Skip navigation

Why do I have these ugly fines?

Lindy* has been a First Step client for nearly 20 years. She came to us as a 30-year-old with a significant heroin dependency and was started on Methadone, which gave her some degree of stability, although she did continue to use heroin intermittently.

Lindy drifted off for a while, returning about 5 years ago when she engaged in a new program to address her mental health and addiction issues, and since then she has been fairly stable. She trained in hospitality and was working in a café, but didn’t love it, so started training to become an aged care support worker.

Last year Lindy disclosed to her First Step GP, Dr Quiery, that she had accrued over $30,000 in fines between 2015 and 2018. Partially, this was fines for infringements (e.g. traffic violations), and partially this was the fines for not paying the fines.

“Like most people on a minimal income, the thought of addressing a large fine is just impossible. It’s frightening, it’s anxiety provoking and depression provoking. And for many people, it gives them a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness. ‘Why do I have these ugly fines when other people don’t?’ they wonder.” – Dr Quiery

Dr Quiery and First Step Legal petitioned Fines Victoria to withdraw the fines due to Lindy’s circumstances and willingness to seek support for her mental health and addiction.

“Imposing large fines on people is counterproductive. You can’t get blood out of a stone. It shames people. They lose their sense of agency, they feel that they have no control of their life, and if you don’t have control, you can’t make change.” – Dr Quiery

The majority of Lindy’s fines were withdrawn, with the balance paid off via the Work and Development Permit (WDP) Scheme at First Step. WDP is a government run program that provides vulnerable and disadvantaged people with a non-financial way of paying off their fine debt by participating in certain activities and treatment. For Lindy, this meant she needed to continue attending her appointments at First Step through to January of 2024.

Actively addressing this issue made Lindy’s life simpler. It gave her a sense of agency and a feeling that there was light at the end of the tunnel. It alleviated her anxiety and removed the feeling that she would always live in debt.

“Smoking is not good for your health. Taking drugs is not good for your health. Having a sedentary life is not good for your health. But feeling that you have no agency is probably the worst factor in long term health which we see in many population groups. So, to give people a sense of achievement and a sense of actually moving forward, I believe has benefits right across an individual’s life.” – Dr Quiery

Lindy is now off the opiate replacement therapy and is stable, and she completed her qualifications and is working in the aged care sector, which she is loving.

*We have changed our client’s name to protect their privacy.

Continue Reading

Read More