Being locked up in solitary confinement isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun Friday night out but for Deakin law graduate Phoebe Blank it was a long-anticipated event.
Phoebe was among more than 100 “prisoners” who spent a night at the Old Melbourne Gaol as part of the Whitelion Bailout event which each year raises money for the support of young people who are at risk of ending up in the juvenile justice system.
A senior associate with international law firm Kennedys, Phoebe is also immediate past president of the Law Institute of Victoria’s (LIV) Young Lawyers (which supports the work of Whitelion) and she’s passionate about youth justice issues and rehabilitation.
‘Most kids who end up in the youth justice system are from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds in Australia. By starting life like that, how can we expect them to break the cycle? That’s where Whitelion do some great work. They are focused at breaking that cycle, getting kids into jobs or away from abuse,’ she says.
The Whitelion Bailout participants raise money through sponsors who put up the “bail money” needed for their release.
Although the experience was all for a good cause, Phoebe says it was a realistic recreation of youth justice issues which raised a new level awareness for participants.
‘Arriving at the Old Melbourne Gaol, our possession were taken and we were immediately clothed in prison overalls before being yelled at by “prison guards”,’ she says.
In reality, the “guards” were former prisoners who’d had their lives turned around by the work of Whitelion.
‘Their stories were so moving,’ says Phoebe. ‘One, who came from a family background of violence and abuse, was only 12 when he committed armed robbery but the Whitelion counsellors spent time with him in prison and set him up with a job on his release. He then went on to start his own charity which aims to help youth in the justice system to break the cycle.’
The Bailout “inmates” also had the opportunity to watch a court hearing presentation – presided by real-life magistrate Pauline Spencer – where actors played out a typical trial of a youth prosecuted for robbery.
‘Magistrate Spencer said that most of these kids don’t know any other life but crime and they have no one who cares if they are in trouble. But it’s finding the balance of what will help society – whether that’s sending them to prison and overcrowding cells or trying to help them avoid a long life of crime,’ says Phoebe.
Supported by a range of sponsors, including Deakin Law School, Phoebe raised $1125 for Whitelion and says she is looking forward to the next LIV Young Lawyers event.
‘We’ve organised a cocktail party at Eureka 89 on 9 November to raise more funds for the very important work of Whitelion.’
Whitelion supports young Australians reach their full potential through:
- prevention programs in schools
- mobile outreach services for homeless and disengaged youth
- accommodation services
- case management and mentor programs
- education training and employment
About Law Institute of Victoria Young Lawyers
LIV Young Lawyers (YL) is a dynamic group established to enhance the legal skills, knowledge and professional networks of young lawyers in the early stages of career development. Membership is free for:
- LIV members
- Legal practitioners under the age of 36, or over the age of 36 with less than six years of post-admission experience or who is a graduate or law student.