An RMIT student team has been recognised for developing a technology-based solution to help people who receive fines but struggle to pay due to disadvantage and hardship.
The “Legally Blonde” team were last night awarded RMIT’s 2015 Fastrack Innovation Program’s Most Outstanding Team Award.
Disadvantaged individuals such as those experiencing homelessness, drug addiction, mental health issues and disability often accumulate large numbers of fines and infringements that can spiral out of control when unpaid, and lead to serious legal consequences.
The student team’s technology-enabled solution helps to better connect support workers, lawyers and enforcement agencies in managing these special circumstances cases, and enables a more streamlined and innovative approach to case management through the potential for bulk processing and revocation of fines.
The team – consisting of Bachelor of Business (Human Resources Management and Finance) student Sophie McDonald, Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) student Jake Allan and Bachelor of Communication (Advertising) student Ben Grant – also won the Audience Award for Best Pitch.
Additional award-winners in the 2015 RMIT Fastrack Innovation Program Access to Justice Through Technology Challenge:
- Team “Les Bourgeoisie”’ for the Most Viable Solution Award – Their web-based app Fine Fixer is targeted at the youth market and helps users understand and pay their fines through a simple, quick and easy process. This solution enables fines and infringements to be acted on earlier and more efficiently, preventing the accumulation of costs and penalties for individuals, and freeing up valuable time and resources for enforcement agencies.
- Bachelor of Information Technology student Sarah Longhurst from Team “Closing the Loop” for the Butterfly Award - In recognition of her outstanding growth and transformation over the course of the program. Longhurst’s team developed a simple and confidential web-based check-in system, which has the potential to enable better analysis and understanding of how women affected by family violence are moving through the system.
Team “Justice League” tackled the challenge of meeting the needs of women affected by family violence, through a simple, easily accessible web-based solution, which aims to better inform women of the support available to them and equip them in accessing these vital services. Their presentation and understanding of family violence issues was highly regarded by the audience and industry mentors.
The award ceremony held last night was the culmination of RMIT’s unique annual industry innovation program, Fastrack, that brings together the university’s top students with industry partners, mentors and coaches, to solve real-life challenges through the application of technology solutions.
The 2015 Fastrack program was delivered in collaboration with RMIT’s Centre for Innovative Justice (CIJ) and industry partners Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) and the Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLCs).
The CIJ, which is dedicated to finding innovative solutions to complex problems that manifest in the justice system, was established at RMIT in 2012 with former Victorian Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Rob Hulls as its inaugural Director.
Hulls said: “The Centre for Innovative Justice is a proud addition to a University that is focused on achieving change, of solving practical real world problems and providing students with life-changing experience.
“We are proud of this partnership and the outcomes it has produced to support the legal assistance sector to develop innovative ways of addressing the ever present challenge of delivering access to justice for those in need.”
Victoria Legal Aid’s Community Legal Education Program Manager Monica Ferarri was one of the four judges in 2015, along with Federation of Community Legal Centres CEO Liana Buchanan.
"In just 12 weeks, these students have gone from knowing relatively little about the challenges faced by legal aid and CLC clients to developing innovative ideas that will improve access to justice," Buchanan said.
"The final outcomes were amazing and the students should all be proud of their work."
RMIT Deputy Vice-Chancellor Design and Social Context and Vice-President, Professor Paul Gough, said the program has brought together people who clearly have “passion with purpose”.
“The Fastrack program delivers so much of what RMIT is all about – a transformative student experience, connection to career pathways through research and innovation and real outcomes based partnerships with industry,” Gough said.
RMIT’s Fastrack Innovation Program launched in 2007 as a pioneering initiative between RMIT’s Entrepreneurship Program and Deloitte’s National Innovation Program.
Dr David Gilbert, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at RMIT, and Peter Williams, Chief Edge Officer at Deloitte Centre for the Edge, championed the initial development of the program.
Under Gilbert’s continued leadership, Fastrack has now expanded to work with multiple top tier industry partners and to include national and international students from across all three RMIT colleges.
Story: John Fergusson