The Victorian Bar has released a survey which shows significant improvements in gender equality and diversity among its 2062 practising members. "The State of the Victorian Bar", the most comprehensive study of the Bar ever conducted, provides detail on the changing demography of the Bar, its increasing cultural diversity, progress on equitable briefing, income levels and changing work composition and practices.
"The Victorian Bar has made important progress in increasing diversity and inclusion, including gender equality," said Dr Matt Collins QC, President of the Victorian Bar.
"We are an independent association of specialist advocates—proud of our heritage, but at the same time modern, accessible and committed to principles of diversity and inclusion. We are pleased to be able to report significant progress, and to point to the introduction of further programs and measures to maintain our momentum."
Key findings of the survey include:
The Victorian Bar has had an Equality and Diversity Committee for nearly 20 years. The Bar’s commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession is demonstrated through its endorsement of the Law Council of Australia’s Equality and Diversity Charter and Equitable Briefing Policy. More barristers have adopted the Equitable Briefing Policy in Victoria than in the rest of the nation combined.
Existing initiatives to support the retention of women at the Bar include our parental leave policy (the first of its kind, in place for more than 20 years), unconscious bias awareness training, return to work programs, regular reporting on demographics and exit surveys.
The Victorian Bar also has a range of measures designed to assist Indigenous Australians entering the legal profession, including a Reconciliation Action Plan, Indigenous Clerkship Program, Student Mentoring Program, Student Work Experience Program, Indigenous Barristers’ Fund, Indigenous Barristers’ Development Fund and chambers subsidies for Indigenous barristers.
"This year the Victorian Bar is introducing further initiatives to progress diversity and inclusion. In particular, we have reviewed and strengthened our policies and procedures on discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment, which make it clear that this is unacceptable conduct.
"We have a solid foundation on which to drive further improvements in diversity and inclusion. We have made substantial progress and have real momentum. It is pleasing to see that we are increasingly reflective of the community we serve," Dr Collins said.
The State of the Victorian Bar survey
The survey drew on objective data for the whole membership of the Bar, and survey responses completed by 627 members, representing 31% of the Victorian Bar’s practising members. 61% of survey respondents were men and 39% were women.