New beginnings herald a culture shift at the Bar
Last week, we welcomed 35 Readers to the Victorian Bar’s Readers’ Course. Our education team and the Bar Readers’ Course Committee worked hard to produce a course that is the first in Australia to be delivered entirely online and offered during COVID. We’re particularly pleased to have been able to extend our Course to two Readers who will eventually sign the South Australian Bar Roll.
Our new cohort of Readers reflects a diversity of experience and backgrounds – several have occupied senior roles in local and international government agencies, and the group includes graduates from universities across Australia and around the world, including Cambridge, Columbia and Edinburgh. With fluency in Bosnian, Croatian, Farsi, French, Italian, Japanese, Kurdish, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish and Tagalog, our new Readers will also bring rich cultural diversity to the Bar.
Professor the Hon. Clyde Croft AM SC of the Australian Bar Review has invited members of the Victorian Bar to contribute papers to this highly regarded law journal, of which he is consultant editor. This is an excellent way for junior members to build their professional reputation and contribute to the development of legal knowledge. For more information, see the notice below.
Stamping out sexual harassment at the Bar
The Readers joining us will help underpin the Bar’s reputation as an organisation that continues to evolve to meet cultural and community expectations. The Bar is committed to tackling issues that undermine a safe working environment – and that includes stamping out sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
There is a lot that the Victorian Bar has already done. This includes supporting the Victorian Government’s review of the practices that prevent and address sexual harassment in the State’s courts and VCAT and across the legal profession. We’ve met with government, judicial and industry stakeholders to contribute to this work, and are engaged with industry forums to discuss the issue. We will also be harnessing the support of leaders at the Bar to address sexual harassment by working towards long-term cultural change – beginning with the ‘Culture of the Bar’ session at the Readers’ Course delivered by the President, and continuing through future webinars and events for members.
The Bar is currently reviewing its policies and procedures about handling instances of and complaints about sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination, to ensure they are best practice and conform to the standards set by external agencies, including the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the VLSB+C. We continue to work with the VLSB+C with a focus on change to encourage more reporting so that the Bar can develop further targeted strategies to prevent unacceptable conduct.
If you have experienced harassment at the Bar, you can find support via the Victorian Bar’s counselling services, and we can help you decide what action to take, including with making complaints to external agencies. Members in this situation should contact the Bar’s In-house Legal Counsel (Regulation) by email or phone.
It’s not trivial
Ensuring that the Bar provides a safe, supportive and nurturing environment is crucial to members’ wellbeing. So, we will continue to help members come together in virtual events during the pandemic. One activity that is emerging as a fun way to stay connected during restrictions is online trivia. The trivia night we held last week with members of the Association of Corporate Counsel, hosted by Kat Brazenor, was a resounding success – pitting teams against each other with opportunities to network and get to know one another in small groups. Congratulations to the members of the Quarantina Turner and Tequila Mockingbird teams who won the night.
The VicBar team is organising a trivia night for the Bar Mums group, to be hosted by Nawaar Hassan (members of the group should stay tuned for details), and then with the Victorian Government Solicitors Office later in the month with Chris McDermott in the MC role (members can register here). If members would like the VicBar team to help arrange a trivia night, or any other activity, internally or with an external organisation, please contact us via email.