Storytelling project celebrates 40 years of challenging the legal system

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Kaylah Joelle Baker

A storytelling project based on Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre (FKCLC) has been shortlisted for the 2022 Victorian Community History Awards.

The annual awards are an opportunity for Victoria’s rich history to be showcased, with a wide selection of 21 publications and eight projects nominated for 10 cash prizes ranging from $500 to $2000.

All nominations are also in the running for the $5000 Victorian Premier’s History Award.

Among the list are online and physical exhibitions, podcasts, websites, walks and tours, books and articles, with the storytelling project on FKCLC taking the form of visual and written material.

The in-depth 40 Years Challenging The System project came together through the collaboration of social history filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon and History at Work founder Emma Russell.

While proud of the work produced and “very happy” to be shortlisted, Ms Russell said that she hoped the project helped FKCLC get “recognised for the marvellous work it’s done”.

 

“I want people to feel like their eyes have been opened and they have had access into a community that is different from their own and can learn to recognise and appreciate it in all its colour and variation,” Ms Russell said.

 

“For me, community history is about being able to understand communities and to be more appreciative, embracing and supporting.”

Established in 1981, FKCLC has continued to be an avenue of support for people who have often dealt with legal injustice, and it has been a centre with a mission to make legal services more accessible.

Included within the centre’s caseload, which has been documented in the storytelling project, are stories of victims who needed legal support when dealing with racial profiling, family violence and with their interactions with police.

These circumstances have led to the centre specifically creating a Safe From Harm family violence and family law project, and a Police Accountability project.

“Through working on this project what became more fascinating was the way Flem-Ken operated, systematically and generally,” Ms Russell said.

 

“I became fascinated with the way the community had to function and operate, and try to function well, within this relentless system – a statement many people we spoke to used – that made their lives difficult.”

 

Serving as a legal centre for the community means FKCLC has had to work hard to become deeply embedded into their community.

The centre has continued to create these strong networks through working with many other services, such as housing and tenants’ unions, and health services.

As someone who has done a lot of community history work in the past, Ms Russell said that understanding how the centre and community was able to function despite all the hardships, was very interesting to discover.

“A fascinating part of this project in particular was to see that when people work together things can happen and it’s magic,” she said.

The video package created and the booklet that make up the 40 Years Challenging The System storytelling project can be found on the FKCLC website.

The announcement of the winners for the Victorian Community History Awards cash prizes will be announced at the Melbourne Arts Centre on October 21.

The awards are presented by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, with funding from the Victorian government. •

flemkenlegal.org/storytelling-project

John Buncle

John Buncle

February 14th, 2024 - Felicity Jack
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