.

Here’s what went down.

China Meets Melbourne/中国来到墨尔本

On Wednesday of the last holiday week I saw White+, Birdstriking and Carsick Cars at Collingwood’s The Tote. They belong to one of China’s major indie labels, Maybe Mars, and came to Melbourne and Sydney thanks to Julian Wu and Maybe Mars foreign distributor Ricky Mayami, who runs an awesome webpage that’s always busy proselytising for Chinese music overseas. Ricky is also the guitarist for Brian Jonestown Massacre and one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

White+ make big, beat and electro-swirl driven soundscapes that are just crying out for someone to lay down some bars over them:

 

They’re probably one of my favourite current bands in China.

Birdstriking are a bunch of really nice dudes who I was able to hang out and chat with. They’re playful and hooky, but also wildly experimental at times. Their 2012 self-titled debut was reissued by Anton Newcombe from Brian Jonestown Massacre in 2015 following China’s Central Propaganda Department restricting its distribution, thanks in large part to the track Monkey Snake (“You have the lies, the media/It doesn’t mean you can transform my mind”). They just released the record on vinyl and I was lucky enough to get them not only to sign but to lay down some artwork as well.

Carsick Cars are probably the most well-known Chinese indie band in the West, thanks in no small part to their supporting Sonic Youth on a European tour. To be honest, they’re not my favourite contemporary rock band in China. Their first release does contain some totally awesome tracks, like 广场 (The Square), 蘑菇 (Mushrooms), and 棒子 (Stick), but their following releases have been wildly inconsistent and feel relatively listless, hampered by a lack of musical and lyrical direction.

As part of the Maybe Mars Australian visit, the label also hosted an art exhibition from Chairman Ca at The Old Bar in Carlton. Chairman Ca (pronounced sah) has been redefining the visual identity of Beijing’s underground rock scene for the past decade. His work is iconic, having produced many classic posters of the scenes most notable artists and venues. Chairman Ca is also the founding member of China’s Cult Youth Comics who’ve published several volumes of collections of Chinese comic art.

 

LA Meets Melbourne

On the Friday before university resumed I caught a show at Boney in the CBD that saw Illegal Civilization, an LA skate crew who produce videos and clothes, drop in to the city. They were over thanks to Thank Guard, a very awesome local label who are helping promote soulful, vibey hip hop.

Thank Guard’s approach is kind of reminiscent of the ‘Native Tongues’ movement/collective that artists like Queen Latifah, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were part of. As their website describes it:

Each time a teenager chooses Afrocentric/sun-drenched jizz-jazz over trap bangers, an artist like Marco McKinnis, Carmani, Hope Tala or even our own Baro is one step closer to making a global impact with their music.

And what’s not to love? Mainstream rap is often culturally genius, but the genre moves pretty slow: repetitive bragging, male insecurity, meaningless violence and certain flows have been resold for 20+ years now.

There’s no doubt, Illegal Civ have helped nourish a growing urban alternative. Right now, they are probably the biggest platform in the world repping this niche. Wouldn’t be surprised if a Kanye-level star drops something influenced by this tip in the near future.

 

As someone who finds trap pretty interesting in and of itself (just check out the trap influenced jazz of Christian Scott), but who also feels underwhelmed by a lot of the popular and critically-acclaimed representatives of the genre (isn’t rhyming in triplets about insecurity as endless consumerist conquest kind of tiresome? How many bars of chicken-blue-cheese /choppers-jacu-zzis/they-see me-rockin/real-Rolex-watches can you take? And that’s just me coming straight off the dome…

But back to the night: Performers like Ojikae are developing their stage presence but on record are already remarkably fully formed: just check out the track Existentiality.

Nasty Mars are serious fun onstage, mixing cool grooves with soulful vocals and even being brave enough to channel D’Angelo at one point, the singer taking off his shirt to sing ‘How Do You Feel?’.

And Baro…Baro I just can’t get enough of. At the end of the night I happened to pass him outside and told him ‘hey man, nice set’, because it really was. There’s something genuinely new and striking about his instrumentation, which feels rickety and woozy yet also soulful and romantic. He’s also equally good both as a singer who can deliver pop melodies and a rapper who can make the house jump.

Melbourne Meets Everyone

Neil Morris, a Yorta Yorta man, opened the night with an acknowledgment of country. We had a chat and shared some food later on in the night, and I have to say he’s a very cool guy.

Soreti was both the MC for the night and delivered some bars of her own.

SoulE also performed on the night, and although unfortunately I don’t have any video of him, I can attest to the fact his set was excellent.

Sophie Grophy is ridiculously charming and a great performer: she had presence on stage and chops aplenty. Plus REMI was going absolutely crazy on the decks during her set. If you wanna check out her stuff, well, apart from her many great songs below, I’d also recommend her youtube account, which includes a Rivers Cuomo-esque opening up about the development of her songwriting that’s just too cool.

 

The highlight of the night for me was perhaps Lady Lash: she demonstrated some serious melodic chops on tracks like ‘Family’, a great ear for scatting, and an ability to connect the act of writing with her performance, including stepping out into the audience during her final song.

 

REMI delivered like an absolute pro, clearly strong in his stage presence and full of the swagger and confidence that mark his rhymes (and Sensible J’s beats!). His last album, Divas and Demons, was really compelling, in part because it combines that swagger with an insecurity that gives his music so much of its drive and personality: a sense of turbulence and anxiety that often permeates his flow, lyrics and instrumentation.

 

The night ended with open mic freestyling. One guy in particular really stood out; so much so that, after he’d finished his 16 bars and was about to leave the stage, REMI’s producer, Sensible J, asked him to stay on and keep rapping.

Bringing It All Back Home

By way of conclusion, I’m gonna have to do a shout out to a nice thing that happened on a tram the week after university resumed: I was wearing a Kendrick Lamar T-shirt, and a duo from LA, rapper 1000 and beatmaker Chapter 3, happened to strike up a conversation and ended up giving me their CD.

Small world: it turned out that we had both been at the Boney gig.

Standout tracks for me on the CD, entitled Buying Wolf Tickets, are probably Brown Boy, with its sweet combo of thick fuzz bass and loping xylophone, and the track So Ruff, which features shimmering synth and vocal loops over the verses, plus some sweet P-funk bubble bass running all over the track. You can check him rapper 1000 here and his producer, Chapter 3, here.

You can follow Declan on twitter as @DeclanFry1 at https://twitter.com/DeclanFry1

Volunteer Work as a Paralegal at Fitzroy Legal Service

 

By Paul Goddard

 

My summer holidays had been largely uneventful, but for my volunteering at Fitzroy Legal Service.

Volunteering at Fitzroy Legal Service, notably the night service on Thursday nights, is truly a worthwhile experience. I start my day at 6:00pm with the paralegals and solicitors waiting for files to come in. Each day varies in workload, but I enjoy the activity and the ability to help others. While I have been reluctant to consider Family and Criminal Law for future practice, I was able to learn more about family arrangements, infringements, affidavits and intervention orders. If a volunteer was still uncertain about an area of law, ‘copies of the Fitzroy Legal Service (FLS) handbook were available’.

It was wonderful to look at all these issues and to be able to see how each solicitor approaches a problem. Some solicitors like to cut to the chase, addressing the heart of the problem. Others prefer more detail in case they have missed something. I usually err on the side of more information in case I have missed something.

When the day is particularly busy, Adrian, night service coordinator, encourages me to consult the clients and take down instructions. Initially, I was nervous, but it usually vanished when I engaged with the clients and wrote down necessary information for a solicitor to consider. There were also times where I needed to call in an interpreter as well.

My tasks have involved typing up letters and file notes, as well as seeing clients and taking instructions. I have also had one case where I took a client to a nearby police station regarding a car accident issue because she was unable to acquire to full details of the person who crashed into her. Every time a client thanks you, you feel that you have made a difference.

Clients at Fitzroy Legal Service come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Our volunteers are also diverse. This is especially valuable because each volunteer usually focuses on the issues that they have prior experience in.

The service accepts no more clients by 8:30pm, but the service continues for another hour. This is to ensure that volunteers do not feel compelled to work overtime from 9:30pm. The volunteers type up file notes to place into the client folder for future reference and they finish up for the night.

I strongly encourage my fellow students to try out volunteering to boost their legal experience. The client experience will certainly be valuable for future employment.