Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Karlee McCulloch.

Episode 35: Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Karlee McCulloch.

As a VU Bachelor of Law and Criminology student, Karlee McCulloch believes in restorative justice and wants to use her personal experiences to support young people in juvenile detention centres to lead better lives.

Show notes

Karlee McCulloch is a natural leader who isn’t afraid to try something outside her comfort zone. Her inner motivation, determination, and desire to support others has enabled her to change the course of her life – and now do the same for others.

Today, Karlee speaks to the people, roles, and organisations that helped her go from not speaking until age 9 to being one step closer to her ultimate dream of being a social worker.

It was fantastic to hear her journey and we can’t wait to see what she does next!

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello and welcome. I'm here to provide acknowledgement of country. For those who don't know me, I'm kj Karen Jackson, director of Moon Dani Balletic. My genealogy tracks back to Moira Lakes in Barma Forest and Mount Hope in Pyramid Hill. Giving me my connections to Yorta, Yorta, and Barra language groups. There's a couple of things I'd like you to take away from my acknowledgement. The first is to remember the hidden history of Aboriginal people since invasion, our loss of language removal from country and our new extinction from massacres and pandemics. The second is our strong and inherent connection to community and country. These connections have given us the resilience and courage to rebuild our languages, gain access to country, regenerate our cultural practices in acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which you are now on. I'd like to sincerely thank them for their generosity and kindness in welcoming people onto their lands. Lands never seeded and lands that run deep into their being and spirit. I wish to pay my deep respect to the ancestors, elders, communities, and families of the rung wri on whose land I stand and who create connection and share knowledge with all of us. Thank you.

Speaker 2 00:01:17 Oh, hello colleagues. And my name is Adam Schumaker. I'm delighted to be the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University. I'm also the host of this podcast which we call People of vu, where we delve into the fascinating stories and the achievements of the exceptional individuals who make up the vibrant community of Victoria University here in Melbourne. Before we start, thank you kj for the acknowledgement of country which we've just heard. I want to also add my own tribute and acknowledgement and pay my deep respects not just to ancestors and elders and families of the traditional owners on all of our campuses, but here in Victoria and elsewhere, including in Sydney, including in Brisbane and wherever you may be listening. It's very, very important to us. Now today we're very PL privileged and pleased to be speaking with one of our own VU students and Western Chances Scholar.

Speaker 2 00:02:08 Carla McCulloch, it's amazing to have you with us. Carly, thank you for coming. Thank you Adam. Now Carly's studying the bachelor of laws in criminology degrees and has ambitions to go into youth justice, which is a fantastic thing. She has undertaken internships already with West Justice and was legal aid duty lawyer at Melbourne Magistrate's Court and at the Werribee Magistrates Court. Since being at vu, she's had various leadership roles as well. In fact, it's quite a list. It's a fantastic list ranging from Secretary for the Auslan Society, director of Competitions for the Dictum Society, which is our law society and most currently and most recently the women's officer for VUS Student Union or as we call it, Carly, is also, as I said before, a Western Chances Scholar scholarship recipient, and has been supported by Western chances through much of her study journey. We're so grateful to them as a partner and we'll hear more about that during this podcast. So Western Chances is a major alliance partner of Victoria University Co-located at v's. Foot screen, Nicholson Campus. We recently toured it together. Carly and wasn't a fabulous site. Oh

Speaker 3 00:03:16 Definitely.

Speaker 2 00:03:17 Really something we're working together, growing opportunity and success for young people like yourself. So welcome again Carly, and it's so terrific to have you with us. So Carly, as we do in these things, I'd love to know a little bit more about you and you know, first of all, you seem pretty passionate about law and the legal profession. What is that reason? What really got you ignited in that direction and interested in it?

Speaker 3 00:03:42 It started in year 10 where they offered the subject legal services and they, I figured, why not? I'll join it and see how I go. And I kind of never stopped. Wow. Being part of the legal sector since

Speaker 2 00:03:56 It's really something. And just tell us where, which school was that in

Speaker 3 00:03:59 Tarique? Senior in

Speaker 2 00:04:00 TT Senior in Tarique. And do you remember, was there a legal services teacher? Was there an expert or was it someone visiting? How did it work? It

Speaker 3 00:04:08 Was, I had two different legal studies teachers and I can't remember her.

Speaker 2 00:04:16 Don't worry, it's

Speaker 3 00:04:16 Worry. But yeah, it started with that and it just progressed into wanting to do it in university. So there was no major trigger point. It was just a gradual interest that developed.

Speaker 2 00:04:29 Oh, that's great. Well, well look, I grew up in Ottawa in Canada and my dad was a, a lawyer with the federal government as well. And so I heard a lot about law. Sometimes it's good to not grow up in a family of lawyers because then you can sort of hear about it for the first time yourself. Are you the first one in your family to be interested in the law?

Speaker 3 00:04:48 In university in fact, yes. Wow. So out of the first out of my grandma, her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. Wow. To go to university. I wasn't the first to finish but I was the first to attend. So

Speaker 2 00:05:01 I think that's amazing. Honestly more than half, as you know, of the students at vu, 51% approximately are the first in your family like you, so you're in the majority. Okay. Which is a wonderful thing and it's that kind of university which, which says, you know, talent knows no bounds. And we're so delighted to have you with us on that score. So can I just ask you, was there a teacher, a favorite teacher or someone really special that you had in your high school?

Speaker 3 00:05:27 Automatically, I think of my year 10 and year 12 English teacher. Her name was Joan Maxwell and she was always rooting for the underdog in helping everyone. Even if they didn't hand in homework or something, she would always give a mile if you gave an each kind of thing. So she was always above and beyond.

Speaker 2 00:05:47 Wow. Wow. And is, is she still in the, in the profession?

Speaker 3 00:05:50 I believe so. I haven't seen her for a little while 'cause I go back to tiny every now again to see and I haven't seen her but I would hope so.

Speaker 2 00:05:58 We're gonna put her on our list because we, you may not know this, but we have a pro policy now that at certain graduations we invite the teacher who is the most influential for some of our graduates to be in the front row of the graduation ceremony and we act, ask them to stand up and be applauded by the audience. Maybe Joe Maxwell could be one of those people that

Speaker 3 00:06:18 Would be exciting to see

Speaker 2 00:06:18 Her. Yeah. Something to, well already we've got an action from this podcast, so, so tell me a little more about where you grew up. Like where were you born?

Speaker 3 00:06:26 I was born in Hobart, Tasmania originally. And I lived with my father until I was nine. And then my grandmother, which is his mum, took custody of me and my sister. And then we moved to Melbourne around the same time around 2009. Okay. And been here ever since.

Speaker 2 00:06:41 Wow. And have you been back to Tasmania at all?

Speaker 3 00:06:44 Periodic? Yeah, periodically, yes. But not so much 'cause Covid didn't help and no, just study in general. Yeah,

Speaker 2 00:06:52 Well you've had a busy life too, let's face it. And you know, it's always interesting for me to imagine a where people come from but where they're going to is what interests us a lot. So now you have talked about your growing up and the challenges you've had both in Hobart and here. What about the communicative challenges? Tell us about that because not everyone realizes this.

Speaker 3 00:07:12 I was actually, when I was younger, diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome or spectrum disorder, it goes by both, which is caused by the mother drinking heavily whilst pregnant. Oh. So I was essentially born an addict, which was later diagnosed, but until I was nine I did not speak nearly at all. And then it wasn't until I started getting into school because I was like, well you're gonna have to talk to people 'cause that's how you get out in the world. So I started doing a little bit of volunteering like I was a scout for oh, a long time, at least from 14 to 16 maybe It was my like peak. So I started leadership then and that started me talking and my confidence and then that graduated into high school where I was sports captain and then it just graduated into uni. So I just started talking one day and now I just don't stop.

Speaker 2 00:08:04 Do you remember? And so you've got that, you got the taste for it now. You love it. Yes. That kind of it. So was there, can you remember that day when you started talking? Do you remember where you were?

Speaker 3 00:08:15 No, to be honest it

Speaker 2 00:08:15 Just, it just sort of happened. Yes. It wasn't like a, it wasn't like standing on the edge of a, you know, of a ravine or looking at a valley or looking at trees. It just was probably like something like scouts. Yes,

Speaker 3 00:08:26 I, I would imagine so because I was a patrol assistant patrol leader, which is like assistant to your little group. And then I became patrol leader within six months. Wow. So I just went for it and I think it was one of those things I'm like, well I may as well do it, see how it goes and if it doesn't work out, at least I tried it. And that just been reflected and mirrored with everything since.

Speaker 2 00:08:47 I think That's fantastic. I mean look, full disclosure, I was a cub scout but I was never a scout scout. But that's just because of the age. I think I started when I was nine or something like that. But I took it quite seriously too. And you know there are all those special chants and things in the, the outfits and the IFFs and everything. But the best part was the company. Yes. The relationships, the camping, all that kind of thing. Did you actually do that sort of stuff? Yes,

Speaker 3 00:09:11 I did. And I still talk to some of my leaders now, which are the adults that supervised us. Oh. And they're like mind blown that I came from this little timid girl to now I'm nearly a law school graduate. Yeah. So,

Speaker 2 00:09:24 Oh they must be as proud as we are. That's fantastic. You know, it's, it's, it's really good. It, so if you, if you would, do you think that because it's always been said that there's organizations outside school that help mirror it inside. Who suggested it to you in the first place? Scouts.

Speaker 3 00:09:41 It was, my father was a scout when he was younger and I just, and my grandmother was a girl guides and I just were like, I don't wanna sew. To be fair, I don't know if they actually do that, but that was my mentality. I'm like, I'd rather get in the mud and actually do it properly. Yeah. And I just started from there and then my best friend at the time we, she joined me as well. Great. And then was like, okay, we're gonna do it together. And I just stuck it out more long term. Hmm. And I just did it for something to do outside of school.

Speaker 2 00:10:11 I think it's f fabulous. I loved it too. And we, I think as I recall at this stage, and this may be, this is ancient history now of course it's my, my history. But in Toronto at, at the time when we moved there, the girl guides used to sell a form of biscuit or cookies as we called it that were shaped like in the sort of shape of the girl guide symbol. And those were like for a week everybody bought them door to door. Did they do that in this country as well? Something like that?

Speaker 3 00:10:34 I wouldn't be able to tell you. I've never seen a girl guide. They seem like a mythical creature to me. So I'm not sure.

Speaker 2 00:10:41 We'll have to do some research on that one. No, that's great. So then take it, take us through, so this is in high school and then you completed, so again t tell us about this Western chance's first contact with them. How did that work? Perfect.

Speaker 3 00:10:54 Yes. It's actually going back to Joe Maxwell one before. She like nominated me at the end of year 12 and I actually had never heard of Western Chances at that time and I'm like, well I haven't done that before and if they can help May as well. Wow. And they've been by my side ever since.

Speaker 2 00:11:13 It's incredible, isn't it? What a, what a great organization. So many individuals but so many collectively at now as well. Have you met many others, scholars now who've been helped by them?

Speaker 3 00:11:23 I have met a few, yes. And I noticed that we're, well especially 'cause it's from the West, but I didn't realize that we all have similar needs but don't wanna necessarily voice that such as like getting Mikey funds or a laptop and we bonded over sort of having similar struggles like that. So I've met a few and I've stayed in contact with a couple.

Speaker 2 00:11:43 That's great. Often it's the smaller things that are obstacles, not just the bigger ones as you say. Yes. But in this case it's all to the good, what you've managed to achieve with it. Western chances, I think they've just done a three peaks walk in the last weekend to raise funds for the organization. Did you watch that online at all?

Speaker 3 00:12:01 I did see about that and as I said, I'm glad they were doing the Walking, not me, but

Speaker 2 00:12:07 It was a beautiful thing but quite challenging I think. Yes. You know, so we, we sponsored it as well but, but it's great to see like it's really an out there organization always breaking new ground. We're so delighted to have them as a major partner and when I saw the embedded offices as you did, I was so impressed. Yes. It's a great thing. You know, we can say now at the very headquarters of VU at Foot screen, Nicholson, their headquarters are there too. Yes,

Speaker 3 00:12:29 Definitely

Speaker 2 00:12:30 Couldn't be better. Okay, so let's get to VU then. So law you said why you're interested in law, but of course it's a different setup. It's down in the city. We have our own law school, we've got a new tower next to it. How does that feel studying there?

Speaker 3 00:12:43 It's actually quite interesting because I started my law degree before Covid. So I had a year in the traditional law campus, which looks typically like a law campus 'cause it's got like the Margay stairs and all beautiful. So I've gotta see the tower being built, which is now my primary campus. So I don't have, 'cause I have nothing to compare it to 'cause I haven't been to another law school. But it was, yeah, I really enjoy it

Speaker 2 00:13:09 And yeah, I get the feeling there's quite a bit happening with the law students in terms of whether it's mooting or clubs or societies. Tell us a bit about dictum. Like what do you do?

Speaker 3 00:13:19 Well dictum, as you mentioned earlier, is the specialized law of society, which I believe is the only faculty that has their own society. I started that because everyone recommended it at the start and then they needed a director of competitions, which is where I, I never did newing myself to be fair. But I ran the competitions and organized like judges that come in which would be practicing lawyers or stuff like that. So I enjoyed the background stuff about it. And I also figured, well that's the closest thing that you have in law school to mimicking the real thing. So I found that really beneficial. But also because the law faculty is so small compared to other areas of uni. So I got to know a lot of people and my peers or I figured well we're all probably struggling with the same thing. Especially 'cause law has its own like referencing style. So you could talk to people and that's what I really enjoyed about

Speaker 2 00:14:16 Now they, they have this very unusual phrase for anyone who's studied law and they call it the priestly 11. Yes. So you wanna explain for the listeners what is the priestly 11? It has, it's not necessarily as religious as it sounds.

Speaker 3 00:14:29 No, definitely not. It's in order to practice as a lawyer, at least in Victoria, I assume Australia you need to do priestly 11, which are 11 subjects that you need to pass in order to practice. So that could be like evidence law, that could be contracts law. So it's your fundamental law subjects.

Speaker 2 00:14:48 Yeah, it's like the core isn't it? Yes. That every, almost the essential core and I, and it's a funny phrase, isn't it? But everyone talks about it as if they know what it is. So I thought it was good to explain. And so now these extracurricular activities, you've mentioned dictum, what else have you done during law and Criminology during your studies? Tell us other things that are involving your time

Speaker 3 00:15:08 Besides Women's Officer, which was a part of SSU and the Auslan Society for a little bit. I've also just, I don't know, floated around like I've done speeches for Western chances now I'm blinking. Sorry.

Speaker 2 00:15:24 No, and how about, how about Auslan? Let's just think about that. 'cause that's a really interesting specialized area that you, we, we saw a lot during Covid for example with people you know signing during the, the daily press conferences and media conferences. Are you actually trained yourself in that or how does that work?

Speaker 3 00:15:40 It started because there was a deaf student at VU that didn't have any support. So he started the Auslan Society just to get it out there and get help. And I've always been fascinated because I cannot stick to a language and I'm a very visual person. So Auslan just made sense to me doing it. So I'm not trained per se, but I can hold a conversation and introduce myself.

Speaker 2 00:16:03 That's terrific. Yeah. Have you, I know there's different forms of language, sign language and so on. Have you met anyone with a different form besides auslan?

Speaker 3 00:16:12 No, because Auslan is Australian sign language. Yeah. So that's Australian. Right. Whereas there is different dialects I suppose. So you can sign things different here in Victorian compared to Queensland for an example

Speaker 2 00:16:24 Interest. I didn't know that. Oh that's, that's fascinating. I did not know that. And so, but there's so much that we are learning about language and communication. It said that law is one of the great communication degrees in the world. 'cause you're both representing people and representing yourself. Is that, is that how you found it too? That's

Speaker 3 00:16:41 That very good summary actually. I've never thought about it like that, but I would say so, yes. 'cause you need to be able to talk and it's more an extension of yourself, especially if you're representing a client and how you dress communicates more than what you say sometimes. Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:16:57 As they say, you know what you're, even your gestures and body language is always important too. So now graduation isn't that far away. How far away is it for you?

Speaker 3 00:17:06 I finished next month, so graduation's in September. Oh

Speaker 2 00:17:09 My gosh. So you've got one more month to go. Yes. It's almost your final block.

Speaker 3 00:17:13 Yes. Five years in the making.

Speaker 2 00:17:15 Oh that's, well they often say they have a final Friday in the block model at VU with a bit of a party. Yours will be especially big this time.

Speaker 3 00:17:23 I hope so.

Speaker 2 00:17:24 That'd be great. And we'll have to make sure that we're there for the, the ceremony in September. It's a perfect time of year to be, to be graduating. And is there a a, a sort of particular dream? Did you have post graduation for what you'd like to do with what you've learned?

Speaker 3 00:17:38 Well ultimately 'cause I start my practical legal training hopefully in July and that's where I get my graduate diploma in legal practice. And then I will be a solicitor for a couple years. But my ultimate dream now is to be a, a social worker in the juvie. So I want to help young people. So I'll have to go back to school and do a cert four in youth justice. Yeah. So that, that's my ultimate goal.

Speaker 2 00:18:03 I think that's fantastic. You know what it shows me is that you've got all the basis for knowing what jurisprudence is, what justice is, what law is, and then you can apply it for people. And that's, that could not be more important I think. Just endorse that so strongly. Is there any way that, aside from offering these, offering these offerings that the university can help you realize those dreams? Do you think? Just check the schedule and see when it's offered?

Speaker 3 00:18:28 Yes, I would. That's about it. I

Speaker 2 00:18:31 Dunno it's, it's gonna be, it's gonna be really soon. But I mean I know that that Western chances is also gonna probably be very keen to celebrate your, your finishing. So when we look at it, you can see a lot of people who've worked around the world in the law. Have you ever been interested in working outside Australia? Does that attract you at all?

Speaker 3 00:18:50 Funny enough, my partner's very into Canada. He's obs my, I have friends that are Canadian and they say he's adopted Canadian. So I am by default and I've always wanted to visit. So Canada might be an option. Yeah, sounds okay. But I'm not sure where, but we'll

Speaker 2 00:19:05 See. And, and just like here, each province has its own legal system, especially Quebec, which goes back to the Napoleonic law system, which is very different from the rest. So if you do a little bit of a legal tour, make sure you see that one as a an example. It's quite, it's quite different. That's fantastic. So I agree with you though that it, it is a wonderful thing to have a place where talent is recognized before you begin during and after. Are there any call outs that you have for people who've, you know, you mentioned a teacher in for example, tar. Are there any particular lecturers or professors at, in the law school anywhere else that you want to mention here?

Speaker 3 00:19:43 Well, I'm kind of biased but my criminology teachers have been really a big push. Particularly Vanessa and Kat and Taylor too. But Vanessa was the one that opened my eyes to the youth justice side of things because I always thought it as a scary side because my childhood a little bit, I could have gone down that path rather than going the opposite direction. So that's why I have like a soft spot. And it's also, finesse is very big on the underdog as well and helping everyone. So I resonated with her a lot. And we also had a guest speaker, Doug Morkin came in who was one of Australia's most wanted in the seventies. And I have built like a friendship with him as well. And people like putting a negative connotation on his name 'cause of what he did, but they don't speak about what he's done since, which is, and they're just people that I look up to that have the same core values as I do. Mm.

Speaker 2 00:20:39 It sounds like you're into restorative justice as a concept as well. Is that fair?

Speaker 3 00:20:43 Yes, very much so. It's very much a yes, you've stuffed up I guess, but you are not a bad person. And that's my whole thing. Yeah. 'cause I'm like, everyone can, it's easy for everyone to make a bad decision, but some people pay the cross more than others

Speaker 2 00:20:57 And it's so great that you're gonna help both of them in, in the future. So here we are between now the final block, next month, September graduation. It's a matter of talent, you know, to on show talent to be demonstrated. But we are so delighted to join with you in watching that progress, being part of that progress and seeing where it goes next. Carly, I think you're gonna surprise people even more as you have already, like you said to people surprised when you started speaking the way you did when you started volunteering the way you did, studying the way you did. We can't wait to see what you do next. And can I say thank you so much for sharing your journey and your story with us today.

Speaker 3 00:21:34 Thank you Adam. Pleasure to be here.

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