Remaining strong in “Iso 2.0”
While we may all be back in our homes under renewed restrictions, there is still a lot going on at the Bar. The last few months feel a bit like a long hike: we travel over hills and valleys, potholes and plateaus – we push on, helping each other to reach a destination where we can finally celebrate, quite literally, together. But we shouldn’t forget, as we travel on our COVID journey, that we are passing some key points of interest featuring members of VicBar.
A chronicle of the Bar’s journey through COVID is the theme of the 2020 Winter edition of Victorian Bar News. “A Legal Life in Lockdown” includes some intimate portraits of members’ new home / work environments, shots of online advocacy in the age of coronavirus, as well as regular contributions about the law, VicBar events and the activities of members. Thank you to the incredibly talented and hardworking editorial team for compiling this compelling, historic edition, which is available to read here. Hard copies are being distributed by members’ clerks.
I’d like to acknowledge the work of the clerks and their staff, who have continued to provide important services to members during this trying time. Despite the many changes and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, the clerks have been responsive, helpful and steadfast in supporting members and assisting the Bar. I’m sure members will join me in thanking them – particularly those individuals who have continued deliver mail and services from within chambers.
Our journey continues… six members of the Victorian Bar have been named as finalists in the 2020 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards. I’d like to congratulate Felicity Gerry QC, Darren Mort, Sharon Kermath, Terence Guthridge and Gareth Redenbach who are finalists for this year’s Barrister of the Year Award. Congratulations also to Nicole Mollard, who, in addition to being a member of the Bar also lectures at Monash University, and is a finalist for Academic of the Year. The ceremony will be held as a live online broadcast on Friday 7 August at 7:00pm. You can register for the event here.
Adapting to an online environment, so that we can continue to serve our clients and the community, has been a challenge for all of us. The unprecedented increase in online meetings, hearings, events (and award ceremonies!) has compelled all of us to adapt rapidly to virtual settings. I know that this causes many members anxiety, particularly when this involves virtual court appearances. I am pleased to announce that the Victorian Bar is collaborating with the National Institute of Dramatic Art to bring you bespoke training, especially designed for members of the Bar, offering practical tools and techniques from qualified NIDA tutors to help you present professionally and engage with your audience through your webcam. This isn’t a typical foray into one-size-fits-all tips ‘n tricks; rather, this is a unique opportunity to receive guidance from accomplished screen performers on how barristers can be persuasive, confident and compelling in virtual hearings and meetings. Places are limited and members of the Bar only can register for the webinar here.
For members who have adopted the Law Council of Australia’s Equitable Briefing Policy, the LCA has asked for annual reports for the period 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 to be submitted by 30 September online here. Victorian barristers account for the majority of practising counsel Australia-wide to have adopted the policy. Data from the annual reports will be extremely valuable in understanding the progress that has been made, how much further work remains to be done and the causes of continuing inequality. Members can adopt the policy by completing the form available on the Law Council of Australia’s website here. The policy, which has been endorsed by the Bar, aims to achieve a nationally consistent approach towards bringing about cultural and attitudinal change within the legal profession with respect to gender briefing practices.
As we navigate stage three restrictions again and prepare for more uncertainty, it is important we abide by the Victorian Government’s rules around the measures we should take for the sake of our health and safety. For guidance on what you should and should not do, please visit the DHHS website here. The key messages are to remain 1.5 metres away from people who are not normally part of your household (where practicable), eliminate unnecessary travel outside your local area, wash your hands frequently and only leave home for one of four reasons – shopping for food and supplies, care and caregiving, exercise, study and work. Although face masks are not compulsory, the government has requested we wear a cloth or surgical mask when in public and it is difficult to keep a 1.5m distance from others. Now is not the time to look for loopholes – the government is urging all of us to cooperate with the restrictions and use common sense when doing so. Please remember to go to the health & wellbeing page on the VicBar website, which has support and resources for surviving “Iso 2.0”, together with links to access financial support from the Bar, BCL and the government schemes.