In Brief Issue #956

Wendy Harris QC

Message from the President

It’s been a difficult week for all of us as we adjust to the new environment the coronavirus has foisted upon us, and as we look with uncertainty to the weeks and months ahead.  Every day, there have been new challenges to try to take in our stride.

I know that many of you will be reading this from your home office – and for some of you, this is your dining table or kitchen bench. I hope that in whatever working environment you find yourself, you continue to enjoy the company of your colleagues – whether it be via phone, email, zoom, skype, house party or carrier pigeon.

I’m really delighted to have received many emails of support from members over the past week. These are trying times, and I’ve been impressed with the stories I’m hearing of how well members are adapting, and tales of how technology is already being successfully harnessed to allow us work remotely and to help the wheels of justice keep turning. Of course, some of us adapt more quickly than others.  While it’s hard to appreciate the ‘opportunity’ now, this crisis has the potential to change the way we do things – for the better – forever. 

As a community – local, national, global – we are currently experiencing something that is unique in most of our lifetimes: the wartime sensation of universal adversity. Every person we encounter, every stranger we pass in the street, is labouring under same strain and uncertainty that we are.  Please do remain patient with each other, the judiciary, VicBar and BCL staff (even the panicked hoarder in the supermarket).  Our Bar, and our community, will survive this if we can be patient and kind to one another.

In the similar vein of collegiality, I’d also like to reiterate my message to members earlier in the week about the offer of BCL for rent relief for April. I’d like to thank those of you who have committed to continue to pay rent for your chambers and ask those of you would like to access relief to follow the instructions in this letter.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve been hearing many different experts – and some non-experts – speak about why the federal and state governments are taking the decisions they are in the battle against the continued spread of COVID-19. Last week, the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity – a joint venture between the University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital – hosted an online panel discussion about COVID-19. The Doherty Institute is at the forefront of the global response to the virus. Its researchers were the first outside of China to grow and share the virus.

I thought that you may find the panel discussion helpful in answering some of your questions about the virus, its transmission, and the workplace and community impacts. You can watch the session here.


Continued updates about operations and practices in courts, tribunals and across the profession; future planning

The courts continue to provide us with directions about their operations in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The CEO will continue to share regular updates with members as news is announced. All of these updates, current government advice, and the actions that the courts, the Victorian Bar and BCL are taking are on the member health and wellbeing page.

We are currently at Stage 2 restrictions in Victoria, and the prospect for further restrictions is very much alive.  Rest assured that, alongside the courts and the other key stakeholders in the justice system, we are actively working on our contingency planning so that the wheels will keep turning as and when more onerous restrictions are imposed.


Stay in touch

On this Friday afternoon, when you may otherwise have been with colleagues sipping a pinot or a pint, think about ways to stay in touch with each other virtually – a Hendrick’s on house party, a Sambuca over skype, even a Frangelico over the phone (if that’s your thing). Stay close, and stay in touch.

Have the best weekend you can in these difficult times.

Vicbar News & Events
COVID-19 – What you can do to protect yourself and those around you

We understand that members are worried about the risks of COVID-19. Please see the new section on our member website, designed to answer some questions you may have, point you to government information websites, and let you know what VicBar and BCL are doing to assist members.

We will be updating this page with new information regularly. Please note that all of these websites referred to on the page are regularly updated and you should refresh your browser to ensure you are viewing the latest news.

Applications for Senior Counsel 2020

The Supreme Court has announced that applications for Senior Counsel for 2020 will open on Monday 30 March 2020 and close on Friday 1 May 2020.

Information for members considering applying for silk includes:

If you have any questions about the application process, including how to fill in your application form or if you would like to have a confidential discussion about making an application, please send an email to

Nominations for appointment to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria Civil Practice Committee

The Bar Council is calling for expressions of interest for the position of a Victorian Bar representative on the Magistrates’ Court Civil Practice Committee.

The Civil Practice Committee meets on a monthly basis to review and discuss matters affecting the civil jurisdiction of the Court.

The next meeting will take place on 20 April 2020.

The Bar’s protocol for nomination and appointment of members to external bodies can be found here. Your Expression of Interest should include a copy of your CV and identify any relevant areas of experience or expertise. 

Please forward your expression of interest to Denise Bennett at The closing date for EOIs is 5pm, Friday 27 March 2020.

Victorian Bar Member CPD Reminder

Due to current concerns with COVID-19, you will see that some CPD seminars are being postponed. Where possible, CPDs will be filmed and made available on our electronic platforms.  In the meantime, attendance is not required.

Bar members are required to complete 10 points of CPDs by 31 March 2020. If you have not yet completed the requisite points, please check what is available on the CPD section of the member website, and/or take up the NSW Bar Association’s generous offer of access for Victorian Bar members to its CPD catalogue. Login details for Victorian Bar members are here.

VicBar Life
The Essoign - Takeaway and delivery

To all our members we would like to thank you for your support in these challenging times for us all.

We will continue to operate as a TAKEAWAY only venue daily from 7.00am till 5.00pm until further notice.

On offer we will have coffee, juices, soft drinks, salads and sandwiches along with daily specials and take away beer or wine.

Pre-lunch orders for pick up or delivery via email to by 11.30am.

Delivery to Chambers also includes alcoholic beverages. Let us know if you need us to include some complimentary glassware for you.

Please do continue to support the club during this difficult period.

See you soon.

Please ensure you are practising social distancing when visiting the club!

Member Benefits Australia - March exclusive member offers

Don't miss out on these exclusive member deals for March with some great offers and gift ideas.

RACV Club special offer for VicBar members

A special introductory offer for Vic Bar members wanting to join the RACV Club ends on 31 March 2020.

If you join before 31 March 2020, the RACV Club will waive its joining fee, so the annual membership fee of $910 will be reduced to $520, as well as a discount on the annual membership fee each year.

Membership includes exclusive access to the RACV City Club in Melbourne’s CBD, the Healesville Country Club in the Yarra Valley, and over 160 reciprocal clubs globally.

By joining RACV Club, you gain access to a range of social, leisure and business facilities and services. You will receive a 50% discount on accommodation at RACV Resorts, as well as discounted dining and day spa packages through the club rewards program. Members also receive unlimited golf with their stay at the Healesville Country Club, which boasts one of the best golf courses in Australia. Other exclusive offerings for RACV Club members are access to the fully equipped business centre and discounted parking rates at the Melbourne CBD venue.

An optional subscription to the RACV Club fitness facilities in Bourke Street (valued at $595) is also available to members.

Practice & Profession News
AHRC report: Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

The Australian Human Rights Commission has published the report of its National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

Respect@Work, the Commission’s report of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.

Summary of outcomes.

The Inquiry examined the nature and prevalence of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, the drivers of this harassment and measures to address and prevent sexual harassment.

The Law Council of Australia intends to provide a submission in response to the recommendations made in the report and will be seeking the views of constituent bodies, including the Victorian Bar.

Sentencing Manual improvements continue

The Judicial College has released new updates to the Victorian Sentencing Manual this week, including four offence-specific chapters on murder, manslaughter, indictable driving and sexual offences.

The College has also enhanced the Manual’s print functionality with downloadable documents.

Find out more:

Coronavirus and the Courts

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a substantial impact on courts all around Australia. The Judicial College has created a resource page to help courts, and court users, understand the different practices that have been put in place across the jurisdictions.

Access the resource:

Careers & Opportunities
Judicial Registrar Appointments

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, the Honourable Anne Ferguson, seeks expressions of interest from qualified persons for appointment as a judicial registrar of the Supreme Court.


Judicial registrars are members of the Court, appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. There are currently two judicial registrar positions vacant at the Supreme Court of Victoria.

View the position descriptions on the Legal Careers website:

Judicial Registrar – Criminal Division

Judicial Registrar - Commercial


All expressions of interest must be received by no later than close of business on Monday 6 April 2020.

The positions are located in Melbourne. All expressions of interest are treated confidentially. Enquiries can be made to Viv MacGillivray on (03) 8600 2403.

Expressions of interest marked ‘Private and Confidential’ should be addressed to:

The Honourable Chief Justice Anne Ferguson

Supreme Court of Victoria

210 William Street

Melbourne VIC 3000

Alternatively, they can be sent by email to Ms Viv MacGillivray, Executive Associate to the Chief Justice,

Deadline for the next issue:5pm, 2nd April 2020