Author: AWL

AWL's Treasurer and Women Barristers Association of Victoria representative, Astrid Haban-Beer, recently spoke to the Australian Financial Review about the lack of women appointed to the bench in Victoria, and how this raises serious questions about the integrity of the judicial selection process. “You’ve got women who are leading major class actions and tax matters and cartel matters and royal commissions,” Ms Haban-Beer said. “There’s such an amazing range of talent at that senior level who are working on federal court cases … and are leading industry and practice groups, it just doesn’t make sense that’s not translating at the bench level. ”Who is advising the AG on the Victorian appointments? It must be someone who is familiar and connected and within. Why does that advice hold particular sway? Why does that person get through? “I don’t think they’re saying women aren’t good enough, they’re just saying ‘we like our buddies better’...

In late 2020, AWL President Leah Marrone spoke on Radio Italia about the allegations against the Attorney General, and the letter AWL wrote to the Prime Minister in 2020.  You can watch a snippet of that interview HERE. You can read more about the letter AWL wrote to the Prime Minister HERE....

AWL has today written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to register its concerns about recent allegations made against Attorney General, Christian Porter MP and Minister Alan Tudge MP on ABC's 4 Corners program. As Australia's peak body for women lawyer organisations, AWL and its members were alarmed to learn of the allegations against, Mr Porter, given his position as the First Law Officer of the Crown. The ABC 4 Corners investigation also infers that there is a broader pattern of behaviour by MPs, including the Attorney General, of abusing their positions and engaging in inappropriate workplace behaviour with staff. In circumstances where AWL has staunchly advocated against sexual harassment and discrimination in the legal profession, and in a year where we have already seen a plethora of allegations about sexual harassment from a former High Court Judge, it is incredibly disheartening to hear allegations that our Attorney General has modelled such behaviour throughout university, as a prosecutor and in his current office. AWL has also called on the Prime Minister to consider taking steps to consider a review of the relevant policy, conducting an independent culture review and should any allegations of sexism or inappropriate relationships be substantiated, that serious consideration is given to whether the Attorney General is an appropriate person to hold that office. You can read the entire letter HERE.  ...

AWL was recently quoted on the subject of the gender pay gap in the legal profession: Australian Women Lawyers president Leah Marrone said it was a “punch in the guts’’ for female graduates to learn they were being paid less. “We constantly see examples of people in exactly the same firm being paid differently, even at graduate level,’’ she said. “It’s pretty ruthless out there and there’s an unconscious bias of assuming women will have babies and leave.’’ Ms Marrone said most law firms forced workers to sign confidentiality contracts to keep salaries secret, making it “very hard to negotiate a wage’’. She said she was asked about her “family plans’’ during her first job interview for a government agency when she graduated 13 years ago. “I replied that I was only 23,’’ she said. “I definitely didn’t say, ‘That question’s unlawful’ because I probably wouldn’t have gotten the job if I did. “(Employers) still do it – they might find different ways of asking, like, “Are you planning on taking an extended period of leave? “Graduates don’t have a lot of negotiating power.’’ Ms Marrone said the pay gap could also reflect more women working in lower-paid areas of law, such as Legal Aid and family law. You can read the full article HERE....

Australian Women Lawyers held it's National Conference on 28 August 2020, via webinar. The free conference, themed 2020 Visision - In Focus, featured prominent women in the law including Nyadol Nyuon, Kate Jenkins, Pauline Wright and the Honourable Diana Bryant. Speakers addressed a range of issues including: intersectional law reform women in the criminal justice system careers - seizing the opportunities now available; and sexual harassment law reform The conference, which sold out its 1,000 available tickets, was a huge success, and receieved considerable coverage including: Lawyers Weekly's article on Noor Blumer's account of sexual harassment Lawyers Weekly's article on the impact of climate change and social issues on female lawyers Lawyers Weekly's article on the justice system's biases of female offenders the Sydney Morning Herald's article on our sexual harassment panel Thank you to all that attended, and we look forward to returning to in person events soon!...

AWL has made a submission to the Attorney General's department advocating against the following proposed Bills: Religious Discrimination Bill 2019 Religious Discrimination (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2019 Human Rights Legislation Amendment (Freedom of Religious) Bill 2019 AWL is particularly concerned that the draft Bill, if enacted, would compromise: access to healthcare for women, on the basis that medical practitioners, nurse practitioners and pharmacists may refuse to treat women on the basis of the women's religious beliefs. This is particularly so in respect of women’s health needs in relation to contraception, abortion, and fertility services such as assisted reproductive treatment, and even more so for women in remote and regional communities who are already disadvantaged by virtue of the limited range of services they can access; and access to family violence support (including financial support and advice) on the basis of a woman’s relationship status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression, or parenthood experience. All women – and indeed, all people – should be able to access these services regardless of their sexuality, sexual history, marital status, religiosity or lack thereof, and AWL strongly recommends that the Government only provide grants to those organisations that disavow discrimination on religious grounds in the provision of services. You can read a full copy of AWL's submission here....

Australian Women Lawyers' Treasurer, Astrid Haban-Beer, has been recognised as one of 40 most influential Asian-Australians in the inaugural Asian Australian Leadership Summit's "40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards”, which recognises the achievements of young Asian-Australian leaders in their fields. "Astrid Haban-Beer has a broad practice incorporating commercial law, public and government law, and criminal law matters. Astrid has always sought to promote human rights through practical advocacy. She has appeared in many significant matters as a barrister including representing the State of Victoria in the Child Abuse Royal Commission as junior counsel and appearing in criminal jury trials both as a prosecutor and as defense counsel. Astrid has appeared as counsel in trials covering a diverse range of criminal matters covering complex historical sexual assaults involving children, drug importation and trafficking offences, customs, tobacco and firearms matters, as well as terrorism, public interest immunity and national security matters. Astrid is privileged to appear for parties in challenging matters involving mental impairment and disability law. Astrid has a commitment to pro bono practice, including representing clients in consumer law and criminal matters, and also sat on the board of the St Kilda Legal Service for several years until 2018. Further and importantly, Astrid has a special interest in criminal matters in The Philippines, including in cases where Australians have been detained. Astrid has been constant advocate for the progress of women in the legal profession, particularly culturally and linguistically diverse women. Astrid has occupied many board and committee roles striving for gender equality and diversity in the profession over the past decade. Notably, Astrid was Convenor of the Victorian Women Lawyers Association in 2010-2011 and is the current Treasurer of Australian Women Lawyers. Astrid is also the Vice-Chair of the Victorian Bar's Equality and Diversity Committee." https://asialinkbusiness.com.au/news-media/congratulations-to-the-40-under-40-most-influential-asian-australians...

Australian Women Lawyers vice president Leah Marrone recently spoke to Lawyers Weekly about gender quotas and targets. Ms Marrone said “equity is not inevitable and measures are needed to ensure it is reached.” She added more research will lend to the scale of these issues and the strategies used to address them. “We must be intersectional in our approach to creating change and ensure alongside gender equality, we work to ensure our profession reflects the broad diversity of our population,” Ms Marrone said. “We need to listen to their voices and follow their lead.” Ms Marrone added the Law Council of Australia has been on the front foot with plans like the “Equitable Briefing Policy”, “but this is just one piece of the puzzle”. “We need to question our assumptions of what a lawyer looks like, how we work, what is measured, what is valued and how we can truly assess merit,” she said.   You can read a whole copy of the article here: https://www.lawyersweekly.com.au/biglaw/26876-should-law-firms-implement-gender-quotas-and-targets-2...