Rob Melasecca has a history embedded in the law.
Rob’s grandfather was an anti- nazi activist, during and post the second world war, who was prosecuted
for his controversial protests. Rob’s father was a policeman, with a deep commitment to social justice.
As a consequence, in his early years in Australia, even as a 12 year old boy, Rob worked as an interpreter in the Dandenong area for workers claiming compensation, via the early pioneer legal firms in this area such as Ryan Carlisle Needham & Thomas.
As a student, Rob worked with innovative, social justice lawyer, Phil Slade, volunteering his services at Springvale Legal Service, one of the first free Community Legal Education Centres in the State. Rob was an Articled Clerk to the then Labour Premier of Victoria, Clyde Holding, and commenced his first year of law mentored by Peter Redlich, the then President of the Australian Labour Party.
During his Articles year, Rob instructed in the High Court in the case of Ignazio Salemi. Between 1976 and 1977, Italian-born journalist and migrant rights campaigner, Ignazio Salemi was at the centre of a contentious dispute with the Department of Immigration over his amnesty application. Rob also instructed Gareth Evans, ex-Australian Attorney General, in support of Norm Gallagher and the Builder’s Labourer’s Union in the famous indexation flow on decisions in the Full Court of the Arbitration Commission.
Straight out of Articles, Rob commenced his own practice in Prahran with John Dickinson, who is now a Senior Counsel.
A short time later, Rob was joined by his lifelong university friend and colleague, Zygmunt (Zyg) Zayler. Rob’s firm had a heart and Rob felt it needed a brain, and together, they commenced a campaign of hard work in the Criminal Law area, changing the face of Criminal Law in this State, as it applied to sentencing offenders with addiction issues.
Rob was mentored by the Great Magistrate, William John (Jack) Maloney, who used Rob to develop many rehabilitative alternatives to imprisonment. In the early days, the Prahran Magistrates’ Court was rich with programmes such as Odyssey House, Windana, Taskforce, Buoyancy, Harrison House, Court Welfare Network Service and Four Flats, which later became the Brosnan Centre (working with young offenders), and Rob assisted in the development of each and every programme with a view to ensuring that all their patients, who came into contact with the law, had their rehabilitation recognised. The Prahran Model became the Model from which all rehabilitative court programmes originated and still operate.
As a consequence, many lawyers came to work at the Firm, trained by Rob and Zyg, and many barristers, who are now highly successful, had their humble beginnings briefed by Rob. A number of them have gone on to start their own legal aid firms and to become Judges, Magistrates and Queen’s and Senior Counsel.
For the last 35 years, the Firm has become recognised as a leader in the field of Criminal Law and is a regular participant in significant appellate cases in our Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia. Rob is a great believer that “Justice must not only be done, but should be seen to be done”. In 2010, Rob took the case of Momcilovic to the High Court, being the first case to combine The Victorian Charter of Human Rights, as it applied to the Drugs and Restricted Substances Act.
Over the years, Rob has received many awards for his participation and contribution in the Criminal Law and Rehabilitative Field. He was the inaugural recipient for the Public Interest Clearing Group Metropolitan Practitioner’s Award in 1996, for his work in the Rehabilitation Field and in recognition of his contribution to probono legal services.
As recently as 2011, Rob received the Law Institute of Victoria President’s Access to Justice Award, for his work supporting the rights of prisoners. Rob was the deputy Chair of the Law Institute Criminal Law Section for 5 years before being the Chair of the Section. Rob resigned from that position in 2007 to become the inaugural Chair of the newly formed Victorian Custody Reference Group (VCRG), a body of significant Victorian members, (including police officers, corrections officers and personnel, social workers, Centrelink personnel, prisoner aid groups and others) who regulate and control the prisoners of this State. Rob continues to be the Chair of the VCRG.
Rob is renowned for both his professional aptitude and the heart and soul he puts into the presentation of his cases in Court. Rob is an advocate of great experience in the Magistrates’, County and Supreme Courts. Rob’s plea making is well known for its complete thoroughness and dogged support of what he, in his professional opinion, believes to be a just result for his clients and in the best interests of the Community.