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This Family Violence Survivor Is Now The First Lawyer To Work Full-Time At An Australian High School

“The reality is, regardless of whether I’m a lawyer in the school, the kids have legal issues”.

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Australian Vincent Shin is the first person in Australia to work as a full-time, in-house lawyer at a high school.

PLGRM MEDIA

Shin works four days a week at Victoria’s Grange P-12 College in Melbourne’s inner-west, providing legal counsel to students regarding a range of matters from family violence law to employment law.

The program is designed to help students who are experiencing family violence as well as increase their knowledge of the law in general.

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“I am there to assist the students and the parents with whatever legal issues they have," said Vincent.

"A lot of kids come in because they’re getting underpaid, they’re getting bullied at work, and they just need some guidance. And I’m referring them [to another lawyer] if it’s an issue that isn’t suited for me".

Vincent's specialty is family law, but he says most students come to him with questions about their rights as an employee.

"From an outsider's perspective [people are] shocked, but I say, ‘well, I’ve actually had a large percentage of kids coming to see me about employment law…' like what they’re meant to do if they get underpaid."

“They’re not gonna go to the local lawyer and ask what they should do about getting bullied at work.”

Shin's own path to becoming a lawyer and his decision to work at Grange College are documented in the short documentary produced by PLGRM, The High School Lawyer, as he retraces the multiple family violence incidents which were once a major part of his life.

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“When I talk about the non-traditional route I talk about it because, as a result of all the disruptions at home because of family violence, my attention wasn’t really about school but about surviving day to day,” Vincent told BuzzFeed News.

“I essentially failed Year 12…. so I went to TAFE first, did an advanced diploma of business and legal practice, and then got into university with an Arts degree.”

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Employed by Westjustice, the groundbreaking initiative is funded by multiple philanthropic organisations.

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The News Boys Foundation, the R.E Ross Trust, the Jack Brockhoff Foundation, Slater and Gordon community fund, and the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust all pooled funds together to create the job role and experiment with the idea of a lawyer working full-time at a high school.

Vincent says the decision to take the job at Grange College was an easy one, as it combined all of his passions into one role.

“I was well aware of the very disadvantaged young people out there in our community, so when I heard about this role… Its exactly what I, with my personal experience working with vulnerable children, it's just all my passions combined into one.”

The High School Lawyer's premiere comes in unison with a new government campaign designed to stop aggressive behaviour in boys and young men early.

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The one-minute TV commercial is a series of scenes showing people dismissing gender stereotypes and violence against women. Terms like "he does it because he likes you" and "don't throw like a girl," are also being discouraged.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter told Fairfax the campaign was "very confronting".

"People know that violence against women is wrong. What they may not know is that ... all of us can unknowingly excuse and therefore perpetuate the behaviour that can lead to violence."

The ABC also published a report today that concluded police were handling 5,000 domestic violence matters a week – up 7% from last year.

Shin says he understands that some may be hesitant when they hear about his role at the school, but insists high school lawyers are a necessary thing that only bring good things to a school's culture and students.

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“The reality is, regardless of whether I’m a lawyer in the school, the kids have legal issues. Whether I’m at school or not. Kids are getting involved with the law anyway.”

You can watch The High School Lawyer here:

View this video on YouTube

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