In the only election that anyone has been following this week, congratulations go to Dr Suzanne McNicol QC, who was elected by our members, from a Melbourne Cup size field, to fill a casual vacancy in the senior category on Bar Council. The result was declared at our Bar Council meeting last night, after which Sue was warmly welcomed to her first meeting.
Eulogy for Jack Winneke
The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC has kindly passed on a transcript of the remarkable eulogy he delivered last month for his late friend and colleague, the Honourable John (‘Jack’) Winneke AC RFD QC.
With Stephen’s permission, I am sharing the eulogy here. It should be compulsory reading.
Wellness in the Legal Profession
There were two events of significance this week in relation to health and wellbeing in the legal profession.
First, on Wednesday, the International Bar Association released disturbing research in relation to the prevalence of sexual harassment and workplace bullying in the legal profession worldwide. Australian lawyers responded in disproportionately high numbers to the survey. The results reflected very poorly on the state of the Australian legal profession.
The IBA survey data revealed that, globally, 37% of female and 7% of male respondents had experienced sexual harassment. The corresponding Australian figures were 47% for women and 13% for men. According to the IBA data, globally, 55% of female and 30% of male respondents had experienced workplace bullying. The Australian figures were 73% for women and 50% of men.
Last year, the Victorian Bar conducted our largest ever survey of the health and wellbeing of our members. Our Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar report found that, in the 5 years leading up to the survey, 25% of female and 1% of male respondents had experienced sexual harassment, while 47% of female and 25% of male respondents had experienced workplace bullying.
The Victorian Bar has comprehensive policies and support structures in place to provide advice and conciliation services to members who have experienced or witnessed unacceptable conduct, such as sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination. More information is available here.
Secondly, during the week, the first findings of landmark empirical research measuring judicial stress and wellbeing in Australia was published in the Journal of Judicial Administration, reminding us of the pressures that judicial officers are under. In the research by Carly Shrever, 152 judges and magistrates from five Australian courts were surveyed and compared with the broader legal profession and the general public, finding some similarities with the broader profession (elevated psychological distress, problematic alcohol use, burnout and secondary trauma) and some differences (lower rates of depressive and anxious symptoms).
Carly Shrever’s research was highlighted by the Chief Justice in her address to the Wellness for Law forum in February. Her Honour noted that Ms Shrever’s findings were already helping to shape wellness programs in courts, including in the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Australians Detained Abroad fundraiser 23 May at the Essoign
Several members of our Bar are involved with Australians Detained Abroad, a not for profit organisation that provides support to families of Australians who are detained overseas. The group is an initiative of retired USMC Colonel Dan Mori, who represented Australian citizen David Hicks when Hicks was detained at Guantanamo Bay. Dan Mori and the Hon Justice Lex Lasry AM will attend the “re-launching” fundraiser drinks at the Essoign next Thursday at 5.30pm. If you can’t attend, you are welcome to support their valuable work by making a donation.
Lost Robe Bag
Call me sentimental (said no-one, ever), but I would like to elevate from the notices below a missive received from the County Court about what looks like a well-loved robe bag bearing the initials ‘EDL’ that was left in his Honour Judge Meredith’s courtroom some time ago. If you are or recognise its owner, contact Judge Meredith’s associate, Angela Liantzakis, at Angela.M.Liantzakis@countycourt.vic.gov.au.
A busy week
I lost count of the number of meetings I attended this week, and for my sins and in a forlorn search for sympathy please know that I will be attending a full day meeting of the Council of the Australian Bar Association tomorrow, but the only thing you need to know is that the Bar Dinner is on tonight, the premier event of the annual Bar calendar, and I am looking forward to seeing more than 500 of our members there tonight, it’s going to be a great night.