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Work in Progress

Every Issue

Cite as: October 2012 86 (10) LIJ, p.100

In this special LIJ series practitioners reveal how they balance the demands of their professional and personal lives.


Kristen Hilton


Victoria Legal Aid


Director, Civil Justice Access and Equity

Hours worked and where

I work three days in the office and one day from home.

Why did you seek a flexible work arrangement?

I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old and while I wanted to continue to work I also wanted to spend time with them at home. After the birth of both children I was able to take 12 months leave and return to work part-time.

How did you convince your employer?

The credit should really go to my employer. He convinced me. My position was originally advertised as a full-time role and he offered it to me on a part-time basis knowing that I had a young family. In truth, it is a full-time job but the organisation and my boss have been very supportive in allowing me flexibility to manage the demands of the position with caring for two small children. I appreciate that this is not always the case and am aware that unfortunately many employers continue to be inflexible with part-time arrangements, not just for women but also for men.

What are the challenges of working flexibly – for you, colleagues and clients?

The care and work arrangements are finely poised and can be upset with very little warning. I have pretty good support in place, a helpful partner and a great mum so I consider myself lucky. But there are a lot of competing demands and expectations that come from balancing two significant roles. My best advice, which I don’t always follow, is to try to set some boundaries around availability. Most things can wait a day. The instantaneous way we communicate now makes everything feel urgent. Prioritisation is crucial – children can be pretty good at prioritising for you. This period in my life is a busy time but it is also a rich time and I feel fortunate that I am able to continue to grow professionally while watching my children grow.

Have flexible hours kept you practising law?

It is a combination of things – flexible working arrangements, changes to the way we work that mean I can still be connected when I am not in the office, but also my commitment to the sort of work that I do. My belief in the importance of social justice has driven me to find a way to continue to make a contribution while raising a young family.

What is your proudest moment in the law?

In 2006 I appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva to present a report about homelessness in Australia. The report’s findings and recommendations were based on what I and others had learned in assisting clients as to how the law impacted on people who were homeless. It was a powerful thing to be taking those local stories of injustice and putting them on a world stage.

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