This week the Commonwealth Attorney General announced the appointment of Raelene Sharp KC as the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. Ms Sharp has been a member of our Bar since 2010 and was appointed Senior Counsel in 2022. On behalf of the Victorian Bar, I congratulate her and wish her every success in her new role.
On Tuesday evening, I attended an event hosted by the Victorian Bar entitled When it Gets Personal: Addressing Judicial Bullying. A panel – chaired by Lisa Hannon KC and comprising the Chief Judge of the County Court, the Honourable Justice Kidd, the Director of the Judicial Commission of Victoria, Alexis Eddy, the Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, David Hallowes S.C., and Stella Gold from our Health & Wellbeing committee – discussed ways to deal with judicial bullying, how to make a complaint and where to turn for support. The event was well attended, and I thank all of those who participated. It has been recorded and I encourage members to log in to the CPD catalogue, and view what was an extremely thought-provoking discussion.
Many members of our Bar, myself included, have experienced or witnessed challenging judicial behaviour. Whether it reaches the level of ‘bullying’ or not, it can be personally very difficult to deal with and can also affect the administration of justice in a particular case. The Judicial Commission has published Judicial Conduct Guidelines that can be found here. I am always available to assist members who have had a bad day in Court for all the wrong reasons, and we have protocols in place to deal with it.
On Wednesday night, the Victorian Bar hosted the launch of the Equality and Diversity Internship. This is a joint initiative of the Victorian Bar’s Equality & Diversity Committee, the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Federal Court of Australia, and the County Court of Victoria, which seeks to promote greater cultural diversity in the legal profession by providing three law students from culturally diverse backgrounds the opportunity to work with practising barristers and serving judges. The program has been many years in the planning and suffered delays due to Covid, but is finally underway. I congratulate all those who have been involved, particularly the Honourable Justice Forbes, who was the Chair of the Equality & Diversity committee when the program was first conceived and stepped in at the last minute on Wednesday night to speak at the launch. I also thank the many judges and barristers who support the interns.
Bar Council met on Wednesday evening. We resolved to seek expressions of interest for the position of director of BCL which will become vacant upon my resignation from it. BCL is an integral part of the Victorian Bar, enabling us to work together in geographically proximate chambers with few barriers to entry. I encourage those with the right skills to apply. Please also consider volunteering to join one of the Victorian Bar’s committees; you can do so here.
As is the convention, the Bar Council also appointed one of our members as a director of the Law Council of Australia. I thank Tim Goodwin for agreeing to take on this additional duty.
This morning, Vice President Elizabeth Bennett S.C. spoke on behalf of the Bar at a ceremonial sitting of the Federal Court to mark the appointment of the Honourable Justice Mordecai (Mordy) Bromberg, President of the Australian Law Reform Commission.
Members will be pleased to know that the Victorian Attorney-General has this week extended the expiration date of the Victorian Bar's Professional Standards Scheme to 30 June 2025. If you are not a member, you should seriously consider becoming one to obtain the advantages of limited liability. You can view more information about the scheme here.
Finally, with the end of the year fast approaching, please save the date for the Victorian Bar’s annual Christmas event. This year it will be held in the late afternoon/evening of Thursday, 14 December. Come along with your chamber mates and help us to make it a real party.
Georgina Schoff KC