In Brief Issue #964

Wendy Harris QC

Surviving in Ambiguity

I remember an amusing quip from an 80s' sitcom, where an old Italian lady begins a story about overcoming her impoverished childhood with the line, “It was the worst of times…it was the worst of times”. The audience’s ensuing laughter is a tacit recognition of the cleverly deliberate distortion of the opening line of Charles Dicken’s novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”.

As I transcribe this line, I am reminded of two things.  The classic Monty Python ‘Four Yorkshiremen’ sketch (for anyone under 45, please google it instantly) and, more soberingly, the inherent contradictions of being a barrister at the Victorian Bar: the highs and lows of cases won and lost; grappling with the weight of heavy case-loads or uncertainty when briefs are light-on; the thrill and exhaustion that regular litigation brings; windfalls and cashflow crises; camaraderie and competition; and the pressure and satisfaction of working with clients and solicitors. Indeed, being a barrister is a harsh exercise in ambiguity.

It can be harsh in many other ways. Many of you may have read an extraordinary 60-tweet odyssey, written throughout a working day, by British Silk Sean Jones QC. This is a genuine and candid account of the constant struggle that barristers face – if you’re a seasoned barrister, you’ll smile wryly in recognition of the harsh realities Sean describes, and if you’re new to the Bar I implore you to take note of his self-aware commentary.

Dickens’ line could very well apply to the era we live in now. It is certainly, for many, the worst of times. Some may find opportunity and hope, but others’ vulnerabilities are laid bare as they struggle with financial and emotional difficulties, chaos, uncertainty and isolation. In his tweets, Sean talks of the insidious expectation that as barristers we need to put on brave faces and barrel through difficulties. We think we have to be bullet-proof. Like Sean, I find this unconducive to good mental health. Instead, I ask you to resist the default approach of going it alone. Instead, reach out and seek assistance.

The Victorian Bar offers resources to barristers to enhance their wellbeing. I urge you to take advantage of these resources, especially now. The members’ health and wellbeing page here offers practical advice for staying safe, working remotely and obtaining financial support, and just as important, it offers resources and tools to remain connected and engaged. Finding a social group or simply taking the time to bond with peers who are in the same boat, so to speak, will normalise your experience, allow you to drop the hardy façade and work through your difficulties. Perhaps you’re coping – like me – with the COVID-imposed role of being a tutor to stay-at-home school students, and balancing that role with your professional one: you will find resources to help you juggle these competing obligations on that webpage. 

People often underestimate what others can do for them, or feel reluctant to call on the support of their colleagues. But being actively involved within a collective is key to cultivating resilience. Formal and informal support networks can save you from ill health, enhance your coping skills, improve cardiovascular health and promote lifelong mental health. So, I ask that if you’re feeling stressed, and possibly alone, find your peers, join a social group or tap into the resources available; you’ll find that you will not only receive support but, eventually, you will be able to give back to those around you.

The necessity to work things through together as a community, to keep talking, and exchanging views, was the final message of the Honourable Peter Kidd, Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria, in this week’s latest “In Conversation” webinar with Bar Councillor, Liz Ruddle. His Honour answered many tricky questions about the procedural changes that the Court has put in place to manage the COVID-19 crisis, and he spoke of the Court’s acute recognition of the anxiety that the uncertainty about the recommencement of in-person appearances and jury trials is causing to members of the Bar, the profession and, of course, individuals involved in the justice system. For those of you who missed the webinar, please do listen to the recording here.

Vicbar News & Events
Practising Certificates - renew your PII insurance before 31 May

The practising certificate (PC) renewals cycle for 2020/21 has been extended to 30 June for renewal of your PC without incurring a surcharge from the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner. However, your PC will not be issued until you have taken out compulsory professional indemnity insurance (PII) with the LPLC.

The LPLC requires that you renew your PII premium by 31 May 2020 and practitioners are encouraged to renew online.

Information regarding PII was distributed to members several weeks ago and included notification that you have the option of deferring payment of your premium until 30 November.

Links for online lodgement of your renewal are available through your member home page here, or you may go directly to LSB Online and LPLC website. Login to both portals using your Practitioner Number as the username (your Practitioner Number is published in the email sent to you by the VLSB+C or you can contact the Victorian Bar office for assistance).

Should you require assistance renewing your PC or PII, please email or leave a message with Susan Lawrence on 9225 7105 or Daphne Ioannidis on 9225 8326.

Further information on renewing practising certificates can be found on the VicBar website here.

Law Week 2020 and the Victorian Bar – Free online events for legal professionals and the broader community

The Victorian Law Foundation invites you to participate in Law Week (18-24 May) by attending its online events, which cater to both legal professionals and the broader community. The program includes informative webinars, on-demand interviews and panel discussions, podcasts, virtual exhibitions, and much more!

The Victorian Bar is hosting these free online sessions, which are now open for registration:

  • A Legal Zoom in St Kilda Cemetery is a virtual tour of famous legal individuals who are now interred in St Kilda Cemetery, brought to you by The Friends of St Kilda Cemetery and moderated by Rob Heath QC.
  • Zooming in on the Peter O’Callaghan QC Gallery is a virtual tour of the Victorian Bar’s Peter O'Callaghan QC Gallery, chaired by Peter Jopling AM QC and presented by Campbell F Thomson, Siobhan Ryan and Daniel Kinsey from the Victorian Bar’s Art & Collections Committee.

Explore the key legal issues of today, discover how the legal sector is managing new challenges, and meet the people who help resolve your legal issues, shape and enforce our laws.

Check out the Law Week program today.

New Court Security Clearing Protocols – Please take your VicBar ID card or (if you don’t have one) a printed copy of your ID letter

Court Security Officers (CSO) have been directed of the following condition with respect to exemptions for legal practitioners from security entrance requirements:

  • Legal practitioners will be asked to display their identification card to the CSO at the entry to security screening point of court venues.
  • CSOs must not touch the identification card(s). 
  • The identification must be displayed in such a way that the CSO can be satisfied that the identity of the legal practitioner displaying the identification is the same as the identification card.
  • In the event that the legal practitioner is unable to produce an identification card, a hard copy identification letter including a photo of the person will be accepted.
  • The CSO may ask the legal practitioner for additional identification (that includes a name and photograph) so the CSO can be satisfied that the identity of the legal practitioner displaying the identification card or identification letter is the same as the identification card or ID Letter (face to ID check).

Court Services Victoria has asked all members who are using the Victorian Bar identity letter to fast-track through court security clearance to please take a printed copy of the letter, and not rely on an electronic version on your phone or device. This is to avoid security staff coming close to individuals and handling phones and devices. Members will be soon issued with Victorian Bar identity cards to facilitate security clearance.

Women Barristers Association (WBA) – Notice of Annual General Meeting (AGM)

WBA’S AGM will be held on Tuesday 9 June 2020 at 1:00pm via Zoom. A Zoom invitation will be sent to all members.

Attached to this notice are:

  1. draft agenda for this meeting
  2. committee nomination form, and
  3. proxy form.

At the meeting, members will have the opportunity to:

  1. discuss WBA activities for the past year
  2. discuss WBA finances for the past year
  3. nominate for a committee position
  4. vote on any resolutions proposed, and
  5. discuss any general business arising.

At the meeting, members will be asked to vote in respect of the following:

  1. accept the minutes of the last annual general meeting
  2. accept the Convener’s annual report
  3. accept the Treasurer’s annual report and presentation of financial statement from the previous year
  4. accept other office bearers reports
  5. election of the following committee positions:
    1. Convener
    2. Assistant Conveners (x2)
    3. Treasurer
    4. Secretary
    5. Assistant Secretary, and
    6. Ordinary members of the Committee.

Please note, copies of the Convener’s annual report, Treasurer’s annual report and minutes, and any other office bearers’ reports will be disseminated by email to WBA members by 4:00pm, Friday 5 June 2020.

If any member wishes to add an item to the agenda for discussion at the AGM, please email Louise Martin ( or Veronica Holt ( by 4:00pm Tuesday 26 May 2020.

Peace Lab Webinar: Reset through COVID-19: A Changing Brain for a Changing World

Join Elva Zhang from Peace Lab for a free webinar on how you can rest, reflect and reset for a new normal following COVID-19. This seminar will empower you to direct your thoughts to what gives you peace and positivity.

You will learn:

  • core concepts in neuroplasticity and its relevance in uncertain times such as now
  • the notion of impermanence in Eastern philosophy
  • practical tools to change your mind for cultivating a more beneficial and positive mindset, and
  • a guided LIVE meditation designed for embracing uncertainty.

The webinar is on Friday 29 May, 12:00-1:30pm. Register for free here.

Formerly an international student from China, Elva is an Australian-qualified lawyer with a Master of Laws (LLM in International Economic Law) from Geneva, Switzerland.  She currently works as Corporate Counsel for a Melbourne-based global shipping line directly with the senior management team as well as colleagues from other jurisdictions such as France, Singapore and China.  

Apart from being a shipping lawyer, Elva is the founder of Peace Lab, which curates and facilitates experiential and fun workshops that synthesise ancient Eastern philosophies and contemporary Western science as a unique agent for cultivating wellbeing and positive mindset shift.

COVID-19 Resources Weekly Update

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.

Below is a summary of relevant updates and resources that were made available to you during the past week:

  • The Judicial College has developed several new resources to assist judicial officers and the profession stay up-to-date with the effect of the Coronavirus pandemic on the legal system. The College will continue to add to these resources and ensure that they are updated regularly so please continue to check the
  • The Supreme Court has approved four images of courtrooms that can be used as backdrops during remote court appearances. To access these backgrounds, scroll down to ‘Resources to help you work electronically and remotely’ in the member health and wellbeing page of our website here.
  • On 21 May 2020, the Honourable Judge Lisa Hannan, Chief Magistrate of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, confirmed that the Court intends to convert non-sitting days of Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 July 2020 to sitting days in order to address the backlog that has arisen in the context of COVID-19. The letter is available here.
  • From 18 May 2020, VCAT will be progressing currently listed matters using telephone or video conferencing when they can reasonably proceed. Visit the website for more information.


Ethics Committee Bulletin No. 1 of 2020 - ss. 71 & 72 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)

The Ethics Committee publishes this bulletin for the assistance of counsel who are briefed to act for litigants pursuant to ss.71 and 72 of the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic). This bulletin seeks to address the difficulties that counsel may encounter when briefed by Victoria Legal Aid or one of its external firms on a limited retainer solely to cross-examine a protected witness. The bulletin is available here.

VicBar Social Groups

Sally Flynn QC, Chair of the Health & Wellbeing Committee, has had many encouraging responses about floors and practice groups that have organised get-togethers over Zoom and in private Facebook groups, as part of the initiative to remain socially connected and check on the emotional well-being of our colleagues when we are not working from chambers. 

Barristers Beth Warnock and John Heard organise regular, casual drinks via Zoom for LGBTQ+ people at the Bar - allies and friends are welcome too. Another meeting is scheduled for 6:00pm on Thursday 28 May 2020. If people are interested, they can email John at or Beth at

Other groups you may wish to join:

We want to make sure no barrister is left behind, so please contact Sally at to let her know what your group is doing, or if you need a hand starting a new group or finding one to join.

Microsoft Office 365 migration of remaining @vicbar email accounts – book now

Over the past 12 months, 1,200 barristers' email addresses (half of Victorian Bar email users) have moved from the BCL on-premise email option to the Microsoft Office 365 option.

Given it is a superior solution that is more cost-effective for barristers (with an initial cost saving of 15%), the Victorian Bar has supported the initiative (at no cost to you) to move all remaining email services to this new option over the coming months. For more information and to book your email’s migration, please click here.

BCL Property & Technology Services: COVID-19 restrictions updated services

To ensure the safety and security of all chambers during this challenging time, BCL Property and Technology Services will update their service delivery as of Friday 17 April 2020 until further notice. For information about this update, please see here or contact the BCL Service Desk on 9225 8888.

Victorian Bar Member CPD Events

The following are highlights of upcoming CPD events for Victorian Bar members. You must be a member of the Victorian Bar and logged into the VicBar website to view these events.

  • On Thursday 28 May, The LGBTIQ Working Group of the Victorian Bar’s Equality & Diversity Committee will present a CPD session via Zoom on LGBTIQ matters of which barristers should be aware. Learn what the letters mean, and the best way for barristers to work effectively and respectfully with LGBTIQ clients, litigants and colleagues. Click here to register.
  • Barristers wishing to become an accredited mediator under the National Mediator Accreditation System can register for the Lawyers Mediation Certificate (LMC) six-day course here.

For more upcoming CPD events, please visit our listings here.

Vicbar Life
The Essoign takeaway delivery and home menus

The Essoign would like to thank members for their support during these challenging times.

The Essoign’s opening hours are 7:00am – 4:00pm and its takeaway menu is sent to members daily. Takeaway orders can be picked up or delivered to Chambers.

As of 1 June 2020, The Essoign returns to allowing members to dine-in with a maximum of 20 patrons.

Email pre-lunch orders for pick up or delivery to by 11:30am.

In addition to the daily takeaway menu, The Essoign also offers:

  • New wine deals are now available to members for delivery or pick-up, only while stocks last. See here for more details.
  • Stock Up For Home menu and Hibernation Packs. See here for a selection of meals and packs, including the Italian Grocery Box, Cheese and Wine Pack and Anzac Biscuit Bake Pack.
  • VIP coffee card only $24 for eight coffees.
  • Club Retail - Grab and go essentials are available in the Club.

Email if you would like to take advantage of these offers.

Studio 11 Melbourne Art Exhibition – The Mad Old Bag and The Colourist

Studio 11 is delighted to host The Mad Old Bag and The Colourist Art Exhibition (18 May 2020 – 26 June 2020). The exhibition features 17 exquisite hand-crafted purses by Amanda Graham and 16 strong, colour abstract paintings by Jason Graham. The Mad Old Bag and The Colourist are sister and brother.

Artists‘ statements and works sheets are found on Level 11 East. Click here for The Colourist price list and here for The Mad Old Bag price list.

You are encouraged to visit the exhibition at your leisure, following the requirements of social distancing at all times.  

The works, as always, are worth a look and are for sale. There are red dots about already! All proceeds go directly to the artistsFor purchases please email, or contact Amanda Graham on 0411 885 528 or Laura Colla on 0401 718 908.

Purchases may be collected at the end of the exhibition on 26 June 2020. 

HRAFF Presents Humankind Online Film Festival

The 13th Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is a free 7-day online retrospective of exceptional films that speak to the fortitude of the human spirit. From 18 to 24 May, the festival will feature one film per day, one theme per film, based on a set of attributes that positively shape and characterise human nature - Tradition, Creativity, Language, Perspective, Community, Connection and Resilience. Tickets are free but bookings are essential – click here for more information.

Member Benefits Australia - May exclusive member offers

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

Victorian Bar Community Choir Term 2 Dates

Join fellow barristers and members of the Victorian Bar community for an hour of relaxation and fun. Experience and obvious talent not required. All welcome.

Click here to view the flyer and click here for the registration form.

Photos of Your New Work Environment

Bar News is looking to document the Victorian Bar’s story during these extraordinary times by compiling a photo-essay portraying our working environments in the time of coronavirus.

What does “working at home” look like for you? Please send us your photo portraits of working at home, using all the creativity you can muster. Whether staged or candid, alone or in company, with or without props, a selfie or a photo taken by someone else in your household, we want to see you at work at home.

Please send your contributions ASAP to Remember to ensure photos have a high resolution so they will look great in Bar News.

Practice & Profession News
Digital Bar Library

The Law Library of Victoria improves access to justice by providing legal information to all eligible Victorian legal practitioners online. Barristers also have access to a range of legal resources on their own computers and devices, via the Digital Bar Library on the Law Library website. You must be a registered user to access this page which provides:

  • Guides to improve your research skills (finding information, using research tools and on specific topics)
  • Subscriber-only publications and databases, and
  • Current and authorised Victorian legislation sets used in Victorian jurisdictions.

All Barristers are eligible to register for access. If you have not already registered, the Library will be in touch with you shortly by email.

The Law Library of Victoria Bulletin is produced fortnightly and summarises the latest legislation and cases for the Victorian jurisdiction, as well as High Court of Australia cases. The bulletin also includes the latest new books added to the Library collection and a selected index of articles from journals received in the Library. To subscribe visit here.

If you are on twitter, follow the library on @lawlibraryvic to be alerted to recent decisions of the Court of Appeal.

Careers & Opportunities
The Australian Academy of Law Annual Essay Prize

The Australian Academy of Law is pleased to announce its Annual Essay Prize for 2020The essay topic for the Prize is “The impact of a new and widespread contagious disease on pre-existing contractual obligations.” Note that previous ‘new’ outbreaks of infectious diseases may be taken into account. The Prize amount is $10,000 and the submission deadline is strictly 31 August 2020.  Rules for eligibility and submission can be found here.

BFSLA 2020 Research Essay Competition

Entries for the Banking & Financial Services Law Association’s 2020 Research Essay prize are now open.

The BFSLA is the leading professional organisation for banking and financial services law in Australia and New Zealand. The BFSLA’s objectives include the pursuit and dissemination of knowledge of banking and financial services law and practice in Australia and New Zealand, including by encouraging research.

To that end, each year the BFSLA invites citizens and permanent residents of Australia and New Zealand to submit research essays on important matters in banking and financial services law and/or practice (including insolvency) that are currently topical in Australia or New Zealand, in competition for a prize pool. This year’s prize pool is $5,000.

Entries must be submitted by 5:00pm (AEST) on Friday, 31 July 2020. The winner or winners, if any, will be announced by publication on the Association’s website on Friday, 4 September 2020.

More information about the competition is available here, and terms and conditions are available here.

Have you acted in an online or phone hearing? Please share your story

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen our civil courts and tribunals rapidly shift online. There is an urgent need for evidence about how new approaches involving phone and online hearings are working.

The Australian Centre for Justice Innovation (Monash Law) and the Legal Issues Centre (Otago Law) are keen to hear from practitioners who have participated in remote hearings about their experiences.

You can anonymously share your story at With your consent, your story can be posted online. You can also choose to participate in an interview. Sharing your experiences will help shape an understanding of the use of remote hearings, including in post-pandemic times.

If you have any queries, please contact A/Prof Genevieve Grant (

Deputy Director, Centre for Legal Studies at the University of Tasmania

An opportunity exists for appointment as the Deputy Director of the Centre for Legal Studies. The Centre operates the Tasmanian Legal Practice Course which provides practical legal training to law graduates who wish to seek admission to the legal profession. This is a part-time position which offers the opportunity to run a contemporaneous legal practice at the Centre.

Applications close on 3 June 2020.

Please contact the Course Director, Centre for Legal Studies on (03) 6226 4396 or for a position description and selection criteria.

Deadline for the next issue:5pm, 28th May 2020