On Tuesday, Commonwealth Attorney-General the Hon Christian Porter MP released details of the government’s plans to reform the Family and Federal Circuit Courts with effect from 1 January 2019. The plans include an effective merger of the Courts so that users will have a single port of entry, with appeals in family law matters to be heard in the Federal Court.
In our media release, I said that while we are still studying details of the proposed reforms, the Victorian Bar welcomes reforms that improve access to justice, simplify procedures and reduce waiting times and costs for people who are dealing with family law issues - often the most difficult and emotional periods of their lives.
On Tuesday we launched the online Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar survey, which will open on Monday via our website.
It is important that the survey is comprehensive, so that we can ‘take the pulse’ of the Bar and obtain meaningful data from which to develop further the health and wellbeing resources that are available to members. I strongly encourage all members to participate, for the good of the profession, our colleagues and ourselves.
The Law Institute of Victoria has produced two excellent podcasts on the topic of mental health and wellbeing for lawyers, hosted by journalist Leon Gettler. The podcast explored why lawyers and judicial officers are especially vulnerable to mental health problems and the measures being put in place by different parts of the profession.
I was interviewed in the first podcast about mental health issues for barristers. I spoke of our vulnerabilities, which can include long hours, poor work-life balances, uncertain workflows, working in isolated circumstances, and difficult-to-reconcile expectations from courts, other barristers, solicitors and clients. We can at times seek to portray an air of being in control and invulnerability so that others feel they can trust us to make decisions, at the cost of seeking help when we really need it. This is a culture we need to tackle, and the wellbeing and the bar survey mentioned above will be an invaluable tool in that regard.
There are already a number of support services available for members who need them, including our free, independently-run 24 hour counselling service which is available by phoning 9650 5540. We are also fortunate to have many informal support structures, including mentoring, the open-door policy, committees and associations, our clerks, and the hub of the Victorian Bar that is the Essoign club. Our very active Health and Wellbeing Committee is another invaluable source both for support for members and advice to Bar Council.
Members interested in finding out more about and joining the Barristers’ Consortium—a collaboration with the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts which has as its objective bringing art works to Melbourne that challenge, provoke and inspire, with a view to shifting public discourse on areas concerning the rule of law, access to justice and equality—are invited to a “mini preview” in the Bar Council Chambers on Level 1 of Owen Dixon Chambers East at 5.15pm on Monday, 4 June. Registrations are essential, email firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Last Friday night we enjoyed a highly successful Bar Dinner, which was testament to outstanding work by the Bar office events team. Special thanks go to our guests of honour, the Hon Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC and Anne Hassan. The venue, food, wine, entertainment and company were all first notch.
On Saturday, the Bar hosted a meeting of the council of the Australian Bar Association. Jennifer Batrouney QC is Vice-President and I serve as a director. The ABA is a dynamic advocate for the independent Bars of Australia.
On Monday I met with Jazeer Nijamudeen, the President of the Muslim Legal Network (MLN). On Wednesday it was an honour to speak at the MLN’s Iftar dinner, at which President Chris Maxwell was the keynote speaker. The event enabled judges, practitioners, law students and legal academics to come together and share in a meal to break the daily fast during Ramadan. The MLN is to be congratulated on a superb event.
On Wednesday, Simon Marks QC, Junior Vice-President, delivered a highly entertaining speech on behalf of the Bar at the welcome to Justice Lyons. You can read his speech here.
The Junior Bar Conference is being held today in the McPhee Room. By all accounts it is going well. I attended the breakfast event this morning and delivered the keynote speech on the topic of future directions for the Victorian Bar.
Behind the scenes, on Tuesday the Victorian Bar CEO Sarah Fregon and I made a presentation to the Legal Services Board. In turn, the LSB presented to Bar Council on Thursday evening.
Congratulations to Michael Cahill SC who was this week appointed a Judge of the County Court of Victoria. The profession will extend a Welcome in the County Court on Friday 15 June at 9.15am.
The profession will extend a Farewell to the Hon Justice Robert Osborn at a ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court on Thursday 21 June at 5pm.
The Hon Justice Lex Lasry AM’s retirement from the Bench was also announced just as In Brief went to print last week. His Honour starred in the Bench and Bar’s legendary band The Lex Pistols at the Bar Dinner on Friday night. The profession will extend a Farewell to Justice Lasry at a ceremonial sitting of the Supreme Court on Friday 22 June 2018 at 5:00 pm.