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 policies against sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination

The Victorian Bar is committed to reducing instances of, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination by barristers. This commitment is outlined in the following policies:

Policy Against Bullying

Policy Against Sexual Harassment

Policy Against Discrimination

The policies can be used by all barristers, and anyone who considers that they have experienced, or observed, sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination, including:

  • Barristers’ employees and contractors
  • Readers
  • Victorian Bar employees
  • Barristers Chambers Limited’s employees
  • Clerks and their employees
  • Solicitors and their employees
  • Court staff
  • Students who work with barristers
  • Volunteers who work with barristers
  • Clients; and
  • Visitors to premises or events connected with barristers’ professional practice.  

The policies are to be read with the Grievance Protocol, which is the informal mechanism to resolve grievances about the conduct of barristers. The Grievance Protocol is available below:

Grievance Protocol

 

How to make a complaint

There are various options available to discuss, report and make a complaint about sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination by barristers.

 

Informal discussions and advice

You can seek support and advice from a range of possible people, including the Presidents of the Bar, the Executive Director of the Bar and Peer Support Barristers (barristers externally trained to provide advice and support). For the complete list of people you may contact, see the list in paragraph 8 of the policy against bullying and policy against discrimination, and paragraph 9 of the policy against sexual harassment.

 

Raising a grievance with the Ethics Committee

The Victorian Bar has an informal mechanism to resolve grievances about the conduct of barristers in connection with their practice.

You can raise a grievance with the Ethics Committee under the Grievance Protocol, by contacting a member of the Ethics Committee and/or sending an email to ethics@vicbar.com.au.  For the list of members of the Ethics Committee, see here.

 

Formal complaints to the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commission

The Victorian Legal Services Board + Commission investigates complaints against legal practitioners in Victoria, including relating to service and behaviour. For further information on this process, see here.

 

Complaints to the Judicial Commission or Head of Jurisdiction

The Judicial Commission of Victoria is an independent body established to investigate complaints about Judges and decision-makers in Victorian courts and tribunals. A complaint can be raised by the Bar on a barrister’s behalf without disclosing the identity of the barrister.

Alternatively, an informal complaint may be raised with the President of the Victorian Bar who may then contact the relevant Head of Jurisdiction.

For further details, click here.

 

Complaints to other statutory bodies

Other agencies provide information about sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination. Depending upon the circumstances, you may be able to make a complaint. For further information, see:

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (unlawful discrimination)

Australian Human Rights Commission

Fair Work Commission (anti-bullying and sexual harassment)

Fair Work Ombudsman (bullying and harassment)

WorkSafe Victoria (bullying and sexual harassment)

 

Reports to the Victoria Police

Reports can be made to the Victoria Police at your local police station or the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.

 

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 five free sessions with two independent counselling services for members and their families. Those services are:

  • Re-Vision Group (03 9650 5540)
  • Converge International (1300 687 327)

Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

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.

 

National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service

The National Sexual Assault and Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service provides confidential information, counselling and support services. Call 1800RESPECT (1800 73 77 328).

 

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.