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From the president: Year of insights

From the president: Year of insights

By Sam Pandya

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While our liberties have been temporarily curtailed, lockdown should enhance our compassion.

This year may be one of the most challenging and uncertain years in the 161 year history of the LIV and our profession. I was reminded of this recently after receiving a very encouraging email from former LIV president Bill O’Shea congratulating the LIV on its achievements “in what must be one of the toughest years ever for an LIV president (with the year that the building burnt down being a close second)”. It has been tough, but hugely rewarding at the same time. For me, it’s been about having the opportunity to listen, support and advocate for our members and profession during a time when you need us most. Being able to lead the LIV to support you financially, professionally and mentally with fee reductions, professional and practice guidance and psychological and wellbeing services; being able to work collaboratively with the courts, government, regulators and others in the profession to ensure the wheels of justice keep turning; and to ensure that our profession remains strong, is supported and respected in Victoria. It has given me the opportunity to give back to the profession that has trained and mentored me, and lead us through this crisis, unprecedented in our lifetimes, so that we come out the other side stronger. 

I am very grateful to members who have contributed their insights to our committees and working groups and to the enormously dedicated staff and Council of the LIV who have worked tirelessly to support members through this period.

I write this column when the “roadmap” to recovery for regional and metropolitan Melbourne has just been announced by the Victorian Premier. I understand and appreciate that we need to manage and balance the social, economic and health response in Victoria to protect the health and safety of our community and, to achieve this, as lawyers and as part of our communities, we have had to endure some loss of liberties due to a hard lockdown. It has been difficult for all of us not to be able to spend time with family, friends and colleagues, and to access our offices in person. Having our freedoms and movements restricted has been difficult. While we do have access to the internet with streaming services, electronic gadgets and our local takeaway service, as time has gone on, most of us have suffered from fatigue, anxiety and frustration. 

In the scheme of our lives and careers however, these losses of some personal liberties will likely be for a relatively short time. Once restrictions ease, we expect to be able to fairly rapidly rebuild our connections and professional and personal lives. This is perhaps a time to reflect on the lives of some in our community who experience more prolonged loss of liberties and restrictions on their movement and abilities and the lasting effects on their mental health and life opportunities. They may have lost the ability to participate in the life of the community for much longer periods and live daily with much higher levels of uncertainty, frustration and stress. 

Our lives in 2020 should make us more empathetic towards those in our communities, such as people living with disability and/or chronic illness, our elderly and frail neighbours and friends and those who are long-term carers for these people, who may be severely restricted for many years in terms of what they can do and where they can go due to the limitations of their disabilities or illnesses or the high demands of their caring responsibilities. 

Our experience of lockdown should also enhance our compassion and understanding for those in our community who experience family violence, who are too afraid to leave their home, or travel freely, due to the threat of violence towards them and their family. We should also now have more empathy for people in immigration detention who have lost their liberties waiting for decisions to be made by government about their future. For some of us, these are our clients.

Our liberties in this pandemic have been temporarily curtailed for the health and safety of our community and many understandably feel upset and angry, stressed, bored, frustrated and downright fed up with the whole situation. For most of us though, as lawyers, this will end, we will get through this and we will be stronger for it. For others in our community who are suffering loss of liberties more permanently while living with disabilities and illnesses, while caring for others, while protecting others, while seeking a safer life for themselves and their children, the loss of liberty can be extended or sometimes lifelong. This pandemic is giving most of us a small but important insight into the experience of others, which can only make us better lawyers, neighbours and members of the Victorian community. ■

Sam Pandya
LIV PRESIDENT

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