Let's talk it over
Jul 20, 2010
Course road test: Bachelor of arts (advocacy and mediation) at Victoria University
Sounds a bit different . . .
Funny you should say that. This three-year degree, at VU's Footscray Park campus in Melbourne's west, is unusual, says course co-ordinator Deborah Tyler, who adds that there is nothing else quite like it in Australia. The course brings together elements of social policy, law and conflict-resolution training, preparing students for positions involving advocacy or mediation on behalf of disadvantaged groups or individuals involved in conflict.
Tell me more . . .
According to Ms Tyler, many sections of the community find the traditional justice system doesn't work seamlessly for them. Groups such as the disabled or asylum seekers may need advocates to speak on their behalf. In some cases, issues may be better resolved through mediation rather than going to court. VU students take units from the university's law school, together with classes in sociology, conflict resolution and restorative justice, to prepare for work in such areas. Further electives enable students to tailor the course, with some students taking language classes so they can work with a particular community. Students must also undertake substantial fieldwork, culminating in a 200-hour internship in third year.
So who's drawn to a degree like this?
Ms Tyler says the degree tends to attract a particular cohort of students, many of whose life experiences have made them aware of the course. This may include a parent of a disabled child or a health professional who has seen the need for patient advocates. "People have particular reasons for doing the course," says Ms Tyler, who notes that about 30 students are admitted each year. Most students are mature-age, but some come straight from school. "The year 12s we have coming are fantastic," says Ms Tyler. "They know what they want to do and why." Those coming straight from school needed an ATAR score of 66.45 in 2010. "Most students are interviewed," says Ms Tyler.
And on completing the course . . .
Course graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including the Office of the Public Advocate, trade unions, disability resource centres, community legal services and the Magistrates Court. A quarter of graduates continue with a graduate diploma in secondary education, where their dispute resolution and restorative justice training has relevance in addressing school bullying.