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Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G

Standing up for others

Standing up for others


Jessica is passionate about standing up for people in need. A law student at ACU, she volunteers for the PLEA (Prison Legal Education and Assistance) Project, a non-for-profit organisation that provides legal education to prison inmates and those most vulnerable in the community around Victoria.

“Our aim is to provide vulnerable people with the knowledge and skills needed to gain control in an environment where they may feel powerless,” said Jessica.

“We try to overcome the structural, psychological and cultural barriers that can prevent access to, and participation in, the justice system by empowering people through practical legal education.

“We offer legal works on many topics including court readiness, family law and parole, among oth-ers. We also run Insights events showcasing a panel of experts discussing various legal topics.”

Working with purpose

A strong understanding of legal processes, excellent communication skills and a commitment to improving access to justice are required by all who volunteer for PLEA and it can take some time to get used to the work.

“There are definitely challenges working for PLEA, especially when you start. Working out a meth-od for dealing with the environment and people you are working with is critical,” said Jessica.

“I have always found that discussing tough sessions with my colleagues is helpful, along with taking the time when I get home to gather my thoughts before jumping onto the next thing. The high-light of working with PLEA is the experience you gain. I have really found a purpose and have en-joyed sharing this feeling with others who have volunteered.

“Seeing how vital and important PLEA is to the people who attend our workshops fuels my passion for law. Hearing our attendees say, ‘I didn’t know that!’ or ‘really?!’ during presentations gives you a real reason to keep doing what you’re doing.

“Helping people understand a system that is renowned for drowning people in confusing methods and terminology feels really important.”

The balancing act

Research tells us that merging work and learning builds the skills that matter. But it is not without its challenges. Jessica has learned where her priorities lie during her time with ACU and the PLEA Project.

Supporting prison inmates

“Although testing at times, organisation is how I have managed to maintain an executive role at PLEA as well as study full-time, work part-time and have a bit of a social life as well,” said Jessica.

“I always ensure that I am organised at the start of every week to go into the next week ready and refreshed. Things don’t always go to plan, this I learnt the hard way, and so it is important to al-ways consider your health and wellbeing as the number one priority when it comes to juggling it all.

“After being given the opportunity to lead one of the remand centre teams at PLEA, I stepped down for a period to focus on my studies. Nevertheless, I could not stay away and later that same year, I re-joined my team and I am now second-in-charge and I absolutely adore my role.

“I am based, primarily, within the prison communicating with their staff and coordinating the smooth running of our programs.”

Career plans

Jessica is enjoying her time at university. As she builds confidence and experience, she will set her sights on life after graduation.

“I love ACU. From the environment, to the students, to the staff. There are just such friendly, wel-coming vibes which I have felt since my orientation week that have never worn off.

“I feel very supported and I always know that help is there should I require it. The lecturers and tutors are all so approachable and no question is a dumb question.

“As for the future I know that I would like to keep working in the justice sector, however, I am still very young and know that there is a lot more ‘learning’ rather than ‘doing’ at this point in my life. I am looking forward to learning more and more about justice and corrections and seeing where it takes me.”

Inspired to help others? Find out more about studying law at ACU.

Related stories

Impact brings you compelling stories, inspiring research, and big ideas from ACU. It's about the impact we’re having on our communities, and our Mission in action. It’s a practical resource for career, life and study.

At ACU it’s education, but not as you know it. We stand up for people in need, and causes that matter.

If you have a story idea or just want to say hello, do contact us.

Copyright@ Australian Catholic University 1998-2019 | ABN 15 050 192 660 CRICOS Reg: 00004G