Opportunities lost and found
#StayApartTogether is a popular hashtag that has inspired many communities to pool their resources even as they remain physically distant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have seen many instances of VicBar members staying apart but being together over the past two months, as we’ve navigated from opportunities lost to those found.
The courts, of course, have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – but each of the heads of jurisdiction who have joined us “In Conversation” over the past few weeks have reiterated that they have found opportunities to be more effective with the flexible tools now available to them.
On Wednesday, we hosted the third of these webinars, featuring an in-depth discussion with the Honourable James Allsop, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, and Wendy Harris QC, President of the Victorian Bar. His Honour made an interesting observation about the dichotomy that we often speak about with “virtual” versus “in person” hearings – he pointed out that people are no less “present” just because they appear on a screen. We need to remember that “virtual” proceedings are as solemn and as important in the settling of matters and administering justice as appearances in the courtroom. Of course, courtroom advocacy is critical to the administration of justice in many circumstances. Whatever practices are adopted in the future, we hope for a return to the courtroom very soon to ensure that best practice advocacy is maintained. You can view the recording of the webinar here.
Next Friday was to be the evening of the Victorian Bar’s annual dinner. Like many members, I was looking forward to circulating with colleagues and reliving the events of the past year. Unfortunately, the dinner has been postponed – but the Victorian Bar is hosting four webinars as part of Law Week next week that give us the opportunity to come together and celebrate some of the best of the Bar in the past and present, and to look to the future.
If you’re a history buff, you can join Peter Jopling AM QC, Campbell F Thomson, Siobhan Ryan and Daniel Kinsey from the Victorian Bar’s Art & Collections Committee as they go Zooming in on the Peter O’Callaghan QC Gallery with a virtual tour of some of the gallery’s acquisitions and the fascinating stories behind them. Or join Rob Heath QC and fellow Friends of St Kilda Cemetery on A Legal Zoom in St Kilda Cemetery, a virtual tour of famous former members of the Bar who are interred there.
If you’re interested in what the present and future holds for barristers, the Equality & Diversity Committee will present Must Love Coffee (and Know How to Zoom). Join them as they explore the privileges, perils and percolations of life as a Victorian barrister in the age of COVID-19.
Coronavirus continues to be a relentless presence in our lives, but if you’re like me, your thirst for knowledge on the subject remains steadfast. So, if you’re wondering about the nuts and bolts of how the government can exercise its emergency powers to protect us from this pandemic, barrister Dr Michael Taylor will be able to answer all your questions in the Law Week event, Public Health and Public Order: Emergency Powers and the COVID-19 Pandemic Response.
The sharing of knowledge and news has been a key factor in ensuring we stay together. VicBar members have been keen to publish their research, too. For a national view of COVID-19 laws, barristers Emrys Nekvapil, Maya Narayan and Stephanie Brenker have published a new guide to COVID-19 and the Law of Australia. And Professor Patrick Keyzer, Research Professor in Law and Public Policy at La Trobe University and Member of the Victorian Bar, is hosting a new podcast series on the ABC, revisiting five cases that had particular impact on our nation in Section 71: High Court Cases That Changed Australia.
Although we talk of “social distancing”, we should think of it, rather, as physical distancing. Taking part in events such as these above, and staying in touch with latest developments, means that we will #StayApartTogether and help each other, members of the profession and the community remain socially and intellectually enriched through these challenging days.