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LIV President's Blog
April 28, 2011

LIV Backing for Depression Survey Launch

A major new survey on depression among lawyers and other professionals by national depression initiative beyondblue will be launched on Monday with support from the LIV.

Levels of awareness and attitudes to mental health problems were investigated by beyondblue as part of the Annual Business and Professions Study by Beaton Research and Consulting, which consulted 18,000 professionals, including LIV members. How individuals and organisations respond to mental health issues in the workplace was also looked at.
I am very pleased to be speaking at the launch of the survey. Health and wellbeing is a key issue for the legal profession and it is a key part of my presidential platform.
Depression among lawyers is common. They are reportedly the worst-affected professional group in the country. One-third of solicitors and one in five barristers suffer depression. Law students experience high levels of psychological distress. Alcohol and other substances are used to manage feelings of anxiety and depression.
Depression comes at a high personal cost and is also of enormous financial cost to employers and the community.
Each year, more than three million people in Australia will experience depression or anxiety, according to beyondblue. More than six million working days are lost as a result of untreated depression. Every employee with untreated depression is estimated to cost their employer almost $10,000 a year in lost productivity and absenteeism.
Mental health is a high priority for the LIV. We are committed to exploring the issue and changing this damaging culture.

The LIV is giving its members real, practical help to achieve work-life balance. It makes sense to help the helpers.
The LIV is running workshops on mindfulness-based stress management and the Young Lawyers’ Section is holding a series of seminars to help young lawyers focus on their health and wellbeing throughout their careers. It has held a session on meditation – something I do myself.

The LIV’s LawCare program provides members with access to a psychologist and the cost of the first session is covered by the LIV. Fact sheets on stress, depression and alcohol and drugs are also available.

The LIV has a mentoring program with 90 mentors available in its directory.

We have applied for funding from the Legal Services Board to conduct our own survey into mental health in the legal profession. Ultimately, the LIV would like to set up a free inquiry line for practitioners with mental health issues.

The LIV has also made a submission – Mental Capacity: A New Approach – to the National Profession Reform Taskforce, calling for a therapeutic approach to health-related disclosures in admission and certificate renewal procedures.

The LIV’s participation in the beyondblue survey, which will be launched by beyondblue chair Jeff Kennett, is part of our commitment to aiding the profession in what is an issue of critical importance.

April 21, 2011

Crunch time for the Charter of Human Rights

If we are to see Victoria’s innovative Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 retained and strengthened, now is the time for the legal profession to provide some evidence of its value.

Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark announced the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry into the operation of the Charter this week. The inquiry will be conducted by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) of Victorian Parliament which will report by 1 October this year. At the same time, the LIV has received funding from the Victoria Law Foundation to undertake research on the impact of the Charter on legal practice.

We are conducting an online survey to assess the extent of knowledge and use of the Charter by legal practitioners. The survey is available until mid-May. The results of the survey will form part of our submission to SARC and we will seek representation before the committee.

The LIV is a strong supporter of the Charter and we believe it should be retained and expanded. We believe that the Charter has facilitated the making of laws and decisions that are more sensitive and responsive to human rights concerns. It gives Victorians one “language” that we can use to promote consistency across the public sector.

At an LIV event yesterday on business and human rights, speakers described international developments aimed at harmonising the approach of business to human rights compliance. The Charter was identified as a useful framework to manage operational, financial and reputational risk for business. 

We would like to see its coverage of rights expanded to include all human rights in treaties to which Australia is a party, including economic and social rights. We also support extension of the Act to introduce complaints procedures and remedies for breaches, including compensation.

Signs from the government have not been encouraging to date. In Opposition the government did not support the Charter, and the Attorney-General has refused to commit to its retention.

We would also have preferred that the review of the Charter was conducted completely independent of government - not via SARC.

Now is the time for us to act if we are to persuade government of the value of a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities for all Victorians.

View the Attorney General's media release and terms of reference. View the opposition media release, which questions the independence of the review process. View the LIV media release.

What are your views or concerns? 

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