Past Chair - Fiona McLeod SC

Congratulations - New Bar Council Elected

[14 Nov 2013]

Congratulations to our new Bar Council office holders:

Chairman    William Alstergren SC
Senior Vice Chairman  Jonathan Beach QC
Junior Vice Chairman  Jim Peters SC
Treasurer    David O’Callaghan SC

And all members of our new Bar Council for 2013-14.

Victorian Bar Equality Project – The Quantum Leap

[14 Nov 2013]

It has been fifteen years since the Bar commissioned a landmark report Equality for Women at the Victorian Bar and committed ourselves to a range of measures designed to address inequality and systemic cultural problems. On Tuesday the Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC on behalf of the Bar Council launched the Quantum Leap Project, an exciting package of measures designed to address the high attrition rates of women at the Bar.

The Quantum Leap project is designed around a seven point plan of action. It includes new specific measurable objectives, taking into account and building upon the work that has already been undertaken.

One component of the plan is a Silks’ Undertaking, modeled on a similar concept to the Champions of Change initiative of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, recently reported in the media. Signatories commit to engaging at least one new woman barrister working in the silk’s area of practice each year on a research task or recommending them for a junior brief.  

The Bar council resolved that I should initially approach a group of silks inviting them to sign on publically, with a view to others later signing on - privately or publicly.

The Silks’ Undertaking has already prompted much discussion around chambers. Some members have indicated to me that they are happy to sign with some tweaking of the language, others prefer not to have their names published so that their private actions supporting women count louder than words. I respect all views, of course, as the intention is to generate support. The important thing is for each of us to consider how we will actively support women at the Bar to create genuine equality of opportunity and respect. In due course, the Undertaking will be extended to others who influence briefing decisions including instructors and clients.

Links to the Quantum Leap package, accompanying media release, my remarks at the launch, and the Silks’ Undertaking appear here.

Thanks and hasta mañana

[14 Nov 2013]

As this is my final Chair’s post I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all members of the former Bar Council for their service to the Bar and friendship over the last twelve months. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve our Bar and I firmly believe it is one of the finest institutions in the country. The Bar is in wonderful hands with our new office bearers and I know they have a great contribution to make to the Bar.

I would particularly like to thank the staff of the Bar office led by our indefatigable CEO Stephen Hare. The staff provide services to all of us with great dedication and are uncomplaining about the many additional duties we impose upon them on a daily basis. A number of new initiatives this year have been embraced with great enthusiasm and I very much appreciate the warm support that I received over the year.

Bar Council Close of Voting

[8 Nov 2013]

Voting for the election of the 2013-2014 Bar Council closes at 5pm on Wednesday 13 November 2013. Any member who has not received their ballot papers and who wishes to vote should contact the Bar office on 9225 7111 or

Details of the candidates can be found on the Vic Bar website along with voting instructions.

No change to tax deduction on self-education expenses

[8 Nov 2013]

In response to submissions from the Bar drafted by the Tax Bar Association, the LCA Business Law Section and Tax Institute along with many other individuals and organisations the Australian Government has decided not to proceed with a proposed cap on claims of self-education expenses, including training and educational courses, textbooks and other accreditation expenses. By not proceeding with the Self-Education Expenses Cap (announced as part of the 2013-14 Budget, then delayed for one year in the 2013 Economic Statement), these expenses will continue to be deductible according to the normal rules. Click here.

Court reforms – Court Services Victoria Bill introduced

[1 Nov 2013]

I welcome the introduction into Parliament this week of the Court Services Victoria Bill 2013. The Bill marks a significant moment in the administration of the courts. It will provide support and ensure the administrative independence of Victorian courts and VCAT. The effect of the Bill will be for the courts’ budgets to be separated from the Department of Justice giving the courts carriage of decisions about staff and infrastructure expenditure. The change is a significant structural reform and one of the more significant in Victoria in recent history.

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC, speaking on behalf of all the heads of jurisdiction of the Victorian Courts and VCAT noted that the Victorian Judiciary has, for many years, sought to achieve administrative independence.

More than 8 years ago, on 17 March 2005, Mr Justice John D Phillips, at his Farewell Sitting upon retirement from the Court of Appeal, spoke out forcefully against the erosion he saw in more than 14 years on the Supreme Court of the independence of the Court – then identified and dealt with as “Business Unit 19” in the Courts and Tribunals Section of the Department of Justice.

The Bill is the culmination of work that began with a Steering Committee involving all jurisdictions and chaired by the Honourable Michael Black AC QC, retired Chief Justice of the Federal Court – and with the 2012 administrative re-organisation in the establishment of the Courts and Tribunals Service within the Department of Justice – and the Advisory Council comprising the heads of jurisdictions and chaired by Chief Justice Warren – which is effectively to become, under this Bill, the Courts Council – the governing body of Court Services Victoria.

One of the benefits of the proposed CSV is the opportunity for sharing of back-office technology, staff, systems and processes which will in turn improve efficiency and respond more directly to access to justice issues.

With this reform in train, it is now time for the Government to turn its attention to long-term major projects needing attention –the funding of the courts’ libraries and the infrastructure requirements of the Supreme Court. The present Supreme Court buildings were first occupied in January 1884, ten years after building works commenced on site. After nearly 130 years of service, our affection for these historic buildings should not inhibit debate about the best way to address the pressing needs of Judges, parties and other Court users over the next century.

Indigenous Lawyer of the Year and Indigenous Law Student of the Year 2013

[1 Nov 2013]

On behalf of the Bar I extend my congratulations to 2013 Indigenous Lawyer of the Year, David Woodroffe, Managing Solicitor for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), and the Indigenous Law Student of the Year, Jill Gujlas, law student from the Griffith University. Read more.

2013 - 2014 Bar Council Election

[25 Oct 2013]

Ballot papers for the election of the 2013-2014 Bar Council have been mailed today to all those eligible to vote.
Any member who has not received their ballot papers and who wishes to vote should contact the Bar office on 9225 7111 or

Voting papers must be returned so as to reach the Honorary Secretary C/-the Executive Assistant, Bar office, Level 5, Owen Dixon Chambers East, 205 William Street, by no later than 5.00pm on Wednesday 13 November 2013.

Details of the candidates can be found on the Members Section of the website along with voting instructions.

Please be reminded that log in details are required to view items on the Members Section of the website.

Open Justice in the Technological Age

[25 Oct 2013]

In delivering the Redmond Barry lecture this week Open Justice in the Technological Age the Chief Justice remarked upon the implications of new forms of social media and the decline of specialist court reporters on the ability of the community to access information about the courts. She noted the Court’s intention to embrace new forms of media and addressed some of the benefits of these changes in relation to the justice system such as immediacy of the reporting and the opportunity of the court to better interact with the community. Of course, as noted by the Chief Justice, these benefits must be balanced against protection of witnesses and victims and ensuring all accused persons right to a fair trial is not prejudiced by breaches of suppression orders and the like. While the internet and social media is a largely uncontrollable medium, replete with uniformed opinion, it is also a powerful tool. Live streaming of landmark cases, for example, has provided those affected and interested with direct access to the processes of the Court. A copy of the Chief Justice's paper is available on the Supreme Court website here.
This year the Bar has itself embraced the digital age and we have established blogs, tweets and YouTube as a way to connect with members, the profession and the public. I look forward to working with the courts as they enhance their capabilities in this regard. The Victorian Bar supports the web streaming of appropriate cases and the upgrading of the Supreme Court website.

Indigenous Clerkship Program

[21 Oct 2013]

The Victorian Bar launched a RAP late last year to formalise our long standing resolve to welcome and support indigenous lawyers at the Bar.  In line with that ongoing commitment, the Bar conducts a clerkship program for Indigenous law students on an annual basis each February / March (depending on student availability). The 3 students selected for this program obtain a total of 3 weeks paid work experience at the Bar, the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Federal Court of Australia. Applications for the 2014 clerkship close on 22 November 2013. Applications can be found here

Victorian Bar Annual General Meeting

[21 Oct 2013]

The 2013 Annual General Meeting of the Victorian Bar Inc. will be held on Monday 21 October 2013 at 5pm in the Neil McPhee Room, Level 1, Owen Dixon Chambers East. Full details are available here and here

Twelve Angry Men

[21 Oct 2013]

I saw the adaptation of Twelve Angry Men by BottledSnail in the Supreme Court last month, and thought it was excellent, so I was not at all surprised to see that they have extended the season. This talented cast of barristers is back for four additional performances of Twelve Angry Men on 22-24 and 26 October 2013, in Melbourne's historic Town Hall Council Chamber.  For tickets and more information, please visit or email

Victorian Bar Council Elections

[11 Oct 2013]

Nominations for election to the 2013/14 Bar Council are now open and nomination forms have been circulated today to those members eligible to nominate. 

All barristers within Part I, Part II and Part IV of Division A of the Roll of Counsel as at the close of voting are eligible to stand for election and vote, unless they are in arrears with subscriptions or their practising certificate has been suspended or cancelled pursuant to clause 10 of the Constitution.

If you wish to nominate you must deliver your nomination form to the Honorary Secretary by 5.00 pm on Friday, 18 October 2013.  This deadline is strictly adhered to.

Following the close of nominations, ballot papers will be distributed by Friday 25 October 2013. The names of all candidates will appear on the webpage hot-linked to the candidate's on line personal profile.

Voting in the election will close at 5pm on Wednesday 13 November 2013 with the declaration of the Poll on 14 November 2013.  All queries should be directed to the Honorary Secretary, Robert Craig at  

Forms are also available from the Bar office reception P: 9225 7111 or E:

Seminars next week

[11 Oct 2013]

Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal Peoples
On Thursday 17 October 2013 the Indigenous Lawyers Committee is conducting a seminar on issues relevant to the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal peoples featuring Mark McMillan from the faculty of the Melbourne Law School and Peter Hanks QC. This seminar is open to all members and interested guests. Click here for the flyer.

Criminal Bar Association discussion with Corrections Victoria
The prison system remains in crisis.  Corrections continue to fail to bring prisoners to court for hearings.  Their explanation is the Custody Centre is full.  This has been the subject of criticism by judicial officers and the Criminal Bar Association. It is no answer to the people who are frustrated their cases cannot proceed. It is unfair and creates enormous inefficiencies in Court processes.

The CBA committee will hold an urgent lunchtime forum next Wednesday, 16 October 2013 at 1pm for members to discuss options and strategies to best protect their clients’ interests.


High Court acknowledges indigenous hardship in sentencing

[4 Oct 2013]

This week the High Court of Australia delivered judgment in two important cases concerning sentencing principles and aboriginality: Bugmy v The Queen and Munda v The State of Western Australia.

The decisions represent an important acknowledgment of the challenges faced by some indigenous offenders and how the courts should approach these issues when sentencing. They are also a reminder of the profound social disadvantage experienced by many indigenous offenders which is no doubt contributing to the alarming rates of incarceration facing aboriginal people as discussed earlier on 26 July 2013.

In Bugmy the appellant had been exposed to abuse and deprivation for extended periods. He argued that the extent of his abuse could be taken into account in sentencing. It was held that the effects upon an offender of profound deprivation do not diminish over time and should be given full weight when sentencing the offender. Ordinary sentencing principles require consideration of such matters, irrespective of the ethnicity of the offender.

Likewise in Munda the appellant was an aboriginal man who had been exposed to violence and alcohol from an early age. The Court held it was relevant to consider an offender's circumstances of severe social disadvantage and that the same sentencing principles must be applied in every case irrespective of an offender's identity or his or her membership of an ethnic or other group.

Ethics Bulletin – Barristers and the Media

[4 Oct 2013]

The Ethics Committee has released a Bulletin reminding members of their obligations concerning offering personal opinions on the merits of cases in which counsel is involved and concerning communications with the media.

Members are urged to consider the Bulletin and the relevant conduct rules and particularly to refrain from participating in interviews at the door of the Court or commentary on current cases through the press. 


[4 Oct 2013]

A farewell will be held for The Honourable Justice Peter Buchanan on Wednesday 9 October 2013 at 4.30pm in the Banco Court.

Nurturing the Creative talents of the Bar

[27 Sep 2013]

Creative activities are a wonderful way to balance the pressures of practice and I am delighted that we have seen a surge of enthusiasm for creative projects around the Bar recently. I congratulate the initiative of those who have worked on these wonderful projects.

12 Angry Men performed in the Supreme Court

[27 Sep 2013]

This week I attended the BottledSnail Productions performance of 12 Angry Men in the Supreme Court as part of the Fringe Festival. The play was performed in Court 2 with the generous support of the Chief Justice, many associates and court staff.

I congratulate all involved in the excellent adaptation and production of this play that explores the dynamics of jury deliberations commencing with the judge’s charge delivered by Curtain J. The cast and crew included a number of powerful performances by barristers Samantha Marks SC, Andrew Buckland, Kylie Weston-Scheuber, Angela O’Brien, David Kim, Danny Cole, Sam Tovey, Simon Marks SC, the Hon James Guest, Ashley Halphen, Loula Athanasopoulos, Rachel Ellyard and Samantha Dixon. Josh Wilson SC and Sharon Lacy were part of the production team.

I look forward to the next season.

Launch of Bar Choir

[27 Sep 2013]

The Victorian Bar Community Choir, an inspired project of the Health and Wellbeing Committee, will be launched  at the Melbourne Welsh Church 320 LaTrobe Street on Thursday 10 October 2013 at 1.00pm for 1.15pm.  We are lucky to have secured the services of renowned and energetic Choir Master Michael Leighton Jones who will lead the choir in weekly practise and performance.

The choir already has some registered seventy members and is assisted by five volunteer barristers.

My thanks go to everyone involved in this project including Peter Fox, Chair and Laura Colla member of the Health and Well Being Committee and to Meredith Schilling and Mark Holden of counsel who assisted with the selection of a Choir Master.

All members interested in joining the Choir are welcomed to attend the launch. If you are interested in joining the choir please contact Courtney Bow at

Advanced Advocacy Training

[27 Sep 2013]

Are you looking for a way to improve your performance skills? Have you been out of court for a while and need a refresher? Or are you looking for the edge to impress judges, instructors and clients? Then you should seriously consider undertaking the Advanced Trial Advocacy workshop conducted by the ABA Advocacy Training Council in Brisbane 20-24 January 2014.

Conducted in small groups in either a civil or criminal stream with experienced advocacy and performance coaches, participants focus intensively on each aspect of trial performance. The course will suit all levels of seniority beyond two years seniority and is an ideal way to hone your skills for significant trial work. Details here.

Direct payments by VLA to counsel

[27 Sep 2013]

VLA has announced changes designed to speed up and facilitate the payment of counsel’s fees directly. Counsel appearing in legal aid matters will need to be familiar with the new process. Information concerning the change can be found here.

Court of Appeal Pilot Scheme

[20 Sep 2013]

I am pleased to announce the Victorian Bar has launched a proposal for a pilot scheme for the provision of pro bono representation of unrepresented parties to applications for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal.  This is a very exciting initiative that is aimed at assisting the Court of Appeal to clear backlogs and is an extension of the Victorian Bar’s proud history of pro bono work and service to the community.  This scheme will also provide an opportunity for junior counsel to work closely with senior counsel and senior juniors and enhance their practice. We have received a huge response with 86 volunteers already offering to participate in the scheme. I encourage all those interested to contact Nicole Dawson. Click here for further information.

Victorian Legal Aid – changes to funding guidelines

[20 Sep 2013]

The new legal aid guideline for family law final hearings announced this week is a welcome step towards recognising the need to provide legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our society. From 1 November 2013, aid will be available for representation in court in family law cases involving serious allegations of abuse, and for people with an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or diagnosed mental illness.

The Victorian Bar welcomes the new Commonwealth Attorney-General

[16 Sep 2013]

On behalf of the Bar I extend my congratulations to Senator the Hon George Brandis QC on his appointment today as Commonwealth Attorney-General. Senator Brandis has also been appointed as Minister for the Arts, Deputy Leader of Government in the Senate and Vice President of the Executive Council. We look forward to working with the new Attorney on matters of common interest.

Farewell dinner for Hon David Habersberger QC

[13 Sep 2013]

Last night there was a dinner hosted by the The President and Executive of the Commercial Bar Association to mark the retirement of Hon David Habersberger QC.

I would like to thank the Commercial Bar Association for organising such a wonderful evening.  Such dinners are a great way to celebrate the service of our judicial colleagues and yet another way of promoting the camaraderie which exists at our Bar.

Wellbeing and The Law – WATL Foundation Launch

[13 Sep 2013]

Life at the Bar can be very exciting and rewarding but it can also be stressful and at times the demands of practice, coupled with distress and upheaval at home, can be overwhelming. The pressures faced by our clients in coming before the Courts, and their personal circumstances can also have a profound impact upon us. We don't make time for relationships, exercise and the things that bring us joy and nurture us. Research confirms that significant numbers of the legal profession are affected by persistent sadness, anxiety and full blown depression and are unable to cope.  On Thursday 12 September the Victorian Bar and LIV launched a new foundation to address the mental health of legal practitioners dealing with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression in the profession. The foundation, WATL – Wellbeing and The Law, will work to address these issues. It is a great honour to join in this worthy project as a foundation director, with co-director LIV President Reynah Tang and Chairman The Hon Bernie Teague AO. CJ     Read our joint media release here. The WATL website is now live with information about services available to the profession and ways you can donate to the work of the foundation .
I am very grateful for the ongoing work of the Bar Health and Wellbeing Committee and in particular Chair Peter Fox and Deputy Chair Michelle Sharpe for their ongoing work with the provision of support services for barristers and for exploring ways to expand the range of our services. Should members need to seek assistance, the Bar and regular wellbeing activities, networks and research projects are listed under "Health Central" on the bar website here. Members may also contact the Vic Lawyers' Health Line, or the services of the Re-vision psychologists group on our 24 hour Health crisis counselling service 1300 849 908.

Federal Government

[12 Sep 2013]

On Saturday we saw a change in the Commonwealth Government.  I wish to acknowledge and thank the former Attorney General Mark Dreyfus QC, a member of our Bar, and look forward to engaging with the incoming Attorney General and the new Commonwealth Government.

Welcome to The Honourable Justice Joseph Santamaria

[12 Sep 2013]

Address at the welcome on Thursday 12 September 2013 to The Honourable Justice Joseph Santamaria upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council.

Law Council concerned at Coalition funding cuts to Indigenous policy

[6 Sep 2013]

The following statement can be attributed to Law Council of Australia President, Mr Michael Colbran QC:

  • The Law Council of Australia has raised concerns about the Coalition’s policy costings released yesterday, which reveal proposed cuts of $42 million to the Indigenous Policy Reform Program.
  • Reducing the rates of indigenous incarceration requires a genuine commitment to addressing the reasons for this worsening problem. The important policy work conducted by national Indigenous legal services is the foundation for understanding the nature and causes of the crisis in Indigenous imprisonment throughout Australia.
  • The Law Council has sought further information about how the Coalition would propose to maintain the high quality of work in this area if this funding is removed.

Critical shortage of cell space affecting trials

[6 Sep 2013]

The Criminal Bar Association and Victorian Police Association have recently raised concerns with the Attorney-General and Chief Magistrate over the impact of over crowding in the prison system. Letter from the CBA here.

A significant number of clients are being housed in temporary police accommodation when they should be in the custody of Corrections Victoria and are being moved from place to place as police try to cope with the need to accommodate them. This is seriously impacting upon the well being of those concerned and confounding case management in the Magistrates’ Court.

An individual on remand should be moved from police custody into the care of Corrections Victoria. However, as jails and remand centres are already full, new arrivals may spend days in police care in police cells or makeshift spaces which are not designed for long stays and with limited access to family and services. Prisoners in police cells are all internal units without access to daylight or fresh air. They are being moved from place to place at a time they are acutely vulnerable, coming into contact with the police and the criminal justice system and often coping with mental health issues and withdrawing from illicit substance use. The police are being distracted from other duties and are obviously not health professionals.

Corrections Victoria have acknowledged that the increase in numbers in the prison population have created significant pressure on many aspects of the justice system including their ability to bring prisoners to court and minimize the impact on prisoners.

The problem has been brewing for some time and as recently as this week members have reported to me that cases are being adjourned because those in custody cannot be brought into court due to overcrowding in the Melbourne Custody Centre, clients cannot be delivered to court in compliance with a goal order or remand warrant, nor can they access legal services before their cases are called on. In one case a client had been kept in four different prisons and police stations in different parts of Victoria in the space of a fortnight, making it impossible for the solicitor to get instructions. In another, Corrections were criticised by the Magistrate and ordered to pay the costs of the adjournment when the client was not produced for the hearing.

This is another example of the breakdowns experienced when the criminal justice system is overloaded without proper planning and resourcing of all of the component parts. Policies leading to a flood of cases in the criminal justice system must also consider funding the downstream effects or the system fails.

Investment in Legal Assistance Needed

[6 Sep 2013]

An important article by David Neal SC appears in today’s Australian ‘No time to lose in tackling the aid funding crisis’. The article appears here.

Coalition Costings Signal cuts to indigenous legal services

[6 Sep 2013]

I note with concern the Coalition’s policy costings, released yesterday, which reveal proposed cuts of $42 Million to the Indigenous Policy Reform Program. The Program funds national indigenous legal services and would represent about a 20% cut.

As I have noted previously on 26 July 2013 and 31 May 2013 reducing the rates of indigenous incarceration requires a genuine national commitment to addressing the reasons for this worsening problem. The important policy work conducted by national indigenous legal services is the foundation for understanding the nature and causes of the crisis in indigenous imprisonment throughout Australia.

Welcomes and Dinners

[6 Sep 2013]

A welcome for Justice Santamaria will be held on Thursday 12 September at 9.15 in the Banco Court.

A dinner to honour the Hon David Habersberger QC is to be held on Thursday 12 September in the Essoign. To register click here.

Federal Election

[30 Aug 2013]

This week I attended a debate between the Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC and Opposition Legal Affairs Spokesman George Brandis QC in Sydney.  

One major focus of the debate was federal government legal aid funding.  I had an opportunity to ask each participant whether they would commit to revisiting the current national partnership agreement on legal aid and to restoring the federal government share of funding to more than 50%. While each emphasised the importance of legal aid funding in ensuring access to justice, unfortunately there were no concrete promises of increased funding.

The Law Council has asked each of the major parties to respond to key election issues ahead of the election. Access to justice, federal court resourcing, asylum seekers and anti-terror laws were just some of the issues the Law Council invited political parties to address in the lead up to the election. The Law Council also sought views on a number of other significant issues, including same sex marriage, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Indigenous imprisonment rates. The questions – and responses of each party – are now available here. The response of the Law Council President Michael Colbran QC appears here.
Coinciding with the election campaign, the Bar and the LIV have pursued the "Legal Aid Matters" campaign. I have in previous columns referred members to the Legal Aid Matters petition, which can be accessed here as well as a short video here.

I urge all members to take a moment and sign the petition in support of increases in legal aid funding ahead of the election.

Social Media

[30 Aug 2013]

The legal aid campaign has been a focus of the Bar's new social media presence. I encourage you to take a look at the ways you can now communicate using social media at the Bar including the Blog, tweeting, YouTube and LinkedIn.  

The Bar’s Blog is an avenue for all Vic Bar members to post and comment on legal issues of concern.

You can follow the Bar’s Twitter account @VictorianBar for public notices, updates, media releases, calls for submissions etc. For commentary on issues affecting the Bar, the Courts and the legal landscape, follow my Twitter account @VicBarPresident.   

The Bar also has its own Youtube channel and LinkedIn company profile.  There are videos posted on the Youtube channel concerning legal aid and life at the Bar, which will be of special interest to students. Click here to see the Bar's social media resources.

Other developments

[30 Aug 2013]

In other news, the Bar welcomes the passage of the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Officers) Bill. The Bill confers the functions of engaging reserve judges and magistrates to perform judicial duties on the relevant head of jurisdiction. The Bill also allows judges and magistrates to serve on a part time basis by arrangement with the head of jurisdiction.

We also welcome the introduction of a pilot of the RedCrest web based case management system in the Supreme Court. The system uses high capacity broadband to lodge and manage files electronically in a secure cloud environment. Parties will be able to access documents remotely at all hours.

Justice and the Adult Parole Board

[23 Aug 2013]

Justice cannot be delivered in a vacuum or by targeting one component of the system, as recent public debate about parole and the delivery of legal aid clearly demonstrate. The release of the report by the Hon Ian Callinan AC QC on the operations of the Adult Parole Board have prompted a lively public discussion this week. The Bar issued a media release this week to raise awareness of the broader issues and today my opinion piece was published in The Age.

Former Chairman of the Adult Parole Board, Justice Whelan has also responded publically. Audio of his interview on radio is available here and here.

Operation of VCAT

[23 Aug 2013]

The operation of VCAT has also been the subject of recent public comment. Tonight the President of VCAT, Justice Garde is interviewed on the 7.30 Report - ABC. A copy of the transcript of Justice Garde's interview is available here.

Direct Briefing Benefits Seen in Time and Money

[19 Aug 2013]

Article by Fiona McLeod SC featured in The Australian on 16 August 2013.

More than twenty years ago the Victorian Law Reform Commission considered the issue of direct professional briefing in the context of the review Access to the law: Accountability of the Legal Profession.

The report of the Commission noted that the strength of the independent Bars is founded upon the independence of individual barristers from the client, permitting frank and high quality advice, upholding their responsibility to the courts untainted by a fear of displeasing the client. 

Read more.

Legal Services Board v Gillespie-Jones

[16 Aug 2013]

Members should be aware of this week's High Court decision in the case of Legal Services Board v Gillespie-Jones [2013] HCA 35.

The facts of the case were that the client gave money to the solicitor on account of costs. As is probably usual, there was no direction from the client that any specific sum of money be disbursed to the barrister.

The barrister rendered fee slips to the solicitor which were not paid. The solicitor misappropriated the client's funds.

The barrister claimed against the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund for his unpaid fees. The Board refused the claim. The County Court ordered that the Fund pay out to the barrister, and that decision was upheld (on different grounds) by the Court of Appeal.

The Board successfully appealed to the High Court. While the decision turns on both trust law concepts and the statutory interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the result for members is that only in unusual circumstances will a barrister have a claim on the Fidelity Fund. Barristers who wish to ensure that their fees are secure from misappropriation by a solicitor should arrange for a sum on account of fees to be paid into their clerk's trust account.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Melanie Sloss

[16 Aug 2013]

This morning I spoke at the welcome for The Honourable Justice Melanie Sloss. A link to my comments appears below.

Law Council Issues Its Key Election Issues

[13 Aug 2013]

The Law Council has invited political parties to provide their views on key national issues of relevance to the Australian legal profession ahead of the 2013 federal election. The parties have until 20 August to respond. The key Law Issues document is available here.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Michael James Croucher

[12 Aug 2013]

Address at the welcome on Friday 9 August 2013 to The Honourable Justice Michael James Croucher upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria by Jonathan Beach QC, Co-Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Christine Thornton

[12 Aug 2013]

Address at the welcome on Monday 12 August 2013 to The Honourable Justice Christine Thornton upon her appointment to the Family Court of Australia by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council.

Breakthrough in Aboriginal Incarceration

[9 Aug 2013]

I am delighted to read page one of the Australian that, if re-elected, the government plans to introduce a new 'justice target' under the COAG to address the appalling rates of aboriginal incarceration.

As noted on 26 July 2013 the Bar, the Law Council and the ABA have called for this target as a critical measure to reverse this spiralling problem and the shocking reality that a huge proportion of aboriginal people, including first time offenders and those sentenced to less than 6 months jail, are languishing in jail. This must attract bipartisan support. The Opposition has reportedly also committed to the inclusion of this target.

The Law Council and the Australian Bar Association today welcomed the announcement. Media release here.

Direct Briefing

[9 Aug 2013]

The federal Attorney-General is today reported (Australian legal affairs) as opposing direct briefing of the Bar on the grounds it is 'disjointed' and ultimately more costly. This topic will no doubt be scrutinised by the Productivity Commission in its review of the costs of civil justice, and we should await its report. The view of the Victorian Bar is that, in appropriate cases, direct briefing by government and corporate clients can lead to enormous savings through direct and early strategic advice and guidance as to the appropriate course of litigation and other means of dispute resolution.

The independent Bars are the experts when it comes to advice, trial management and strategic thinking. There are numerous examples of direct briefing by experienced in-house counsel that have been highly successful. Where instructing solicitors are required, the barristers ethical obligation and common sense require that they are included in the legal team.

The Victorian Bar is committed to direct briefing models that work for corporate and government clients. A recent publication explains the process.


[9 Aug 2013]

A Welcome for Her Honour Judge Christine Thornton will take place on Monday 12 August from 9.30am at the Family Court.

A Welcome for the Honourable Justice Melanie Sloss will take place on Friday 16 August from 9.15am at the Supreme Court.

Silks PEC Appointed

[5 Aug 2013]

The Chief Justice has appointed the following members of the Silks Preliminary Evaluation Committee: The Hon Stephen Charles QC, Fiona McLeod SC, Jonathon Beach QC, Will Alstergren SC, Richard Stanley QC, Patrick Tehan QC, Jane Dixon SC, Kerri Judd SC, Peter Rashleigh, Joanne Cameron. The applications for 2013 have now closed.

AG Dreyfus commits to Restoring Legal Aid

[2 Aug 2013]

I welcome the statement by Commonwealth Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus MP QC in the Australian Financial Review yesterday that the federal government will complete a comprehensive review of the future of legal assistance services later this year and noting that the Productivity Commission has been directed to undertake its own analysis of how to improve access to civil justice. The Attorney correctly noted 'Legal aid looks after families and children in crisis, the sick, pensioners, our new arrivals, our indigenous communities and those accused of serious crime. Its longevity ought to confirm us as decent, fair-minded and caring people.' At a dinner held by the International Commission of Jurists last Friday the Attorney said he was committed to restoring the Commonwealth share of legal aid funding to 50%, in line with its historic contribution and consistently with calls by the Bar and the legal profession. Media release here.

Productivity Commission

[2 Aug 2013]

The Productivity Commission is to conduct an inquiry into Australia’s system of dispute resolution, with a focus upon constraining costs and promoting access to justice and equality before the law. The terms of reference for the Inquiry here are wide-ranging. The Bar will contribute to the Productivity Commission review directly and through the ABA and LCA with initial submissions due by the end of October 2013. It is expected the Bar's submission will focus upon the access to justice considerations and the benefits of an efficient and properly resourced justice system.

Pacific Region pro bono assistance

[2 Aug 2013]

The recent riots at the Australian Government's Regional Processing Centre in Nauru have led to challenges for the local court system and the very small number of legal practitioners there. Justice Geoffrey Eames, formerly of our Court of Appeal, is the Chief Justice of Nauru. Justice Eames has recently acknowledged the contribution of Ashley Halphen of our Bar together with Sam Norton from Robert Stary Lawyers, who will both visit Nauru in the near future to assist with advocacy training and pro bono appearances. A further group of Victorian barristers organised by Fiona Todd have generously made themselves available for pro bono work in Nauru as required.

The media release from Justice Eames can be found here.

Cap on Self-Education Deductions Deferred

[2 Aug 2013]

The federal government's economic statement, released today, defers the proposed changes to the cap for self-education deductions for twelve months, pending further consultation. The cap proposal was the subject of submissions from the Victorian Bar and individual bar members, the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Bar Association and other professional bodies, which appear to have led to the government acknowledging that further consideration of the issue is required. See page 34 of the statement.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Sharon Johns

[29 Jul 2013]

Address at the welcome on Monday 29 July 2013 to The Honourable Justice Sharon Johns upon her appointment to the Family Court of Australia by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council.

Aboriginal Incarceration Rates

[26 Jul 2013]

As recently reported, (see 31 May) I remain deeply concerned about the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in our courts and our jail population. In 1991, Indigenous people represented about 14% of the prison population; currently that figure has leapt to 26%. The position in the Northern Territory is particularly alarming, with the reintroduction of mandatory sentencing likely to create further pressure. Indigenous Australians make up about 2.5% of our total population. Disturbingly the rate of increase in Indigenous incarceration is growing fastest among Indigenous women and children. There is an urgent need to act on this issue.

I attended a joint meeting of the Law Council Executive and Australian Bar Council in Darwin today, with representatives from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service. Both peak bodies expressed their commitment to seeking solutions to address this problem in consultation with representatives of the Indigenous community. The joint communiqué and press release of both bodies appear here, the press release of the Victorian Bar appears here.

As noted, a range of solutions should be explored including specific justice reforms alongside other Closing-the-Gap targets and strategies to address the difficulties faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples coming before the courts. Legal aid and funding for interpreter services, diversion programs and sentencing options are all vital. We must continue to support Indigenous law students and lawyers in practice in accordance with the Bar’s RAP.

Asylum Seeker Policy

In an extraordinary move announced at the end of last week, the federal government has moved to transfer to Papua New Guinea all new asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat for processing and, it appears, permanent resettlement. Pre-emptively those people are to be refused any prospect of ever ‘setting foot in Australia.’

The efficacy and legality of the new section s198AA of the Migration Act, introduced in August 2012 after the failure of the Malaysia solution following the High Court decision of Plaintiff M70 v MIAC, will no doubt be the subject of close legal scrutiny. The Court found in M70 that the Minister had not given proper consideration to mandatory considerations – or jurisdictional facts – as required by the previous section of the Act, having regard to the domestic law of the proposed receiving country (Malaysia) and its binding commitments and obligations under international law.

The new section declares that the Minister may designate that a country is a regional processing country on the condition that the minister thinks that it is in the national interest having regard to any assurances the designated country makes in relation to expelling a person from that country. Those assurances need not be legally binding and it remains to be seen whether PNG may be validly designated as such a processing country and – if the new policy is implemented – a permanent home for asylum seekers.

There is little doubt that the policy continues a steady erosion of humanitarian principles under successive governments since Tampa and a clear departure from our obligations under the Refugee Convention and human rights conventions, in particular the obligation not to penalise an asylum seeker on account of their mode of arrival and given the likelihood of indefinite detention.  Poverty and lawlessness are endemic in PNG, with the potential for great social disruption locally as billions of Australian dollars pour into resettlement programs for the new arrivals. The effect of indefinite detention on the mental health and well being of detainees is well documented and a matter of ongoing concern.  The recent report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees June 2013 monitoring visit to Manus Island highlighted shortcomings in the applicable legal framework and, also, the harsh physical conditions.

The policy, and the opposition counter proposal to create a joint military taskforce responsible to the Minister for Immigration, are both severe responses when one considers that a significant majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australian territory by boat are assessed as legitimate and the size of the problem in Australia pales into insignificance by comparison with the burden falling upon developing nations.

Close of Silk Applications

Those intending to apply for silk this year are reminded that applications close on Tuesday 30 July. It is strongly recommended that applicants not leave it to the last minute to lodge their application.

Welcome for Sharon Johns

A welcome for Sharon Johns will take place on Monday 29 July from 9.30am at the Family Court.

Legal Aid Crisis

Most of you will be aware of the crisis in legal aid funding in Victoria. The demand for services of Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) is at unprecedented levels.  Regrettably both the federal and state budgets have delivered only a fraction of the necessary funding to the VLA to meet this growing need.

The consequence is inadequate support for those vulnerable people who now can’t access legal aid in criminal matters, or in family and children’s court matters. Many members have reported the strain that this is placing on these areas of practice in particular and the impact upon already distressed clients appearing before the Courts.

What is the Bar doing?
The Bar and the LIV have for some time been pressing for a renegotiation of the national partnership agreement and have called for a national summit on legal aid, to bring both state and federal decision makers together. We continue to lobby for change and are working to raise awareness of the issue at government and public levels.

How can you help?
Send me your stories (at reflecting the disastrous impact of changes to the eligibility guidelines. We will draw on them to illustrate the real repercussions of inadequate funding in future submissions or campaigns.

Or write to your local Federal MP and local State MP telling them of your concern.

Thank you for your support.

Australian Bar Association Conference

[19 Jul 2013]

Chief Justice Robert French AC, speaking at the ABA Conference in Rome a couple of weeks ago on the topic Why Rome and not Hong Kong, remarked upon the change in the global legal services market. He observed  that ‘ the focus of much contemporary discussion about the globalization of legal services seems to be on services provided by firms, rather than those provided by specialist advocates and advisers. That is a focus which should be broadened.’

There is no doubt that the Bar has experienced the impacts of a shrinking global legal services market, and particularly the chronic under funding of legal aid services, the push by solicitors into advice and appearance work and constant pressure to drive down the price of legal services. The challenge for the Bar is to consider and implement measures that cushion and support our members against those impacts and that support them to adapt and flourish and to support the Courts in the delivery of just outcomes in doing so.

A raft of measures is on the table for discussion. These include measures to hone and promote our core strengths of independent, highly principled and cost effective expert advocacy and strategic advice work. I will provide a special report to the Bar in the following weeks. The report is intended to provoke a discussion amongst all members of the Bar for further consideration by the Bar Council and I will launch a blog on the members’ page, inviting members to contribute their thoughts and experiences to the discussion.

Legal Assistance for Royal Commission

I welcome the announcement this week of federal government funding of $18 million for a national legal service to help people planning to give evidence to the child sexual abuse Royal Commission. The Attorney General’s press release is available here. The free service will be run by the National Association of Community Legal Centres and will be independent of the Royal Commission.

The legal service known as Knowmore will provide advice to anyone attending the Royal Commission including private sessions. Contact details are available here

Community Legal Centres are of course well placed to provide general advice on operation of the Commission. The Knowmore website lists a number of counseling and other services available to victims. It will be important to ensure that victims also have access specialist legal advice when deciding whether to take further steps by way of the criminal or civil proceedings.

Tax deductibility cap on self-education

[12 Jul 2013]

Members may be aware of a recent federal government proposal to introduce a $2000 per annum cap on work related education expense deductions from 1 July 2014, amending s 8-1 of Income Tax Assessment Act. Deductions may be claimed (above a no-claim amount per s 82A (1) of the Act) when the education activity is directly connected to a taxpayer’s current employment by either maintaining or improving the specific skills or knowledge required for the employment, or results in, or is likely to result in, an increase in income. Thus the cost of participating in ongoing post-graduate education and also for continuing professional development, mandatory for barristers and many other professionals, is normally deductible.

A discussion paper describing the proposed reforms and calling for submissions was released in May. See here. The cap would appear to cover textbooks and trade journals and a requirement to apportion computer expenses.

While, as a matter of policy, some form of limitation on education associated expenses (such as travel and accommodation) may well be appropriate to prevent excessive claims, an outright capping of all education expenses is not supported as it works unfairly against those required to operate as sole practitioners.

The Law Council has opposed the proposal as a disincentive to professional learning. The LCA press release appears here. The Bar also made a submission, with my thanks to John Morgan for contribution to the drafting of the submission available here. The submission highlights the burden upon barristers who will be treated effectively as ‘sole traders’ under the proposal, because the practice requirements of independence prevent us from acting as employees in delivering personal services and the various FBT options are not available to us. Rather than create equality, as intended, the proposal will create unfairness and a disincentive to self-education.

Welcome to Justice Mortimer

This morning I spoke at the Welcome for Justice Mortimer. A link to my comments appears here.

Bar News

[5 Jul 2013]

This week members will have received the latest edition of the Bar News (Issue 153). I congratulate our editors Sharon Moore and Justin Tomlinson and the Bar News Editorial Committee for all of their efforts and for the delivery of an excellent publication.

The issue includes articles from The Hon. Stephen Charles QC, Peter Heerey AM QC and James Meralls AM QC as well as contributions from Federal Attorney-General The Hon. Mark Dreyfus QC and Chief Judge Rozenes.  

The latest edition is available on line here.

Practising Certificate Renewal
The practising certificate renewal process is now complete for 2013-2014.  Of the 1972 members who held a practising certificate at 1 April this year, 1933 have renewed.  Of those renewing, nearly 83% renewed online – 3% up on last year. These online processes have introduced great efficiencies for the Bar staff.

The Hon. Justice Jennifer Davies was sworn in and welcomed as a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia on Thursday 4 July. Vice Chairman Will Alstergren SC spoke on behalf of the Bar and his speech is available here.

The welcome for Debbie Mortimer SC will take place on 12 July 2013 and for Sharon Johns on 29 July 2013.

Members will be saddened to learn that two members of the Bar have died recently: Stephen Shirrefs SC last Friday 28 June; and retired Magistrate Rowan McIndoe on Monday 1 July. There was a gathering to celebrate Stephen Shirrefs’ life on Thursday this week. There is to be a memorial service for Rowan McIndoe on a date to be announced.

Member Survey

[28 Jun 2013]

Members will have received an email inviting them to complete a survey concerning the governance of the Bar and BCL. These surveys provide very important information on the workings of the Bar and are used by each body to improve performance. Please take the time to complete the survey - it should only take 5 minutes or so.

New Jury Directions Act

On 1 July the new Jury Directions Act comes into effect. In order to help barristers prepare, the Victorian Bar hosted a CPD Seminar on Tuesday 25 June. The podcast can be viewed here.

Applications for Appointment as Senior Counsel in 2013

The process for making applications to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria for appointment to Senior Counsel is now open.  

The Silks Process Working Group presented an information session on Tuesday 25 June 2013 providing details on the Silks Selection and Application Process for 2013. This session can be viewed online from the CPD & Education Resources webpage.

The Silks Application form and information regarding criteria for appointment and a summary of the process is available on the Supreme Court website. Applications close Tuesday 30 July 2013.

Launch of the County Koori Court

This week I attended the launch of the County Koori Court. The Court process involves an informal round table sentencing conversation with Elders and respected persons after formal arraignment and plea of guilty. The offender is acknowledged and connections are respected. The impact of their offending conduct is discussed informally and in plain terms. After this conversation, the judge resumes his or her seat on the bench and decides on the appropriate order.

In its pilot, the Court has had remarkable success in engaging the accused in the justice process, leading to improved acceptance of the outcomes and reduced reoffending rates.

This initiative has been developed in response to the over representation of Koori people in the criminal justice system, with the support of the Victorian Attorney-General and is seen to be a very powerful tool and a moving experience for all concerned. I congratulate all those who have worked and will continue to work to support the operation of the Court.

For more information on the operation of the Court under the County Court Act Amendment (Koori Court) see here.

Farewell - The Honourable Justice David Harper AM

[27 Jun 2013]

Address on the occasion of retirement of The Honourable Justice David Harper AM from the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, Wednesday 26 June 2013 at 5pm in the Banco Court.

Farewell - The Honourable Justice Linda Dessau AM

[25 Jun 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Friday 21 June 2013 at the farewell to The Honourable Justice Linda Dessau AM in the Family Court of Australia.

New Jury Directions Act

[21 Jun 2013]

The Jury Directions Act 2013 comes into force on 1 July. The Act contains the first tranche of reforms intended to simplify and clarify jury directions in criminal trials. It provides for a new approach to requests for directions which places the onus on defence counsel to indicate which matters are in issue, and on both prosecution and defence counsel to request specific directions. It also changes the approach to directions in relation to post-offence conduct, and provides for judges to give guidance to juries on the meaning of "beyond reasonable doubt". There are significant consequences for appeals where there has been a failure by counsel to raise a matter in issue at the trial.

This Tuesday, 25 June Justice Weinberg and Judge Mullaly will conduct a seminar targeting what criminal barristers need to know about the new Act, including a Q&A session. The seminar will be held at 5.15pm in the Neil McPhee Room.

Silk Applications 2013

The Chief Justice has indicted that applications for senior counsel will open next week, keep an eye on the website for details. Some minor changes have been made to the Application Form and the Summary of the Process and applicants should familiarize themselves with these documents when they are posted onto the Supreme Court website. A link to the documents will appear on the Bar website here.

I will conduct an Information Session to explain the process for all interested members on Tuesday 25 June 2013 at 5pm. The session will be held in the Auditorium on the ground floor, Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street (Ground floor of the Isaacs Chambers building) and also will be recorded and posted onto the website.

Judicial Welcomes

This morning I spoke at the Welcome for Justice Pagone. A link to my comments appears here.

A dinner was held to honour the retirement of Justices’ Young and Dessau in conjunction with the Family Law Bar on 20 June. The evening was most enjoyable and was well supported by family law barristers and solicitors. I thank Vice-Chairman Will Alstergren SC for his efforts in arranging a wonderful night of celebration.

The following dates will also be of interest –


Dessau J. Family Court 21 June 2013 4.30pm

Harper J. Supreme Court 26 June 2013 5.00pm


Davies J. Federal Court 4 July 2013 9.30am

D. Mortimer SC Federal Court 12 July 2013 9.30am


[14 Jun 2013]

Some members will have received correspondence over the last few weeks pressing for change to the current process of appointing senior counsel in and for the State of Victoria. The matter has also been the subject of comment in media reports.

I am aware of the developments in Queensland and acknowledge that strong and varied views have been expressed by some members.

My priority, and that of the Bar Council, is to assist the Chief Justice with the continuation this year of the pilot process for the appointment of senior counsel implemented last year.

No change will be contemplated without consultation with the Chief Justice and the Attorney General as any change would necessarily involve revisiting the role of the Chief Justice as appointor. For example, a return to Queens Counsel for existing SCs as proposed would require change to the current model and involve the Attorney General and Governor in the issuing of letters patent, not issued in this State for senior counsel since 2003. This would require a reassessment of suitability and may require statements of pecuniary interest and certification of good standing.

A clear majority of members and successive Bar Councils have strongly favoured retaining an appointment process that centrally involves the Chief Justice as the appointor. Last year's pilot of the new appointment process in Victoria worked very well and we are extremely grateful for and wholly endorse the continuing involvement of the Chief Justice in this role with the continuation of the pilot, with appropriate support from the Bar.

Judicial Appointments to the Federal Court

On Thursday, the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC announced the appointment of four judges to the Federal Court of Australia, the Hon Justice Pagone, the Hon Justice Davies and Debbie Mortimer SC to the Melbourne Registry and the Hon Justice White to the Adelaide Registry. I welcome their appointments and wish them well in their new role.

A Welcome Ceremony will be held for the Hon Justice Pagone on Friday 21 June 2013. Further information about this welcome and for the welcomes for Justice Davies and Debbie Mortimer SC will be posted on the website once confirmed.

Judicial Welcomes

On Wednesday 12 June I welcomed Judge Suzanne Jones to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. Click here to view speech.

Yesterday, Will Alstergren SC, Co-Vice Chairman, welcomed The Honourable Justice Timothy Ginnane to the Supreme Court of Victoria. View speech here.

Queen’s Birthday Honours

The Honourable David Ashley AM QC was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last Monday. His Honour retired from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in February 2012 after some 21 ½ years on the Court, more than 5 ½ of those years as a Judge of Appeal. His Honour has been a Reserve Judge since April 2013 and is sitting currently. He has been a member of our Bar for nearly 48 years. His citation is for significant service to the judiciary and the law, and to the beef cattle industry.

David Galbally AM QC was a member of our Bar for 16 ½ years – from November 1983 until June 2000. He came to the Bar from partnership at Galbally & O’Bryan and left the Bar to return to practice as a solicitor. His citation is for significant service, particularly through leadership in health organisations and the provision of pro bono legal services.

A number of interstate barristers and judicial officers were recognised in the Awards, but this year none is or has been an interstate member of our Bar: Professor James Crawford AC (NSW Bar); Justice John Byrne AO (Q’ld Bar); Master Robert Lunn AM QC (SA Bar); The Honourable Dean Mildren AM RFD QC (NT Bar Life Member; ABA Vice-President 1989-90; Judge NT Sup Ct 1991-2013, then Acting Judge); The Honourable Paul Munro AM (former Senior Deputy President of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission who is described as having been a “Solicitor and Barrister, NSW Bar Association”).

Two Victorian Public Servants with whom, over the years, members of our Bar have worked were awarded the Public Service Medal.

Dr John Lynch PSM is a long-time Officer in the Victorian Justice Department. He was Crown Counsel (2005 – 2012); and is now Director, Legal at IBAC (of which Stephen O’Bryan SC is the Commissioner). Before entering the Public Service, he was 11 years a solicitor with the Victorian Legal Aid Commission. His citation is for outstanding service to the justice system in Victoria.

Jim Nelms PSM is the Principal Registrar of VCAT. His citation is for outstanding public service to VCAT.

Two other notable awards are those of His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM of the Federal Circuit Court Newcastle Registry; and Margaret Hunter OAM of the ACT Law Society.

Judge Matthew Myers AM was, in January 2012 the first Indigenous appointment to a Federal Court. He has a Victorian connection in that he was accredited by the Law Institute of Victoria as a Family Law Specialist. His citation is for significant service particularly in the area of family law and welfare.

Margaret Hunter OAM has been President and Secretary of ACT Women Lawyers; Vice-President and Secretary of Australian Women Lawyers (1997-2002); and Chair of the ACT Law Society Equalizing Opportunities in the Law Committee of the ACT Law Society. She is a Senior Crown Prosecutor with the DPP in the ACT and Principal Counsel Assisting the ACT Coroner. Her citation is for service particularly through support of women in the legal profession.

Welcome - Judge Suzanne Jones

[12 Jun 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Wednesday 12 June 2013 at the welcome to Her Honour Judge Suzanne Jones upon her appointment to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Appointment of Michael Colbran QC as President of the Law Council of Australia

[7 Jun 2013]

I welcome the appointment of Michael Colbran QC, as President of the Law Council of Australia. He replaces Joe Catanzariti, who has been appointed as a Vice President of the Fair Work Commission.

Michael is of course a past Chairman of Bar Council. He has served on the Executive of the Law Council since 2006 and is concurrently the President of the Australian Bar Association. This is an historic appointment to the dual Presidency and should create real opportunities for the independent Bars to advance issues of concerns at a national level. I look forward to working closely with Michael on a number of national issues affecting the Bar, in particular national legal profession reform, legal aid and issues relating to attrition in the profession. A link to the LCA press release is available here.

I congratulate Joe Catanzariti on his new position and thank him for his service to the Law Council.

Victorian Bar delegation to Guangdong

Members will recall my post concerning the need for our Bar to develop a strategic approach to international work, in particular arbitration work in the Asia-Pacific region - click here.

Work is underway to develop a strategy targeting a few key legal markets with real potential to bring work to our members and build upon our reputation as a strong and ethical profession, for clear and consistent adherence to the rule of law and demonstrated pro bono commitment to the region. The aim is to follow emerging trends in the international legal market and service the needs of international clients and lawyers in Australia and abroad.

Between 12 and 19 May a delegation including Martin Scott SC, Caroline Kirton SC, Michael Whitten and Colin King visited Guangzhou and Shenzen in Guangdong Province, China representing the Bar. I thank the members of the delegation for their work in representing the Victorian Bar in this way.

The delegation was received by the Guangdong Lawyers Association, Shenzen Lawyers Association, China's largest arbitration institution CIETAC, the Shenzen International Arbitration Court, and influential local educational institutions with responsibility for mandatory legal training of public officials.

The consensus from every meeting was that a rapidly changing legal services market in China and the region required development of networks of connections between practising professionals in Australia and China. The delegation was both warmly received and invited to return later this year for further discussions on the development of closer contact between lawyers in China and Australia directly. There was clear recognition that close and mutually beneficial relationships are vital given the very substantial trade between Guangdong and Australia.

A working group convened by Vice-Chairman Will Alstergren SC will progress the international strategy and I will keep members informed about progress.

Judicial Welcomes and Farewells

Yesterday, I welcomed Judge Gavan Meredith to the County Court. Click here to view speech.

Next Wednesday 12 June the Bar welcomes her Honour Judge Suzanne Jones to the Federal Circuit Court and on Thursday 13 June, Justice Tim Ginnane to the Supreme Court.

Farewells will be held for Justice Linda Dessau of the Family Court on Friday 21 June and Justice David Harper of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday 26 June.

Members should have received an electronic invitation to a dinner for Justices’ Dessau and Young, in honour of their contribution over many years to the judiciary and in particular to family law, to be held on Thursday 20 June in the Essoign. Please contact Courtney Bow if you have not received your email invitation.

Silks Process

I advise members that the process for the appointment of silk this year has not yet been finalised, although I expect the criteria for appointment and the process will be similar to last year.

Once again, applicants will be expected to demonstrate substantial and recent advocacy experience in appeals, trials and contested hearings and significant interlocutory matters and that they meet the criteria for appointment. The designation of Senior Counsel provides a public identification of barristers whose standing and achievements justify an expectation, on the part of those who may need their services as well as on the part of the judiciary and the public, that they can provide outstanding services as advocates and advisers, to the good of the administration of justice.

The Chief Justice has indicated that applications for silk will open by the end of June. The exact date has not yet been fixed although it is likely the period for lodging applications will extend over the July Court vacation and mid-year school holidays. Accordingly, members intending to apply for silk will need to pay close attention to the opening and closing dates once these are posted on the website. I highly recommend applicants begin the work of drafting their application now, based on last year’s process, so that they are ready to lodge the application with any minor adjustments in good time. IT issues can sometimes create last minute problems that are best managed by early lodgment.

The Bar will conduct an information session once the final details are known and I will post further information on the website as soon as the process has been finalised.

Bar Dinner

Photos from the recent Bar dinner are available for viewing and downloading here.

Aboriginal incarceration rates and deaths in custody – recent report

[31 May 2013]

This week as we celebrate National Reconciliation Week, from 27 May until 3 June, I restate my support, and that of many members of our Bar, for Constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Although the week is one primarily of celebration, it is also a time to take stock of the impact of the legal system upon these members of our community. Many of us will be shocked at reading two recent newspaper articles relating to incarceration rates of indigenous people and deaths in custody. The articles, which can be downloaded here and here, report the key findings of a recent federal government report in relation to this deeply concerning issue.

The government report notes that in 1991, when the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its findings, one in seven Australian prisoners was an indigenous person but that now, the ratio is more than one in four. Further, indigenous people comprise 2.5 per cent of the total Australian population but they now account for more than a quarter (26.1 per cent) of the adult prison population and almost half (46.2 per cent) of youths in juvenile detention. The findings of the Royal Commission noted that one of the main factors contributing to deaths in custody was quite simply that “too many Aboriginal people are in custody, too often”. In 1991, there were 2140 indigenous people in prison across Australia. In the first quarter of last year there were 7873, ¬ a 268 per cent jump in two decades. And since the Royal Commission handed down its final report, 325 indigenous people have died in custody.

The statistics relating to custody of juvenile indigenous people are also shocking. 97 per cent of juveniles in custody in the Northern Territory are Aborigines ¬a doubling since 2007. In Western Australia, Aborigines comprise more than two thirds of juveniles in detention. This has been linked, by academic Larissa Behrendt, to cuts in legal aid funding which have had the effect that many juveniles are going before the courts without representation and the resulting sentences of imprisonment.

These are issues that affect us and the quest for genuine reconciliation. They mark a spectacular failing of law and order policies as they affect our aboriginal people and are issues that I will be raising with our national legal organisations and the federal Attorney-General.

Presentation of framed prototype jabot by Henry Jolson

Last night in the Bar Council Chamber, Henry Jolson OAM QC presented the Bar Council with a framed prototype jabot which he designed and registered in the Register of Designs on 17 November 1988. Vice-Chairman Will Alstergren SC accepted the jabot on behalf of the Bar.

In the late 1980s, Henry, a long-standing member of our Bar (and one of our Legends) established the barristers’ clothing business, Ravensdale, which operated out of premises in Owen Dixon Chambers West.  Henry’s business partners in Ravensdale included Bruce Walmsley SC, another of our long-standing members. As many will remember Ravensdale provided robes, wigs and other items of dress to the Bench, judges’ associates and members of the Bar for many years. In 1988 Henry conceived the idea of a “false front” jabot.

I wish to thank Henry for his kind and generous donation of the framed prototype. It is an interesting piece of memorabilia which is important in the history of the Victorian Bar.

Bar Dinner

Last Friday night we held the annual Bar Dinner at the Myer Mural Hall.

Once again, the Mural Hall was a magnificent venue and those attending enjoyed a wonderful evening. I would like to record my thanks to our two guest speakers, the Honourable Justice Patrick Keane of the High Court and Debbie Mortimer SC.  Each gave an entertaining and memorable address. And thanks to the Bar Band. As usual, their contribution was a great addition to the evening.

I would particularly like to thank those on the organising committee and in the Bar office who made such a successful night possible. The Bar Dinner is our most important social event of the year and, as this one demonstrated, a great way to catch up with colleagues and further to promote the great camaraderie which exists at our Bar.

Appointment of Gavan Meredith to County Court

On Tuesday, the Governor in Council appointed Gavan Meredith as a judge of the County Court. I welcome his appointment and wish him well in his future judicial career.

I note that there will be a welcome for his Honour in the Ceremonial Courtroom, Court 3-3 of the County Court next Thursday, 6 June 2013 at 9:15am.

Law Council’s National attrition and re-engagement survey

[24 May 2013]

Members may have seen an email in recent days concerning a national study into the attrition of lawyers. The Law Council of Australia has engaged a researcher (Urbis) to undertake a national research study to address diversity within the legal profession. Through this study, the Law Council is seeking to obtain quantitative data and confirm trends in the progression of both male and female lawyers, and to produce a report outlining practical measures which can be implemented to address the causes of high attrition rates among women lawyers, and re-engage women lawyers who have left the profession. The results of the study will be used to guide future policy directions on how the profession can better retain its members.

We are all aware and research shows that there are significant gaps in diversity in more senior roles in the legal profession. Although women are graduating with law degrees and entering legal careers at higher rates than men, significantly fewer women continue into senior positions within the legal profession.

The survey will close at 6pm on Friday 31 May 2013. The link to the survey for current practising lawyers is available here.

I strongly urge all members to take the time to complete the survey and to pass on the links to your colleagues who have left the profession, so that we can establish why people are leaving and what should be done to address systemic issues.

Judicial and statutory appointments

Yesterday I attended the welcome for his Honour Judge Paul Cosgrave at the County Court. A link to the welcome speech can be found here.

I also welcome the following recent appointments:

- Suzanne Jones as a Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia;

- Dominic Lennon to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria;

- Darren Bracken and David Starvaggi as Deputy Public Interest Monitors to serve as deputies to Brendan Murphy QC, the Principal Public Interest Monitor. These roles involve appearing in the public interest at hearings where warrants for the use of covert and coercive powers are being sought under the new IBAC legislation.

I congratulate all of these members of the Bar on their appointments and wish them well in their new roles.

Readers’ Course and Bar examination

The March Bar Readers’ course finished last week and work has now begun on the September course. On Wednesday night, the entrance examination for the September 2013 course was held. About 100 candidates sat for the exam.

The Readers’ Course Committee is conducting Advocacy Coach Training on 2 – 3 August 2013. This is a great way to join the committed pool of barristers who already contribute enormously to the development of the Bar by becoming an accredited advocacy coach. The Committee will also run a CPD session in August on “Designing and delivering an effective CPD session”, which will be targeted at those presenting in the Readers’ course or at CPD events.

I encourage members to participate in this training and to attend the CPD session. Further details of these events will be provided in the coming months.

The contribution of those members who assist the Readers’ course cannot be underestimated. We are greatly indebted to the many people – judges, retired judges, counsel and the Bar staff – who continue to work so diligently to ensure that the Readers’ course and the assessments of the readers are of the highest standard. Over 100 people are involved in providing all that goes into each course and I wish to acknowledge their great efforts in this regard.

People Trafficking, Slavery and Exploitation

Members may be interested in a recent radio interview where I spoke about issues of people trafficking, slavery and exploitation in Australia. A link the interview may be found here.

Federal Budget legal aid funding

[17 May 2013]

The Federal Budget was announced earlier this week. A number of important access to justice initiatives have received additional funding (including indigenous legal services, community legal centres, applications for judicial review of refugee claims and support for those appearing before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse). We welcome funding for three additional Federal Court judges and staff.
Regrettably, like the Victorian State Budget (column from 10 May 2013), the Federal Budget has done little to address the longstanding problems facing Legal Aid Commissions. Under the Budget, the Federal government will add $30 million to legal aid commissions nationally over the next two years. This compares with the $76.2 million we said the government needed to spend this year to match the States’ collective contribution and provide security for future funding.
This additional contribution lifts the Commonwealth’s share of legal aid funding from about 31% to 35%, well short of the 50% we called for. In real terms the share has dropped from $10.59 per head in 1997 to $8.97 per head in 2013. Whether measured in percentages or dollars, this is simply not enough to provide real support for those vulnerable people who now can’t access legal aid in criminal matters, in family and children’s court matters. Many members have reported the strain that this is placing on these areas of practice in particular and the impact upon already distressed clients appearing before the Courts. Please keep a record of these problems as they arise and send them through to me at and we will compile them to draw upon in future submissions.
The Bar and the LIV have for some time been pressing for a renegotiation of the national partnership agreement and we are now calling for a national summit on legal aid, to bring all of the decision makers together. See my latest press release here.
Pro Bono Awards

On Tuesday 14 May, the 4th Annual Pro Bono Awards night was held in the Supreme Court Library.  The guest speaker was the Hon Justice Susan Crennan AC of the High Court, after whom one of the Awards is named.
Justice Crennan’s speech was an inspiring one. She spoke of the history of pro bono contribution by lawyers, especially the Victorian Bar, and of the creation of Legal Aid Commissions to address the depth of the unmet need for legal assistance. She echoed the remarks of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Maxwell at the PILCH Walk for Justice held earlier the same day, that the pro bono efforts of the profession cannot be a substitute for properly funded legal aid. Her Honour's remarks can be found here.

I am delighted to acknowledge and congratulate the following members of the Bar who were Award recipients on the night:

Victorian Bar Trophy - Paul Bingham
Daniel Pollack Readers Award - Leana Papaelia
Ron Castan AM QC Award - Nick Wood
Susan Crennan AC QC Award - Nola Karapanagiotidis
Ron Merkel QC Award - John Desmond and Richard Edney
Public Interest/Justice Innovation Award - Herman Borenstein SC, Kris Hanscombe SC and Lachlan Armstrong for their work on BSWAT

As I noted in a recent press release, Victorian barristers provide pro bono legal services worth millions of dollars each year. All nominees for these awards have contributed profoundly, in the finest traditions of the Bar, to our quest for equal access to justice and the strength of our community. Many other members of the Bar do pro bono work which is not publicly acknowledged. It is just as important to acknowledge those whose pro bono work goes unsung.
New members of the Bar

On Thursday, I was pleased to witness the signing of the Roll of Counsel by 47 readers who commenced the readers course in March 2013.
The signing of the Bar Roll was held in the Supreme Court Library attended by the readers, their mentors, their friends and family and members of the Bar Council. A dinner for the readers and their mentors followed, with guest speaker, His Excellency the Hon Alex Chernov AC QC.
I welcome all new members of counsel to the Bar and wish them well for the remainder of their reading period with their mentors and for their future practice.
Bar Dinner

Last chance - register now for the Bar Dinner here for a fantastic night.

Farwell - The Honourable Justice Peter Gray

[17 May 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council on Friday 17 May 2013 at the farewell to The Honourable Justice Peter Gray in the Federal Court of Australia.

Legal Aid – new VLA interim guidelines

[10 May 2013]

Following the continued efforts of the Bar and the Law Institute over many months and the Court of Appeal’s recent decision in the Chaouk case. Victoria Legal Aid has now introduced an “interim eligibility guideline” in relation to the funding of second lawyers in criminal trials. The press release from VLA on the new eligibility guidelines can be downloaded here. The actual guidelines are set out in a letter from VLA.
In summary, VLA will provide a fee for:
a. the instructing lawyer who has prepared the matter for trial; or
b. an instructing lawyer who is experienced and well versed in the facts of the case and the relevant law; or
c. junior counsel, where the assigned lawyer in consultation with their client determines that it is more appropriate to ensure a fair trial in the particular case; or
d. junior counsel, where a legal practitioner who meets subsection a) or b) is not available or not preferred;
as and when required in a criminal trial.
This is a welcome step along the way towards ensuring that legal aid funding is available for proper representation so as to ensure fair trials and is one compelled by the statement of the Court of Appeal upholding Lasry J.'s reasoning as 'impeccable' and his decision to stay the trial as unimpeachable.
On behalf of the Bar I have spoken publicly on a number of occasions recently in the lead up to the State and Federal budgets about the critical need for adequate funding and the impact upon criminal, family law and children's matters. Recent press releases appear here and here. Despite the funding allocated to legal aid in the State budget, it appears this will make very little impact for those appearing before the courts.
David Neal SC has prepared a detailed note analysing the legal aid funding in the State budget (click here) which reveals the ongoing critical shortfall in funding. The Bar is urging the Federal government to respond with a proper commitment of resources in next week's budget.
Recent Judicial Appointments

I am pleased to note two recent judicial appointments.
His Honour Judge Timothy Ginnane of the County Court has been appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria, with effect from 4 June 2013.
Paul Cosgrave SC has also been appointed, with effect from yesterday, as a judge of the County Court.
I welcome both appointments and wish their Honours well in their new roles.
I was also pleased to speak at the welcome of Chief Justice James Allsop, Judge Couzens and Justice Pat Keane this week on behalf of the Bar.

Professional Indemnity Insurance is mandatory for all practitioners

Each year it must be in place by 31 May if you intend to continue to practice. I urge you not to leave it until the last minute. Under the Legal Profession Act 2004, the prescribed insurance provider for all Victorian legal practitioners is the Legal Practitioner’s Liability Committee (LPLC).  Recent social media comments have indicated that many members may not be aware that LPLC’s policy does not insure against disciplinary investigations or prosecutions, but the optional top up cover provided by CGU through the brokers Affinity does. Applications for top up must be lodged by 30 June.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Patrick Keane

[10 May 2013]

Address at the ceremonial sitting to welcome The Honourable Justice Patrick Keane on the occasion of his first sitting in Melbourne as a Justice of the High Court of Australia on Friday 10 May 2013 by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council.

Welcome - His Honour Judge Peter Couzens

[9 May 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Thursday 9 May 2013 at the welcome to His Honour Judge Peter Couzens upon his appointment to the County Court of Victoria and as President of the Children’s Court of Victoria is available below as well as the address by Geoffrey Bowyer, President-Elect of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Welcome - The Honourable Chief Justice James Allsop

[6 May 2013]

Address at the ceremonial sitting to welcome The Honourable Chief Justice James Allsop on the occasion of his first sitting in Melbourne on Monday 6 May 2013 by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council.

Launch of National Attrition Survey

[3 May 2013]

On Monday 6 May the Law Council of Australia will launch its National Attrition and Re-engagement Survey, the first national survey of the profession.
The Law Council is committed to addressing the high rates of attrition of women from the profession, a problem that has not changed significantly despite strong numbers graduating from law schools for over thirty years and many efforts to address the situation.
The survey will contribute to a broader study concerning the progression of male and female lawyers. It will lead to a report outlining practical measures that can be implemented to address the causes of high attrition rates among women lawyers, and re-engage women lawyers who have left the profession. The results of the study will help guide future policy directions on how the profession can better retain its members.  
This survey is being administered and managed by independent research agency Urbis. All information is confidential.

Please follow the link and take the time to complete the survey to support this important work. Please also pass on the link to those you know who have left the Bar so that we can reach a reasonable cohort of those no longer practising and take their views into account.
Future of the Bar

Many members have let me know how valuable they found the 2013 Bar Conference. The Conference presentations have been recorded and can be found on the Vic Bar website. Sessions include Techniques for Better Advocacy, Pro Bono – An Ethical Obligation or a Sign of Market Failure, Threats, Opportunities for Barristers in a Digital World and more.

A presentation which has generated a lot of interest was delivered by Associate Professor Rufus Black, a Report Card on The Bar. Rufus Black took a fresh look at the Bar after his involvement in the McKinsey study in reviewing the challenges for civil justice in Victoria in 2008. His presentation considered the challenges to the Bar, trends occurring across the legal sector and the areas of future opportunity for work. I highly recommend the presentation.

While on the theme of CPD, also take a look at the expanded information on the website for hosting, viewing and recording your CPD here. Bar associations, committees and members now have a facility to log their interest in hosting a CPD event directly on the system. There is a list of upcoming CPD events and of course the ability to keep a record of your CPD attendances on-line.   

Legal Aid

Yesterday, 2 May 2013, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision made of  Lasry J. to stay a trial involving a charge of attempted murder until the barrister for the accused in the case was provided with an instructing solicitor for each day of the trial.

This followed a decision by Victoria Legal Aid to refuse to provide an instructing solicitor for more than two half days of the trial. Lasry J. considered this arrangement inadequate because it carried a risk of an unfair trial if the trial went ahead. [see comment below at 22 February 2013].

This decision is the direct impact of the legal aid squeeze on the administration of
justice in Victoria. VLA will now need to consider the judgment of the Court and revisit their funding guidelines. This will of course, result in the shift of scarce resources from one area of need to another and, unless additional funds are provided in the upcoming State and federal budgets, will create hardships in other areas.

A copy of the judgment may be found here. A recent press release may be found here.

Commonwealth Law Conference

[24 Apr 2013]

Last week I attended the Commonwealth Law Conference in Cape Town as a representative of the Law Council of Australia. The program offered an interesting range of presentations relevant to practice, access to justice, comparative constitutional issues and human rights with the general theme ‘common challenges, common solutions’. More than 700 delegates attended from a range of commonwealth states including large numbers from neighboring African states Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.

I attended a range of sessions with the sessions on human rights abuses of women and girls and the treatment of accused in detention without charge and subjected to cruel treatment in custody particularly confronting. The delegates heard that the adherence to the rule of law in many countries is compromised by political interference in the judicial process and a lack of will to confront these abuses.

One of the matters raised at the conference was support for the judiciary of Sri Lanka. The conference expressed its concern regarding reports of threats and intimidation against the legal profession and judiciary in Sri Lanka and the flawed impeachment of Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake which had led to  her removal from office in defiance of judgments of the Court, the relocation of magistrates and judges, and harassment of members of the legal profession who had sought to promote adherence to due process. A link to the resolution of the conference may be found here.

There can be no doubt that as lawyers working towards the shared values of respecting human rights and the rule of law, we have an influential role  - as individuals and professional organisations -  in supporting lawyers and the judiciary seeking to do so overseas. The Victorian Bar has a proud tradition of speaking out in defence of the rule of law at home and overseas and we should continue to do so.

Bar Dinner

By now you should have all received an invitation to the Bar Dinner to be held on Friday 24 May, 2013. I urge you all to start arranging tables. Our guest speakers The Hon Justice Keane and Debbie Mortimer SC are sure to make this a wonderful evening and I look forward to seeing you all there!

Welcome - Judge Judith Small

[22 Apr 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Monday 22 April 2013 at the welcome to Her Honour Judge Judith Small upon her appointment to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Farewell - The Honourable Justice Peter Young

[22 Apr 2013]

Address by William Alstergren SC, Co-Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, on Thursday 18 April 2013 at the farewell to The Honourable Justice Peter Young in the Family Court of Australia.

Welcome - His Honour Judge Christopher Ryan

[22 Apr 2013]

Address by William Alstergren SC, Co-Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, on Thursday 18 April 2013 at the welcome to His Honour Judge Christopher Ryan upon his appointment to the County Court of Victoria.

Donations to charity and the Sentencing Act - update

[19 Apr 2013]

This week the Victorian government introduced legislation into Parliament which will allow charities to continue to receive proceeds from court-ordered donations. This was in response to the decision of Brittain v Mansour in which Justice Dixon ruled that a magistrate lacked the power to order a man to donate $2500 to a St Vincent de Paul food van for the homeless as a condition of his release without conviction under the Sentencing Act: see below entry from 1 March 2013.

As a result of the new legislation, courts will be able to continue the long-standing practice of directing that money be paid by offenders to charitable or community service organisations. As well as supporting important charity work, these orders give magistrates flexibility in sentencing for minor offences.  I welcome the new legislation.

See the Attorney-General’s press release here.

Suspended sentences

The government has also introduced into Parliament legislation to abolish all remaining suspended sentences in Victoria. Suspended sentences were abolished from 1 May 2011 in the higher courts for serious offences. The new legislation will abolish remaining suspended sentences in two stages. In the first stage, all remaining suspended sentences will be abolished in the Supreme Court and County Court. In the second stage, suspended sentences will be abolished for all offences in the Magistrates’ Court. The first stage will commence before 1 December this year, and the second stage will commence no later than 1 September 2014, for offences committed on or after those dates.

See the Attorney-General’s press release here.

Sun sets on various regulations

[12 Apr 2013]

This week the Australian Government announced the repeal of more than 1,000 regulations and other instruments, as provided by the Legislative Instruments Amendment (Sun setting Measures) Act 2012. The repeal instrument is registered on the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments and takes full effect from 9 April. View the government's media release here.

Federal Circuit Court of Australia

The Federal Magistrates Court will soon be renamed the Federal Circuit Court of Australia. All forms, publications and other material are being updated and will be available close to the implementation date. Brochures, outlining the changes can be viewed here and here.

Bar Dinner

Preparations are underway for this year's Bar Dinner which will be held at the Myer Mural Hall on Friday 24 May. We received really positive feedback on last year’s dinner at the Mural Hall and this year is shaping up to be a great night too. Make sure to keep the date free in your diary.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice James Elliott

[11 Apr 2013]

Address by Jonathan Beach QC, Co-Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, on Wednesday 10 April 2013 at the welcome to The Honourable Justice James Elliott upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Opening of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

[5 Apr 2013]

On Wednesday 3 April, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had its first hearing in Melbourne. Justice Peter McClellan AM, the Chair of the panel of Commissioners, gave a detailed opening address dealing with the various tasks and challenges faced by the Royal Commission over the coming years. He also provided a summary of the practice and procedures which the Royal Commission will be adopting. It is likely that a number of our members will be involved in representing institutions and persons potentially affected by adverse findings of the Commission.

Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission are Gail Furness SC of the New South Wales Bar and Melinda Richards of our Bar. Ms Furness also addressed the Royal Commission at the opening hearing.    

Information on the Royal Commission, including transcript of the opening hearing and draft Practice Guidelines, can be found at its website:

The Royal Commission has invited comment, by 19 April 2013, on the draft Practice Guidelines.

Victorian Bar Pro Bono Awards – 10 April closing date for nominations

The closing date for nominations for the Victorian Bar’s pro bono awards is next Wednesday, 10 April 2013. I encourage you to nominate members of the Bar involved in pro bono work. The awards recognise the significant contributions of individual barristers to pro bono representation of clients, as well as the Bar’s important role in this regard.

I note the important contribution of our members to pro bono legal work, which is reflected in the following statistical information. Click here.

Appointments to Fair Work Commission

Just before Easter, the Commonwealth government announced a number of new appointments to the Fair Work Commission. They include the President of the Law Council of Australia, Joseph Catanzariti, who has been appointed as a Vice President of the Commission.

Legal Aid changes –consequences for Children’s Court matters

[28 Mar 2013]

As noted previously, Victoria Legal Aid has made some significant changes to legal aid funding for matters in the Children’s Court in recent times. See post from 22 February 2013.

Previously children deemed mature enough to instruct a lawyer were automatically given a grant of legal aid. But changes to the VLA guidelines purport to abolish this funding for maturity assessments and representation for children under 10 years of age Further changes to be introduced are of grave concern:

  • funding no more than 4 mentions per matter;
  • no funding except for contests concerning placement (that is, where and with whom a child lives)

This will result in unrepresented parties appearing before the Children’s Court in matters where they are opposed by the Department of Human Services or by other unrepresented parties, usually family members. The potential for injustice and additional delays and stresses upon the system are apparent.

Our inability to adequately protect children, particularly those coming before the Court at times of family breakdown, reflects poorly upon our legal system and creates extraordinary pressures for members practising in this area and in related Family law matters.

Recent judicial appointments

This week has seen a number of judicial appointments:

James Elliott SC as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria

Christopher Ryan SC as a Judge of the County Court

Magistrate Peter Couzens as a Judge of the County Court and the new President of the Children’s Court as of 1 May following the end of Judge Grant’s term

Magistrate Barry Braun as a Deputy Chief Magistrate

David Faram, a solicitor based in Shepparton and former President of the Law Institute of Victoria, as a Magistrate

And, in the Commonwealth sphere:

Joe Catanzariti, President of the Law Council of Australia, appointed as a Vice President of the Fair Work Commission

Judy Small, previously Director of Family, Youth & Children’s Law Services at VLA, as a Federal Magistrate to the Melbourne Registry, to take up appointment 15 April, 2013.

I congratulate all those who have been appointed.

Conference highlights

[22 Mar 2013]

Last Friday and Saturday many members attended the Victorian Bar CPD Conference. All the feedback confirms that it was a great success and my thanks go to all of those involved in the planning and organization.

Associate Professor Rufus Black’s presentation on the Saturday, The Modern Bar under the Microscope, was a highlight and gave us much food for thought. Illuminating and thought provoking, Professor Black’s review of how the Bar is travelling was focused on how we might improve our market share in the increasingly competitive market for legal services. He analysed the Bar’s earning trends and areas of practice over the last few years to reveal areas of opportunities for growth.

Professor Black urged us to explore ways to build work for the Bar including: reasserting our expertise in advice work in complex matters; strengthening relationships with corporate and government clients; being receptive to feedback and opportunities for coaching; and following economic trends to promote Victoria as a jurisdiction of choice for issuing civil litigation. In particular, he recommended building on our reputation for strong adherence to the rule of law, and as a high quality profession, to expand our share of international arbitration work. This is discussed further below.

Other highlights included:

  • a lunch for members under 5 years' call where the topic discussed was "The five things I wish I knew before I started at the Bar";
  • a presentation by the State Attorney-General and the Q and A session that followed with a particular concern for members about legal aid;
  • a presentation by the Commonwealth Attorney-General on the importance of pro bono work and access to justice;
  • a Judges' panel constituted by Redlich JA, Hollingworth J, T Forrest J & Judge O'Neill, on Advocacy - on what they look for from a barrister, and what annoys them; and
  • the Conference Dinner address by the hilarious Sir Murray Rivers QC (a.k.a. Brian Dawe) in the beautiful Long Room at the MCG.


The Conference presented a good opportunity to speak with colleagues over lunch, during breaks and at the dinner – away from the courtroom and chambers – and to reflect on the presentations we had heard; and on some of the challenges we are facing, both collectively and individually. It was particularly pleasing to be able to welcome partners and spouses to the dinner.

International commercial arbitration

One matter raised by Associate Professor Rupert Black concerned building Melbourne as a centre for excellence in international arbitration. The Bar is in an advanced stage of planning with the LIV and Department of Justice, with the support of the State Attorney General, for the establishment of an Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Melbourne. I expect to be in a position to reveal more about this exciting project in the months ahead.

Members will be interested to know that last week, in an important decision for the future of international arbitration in Australia, the High Court unanimously held that s 16(1) of the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth), which gives “the force of law in Australia” to the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, is not invalid. In so holding, the Court dismissed the challenge to an award made by a three-member arbitral panel constituted by Gavan Griffith AO QC, Alan Goldberg AO QC and Peter Riordan SC.

Albert Monichino SC has prepared an interesting case note on the decision, which can be downloaded here.

The full case can be found at TCL Air Conditioner (Zhongshan) Co Ltd v The Judges of the Federal Court of Australia [2013] HCA 5

Farewell - The Honourable Justice David Habersberger

[22 Mar 2013]

Farewell address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, to mark the final sitting of The Honourable Justice David Habersberger of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Read the full address here. Address by Reynah Tang, President of the Law Institute of Victoria can be read here.

Retirement of the Honourable Justice David Habersberger

[21 Mar 2013]

After more than 11 ½ years service as a Judge of the Supreme Court, the Honourable Justice David Habersberger has resigned his Commission effective midnight next Wednesday 27 March 2013.

His Honour’s Farewell was on Wednesday 20 March, in the Banco Court. The Solicitor-General, Stephen McLeish SC represented the Government; I spoke on behalf of the Bar; and the Law Institute President, Reynah Tang, spoke on behalf of the Institute and the Solicitors.

David Habersberger practised at our Bar for more than 28 years up to his appointment to the Court on 3 July 2001. For a remarkable 14 ½ years, he served the Bar Council, first for 4 ½ years as Assistant Honorary Secretary and then Honorary Secretary; and then as a Member of the Council for 10 years, including as Honorary Treasurer, Vice-Chairman and Chairman.

He sat in every Division of the Court, and as an Acting Judge of Appeal. At various times he headed the Commercial List, the Building Cases List, the Probate List, and retires as Principal Judge of the Commercial & Equity Division and the Senior Puisne Judge.

There was a capacity crowd at His Honour’s Farewell, including many Judges and retired Judges of the Supreme Court and other Courts.

Federal Court

[15 Mar 2013]

The Bar Council met this week with the new Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Justice Allsop and discussed a number of issues including the new court fees, the winding back of the panels and the current unfilled vacancies in the Victorian Registry.

I share the concerns which the former Chief Justice, Justice Keane has recently raised in the media concerning the proposed fee increases for Commonwealth Courts.

As I said publically last year in relation to State courts, the courts are not an agency of government and should not be subject to misdirected cost saving and business efficiency measures. These regimes risk undermining measures designed by the courts and the profession to ensure efficient trial processes by imposing external financial pressures and benchmarks that have nothing to do with the delivery of just outcomes.

The new court fees have a grave potential to restrict access to the courts for members of the community. The discretion to waive fees on a case by case basis is not an answer. I note in this regard that the Law Council has called upon the Commonwealth Attorney-General to wind back the government’s proposed fee increases and the Senate’s standing Committee for Legal and Constitutional Affairs is presently considering the proposed fee increases and the impact of court fees in the Federal Court since 2010. Click here.

Victorian Bar CPD Conference

As In Brief goes to print, many of our members will be attending the annual CPD conference at the Hilton Hotel. Given the promising line up of speakers, I look forward to sharing some of the highlights of the conference with you next week.

Welcome - The Honourable Justice Stephen Gageler

[15 Mar 2013]

Welcome address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, to mark the first sitting in Melbourne of The Honourable Stephen Gageler as a Justice of the High Court of Australia.

Legal Aid, independence and the problem of appearing with instructors

[8 Mar 2013]

In response to recent grants of stay applications by the Supreme Court (see update below from 22 February 2013) Victoria Legal Aid has suggested a compromise, where funding could be applied to two counsel in certain matters. However, once funding has been approved, the second counsel role has, in a number of cases, been taken by the instructing solicitor. In effect, the instructor steps in as counsel’s junior.

This does not address the issues identified by Lasry J. and others in their decisions concerning the need for an instructor to secure a fair trial and may create an ethical issue for members by appearing with a solicitor. I encourage all members who find themselves in this situation to consider the operation of our rules 130 and 131 and if appropriate to seek advice from the Ethics Committee. Our Rules generally prohibit us appearing with solicitors in this way, although there are exceptions. The relevant rules (130 and 131) appear below.

Appearance with Others not in Independent Practice


Subject to these Rules, in order to maintain professional independence, a barrister shall not appear in any court with a person who is not either a barrister or practising as a member of an independent Bar, provided that this rule does not apply to an appearance outside Victoria where:

(a) such other person is a Law Officer of the Crown, the Public Defender or an Assistant Public Defender, the Director of Prosecutions, or the Director of Public Prosecutions; or

(b) in criminal proceedings such other person is a Crown Prosecutor; or

(c) the prior permission of the Ethics Committee has been obtained.

Notwithstanding the provisions of Rule 130, a barrister may, but is not bound to, accept a brief to appear with a practitioner who is not either a barrister or practising as a member of an independent Bar (“the proposed co-advocate”) if:

(a) the member of the Bar considers:
(i) the complexity of the case requires two advocates; and
(ii) the proposed co-advocate has sufficient relevant advocacy experience;

(b) except where the barrister is briefed to prosecute on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Victoria or the Commonwealth, the barrister has been advised by the instructing solicitor that the instructing solicitor has in writing:
(i) advised the client that the instructing solicitor considers the complexity of the case requires the appearance of two advocates;
(ii) advised the client of the relevant advocacy experience of the proposed co-advocate; and
(iii) given to the client an estimate of the likely cost of engaging either an appropriate barrister or an appropriate member of an independent Bar, and has given to the client a comparison between that estimate and an estimate of the likely cost of engaging the proposed co-advocate; and

(c) there is, in addition to the proposed co-advocate, a solicitor to instruct, as necessary, at the hearing of the case.

I am also aware that on 7 February 2013 VLA informed the Mental Health Legal Centre of its decision to cut funding for MHLC at the end of June 2013, and to redirect those funds to VLA itself.
If MHLC is forced to close its doors, those clients with experiences of mental illness will lose the benefit of its free independent legal advice, advocacy and other programs at a time when law reform in this area will likely result in a growing need for these services.

These cuts underline the critical need for additional funding for Legal Aid in the State and the impact across many Courts and different areas of practice for members of our Bar.
Black Saturday bushfire class action commences

This week, hearings commenced for the class action brought by victims of the Kilmore East bushfire. The hearings occurred in a brand new courtroom in the William Cooper Justice Centre on the corner of William and Lonsdale Streets. The courtroom has capacity for the many barristers who are representing the various parties, as well as room for many spectators. The proceedings are also being broadcast live on the internet, which has enabled the media to show footage of many of our members who are appearing at the trial.  The new courtroom is a useful addition to the Supreme Court’s facilities and is welcomed by the Victorian Bar.

Appointment of new President of the National Native Title Tribunal

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC has announced the appointment of Ms Raelene Webb QC as President of the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT). Ms Webb QC has practised law from Darwin since 1992. She will be appointed for a five year term from 1 April 2013, and will be based in Western Australia. Ms Webb QC was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2004 and has been the President of the NT Bar, a director of the Law Council and the Vice President of the ABA. She has appeared in significant native title matters as counsel for various governments and for native title applicants. I congratulate Ms Webb on her appointment.

Victorian Bar CPD Conference – last chance to register

Finally, I would like to remind all members of the Bar that the 3rd Bar Conference is to be held on 15 and 16 March 2013.  This is an excellent opportunity to meet your CPD obligations before the CPD year ends on 31 March – and members should note the LSB have signalled their intention NOT to renew your practicing certificate unless you have complied. It is also the excellent line up of speakers and topics that will be covered which make this a really worthwhile event.  The new Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus QC, is a recent addition to the list of speakers and Judges have been invited to attend the conference sessions and join us at dinner on Friday night.
I strongly encourage all members of the Bar to attend. The registration form can be found here.

Continuing the quest for new chambers

[1 Mar 2013]

Bar Council is acutely aware that members, especially juniors, are experiencing difficulties securing rooms and we are working closely with BCL to increase chambers availability. With the tenure of local buildings tightly held and a need to plan for the long term, this endeavour is not as simple as it sounds. Nevertheless, as announcements about new chambers in the last two years attest, BCL is on alert for new opportunities and wherever possible creating opportunities within existing chambers. The recently appointed Chairman of BCL, Michael Wyles S.C. has written to members through the BCL website. Members should know the issue of chambers accommodation remains an issue of concern to the Bar Council.

Donations to charity and the Sentencing Act
In the case of Brittain v Mansour last week Justice Dixon ruled that a magistrate lacked the power to order a man to donate $2500 to a St Vincent de Paul food van for the homeless as a condition of his release without conviction under the Sentencing Act.

This was the first legal challenge to the long-standing practice of courts ordering those guilty of minor crimes to donate to charity or distribute money to a charity via the court fund.

The decision means that all court-ordered payments will now be treated as fines, which typically go to consolidated revenue. It will also put a limit on the range of sentencing options available to judges and magistrates.Many court-ordered donations will now be unenforceable, including some retrospectively.

This raises a concern over sentencing options in the case of minor offences and the impact upon these charities. I understand the decision and its implications will be reviewed and consideration given as to whether amending legislation is needed.

The decision can be read here.

Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
In 2010, the Prime Minister Julia Gillard constituted an expert panel to report to government on possible options for constitutional change to give effect to Indigenous constitutional recognition. In January 2012, the Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution handed its final report to the Prime Minister.

The final recommendations were a result of broad public consultation and submissions including consultation with lawyers who practice in constitutional law.

The recommendations provide, amongst other things, for a new head of legislative power “to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”

Yesterday, a roundtable was convened here at the Victorian Bar, including some members of the Bar practicing in constitutional law, to discuss the Expert Panel’s final recommendations. It is expected the Bar will be invited to participate in future consultations on this important topic.

You can read the Expert Panel’s recommendations in full here and a briefing note of the issues discussed yesterday in the roundtable’s briefing note here.

Legal Aid update

[22 Feb 2013]

Last week I reported on Justice Lasry’s decision to adjourn a trial involving a charge of attempted murder until VLA provided the barrister for the accused in the case with an instructing solicitor for each day of the trial. This week Justice Terry Forrest granted a stay in a complex murder trial because the proposal that the accused be represented by a “one-person legal team” throughout his trial constituted a significant disadvantage. His Honour identified in that case what he termed “an inequality of arms” whereby the prosecution and co-accused would be instructed at all times and the other accused would not.

Members have informed me of a number of other similar applications to stay criminal trials either proposed or before the Courts.

The Ethics Committee has received a number of enquiries on the effect of the two Supreme Court decisions. An Ethics Bulletin has been released to assist Counsel in understanding their ethical duties. Members of the Ethics Committee are available to respond to specific questions of Counsel. View the Ethics Bulletin here.

I am also acutely aware of the fact that we cannot lose sight of the impact the VLA Criminal Law Guidelines introduced in January 2013 are having on the Children’s Court and counsel appearing in that jurisdiction. Until recently, children deemed mature enough to instruct a lawyer were automatically given a grant of legal aid. But changes to the VLA guidelines scrap funding for maturity assessments and automatic representation for children under 10 years of age. This will impact upon some our most vulnerable children. Some matters in the Children’s Court have already been the subject of adjournments after the Court deemed seven, eight and nine-year-olds mature enough to give instructions and are now waiting to hear if VLA will fund their legal representation.

The changes to the VLA guidelines threaten to delay further trials in our courts until the state of legal aid funding is resolved. VLA needs to find savings somewhere, due to chronic underfunding. In a media release this week I spoke of underfunding of legal aid being “a false economy” – the savings achieved drive up the cost of delivering on law and order policies aiming to bring justice to the community and it results in unfairness and errors leading to appeals. Recent media releases of interest Vic Bar media release 15/02/2013; Vic Bar media release 20/02/2013; LCA media release 19/02/2013.

I will keep members updated on this very important issue.

Legal Aid funding cuts impact criminal trials

[15 Feb 2013]

The ramifications of the chronic underfunding of legal aid and recent funding allocation decisions in Victoria have been the subject of argument in two criminal cases in the Supreme Court this week.

Under changes introduced by VLA last December, each accused has access to a solicitor for two half days only of their trial. In contrast, the Prosecutor routinely has an instructor for the duration of the trial. This creates an imbalance in the representation and can cause significant logistical issues for counsel representing the accused.

In one of the two cases, Justice Lasry today ordered that the matter be adjourned to a date to be fixed and that the trial not commence until counsel for the accused has the assistance of his instructing solicitor on a day to day basis for the duration of the trial.

In the second case, judgment is reserved until Monday.

As I commented at the legal aid rally last December, the Victorian Bar has long been concerned about the parlous condition of legal aid funding in Victoria. It is often members of our Bar that have stepped up to provide pro bono assistance or make do without adequate support. We have called upon State and Federal governments to restore funding to appropriate levels and to renegotiate the basis upon which cases are funded.

The Bar is keeping a close watch on these cases and will continue to call for increased certainty around future funding for legal aid. It is a matter that impacts barristers practicing in the criminal law jurisdiction but also disproportionately affects our junior bar.

New Solicitor General

I congratulate the new Solicitor General of the Commonwealth, Justin Gleeson S.C. on his appointment to the role. Mr Gleeson has been the acting Solicitor General since October 2012. He had a broad commercial and equity practice, with a strong focus on administrative and constitutional law at the NSW Bar and was appointed silk in 2000.

Health and Wellbeing

I encourage members to consider attending the 2013 National Law Wellness Forum, at the University of Melbourne on 21 and 22 February. Registration is free.

The Forum aims to promote a deeper understanding of the onset and causes of psychological distress, the development of strategies for preventing and ameliorating distress and to foster wellbeing within the legal profession. It will provide opportunity to hear about recent research findings and to discuss future projects and initiatives.

As well as canvassing the latest research on issues of health and well being, the Forum will host speakers focussing on lawyers developing practical skills to manage stress and anxiety. There will be two papers on the Bar Care scheme; one by the Deputy Chair of the Bar Health and Well Being Committee, Dr Michelle Sharpe and, one by the Bar's consulting psychologist, Bernadette Healy. A link to the Wellness for Law website is here.

LIV Welcome to The Honourable Associate Justice Mark Derham

[12 Feb 2013]

Address by Reynah Tang, President of the Law Institute of Victoria, on Tuesday 12 February 2013 at the welcome to the Honourable Associate Justice Mark Derham upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria can be viewed here.

Welcome - The Honourable Associate Justice Mark Derham

[12 Feb 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Tuesday 12 February 2013 at the welcome to The Honourable Associate Justice Mark Derham upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Australian Bar Association

[8 Feb 2013]

The following were elected to the Executive of the Australian Bar Association on Monday this week:

President: Michael Colbran QC (Victoria)

Vice President: Raelene Webb QC (NT)

Hon. Secretary: Philip Walker (ACT)

Hon Treasurer: Mark Livesey (SA)

Chair, Advocacy Training Council: Philip Greenwood SC (NSW)

The Victorian Bar extends its congratulations to each newly elected member. The ABA Secretariat will soon be housed in Victoria in support of Michael’s year as President. This comes after an extraordinary contribution to the work of the ABA by the Queensland Bar over many years.

In recent times the ABA has undertaken important work in formulating National Model Rules which will apply throughout Australia to all practicing barristers. This project has taken many years to resolve inconsistencies in the rules of each Bar to create national uniform standards. Philip Selth, the CEO of the NSW Bar has worked tirelessly on this project and with the assistance of Michael Colbran QC and Jonathan Beach QC, we have now reached consensus on the content of the rules. These will now be formally approved and members will be advised when they are to take effect.

In addition, the ABA holds, annually, an Advanced Trial Advocacy course, an Essential Advocacy Course and an Appellant Advocacy Course supported by accredited advocacy coaches through the work of the Advocacy Training Council. These courses are open to all barristers around Australia.

The biennial ABA Conference will be held in Rome this year between 2-5 July 2013. Visit the ABA website for all the details.

The Chairs of each State and Territory Bar Association participate in the work of the ABA and meet a number of times each year. I will endeavour to report back to members any national projects and developments at the ABA affecting our Bar.

Silk Celebrations

I attended the High Court of Australia on Monday to announce the new silks as they took their bows with silks from all jurisdictions. The ceremonies were followed by the ABA Silks dinner in the Great Hall of the High Court to mark the occasion. All barristers and their partners are invited. It was a wonderful evening and a number of us took the opportunity to speak with Australia’s new Attorney-General and member of the Victorian Bar The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC, MP. More news on the new Attorney appears below.

The Victorian Bar welcomes the new Commonwealth Attorney-General

The Victorian Bar extends it congratulations to the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP on his appointment on 4 February 2013 as Commonwealth Attorney-General. As a former member of the Victorian Bar and our Bar Council, the new Attorney has an excellent understanding of the importance of a strong independent Bar to the proper and effective administration of justice. We look forward to working with him in his new role.

We offer our thanks to the former Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon MP for her outstanding service to the Australian Parliament, the community and to the legal profession and for her achievements as a role-model for women in politics generally. We enjoyed working with her and wish her well for the future.

LIV Welcome to His Honour Judge John Jordan

[7 Feb 2013]

Address by Reynah Tang, President of the Law Institute of Victoria, on Thursday 7 February 2013 at the Welcome to His Honour Judge Jordan upon this appointment and swearing in as a judge of the County Court of Victoria.

Welcome to His Honour Judge John Jordan

[7 Feb 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Thursday 7 February 2013 at the Welcome to His Honour Judge Jordan upon his appointment and swearing in as a judge of the County Court of Victoria.

A kick start to the legal year

[1 Feb 2013]

It’s been a short but eventful week to kick start the 2013 legal year: Australia Day Honours; the observances marking the Opening of the Legal Year; the launch of the Victorian Bar Reconciliation Action Plan; and a Welcome for The Hon Justice Jennifer Coate.

Australia Day Awards

The Hon Paul Guest QC and the late John Gibson were both honoured in the Australia Day Awards: Paul Guest with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the community and the sport of rowing; and John Gibson posthumously made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for significant service to international relations as an advocate for human rights. Other lawyer recipients include:

  • Officers of the Order of Australia (AO): The Hon Justice James Allsop (President of the NSW Court of Appeal and Federal Court Chief Justice designate); The Hon Justice Margaret White (Master then Judge of the Queensland Supreme Court and now Judge of the Queensland Court of Appeal); The Hon Dr Christine Wheeler QC (retired Judge of the Western Australian Court of Appeal and Supreme Court); and
  • Members of the Order of Australia (AM): The Hon Justice Glenn Martin (Judge of the Queensland Supreme Court and former President of the Australian Bar Association and of the Queensland Bar); and Ron Heinrich (a Corporate & Commercial Partner at TressCox and former President of the Law Council of Australia. I congratulate all recipients for this recognition of their contributions

Opening of the Legal Year

On Tuesday, the Opening of the Legal Year was marked by services at St Paul’s Cathedral, St Patrick’s Cathedral and at the Synagogue of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation – and by the Community Observance at the County Court organized by the International Commission of Jurists. These observances, also open to the public, were attended by members of the Judiciary, the Bar and the Law Institute. On Wednesday, the Victorian Law Foundation held its annual Legal Laneway Breakfast in Hardware Lane. The Attorney-General, Robert Clark, spoke and identified three legislative priorities for the new year: the Law Library of Victoria; Reserve Judges; and Jury Directions.


A number of appointments were announced on Tuesday: John Jordan SC to the County Court; Rose Falla and Peter Dunn to the Magistrates’ Court; and Fiona Bennett as Chairperson of the Legal Services Board.

Rose Falla had served almost 10 years as a solicitor in the Office of Public Prosecutions, and is Victoria’s first Indigenous Magistrate. Peter Dunn was, for years, a Clerk of Courts and, for the last 12 years, a solicitor-advocate in Benalla. He is Philip Dunn QC’s brother.

Fiona Bennett is a Chartered Accountant. She has served on the Legal Services Board since 2008, and as Acting Chairperson since the resignation of Colin Neave AM to accept appointment as the Commonwealth Ombudsman last August.

On Thursday I spoke on behalf of the Bar at the ceremonial sitting to welcome the Hon Justice Jennifer Coate at her swearing in as a Judge of the Family Court of Australia. My remarks can be here.

Launch of the RAP

We launched last Tuesday the Victorian Bar’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). My remarks at the launch can be read here.

I urge members to read the RAP. It expresses the Victorian Bar’s ongoing commitment to supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members in their careers at the Bar and contributing to justice for Indigenous people in Australia. The RAP can be downloaded here.

Photos from the RAP launch can be viewed here.

LIV Welcome to the Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate upon her appointment to the Family Court of Australia

[31 Jan 2013]

Address by Reynah Tang, President of The Law Institute of Victoria, on Thursday 31 January 2013 at the welcome to the Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate upon her appointment to the Family Court of Australia can be viewed here.

Welcome to The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate

[31 Jan 2013]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, on Thursday 31 January 2013 at the Welcome to The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate upon her appointment to the Family Court of Australia.

Victorian Bar Reconciliation Action Plan Launch

[30 Jan 2013]

Remarks from Chair, Fiona McLeod SC at the Indigenous Lawyers Committee Launch of the Victorian Bar Reconciliation Action Plan for the years ending 2012 - 2016.

Barristers RAP for Indigenous colleagues

[29 Jan 2013]

More than 30 years after Mick Dodson, Victoria’s first Indigenous barrister, signed the Bar Roll in 1981, the Victorian Bar will officially launch a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) today.

It is the first Australian bar to adopt a RAP, and joins the Law Council of Australia, the Law Institute of Victoria and a growing number of law firms and Australian businesses in adopting a plan to promote Indigenous equality.

“The Victorian Bar has been at the forefront of Indigenous rights for decades. In the mid 70’s some of our members helped establish the legal aid services in central Australia. Victorian barristers have represented Indigenous clients in many pro bono cases and in landmark legal cases. More recently over the past decade barristers at the Victorian Bar have found practical ways to address underrepresentation of Indigenous people among the ranks of barristers,” said Victorian Bar Chair, Fiona McLeod SC.

Media release below. Click here to view the RAP.

Thinking big in 2013

[25 Jan 2013]

Big ideas, big cases and bigger opportunities for practice development are defining themes of 2013 for the Victorian Bar.  

As we formally open the legal year next week, many of us will be considering ways to create a satisfying practice, now and in the future. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse joins the Kilmore East Bushfire Class Action as large, resource intense matters that will invariably touch upon the practices of many Victorian barristers.

I urge you to consider attending this year’s Annual Victorian Bar Conference, ‘The 2020 Barrister – Performance, Improvements and Progress’, with its focus on practice development, advocacy techniques and critical skills in persuasion, presentation and practice management. A terrific line up of speakers will provide every barrister, at every level of seniority, with fresh ideas, vision and skills to give their practice its individual ‘edge’.

The conference will be held on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March 2013 at the Hilton on the Park. Register by 8 February 2013 to receive the early bird rate. 2012 readers receive a discounted registration fee.

Full program and registration form here.

Victorian Bar Reconciliation Action Plan

Only this week, indigenous representation in the Australian Parliament was in the news. The Victorian Bar is committed to promoting indigenous representation and equality. In October 2012 the Victorian Bar Council adopted a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for the whole of the Victorian Bar. Development of the RAP began in December 2010 by the Indigenous Lawyers’ Committee (ILC) following a resolution of the Bar Council.

I am excited that the Victorian Bar is the first Australian Bar to adopt a RAP.

The RAP formally records our commitment to creating and sustaining opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at the Victorian Bar. It is, in effect, a strategic plan summarising our current and intended actions, policies and programs.

The RAP is the product of extensive consideration and work by the ILC. It consulted widely with other committees of the Victorian Bar, the Bar Council and Reconciliation Australia. Five of the Bar’s Indigenous barristers have been involved in the process.
The official launch of the Victorian Bar RAP is on 29 January 2013 between 5pm and 7pm in the foyer of Owen Dixon Chambers West. The launch will include a formal Welcome to Country and Indigenous music and dance performances. Special guests will include Jim Berg, Gunditjmara Elder, and Linda Lovett, Victoria’s first Indigenous woman barrister (and second Indigenous Victorian barrister).

The RAP will be distributed to Bar members as well as being available on this website for download.

Law Council of Australia

Your membership of the Victorian Bar automatically makes you a member of the Law Council of Australia, Australia’s peak legal body, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2013.

This year I was elected to join five other directors on the Law Council’s Executive. The President for 2013 is Joe Catanzariti. He was a past President of the Law Society of New South Wales and a partner of Clayton Utz. Joe is the Law Council's 61st President. Michael Colbran QC, has been elected President-elect.

The Law Council has identified several key priorities for 2013, all of which are relevant to our members and the work of our Bar. These include, access to justice, human rights advocacy, with a particular emphasis on human trafficking and the treatment of asylum seekers, international engagement through the promotion of Australia as a hub for international arbitration and addressing the high attrition rates of women lawyers.

The question of why women leave the legal profession and do not re-engage will be explored and addressed through the Law Council’s National Attrition and Re-Engagement Study.

Understanding the causes of high attrition rates among women barristers and practitioners will assist us in understanding why women leave the Bar and legal practice earlier and at a higher rate than their male counterparts. The National Study will help us focus on how the Victorian Bar can best support barristers to advance their careers when returning to practice after a career break, including how to best encourage more women to be in a position to apply for silk.

I will endeavour to bring you all the news of the Law Council, including the National Study, throughout the year. An article with the new LCA President appears here.  

Life at the Bar

Capturing what life is like at the Victorian Bar for prospective candidates was a task the Victorian Bar’s Student Engagement Committee set itself in 2012. It did so by inviting a number of our barristers from a cross section of the Bar to talk to camera about the joys, challenges, issues and opportunities open to those who come to the Bar. They talk about their working lives and what a typical day looks like for them.

These videos, collectively titled ‘Life at the Bar’, provide a great insight into life at the Bar at all levels of seniority and experience and are a fantastic port of call for anyone you know wishing to learn more about the Bar. The videos can be found on the website under ‘About Us’. To view the videos, click here.

We congratulate the Student Engagement Committee on this spirited initiative.

Happy new year

[21 Jan 2013]

I hope all members enjoyed a safe and happy holiday season and are returning refreshed and enthusiastic about the year ahead.

On 21 December I attended the final sitting of Justice Bongiorno upon his retirement as a judge of the Court of Appeal, with Vice Chairman Will Alstergren S.C. and a number of members of the Bar. His Honour elected not to have a ceremonial farewell but Chief Justice Warren spoke at his last sitting, paying tribute to His Honour’s outstanding service on the Court and in the Law – see the Bar lifts notice in this edition.

On 11 January the Commissioners for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were announced with Justice Peter McClellan appointed to lead the Commission and 5 other commissioners appointed, including former Children’s Court President and State Coroner Judge Jennifer Coate.

Judge Coate was also appointed a Judge of the Family Court, effective 31 January 2013. Her Honour will be sworn in and the profession will extend a Welcome on that day – see Bar lifts notice in this edition.

We congratulate her Honour upon her appointments and wish her well with the enormous task of the Commission ahead. A link to the Commission website including the terms of reference and media statements may be found here.

The legal year in Melbourne will be celebrated by the Bench and Bar at a number of services and ceremonies across the city on 29 January including an Ecumenical Service at St Paul's, a Red Mass at St Patrick's, a service at the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in South Yarra and a Community Observance organised by the International Commission of Jurists at the County Court. All members are welcome.

The Victorian Law Foundation Legal Laneway breakfast will this year be held the following day, on 30 January. Click here for details.

I thank Jim Peters S.C. for representing the Bar at the service and ceremonial sitting in Geelong on 14 January, an event that was, I believe, well attended and most enjoyable.

These ceremonial activities are an opportunity for the profession to re-connect with each other after a break and to reflect upon the moral underpinnings for much of our work in a religious or secular context.

Results of Bar Readers exam (held 15 November 2012)

[20 Dec 2012]

Forty-six candidates who sat the November Victorian Bar Readers exam will be offered places in the March 2013 intake of new Bar Readers. A total of 108 candidates sat the exam.

Prospective Bar readers sat the three hour closed book exam and have been notified of their individual results.

Offers were made to those who achieved the pass rate of 75% in an exam which assumes a high degree of detailed, up-to-date knowledge of evidence, procedure and ethics, ensuring those who accept places in the new Bar Readers course can move seamlessly into the course which now has a more intensive focus on advocacy skills and expertise.

Fiona McLeod SC

Victorian Bar 3rd Bar Conference – Hilton on the Park, East Melbourne 15-16 March 2013

[20 Dec 2012]

I am very pleased to invite you to attend our 3rd Bar Conference for members of the Bar and Bench to be held on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March 2013 at Hilton on the Park, East Melbourne.

The conference for 2013 is titled, ‘The 2020 Barrister: Performance, Improvements and Progress’ and will focus on the challenges of practice for barristers today.  

I recognise that while our bar is a strong collegiate body of very talented members, many of us are facing challenging times as a result of downturns in many sectors of the economy and a rapidly changing legal environment.

Briefing practices are changing and competition for advocacy work requires us to respond strategically, to focus on and promote our expertise in advocacy and case management and to preserve our special relationship of trust with clients and the Courts.

This conference will focus on some of these challenges are how we might respond to them. The line up of topics and speakers is a reflection of the Bar’s commitment to furthering the education, skills and practice of its members in an ever-evolving legal landscape.

The program includes:

  • A key note address by Attorney-General, The Honourable Robert Clark MP, on his plans for the Courts and the Bar including national regulation and new legislation.
  • Techniques for better advocacy by a panel of judges from the Supreme Court and County Court of Victoria, including the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Chris Maxwell.
  • A key note address by United States Ambassador to Australia, Ambassador Jeff Bleich, titled ‘Pro Bono – an ethical obligation or a sign of market failure?’
  • A discussion led by Associate Professor Rufus Black, Master of Ormond College at the University of Melbourne, on the current and projected performance of the Bar;
  • An inspiring address by Major Dan Mori on ‘How lawyers can change the world’.
  • Four concurrent sessions focused on critical skills, including the psychology of persuasion, mindfulness, presentation skills for barristers and strategies for getting more value from practice.

A conference dinner will be held on Saturday night in the spectacular Long Room, Melbourne Cricket Club with Guest of Honour Bryan Dawe as the hilarious Sir Murray Rivers QC. You are most welcome to bring your spouses and partners if you wish.

The Conference will provide an excellent opportunity for members to fulfill their CPD obligations for the 2012-13 CPD year and to interact with colleagues.

Remember to register by 8 February 2013 to receive the early bird rate. 2012 readers receive a discounted registration fee.

The full program and registration form can be found here.

Victorian Bar not in favour of latest sentencing laws

[13 Dec 2012]

The Victorian Bar and the Criminal Bar Association have expressed deep concern over the introduction of legislation to the Victorian Parliament to create statutory minimum sentences for serious injury offences involving ‘gross violence’.

“We recognise that violent assaults that cause serious injury are deeply shocking and understand the government’s commitment to respond with a strong message” said Victorian Bar Chair Fiona McLeod SC.

Media release below.

Simplified jury directions applauded

[13 Dec 2012]

The Victorian Bar has welcomed the Victorian Government’s introduction of legislation into Parliament today to streamline jury directions.

“Juries are fundamental to the integrity of our justice system and anything which makes their task smoother and easier, so they can concentrate on the main issues in criminal trials, is to be applauded,” said Victorian Bar Chair, Fiona McLeod SC.

Media release below.

Reserve judges welcomed by Victorian Bar

[13 Dec 2012]

The Victorian Bar said today that the introduction of a regime of ‘reserve’ judges made up of retired and former tenured judges and magistrates was a positive move by the Victorian Government.

Media release below.

Welcome to His Honour Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen

[13 Dec 2012]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chairman of the Victorian Bar, on Thursday 13 December 2012 at the Welcome to Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen upon his appointment as Chief Magistrate of Victoria.

LIV Legal Aid Rally

[11 Dec 2012]

I attended the LIV Legal Aid Rally on Tuesday 11 December 2012 on the forecourt of County Court of Victoria. I made the following remarks on behalf of the Bar.

The Victorian Bar has long been concerned about the parlous condition of legal aid funding in Victoria.

We see the legal aid funding crisis affecting our courts on a daily basis.

We see how far the legal aid dollar has to stretch to ensure proper representation of individuals before the court.

And we see the increasing numbers of people who face court with no representation at all – the unrepresented litigants struggling to navigate the court system and the law. It is often our bar through the duty barristers scheme that is stepping in to supplement the duty solicitors work with pro bono assistance worth millions of dollars [estimated at more than 40,000 hours over the last 12 month]

The Bar sympathises with unfortunate dilemma faced by Victoria Legal Aid. It is straining under the burden of ever increasing demand for its services and funding that has failed to keep up with the increased volume of prosecutions and laudable public policy focus on domestic violence issues and child protection measures. We understand there must be decisions taken about priorities.

But the inevitable result of this underfunding will be that more disadvantaged people appear before our courts on serious matters, and more of them will do so unrepresented or without adequate legal assistance and advice undermining the chance of a fair hearing, a fundamental right for every Victorian. Delays also affect those who the charges are designed to protect – the victims, facing the uncertainty of trials proceeding.
The decline in legal assistance sector funding over the last 16 years has affected many Australians who cannot afford legal representation, restricting access to justice and seriously impacting on the enforcement and protection of legal rights. Socially disadvantaged Australians are particularly at risk.

The cumulative effect of unrepresented people in courts is that the courts must make more time to ensure no injustice is done. Our judges spend more time dealing with each case carefully and thoroughly. Cases are presented less efficiently, trials are delayed, and matters are more likely to run to appeal – where even more time is consumed.

Over many years the Bar has called for the restoration of legal aid funding; for increased certainty around future funding for legal aid;  and for of legal aid to be treated as part of the equation when planning other law and order policy initiatives.

We are mindful tight fiscal restraint means there must be a juggle in priorities but this has led to a constant erosion in the legal aid budget in real terms. What we really need is a new national partnership agreement on legal aid funding that would establish national objectives for legal aid delivery and national minimum standards for legal aid service delivery.

And we need governments to match their policies with funding from beginning to end.

Welcome to the new Senior Counsel

[10 Dec 2012]

I attended the welcome of new silks on Friday in the Supreme, Federal and Family Courts. I made the following remarks on behalf of the Bar to the Court.

On behalf of the Bar may I warmly congratulate each of the new Senior Counsel and wish them well in their new role.  Each of the candidates is highly deserving of their appointment.

May I also, on behalf of the Bar, express our sincere thanks to you, the Chief Justice, for the important role that you perform each year in considering the applications for appointment as Senior Counsel. We are very conscious of the significant demands the Silks process places upon you, and the time and attention you devote to it, both in consulting with the Judiciary and the profession more generally, and in making the selection.  

Your Honour’s involvement as appointor of senior counsel is strongly supported by the Bar.

This year, Your Honour undertook on a trial basis some adjustments to the appointment process. We trust that this new process has been of assistance to you and that a review of the process will encourage Your Honour to remain centrally involved, providing independence and impartiality from the practising profession, confidentiality and candour in the consultation process, and appropriate recognition of the importance of Senior Counsel in the administration of the system of justice.

May it please the Court.

Appointment of Senior Counsel of and for the State of Victoria 2012

[7 Dec 2012]

Remarks of The Honourable Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice of Victoria on the occasion of the announcement of the appointment of Senior Counsel of and for the State of Victoria on Friday, 7 December 2012 in the  Banco Court, Supreme Court of Victoria are available via the Supreme Court website.

Welcome to The Honourable Justice John Digby

[5 Dec 2012]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, on Wednesday 5 December 2012 at the Welcome to The Honourable Justice John Digby upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Welcome to His Honour Judge Ian Gray

[4 Dec 2012]

Address by Fiona McLeod SC, Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council, on Tuesday 4 December 2012 at the Welcome to Judge Ian Gray upon his appointment to the County Court of Victoria and as State Coroner.

The experiences of female lawyers in Victoria

[4 Dec 2012]

This week I attended the launch of a survey conducted by the LIV and EO & HRC concerning the experiences of female lawyers in Victoria

About 427 women from small and large firms across Victoria took part in the biggest survey of women working in the law in recent years.  The survey, published by the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission in consultation with the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and Victorian Women Lawyers, was launched on 3 December 2012 at the LIV and is titled, Changing the rules: the experiences of women lawyers in Victoria.

Despite women graduating and participating in the legal profession at a high rate, ongoing retention, promotion and attrition rates of women are a cause for concern for legal practices across Australia. A large number of women leave the profession within five years.

The research sought to understand and report on the experiences of women in the legal profession by focusing on sexual harassment, discrimination and accommodation of parent and carer responsibilities.

Amongst the key findings of the report were:

  • 40 per cent of survey respondents have experienced discrimination while working as a lawyer or a legal trainee.
  • Of those who have suffered discrimination, 42 per cent believed the behaviour was part of an accepted culture within the workplace.
  • Almost 24 per cent have experienced sexual harassment at work from harassers in more senior positions who make suggestive comments, ask intrusive questions about their private life or physical appearance, or engage in unwanted touching or ''leering''.
  • 63 per cent of sexual harassment incidents occurred within the first 12 months of being in the workplace.
  • Two-thirds of those who were harassed did not complain for fear of being ostracised, jeopardising their careers, or not having their concerns dealt with properly.
The report makes a number of recommendations to employers in the form of a checklist that can be used by individual workplaces including,
  • 40 per cent of survey respondents have experienced discrimination while working as a lawyer or a legal trainee.
  • Of those who have suffered discrimination, 42 per cent believed the behaviour was part of an accepted culture within the workplace.
  • Almost 24 per cent have experienced sexual harassment at work from harassers in more senior positions who make suggestive comments, ask intrusive questions about their private life or physical appearance, or engage in unwanted touching or ''leering''.
  • 63 per cent of sexual harassment incidents occurred within the first 12 months of being in the workplace.
  • Two-thirds of those who were harassed did not complain for fear of being ostracised, jeopardising their careers, or not having their concerns dealt with properly.
The report makes a number of recommendations to employers in the form of a checklist that can be used by individual workplaces including,
  • An open commitment by senior management to promote gender equality within the workplace.
  • Actively promoting career development of women in senior positions.
  • Considering the implementation of targeted leadership workshops on the benefits of diverse and flexible work practices to commence workplace cultural change.

Recommendations were also made to stakeholders, including the LIV. These included providing practice support to organizations in the form of information and resources on return to work planning and sexual harassment and discrimination training.

The full report can be downloaded at -

These issues are obviously of concern for the bar as well as solicitors. I expect they will the subject of further consideration in the up coming Law Council National Attrition and Rengagement Study to be launched in the new year.

Victorian Bar welcomes 20 new silks

[27 Nov 2012]

The Victorian Bar today welcomed the appointment of 20 new silks by the Chief Justice, the Hon. Marilyn Warren AC, the first to be appointed under the new model for the silks selection process piloted this year.

Appointment of Senior Counsel

[27 Nov 2012]

The Honourable Chief Justice Marilyn Warren AC has today announced the appointment of the persons listed below as Senior Counsel in and for the State of Victoria, in order of precedence -

Trevor Stanley Monti
Suzanne Bridget McNicol
Peter George Sest
Aileen Mary Ryan
Christopher William Beale
George Anthony Georgiou
Mark Andrew Robins
Benjamin Andrew Shnookal
Philip David Corbett
Michael Grant Roberts
Alistair Neill Murdoch
Nicholas Pane
Nicholas David Hopkins
Carolyn Hayley Sparke
Kevin Joseph Aloysius Lyons
Edvard William Alstergren
Andrew David Clements
Adrian John Finanzio
Bernard Francis Quinn
Saul Conrad Holt

Fiona McLeod SC


Victorian Bar election results - new Chair

[19 Nov 2012]

Fiona McLeod SC is the new Chair of the Victorian Bar Council, following elections which saw seven new council members elected to the 21 member Council for the 2012-2013 term.