Prior to the formal amalgamation, Darebin Community Legal Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service collaborated with K&L Gates on a matter regarding the statutory interpretation of the Corrections Act 1986 (Vic). We were connected with the client through the Darebin Community Legal Centre’s prisoner advice service after her application to be part of the Mothers and Children Program was refused. In recognition of the short- and long-term benefits of keeping mothers and children from being separated (both for families and the broader society), the Mothers and Children program allows for children under school age to live with their mother in prison. Applications are successful where the mother would have the day-to-day care of the child if they weren’t in prison, where it is in the best interests of the child to reside with their mother, and the child can be safely accommodated. Our client’s application was refused because it was asserted by the decision maker that she would not have day-to-day care of her child were she not in prison. On reviewing the application, supporting documents, and our client’s history we believed that she would indeed be the primary care giver for her child were she not in prison and that the decision to reject her application was based on a misinterpretation of the Corrections Act. We obtained counsel and informed the Department of Justice and Community Safety of our intentions to initiate court proceedings on this ground. We met with our client in prison to take detailed instructions and complete her affidavit. Soon after the application for Judicial Review was filed in the Supreme Court we received confirmation from the Department that they had decided to revise their original decision and would approve our client’s application. Mother and child were reunited within days.

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