Equality & Diversity


The Victorian Bar is committed to promoting equality and diversity in the legal profession. This approach is consistent with the principles of justice, integrity, equity and the pursuit of excellence upon which the Bar is founded.

Our commitment to equality and diversity

"The Bar recognises that its strength and vibrancy comes from having a diverse and egalitarian membership, where a variety of views are encouraged, accommodated and respected. Membership of the Bar should also appropriately reflect the diversity of the communities it strives to serve. By fostering diversity we will ensure that the very best lawyers are drawn to the Bar and given the opportunity to participate in the Bar’s decision-making processes. In this way, the Bar is enriched and, with a greater skill-set to draw upon, it will be more effective in performing its institutional role in the practice of the law and enhancing the administration of justice. At an individual level, members will be encouraged to promote their abilities and make a real contribution to the legal profession, as well as broader society."

The Victorian Bar’s Equality & Diversity Policy can be found here.

Information about how we deliver on our commitment to diversity and inclusion is summarised in the Victorian Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion brochure.

Diversity and Inclusion Brochure

Specific information concerning gender, LGBTIQ, racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, barristers with a disability and family responsibilities is found here:

Gender equality

Race, ethnicity and cultural diversity

Eliminating LGBTIQ discrimination

Barristers with a disability

Barristers with family responsibilities

 

Stamping out sexual harassment at the Bar

We recognise that in order to stop sexual harassment, we need to engage all members in changing the culture at the Bar, so that we support those who experience sexual harassment, and call out inappropriate behaviour when we witness it.

In October 2020, the Equality & Diversity Committee organised a webinar with The Honourable Kenneth Hayne AC QC and Jenny Firkin QC, Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee, introduced by Helen Rofe QC, Bar Councillor and Co-Chair of the Gender Equality Working Group. The webinar addresses some of the issues that the Bar and its members need to confront to effect cultural change and stop harassment at the Bar.

In the webinar, Judge Hayne referred to the letter that he sent to the Presidents of the Victorian Bar, Wendy Harris QC, and Australian Bar Association, Matthew Howard SC.

That letter and attachments are below.

Please do not forward the link or the letters externally.

 

The Victorian Bar’s anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies

The Victorian Bar is committed to reduce instances of bullying, harassment and discrimination. This commitment is outlined in the following policies.

Policy Against Bullying

Policy Against Sexual Harassment

Policy Against Discrimination

 

How to make a complaint

Under the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barrister) Rules 2015, sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying by barristers is prohibited in the course of practice.

Complaints may arise:

  • between barristers
  • between people who work in chambers and barristers
  • between barristers and judges, and
  • between solicitors and barristers. 

Both informal and formal processes are available. Some are anonymous and some are not. Making a complaint is of course entirely voluntary.

 

Confidential complaints and Bar conciliators

The Bar has processes to address complaints in a confidential manner.

Bar conciliators are available to triage these matters. They are trained by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

 

Anonymous reports

Confidential reports can be made of any occurrence of bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment either experienced or witnessed, without identifying the person responsible, to better inform training and awareness needs and initiatives of the Bar. The process is outlined here.

Click here for the reporting form.

 

The Ethics Committee

The Victorian Bar has a formal complaints procedure for those who believe they have been affected by discrimination, workplace bullying or sexual harassment.

Click here to view the grievance protocol.

 

The Legal Services Board + Commission

The Legal Services Board + Commission investigates complaints against legal practitioners in Victoria, including relating to service and behaviour.

 

The Judicial Commission

The Judicial Commission of Victoria is an independent body established to investigate complaints about judicial officers and VCAT members. Information on its complaints procedure is here.

 

Help and counselling services

Victorian Bar Health & Wellbeing Services

The Victorian Bar’s Health & Wellbeing Committee’s primary goal is to promote the good health and wellbeing of barristers. The Victorian Bar funds two independent counselling services for members and their families. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Help is also available through national support services, including Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

 

Lifeline

Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.

 

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue is a national charity that provides help and support for those affected by anxiety and depression. Call 1300 22 4636.

 

More information

For more information about Victorian Bar’s equality and diversity programs and activities, contact the Equality and Diversity Committee here.

Further information can also be accessed through the Indigenous Justice Committee and the Health & Wellbeing Committee here.

 

LGBTIQ WhatsApp Group

The LGBTIQ Working Group has recently established a WhatsApp Group for LGBTIQ members of the Victorian Bar to offer each other support, social connection, sharing of information or resources, and general discussion of various issues. If you would like to join this Group, please use this link.