In Brief Issue #985

Wendy Harris QC

The culture of the Bar

This week, I had the privilege of speaking to those attending the Bar Readers’ Course about the culture of the Bar. This is the second of these presentations, in which I addressed how the Bar’s values influence and govern the conduct of barristers within our college.

I have written a number of times in In Brief about the culture the Bar is seeking to foster – about the need for the Bar to maintain a culture of excellence, respect, tolerance and inclusiveness, and the steps that the Bar Council is taking to reinforce this. This is important not only to build a strong and collegiate Bar for today’s members, but to ensure that those looking to join the Bar, those with whom we work across the profession, our clients and the public see the Bar as a respectful and inclusive organisation.

There are four particular areas on which the Bar Council has focused this year to further entrench these cultural attributes at the Bar, and I’d like to take the opportunity today to write about these, and the challenges that we need to overcome.

Sexual harassment – enough is enough

It is unfortunate that sexual harassment persists in the legal profession and at the Bar. In June 2020, the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner (VLSB+C) released a report on sexual harassment in the profession, in which one in three respondents to their survey reported that they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, in most cases as recently as the preceding year. A culture of complicity and silence not only precludes victims and witnesses from coming forward, but also protects perpetrators.

The Bar is committed to stamping out sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination in all their forms. Ideally, we will get to the point where the structures and measures we have in place to respond to such conduct when it occurs are effectively redundant. But in the meantime, we must tackle these issues at multiple levels.

In addition to the support the Bar already provides through counselling services and advice on avenues of complaint, the Bar Council is in the final stages of putting in place new policies that will provide a clear, straightforward path to report sexual misconduct. We will be sharing these with members shortly. We will also continue to underscore the importance of maintaining a safe working environment, promoting a culture whereby all people are treated with mutual respect, and ensuring that members can identify instances of sexual harassment or other poor conduct, and are supported in their individual responsibility to call it out and stamp it out. The Hon. Ken Hayne AC QC led by example with his webinar with Jenny Firkin QC, Chair of the Bar’s Equality and Diversity Committee, and Helen Rofe QC, Bar Councillor, last week (available for members to view here). We need thought leaders across our Bar to help drive the evolution of our culture and behaviours in this area.

We’ve also been working with Dr Helen Szoke AO who is heading the review into sexual harassment in the Victorian legal system to build a culture that prevents sexual harassment, gives victims and witnesses the confidence to speak up and call out sexual harassment whenever it occurs across the profession. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in a Victorian court or tribunal is invited to share their stories here.

I’ve also called for expressions of interest for members who are interested in joining roundtable discussions as part of the review, so that we have a collaborative approach to find pathways to engage all the various constituencies at the Bar and in the profession to address the cultural impediments to change. Members should see the notice, below, if they would like to join. EOIs close on 22 October.

Professional education at the Bar

The 2018 State of the Victorian Bar Report highlighted that barristers’ practices are under sustained, competitive pressure – and the current COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these external environmental challenges. Providing a world-class, best-practice professional education program is critical to ensuring that members meet the evolving needs of clients by appropriately upskilling in not only substantive legal developments, but also in future business, technological and cultural trends that will affect their practices.

I would again like to thank all the members who have contributed to the extensive consultation process around the Education Review and we look forward to engaging with members further about the implementation plans as they evolve.

Our relationships at the Bar

The formal mentoring relationship between a Reader and his or her mentor is a critical foundation for practice, and it is a relationship which can endure throughout a barrister’s career. The informal networks at the Bar are also important – the camaraderie, advice and support we give one another equip us to survive and flourish in what can often be an isolating profession. The Mentoring Pilot we launched last month is another of the vehicles that will empower future generations, help share experiences across the Bar, and embed a vibrant and respectful culture at the Bar. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive responses from participants in the pilot, and I hope that we can use the learnings from that project to elevate mentoring and strengthen informal networks for the benefit of all.

Members’ health and wellbeing

Finally, the Bar can’t be strong and successful without mental and physically healthy members. I’m delighted that the new Health and Wellbeing Portal is close to realisation, and that we are working with psychologist, Sandy Rea, designer of the COVID Capsule mental health webinars and the Health and Wellbeing Committee, on developing barrister-specific content to ensure that members can easily access information to help them with their personal and professional challenges.

I’d like to remind members that they can access the Bar’s counselling services: Re-Vision Group on 9650 5540 or Converge International on 1300 687 327. Consultations are free and confidential.

The success of our Bar family will depend upon how we can evolve to meet the needs and aspirations of current members and future generations of barristers, so we remain a college that is a respectful, inclusive, safe and enjoyable environment in which to work.

Vicbar News & Events
Nominations for the 2020-2021 Bar Council election

Members are reminded that nominations for election to the 2020/2021 Bar Council close at 5:00pm, Monday 26 October 2020.

Nominations must be received by the Statutory Secretary on or before 5:00pm, Monday 26 October 2020 by email to

Please find attached Candidate nomination form and Nominator form.

Nominations received out of time or in hard copy cannot be accepted.

Notice of Annual General Meetings ­of Victorian Bar Inc, and Barristers’ Benevolent Association of Victoria

The Annual General Meetings of Victorian Bar Inc, and Barristers’ Benevolent Association of Victoria will be held on Wednesday 28 October 2020 at 4.30pm via Zoom. Members will have received an invitation containing the agenda for each meeting and a link to register their attendance. Those who register will be sent a Zoom link to the meeting by email following registration. Registrations close at 4:00pm on Wednesday 28 October 2020.

EOIs for appointment to the Review of Sexual Harassment in the Victorian Legal Sector - Stakeholder roundtables

As part of the review of sexual harassment in the Victorian legal sector, and to coincide with the all-female roundtable discussion, the President has been invited to nominate five male barristers to join an all-male barristers roundtable discussion to look at possible solutions or recommendations that the Review may make, in response to the four broad terms of reference:

  • preventing sexual harassment
  • improving reporting and support to those who experience sexual harassment
  • raising awareness, and
  • ensuring accountability.

The date and time for roundtable is 29 October 2020 from 2:00 – 4:00pm

Further information on the stakeholder roundtables can be viewed here.

The Bar’s protocol for nomination and appointment of Vic Bar members to external bodies can be viewed here. You are encouraged to provide a detailed expression of interest, which should identify any relevant areas of experience or expertise. This will assist the Executive of Bar Council to select the best candidate for the position.

Please direct any enquiries or your expressions of interest to Denise Bennett at the Victorian Bar office at by 4:00pm, Thursday, 22 October 2020.

Bar News: Call for contributions from The Editors

Dear Colleagues,

We are delighted to report that our Summer Issue of Victorian Bar News (Issue 168) is ‘in train’.  Through all the challenges of  2020, the Bar News Committee thanks our numerous contributors for continuing to share news, views and photos about life at the Bar and in lockdown. A big thanks also to Bar Council and the Bar Office for supporting our desire to bring a hard copy publication to you.

We are now calling for contributions for our December issue. This is your magazine.  Please let us know what you are thinking, feeling and doing right now. Whether you give us two sentences or a magnum opus, either is fine. 

In the last six months we have been working from home. This is an important chance to share with each other what we have been doing professionally and personally. Bar News serves as a record of our lives during a remarkable time.

We would love your photos. If your photography skills do not rival Slim Aarons, please do not be concerned.

Here is a list of topics designed to assist inspiration:

  • (Virtual) court room bloopers /  Unwelcome Zoom exhibitionist horror stories;
  • How have you survived Stage 4 lockdown (including the school holidays…)?
  • What changes have worked this year and are worth retaining, and what should we let go?
  • Is Bar collegiality under stress from social isolation?
  • Can we create a court room presence, virtually and, if so, how?
  • Is virtual communication more intimate or alienating?
  • Is the forensic disadvantage between in person and virtual appearances maintainable anymore?
  • Could juries work from home if judges can?

Please keep your stories and photos flowing. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Our content deadline is 6 November 2020. Please submit to:

You are also most welcome to contact us directly.

Best wishes,

Natalie Hickey, Justin Wheelahan and Annette Charak

The Editors

Victorian Bar member CPD and events

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

  • In Conversation about the Victorian Bar/County Court Mediator Referral Protocol is on Tuesday 20 October at 4:30–5:30pm. The Victorian Bar has agreed a Protocol with the Commercial Division of the County Court of Victoria for the Court to refer matters to nationally accredited Bar mediators. The Protocol is designed to help parties and their lawyers find appropriate, nationally accredited barrister mediators, to help resolve their disputes out of court, and assist the Court in managing increasingly heavy caseloads. The distinguished panel will explain the objectives of the Protocol, how it works, the court process for the operation of the two types of referrals provided for in the Protocol, and how nationally accredited mediators can join the scheme. The panel members are: His Honour Judge Edward Woodward, Head of the Commercial Division of the County Court of Victoria; Her Honour Judge My Anh Tran, Judge of the County Court of Victoria; Adrian Muller, Judicial Registrar in the Commercial Division of the County Court of Victoria; and Tony Elder, Barrister and Chair of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. Questions will be moderated by Glen Pauline, Barrister and member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee. Click here to register.
  • eBrief and Court Books – in isolation and beyond is on Wednesday 21 October, 5:00–6:00pm. This seminar is a beginners’ guide to setting up and accessing eBrief, uploading documents, tags and annotation and creating Court Books. Click here to register.
  • The VicBar Health & Wellbeing Program: Sleep techniques for babies and childrenwebinar is scheduled for Thursday 29 October, 8:00–9:00pm. As part of the Victorian Bar’s health and wellbeing initiative, we are hosting a webinar for parents by Dr Jane Fisher AO to help parents with their children’s sleep schedules. Dr Fisher is a clinical psychologist who has dedicated her life to researching maternal health and wellbeing and is a highly experienced consultant at the Masada Early Parenting Centre. The registration form includes space for you to write any questions that you’d like Dr Fisher to answer during her presentation. You can register here.

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

COVID-19 resources weekly update and guide to virtual hearings

We understand that members are worried about the risks of COVID-19. Please see the new health and wellbeing section in our 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.

Victoria’s Roadmap to Reopening

The Victorian Government has released Industry Restriction Level (IRL) documents for Professional Services and the Courts. The documents provide further clarity about the steps to ease restrictions on the legal profession and respond to a number of the issues that we have raised with the Attorney-General and the DJCS:

  • The IRL for Professional services (Legal – additional requirements) is on the third page of the document here.
  • The IRL for the Public administration (courts, tribunals and justice) is here.

Melbourne is currently in the Second Step. At the moment we do not know when we will move to the Third Step in the Government’s Roadmap but we will inform members when we are advised.

The documents are published on the Victorian Government Industry Restrictions Level webpage here.

COVID Update #70 sent to members this week explains aspects of the steps.

Access to Chambers

If members do need to access Chambers in accordance with the regulations, they must abide by the building access protocols, including wearing masks, practising social distancing and hand sanitising. BCL’s COVID-19 safe protocols for building access are here.

Supreme Court of Victoria

The Court recently published the Structure of the Trial Division Practice Note, which is available here.

Magistrates’ Court of Victoria

On 7 October, the Court issued two new Practice Directions:

  • Practice Direction 23 of 2020 is available here.
  • Practice Direction 24 of 2020 – is available here.

The Court has also developed the Ground rules hearings – informant fact sheet and Ground rules hearings – informant questionnaire for completion prior to ground rules hearings.

VCAT – Planning and Environment Division (PED)

This week, VCAT announced enhancements to its digital processes, including a multi-step format, the ability to save drafts online and integrated payment functionality for application fees and statement of grounds fees.

Five new online forms have also been added – these forms can be found here.

Responsible authorities are encouraged to use VCAT’s new Notice of Decision Online Form. An automatic email will now be sent to the Responsible Authority when an objector application (section 82) has been filed.

A list of naming conventions for use when corresponding with VCAT and parties will automatically map certain correspondence to VCAT’s case files – the list is  available here.

VCAT’s Parties List is now available in a new format, making it easier to identify the parties and representatives in a proceeding, and assists in managing service of multiple party proceedings.

Attendance of Victorian residents at NSW District Courts

Although residents of Victoria are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in New South Wales, a border entry permit (NSW) may exempt them from self-isolation when they are required to attend court. The Court's COVID safe policy requires any person from Victoria to contact the District Court before a border permit is requested or they attend court in person, to ascertain whether their physical attendance is required. The Court will usually be able to make suitable alternative arrangements in such cases.

COVID Update #69 sent to members this week outlines VCAT’s digital enhancements.

Previous email updates

To access each email update relating to COVID-19 that VicBar has sent members, please click here.

BCL Property & Technology Services: Updated services and cyber security awareness

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.

Cyber Security Awareness: What you need to do to keep your practice safe 

In these current uncertain times, the increased use of video conferencing, reliance on email, the use of home internet services, SMS’s from our governments, and the sudden shift into paperless practices all make it easier to fall victim to a costly scam.
In recent months we are aware of successful scams within the community, leading to significant financial and operations impact. There are some simple things you can do to help protect your practice:

  • Using BCL corporate-grade technology and network services (Internet & email) provides you with a managed enterprise environment with corporate-grade security platforms and sophisticated network practices.
  • SMS verification for passwords is now available. To enhance the security of barrister passwords, we have introduced SMS verification for password resets. Login to, select the “Profile” tab and click “Edit” to enter your mobile number. All password reset requests will now require this information.
  • Always check the “From” address in emails, particularly those from external parties. A difference in the Senders name compared to the From address is a clear indication of a scam email.
  • Look for suspicious characteristics in an email such as unprofessional emails with typos and spelling mistakes, or requests for ‘click here’, pay now, requests for funds, bank account details or an unnecessary sense of urgency.
  • Always use an up to date and valid anti-virus product and backup your data as outlined in the Victorian Bar Technology Minimum Standards.
  • If you are ever unsure, DO NOT open it and contact the BCL Service Desk.
  • Improve your cyber security awareness by taking a short 5-minute quiz provided by the Australian Government here.
Vicbar Life
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. 

The Committee is seeking expressions of interest from barristers interested in setting up a WhatsApp group to connect those barristers who are carers. The group is for barristers who care for elderly or disabled parents or relatives and will allow members to offer each other support by sharing information or resources for various issues, including finding alternative living arrangements or home assistance. Please contact Sally Flynn by email if you’re interested.

Other groups you may wish to join:

Darren Ferrari is organising a Zwift group for members of VicBar. Zwift blends the fun of video games with the intensity of serious training, helping cyclists get faster. Level up in the virtual worlds of Zwift with a group that motivates each other. To join or find out more, contact Darren Ferrari on 0412 124 076 or by email at

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.

The Essoign Club – Closed for Stage 4 Restrictions

Dear Essoign members and patrons,

It is with great regret that due to the impact of Stage 4 Restrictions the Club has temporarily closed its doors. 

Thank you for your continued support during the ever-changing circumstances in 2020. Understandably the current Stage 4 Lockdown has reflected your absence from the Club. We will miss seeing you along with your story sharing, laughs and giving support to all fellow members.

The Essoign will be back once restrictions are lifted and we will keep you informed as we get closer to that date.  

Please stay safe and stay healthy. We look forward to seeing you all again very soon.

As always, thank you.

The Essoign Club

Member Benefits Australia - October exclusive member offers

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

Practice & Profession News
Notification of NSW District Court of attendance of Victorian residents

On 15 October, the Chief Judge of the District Court of NSW advised the NSW Bar Association regarding attendance of Victorian residents at the Court. Although residents of Victoria are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in New South Wales, a border entry permit (NSW) may exempt them from self-isolation when they are required to attend court.

The Court's COVID safe policy requires any person from Victoria to contact the District Court before a border permit is requested or they attend court in person, to ascertain whether their physical attendance is required. The Court will usually be able to make suitable alternative arrangements in such cases.

NSW Bar members have been advised that enquiries should be made to the appropriate District Court to ascertain whether an appearance in person of a Victorian resident is necessary.

IBA Asia Pacific Forum’s Doing Business in Asia Pacific guidebook

The IBA Asia Pacific Forum’s Doing Business in Asia Pacific guidebook has just been released.

This 535-page publication covers eleven jurisdictions in Asia Pacific providing consolidated knowledge and practical insights on a number of wide-ranging topics which are listed in the below news release. IBA is particularly grateful to the partners of following Group Member law firms from Australia for contributing their expertise by writing chapters for the Australia section:

  • Clayton Utz
  • Corrs Chambers Westgarth
  • MinterEllison

The publication is available for free download from the IBA website here.

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.

Special Edition of the Legal Services Council Newsletter

On 12 October 2020, the Legal Services Council issued a special edition of its newsletter. The newsletter is available here.

Profession CPD & Events
Cyngler Consulting
  • Do you ever find yourself in difficult conversations? Come and join one our programs.
  • Do you need mediation accreditation or reaccreditation? Enrol in our next course.
  • Are you wanting to extend and enlarge your mediation skills? Come and take one of our Mediation Masterclasses.
  • Do you need training or support in conflict management, decision making or listening skills? Get in touch with us.

National Mediator Accreditation

9–11 and 16–18 November 2020

Mediation Masterclass

23, 24 and 25 November 2020

Online Skills Training

October to November 2020

Visit our website for more information and to register.

Melbourne Law School - Upcoming events

Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne is inviting you to attend two upcoming events:

An Australian International Commercial Court: A Quixotic Concept or a necessity?

On Tuesday 27 October at 11:00am–12:00pm, join us as we discuss if Australia has the capacity to serve as a regional commercial dispute resolution hub. A critical element would be the establishment of an International Commercial Court. Melbourne Law School is honoured to host this webinar discussion featuring the Honourable Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC QC and Professor Doug Jones AO, with facilitation by Professor John Sharkey AM.

Register here.

Law Apps Presentations

On Wednesday 28 October at 9:00–11:00am, our students will showcase their law app designs developed in their class at Melbourne Law School. Over the semester the class learnt about legal technology, disruption in the legal profession, innovation, creativity and human centred design. Groups of students identified legal needs that are not served adequately by existing legal processes. Using Josef and Neota Logic software, the teams built web based applications and chat bots to empower their users. Applications and chat bots were built from the ground up using human centred design.

Register here.

Castan Centre / King & Wood Mallesons annual lecture with Professor Megan Davis

Keynote address by Professor Megan Davis, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous and Professor of Law at UNSW, and member of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Professor Megan Davis will talk on a subject related to the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

The event is scheduled for Tuesday, 27 October at 5:30pm. Click here for more information. This is a public event and all are welcome – register here.

DCA Research Launch Event - Gari Yala: Speak the Truth

‘Indigenous employment’ is a growing, vital discipline within the employment and diversity, inclusion, and human resources landscapes but there are two glaring omissions – there is a notable lack of research that asks Indigenous people what they want and need from workplaces in order to flourish, and what is available has been primarily informed by non-Indigenous voices. To address this gap, DCA and the UTS Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research created the Gari Yala project, which means ‘speak the truth’ in Wiradjuri language, to gain an understanding of the diversity of Indigenous workers’ experiences firsthand. On Tuesday 17 November at 2:00–3:30pm, the findings of this project will be released and followed by a panel discussion.

To view this webinar, you’ll need to be a member of Diversity Council Australia. To become a member, please register here and we will forward you the login instructions. You will need to use your VicBar email address. Current members of DCA can learn more about this webinar and register here.

Careers & Opportunities
ILF International Fellows Program – Call for remote fellows

The International Legal Foundation (ILF) is seeking lawyers with extensive criminal defence experience and legal aid institutional know-how to join its Natalie Rea International Fellows program and provide training and capacity building to local lawyers and legal aid providers in developing and transitional legal systems through day-to-day, case-by-case mentoring.

Juvenile justice experts are particularly needed to support the development of specialised units to provide quality representation to children in conflict with the law. 

We currently have fellow positions available with our teams in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Palestine (West Bank) and Tunisia. Fellows are normally embedded within ILF’s local offices, but due to the unfolding global health emergency, fellows will work remotely for the foreseeable future. An in-country fellow role may be possible, as the situation develops and if circumstances allow.

How to apply or for more information

More information is available in this flyer.

If interested or for more information, please contact ILF at Applicants should send a thoughtful cover letter and resume. Qualified candidates will be contacted for interview.

Deadline for the next issue:5pm, 22nd October 2020