Portrait of the Honourable Stephen Charles AO QC
On Monday the Bar hosted an intimate gathering of family and friends in the Peter O’Callaghan QC Gallery for the unveiling of the portrait of the Honourable Stephen Charles AO QC, by Ralph Heimans AM. It is an extraordinary painting, beautifully capturing the likeness of Stephen. It depicts him standing in the Supreme Court Library, in a reflective but optimistic mood. It is a wonderful addition to the Gallery. It will be permanently hung later in the year.
Stephen’s contribution to the life of our Bar has been remarkable; motivated by a desire to serve, to reform and to improve.
Stephen has held almost every position of significance at the Bar; far too many to mention but, among other things, he served on Bar Council, with only a couple of breaks, almost continuously from 1967 to 1986, as Chairman in the last two of those years, including the Bar’s centenary year, 1984. He served on the Council of the Australian Bar Association for three years, including a year as President. He served six years as a member, and as Chairman, of the Ethics Committee. He was a Director and Vice-Chairman of Barristers’ Chambers Limited. Stephen’s dedication to the Bar has transcended his time in active practice here and has continued in ‘retirement’.
Stephen’s contribution as a judge—he was a foundation member of the Court of Appeal when it was established in 1995—was described by the then Victorian Solicitor-General as “profound”; a career “characterised by excellence, principle and generosity” in which he “made a lasting and noble contribution to the substance and integrity of justice in Victoria and Australia”. On the bench, Stephen had the ability to bring out the best in the advocates who appeared before him.
The portraits in the gallery connect us, the contemporary custodians of the long and proud history of the Bar, with those who came before us. Through the portraits, including its most recent addition, our most revered members achieve a form of immortality, able to inspire this and all future generations, by showing all those who pass through the gallery the best of who we are and of what we aspire to be.
The Honourable Stephen Charles AO QC and artist Ralph Heimans AM alongside the portrait.
International Commission of Jurists Victoria’s Fellow for 2019
At a breakfast held on Tuesday, 3 September, we welcomed Collin Andrew as the Victorian Bar and the International Commission of Jurists Victoria’s Fellow for 2019.
Collin is a very impressive advocate based in Kuala Lumpur where he has his own firm, “Collin’s Law Chambers” (not a bad name, I thought).
Since 2016, Collin has been Chairman of the Malaysia Bar Council Legal Aid Centre. He has represented the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia in significant cases concerning refugee children and has acted in cases involving homicide and drug trafficking that attract the death penalty upon conviction.
The fellowship program with the ICJ is a pilot in 2019. It is designed to enable talented lawyers from the region, like Collin, to travel to Melbourne to participate in key parts of our readers’ course. The fellowship also includes a week shadowing a judge in the Federal Court, in this case Justice Bromberg; a week shadowing a judge in the County Court, in this case Judge Marks; and a week in chambers with a practising barrister, in this case Sarah Porritt. I congratulate everyone involved in establishing the pilot program. Please make Collin welcome as you see him about the Bar in coming weeks.
Her Honour Judge Samantha Marks, Dr Matthew J Collins AM QC, Collin Andrew, the Honourable Justice Mordy Bromberg, Simon Marks QC and Sarah Porritt
National Press Club address
On Wednesday, I was invited to address the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra (as the support act to Arthur Moses SC, President of the Law Council of Australia) on the topic: “The slippery slope: how eroding freedoms impacts people and the press”. The discussion centred on the incremental erosion of fundamental freedoms in Australian law, drawing on many examples including national security laws and the law of defamation. Our addresses were given added focus by news breaking that the Australian Federal Police were conducting a raid of a Canberra home as we spoke.
Both Arthur and I called for a mature national debate about the introduction of a charter of fundamental rights and freedoms, as a mechanism for balancing human rights and freedoms when they come into conflict, and as a means of compelling Parliament to reflect and account to the Australian people as a matter of course on the impact of the laws it passes on those rights and freedoms.
Arthur Moses SC’s speech can be read here.
My speech can be read here.
The addresses were televised on ABC TV and Sky News and are available for viewing via iView (here).
Hon. Anthony North QC commences as Chairperson of the Victorian Law Reform Commission
Members who were on leave may have missed the announcement that the Honourable Anthony North QC was appointed Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission. Tony commenced his new role this week.
Tony has replaced Bruce Gardner who was appointed as the Acting Chairperson of the Commission in March 2019 following the death of the Hon Philip Cummins AM.
I congratulate Tony on this important new role, which is central to the development of a fair, just and inclusive legal system.
VLSB+C sexual harassment survey (closing midnight, Monday 9 September)
The Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner are conducting a state-wide survey looking at the prevalence and nature of sexual harassment in Victoria’s legal workplaces.
The survey closes at midnight on Monday 9 September.
Everyone with a current practising certificate has been emailed a unique link to the survey, at the email address provided to VLSB+C during the latest practising certificate renewal period.
I encourage all members to participate in this survey, as it will greatly assist VLSB+C in forming a better understanding of the extent to which sexual harassment is an issue in the profession and the wider legal workforce in Victoria. The survey should take about 10-25 minutes of your time. It is anonymous and confidential.
If you have any questions, or would like more information, please call VLSB+C on 03 9679 8001. Further information about the survey is available here.
A busy week
Other than the highlights set out above, this week I met with the Ethics Committee, and had dinner with representatives of the Law Council of Australia in Canberra.