For those of you reading this in advance, I am looking forward to seeing you at tonight’s annual Bar dinner at the Plaza Ballroom. It promises to be a memorable night, with no fewer than 47 honoured guests; our guest speakers, the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Hon Susan Kiefel AC and our own Anne Hassan; Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General and shadow Attorneys-General; many heads of jurisdictions and other judicial officers; most of the Presidents of the other Australian independent Bars; and around 500 of our number. After dinner entertainment will feature the Victorian Bench and Bar’s legendary band, the Lex Pistols.
In early June, the Victorian Bar will launch an online health and wellbeing survey which is designed to ‘take the pulse’ of members of our Bar. The ‘Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar’ survey findings will be used to develop and implement proactive preventative steps and resources that enable us to better support the health and wellbeing of our members.
We have been assisted with the design and delivery of the survey by a team from the University of Portsmouth in the UK which conducted similar work on behalf of the New South Wales Bar. The Bar of England and Wales also conducted a similar survey of its members in 2014.
Your support is important. We aim to get at least 1,000 responses—we need comprehensive and meaningful data, both from those experiencing difficulties and those who are not, in order to ensure our programs are appropriately tailored. I urge all members to look out for further messages about the survey in coming weeks and to take part.
The Victorian Bar spoke out this week against incursions on judicial discretion and extensions to mandatory sentencing, prompted by dreadful attacks on emergency services workers. As I said in the Bar’s press release, “populist, ‘tough on crime’ responses by our politicians are an unprincipled race to the bottom. Mandatory sentencing and reducing judicial discretion deprive our judges and magistrates of the ability to dispense justice in the circumstances of the particular case, bringing their experience and wisdom to the complicated task of balancing punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation and fairness.” In this election year, the Victorian Bar will continue to call out all sides of politics when they undermine the independence of the State’s hard working judicial officers.
Next week is National Reconciliation week. On Monday, the Bar’s Indigenous Justice Committee will present an important seminar with a panel of speakers on the national scourge that is the Indigenous incarceration rate, following the tabling of the recent Australian Law Reform Commission report on that subject.
There are many other events to mark National Reconciliation week, including cultural walks from the Koorie Heritage Trust centre at Federation Square and featured exhibitions at the Melbourne Museum Bunjilaka Centre. For more information, see the Reconciliation Australia website.
Congratulations to Kevin Lyons QC on his appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. The profession will extend a welcome at a ceremonial sitting in the Banco Court on Wednesday, 30 May 2018 at 9:15 am.
Congratulations also to Tara Hartnett and Tom Wardell on their appointment as Magistrates. They were sworn in privately by Chief Justice Ferguson last week. Details of their ceremonial welcomes are to be advised.