A first-year uni student driving a borrowed car nicks an object, and causes minimal damage - but the claim is for $8500, more than they've had in their life.
The panic sets in - where do you go for help? The debt could stay over his head for years, or there could be court action.
Thankfully, there's a free legal service for vulnerable young people who don't qualify for LegalAid in Ballarat, and they managed to help the student get out with a settlement.
Youthlaw, in various guises, has been in town for a few years, with the aim of making sure young people can stay on the right track without massive legal costs.
Currently based out of Ballarat Community Health in Lucas, they work at the intersection of children experiencing family violence and other harms, university students with no one to turn to after getting ripped off in a rental agreement, and teenagers facing court for the first time.
Katrina Fanning has been a lawyer for eight years, and has been with Youthlaw about 12 months.
"Young people are particularly vulnerable to being exploited, or just not knowing what their rights are - we try and help where we can," she said.
Having this expertise in their corner can change a young person's entire life, she said - there's countless examples.
"It's those minor offences, where if you have to represent yourself, you may end up with a conviction or criminal record, that we might have people get a diversion that avoids those outcomes," she explained.
"It lets them go down a path that lets them continue education and get jobs, they haven't got that black mark on their record."
While cases are mainly referred from other support agencies, Youthlaw's spot in the middle of BCH allows case workers to approach Ms Fanning at her desk for her help.
"We don't rely on people having to find us and make appointments, we're very good at going to them," she said.
"We operate out of Headspace one afternoon a fortnight, people can walk in and make appointments, it's easy to get to."
The demand for Youthlaw's services is growing, she added, as more people understand the need for early intervention to prevent troubled young people turning into convicted criminals.
"We had a couple of young people who have had minor criminal offences, driving offences and minor theft charges, we got them on a diversion," she said.
"It's always that something else is going on in their lives, they've been kicked out of home or been subject to family violence - they wouldn't get assistance, necessarily, if they didn't find us."
Having been based in Ballarat for so long, and helped dozens of children, Ms Fanning said she has noticed changes in her time - supporting them becomes even more urgent.
"I think poverty, underemployment, and generational, cyclical disadvantage (are challenges), and I think that's becoming worse," she said.
"I think large aspects of Ballarat are completely unaware.
"You have kids that misbehave, or break the law in some way, it's so easy to read what they've done and be reactive to it, but there's a real background often of family violence, neglect, there's fairly poor attainment of education.
"Then they get to the age where they become criminally responsible, but they've never had the opportunity to develop skills like self-management, they've got no protection around them like middle-class kids."
Youthlaw's results speak for themselves, she said, pulling young people out of trouble
"The programs that are effective cost money, and it's not easy to say politically, but what do you do with these kids that are 12 years old and kicked out of home, or subject to family violence?" she said.
"(If) I get a fine, I can pay it, but if I'm 17 and I'm living out of home on youth allowance and my rent's taking up two thirds of that, I'm not going to be able to pay the fine and then it'll escalate - but if I put in for special circumstances at an early stage, then there's chances I'll get a caution, then I'm on track and I can get back to getting a job or TAFE.
"If you (intervene) early, it makes a difference to people and the community."
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