I encourage all eligible members to consider standing for election to Bar Council. Speaking from personal experience, it is a great privilege to serve on the governing body of the Victorian Bar. There are 21 positions: 11 in category A (silks and other barristers of 15 years or more call), 6 in category C (6–10 years call) and 4 in category C (up to 6 years call).
Nominations open today and close at 5pm sharp on Monday 15 October. For more information about nominating, eligibility, voting and the conduct of the election, see the notice below. Voting will open at 9am on 29 October and close at 5pm on 14 November, with the results being available shortly after the close of voting.
This year’s Australian Bar Association National Conference will be held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney from 15–17 November. The theme is “Relevant / Resilient / Respected”. The organisers have put together a dynamic program featuring the Chief Justices of the High Court, the NSW Supreme Court and the Federal Court, the Commonwealth and NSW Attorneys-General, and an almost countless number of members of the judiciary, the bar, the academy and beyond. There will be keynote addresses by Professor Hilary Charlesworth AM, our own Allan Myers AC QC and the Hon Robert French AC. Among many other highlights include sessions on class actions, the role of advocacy in modern commercial litigation, “a day in the life of an Attorney-General”, abolishing double jeopardy, national security, running appeals in the 21st century and business and human rights. I will be reprising my impersonation of Geoffrey Robertson QC with a hypothetical at the end of the first day, the third I have done for the ABA, while the real Tony Jones will wrap up the second day with a Q & A.
The conference will be an opportunity to reflect with our colleagues from the other independent Bars around Australia upon the ongoing relevance of our vocation in an increasingly complicated and disrupted legal services market. It really is not to be missed. Register here.
The Women Barristers Association is celebrating its 25th anniversary next Tuesday, 9 October from 6–8pm at the Juliet Wine Bar. Guests will hear stories from Justice Pamela Tate and Judge Rachelle Lewitan, together with live entertainment from Raleigh Williams and Lisa Crawley.
When the WBA was established in 1993, the Bar had only just elected its first woman Chairman [sic], Susan Crennan QC (now retired High Court Justice; AC QC). No women had yet been appointed to the Supreme Court. Women represented just over 12% of practising members. Only three women were silks. Fast forward to 2018, and more than 40% of barristers under 15 years’ call are women. A majority of members of Bar Council are women. More Victorian barristers have adopted the Law Council of Australia’s gender equitable briefing policy than in the rest of the nation’s bars combined. Real strides have been made towards achieving gender equality on the bench. Real strides have been made towards achieving gender equality and the 25th anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate that progress.
RSVPs are essential, to email@example.com.
Last week I included a short profile of Senior Vice-President Wendy Harris QC’s many contributions to the Bar Council and the Bar more generally. This week, I turn my attention to Vice-President Simon Marks QC—another extraordinary contributor to the life of the Victorian Bar.
Simon was elected to Bar Council in November 2016. He is currently a Vice-President of the Bar, which entails many time-consuming responsibilities as a member of the Executive. In addition to those roles, Simon leads the Bar Council’s Constitutional Reform working group which has, among other things, driven the debate we have had in recent months about whether to extend the tenure of Bar Councillors and move to a biennial election model. Simon is also the Chair of the Readers’ Course Committee and a member of the Education and Professional Development Executive. The former, in particular, is a huge role, with governance responsibility for the two exams we hold each year and our two annual readers’ courses, which are held full-time over 9 weeks’ each, involving about 45 readers and 140 trainers per intake. Simon also sits on the Counsel Committee and the Indictable Crime Certificate Committee.
This week, around 150 members of the legal profession gathered in the Neil McPhee room to celebrate the increasing diversity and inclusiveness of the legal profession and launch the Bar’s LGBTI Working Group’s online support resource, which has been designed to assist lawyers in tackling discrimination that may be faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex persons in the workplace.
The resource provides all members of the profession with practical examples, information and strategies to support their practices and colleagues. There are examples of comments and behaviours, excuses we make, and options for dealing with everyday discrimination if you witness or experience it.
I commend the working group on its work. This is part of the Victorian Bar’s commitment to ensuring that the Bar is a centre of legal excellence where the best and brightest are welcome and can thrive, whatever their background or circumstances.
Behind the scenes this week I met with the State Attorney-General the Hon Martin Pakula MP and the Shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto MP. We discussed a range of issues, including the forthcoming release of the results of our recent health and wellbeing survey—I’ll have more to say about that next week.
This evening I fly to Adelaide (dropping in from outer space, the air is clear, there’s better beer, etc) to attend the SA Bar Association’s annual dinner and show the Victorian Bar’s support for a companion independent Bar.
The Victorian Bar this week welcomed the Commonwealth Attorney General’s announcement of the appointment of the Honourable Justice William Alstergren as the new Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and the appointment of Justice Robert McClelland as Deputy Chief Justice.
We also acknowledged the long and distinguished service of the retiring Chief Justice John Pascoe AC CVO. The Profession will extend a Farewell this coming Monday 8 October 2018 at 4.30pm.
Congratulations to Michael Wheelahan QC, who has been appointed a Judge of the Federal Court, effective 3 October 2018. The Profession will extend a welcome on Friday 26 October at 9.30am.
Congratulations also to Simon McGregor on his appointment as a Coroner, effective from 8 October for a term of 5 years.
The Profession will extend a welcome to their Honours Magistrates Jade Bott and Michelle Mykytowycz on Tuesday 16 October 2018 at 9.15am. Their Honours were sworn-in privately by Chief Justice Ferguson on Monday 20 August 2018, following their appointments on 14 August 2018.