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The culture and practices across the legal sector must change

The culture and practices across the legal sector must change

By LIV Media

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The Law Institute of Victoria and the Victorian Bar welcome the Victorian Government’s announcement of a review of sexual harassment prevention, support, enforcement and education in the state’s courts and tribunal and across the profession.

In a joint statement today, the President of the Victorian Bar, Wendy Harris QC, and the President of the Law Institute of Victoria, Sam Pandya, expressed their support of the Government’s initiative and confidence that the review, to be headed by Dr Helen Szoke AO, would provide the opportunity for real change in the culture and practices across the legal sector.

In a survey of legal professionals conducted by the Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner in mid-2019, one in three of the 2,324 respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment in their legal careers.

Wendy Harris QC said, “It is very clear from evidence across the legal profession that we need to take steps to strengthen the culture and change practices within the profession so that sexual harassment is called out and that all organisations and institutions have robust measures in place to prevent harassment and support those who are victims of, or witnesses to harassment, to speak out. The Victorian Bar understands that it is our collective responsibility to effect the cultural change necessary to make this a matter of history.”

Sam Pandya, said, “The legal profession stands united and ready to prevent and call out sexual harassment.

“Everyone has a right to feel safe at work, from the most junior lawyer or legal professional or client, to our most senior practitioners. We commit to working with the profession to support efforts to stamp out sexual harassment and provide training to encourage cultural change, proactive engagement with the issue and effective complaints handling.  Every member of our profession has an active role to play in creating and sustaining workplaces and cultures that are respectful, inclusive and do not tolerate sexual harassment,” he said.

The Victorian Government review is part of a broader range of initiatives that recognise that sexual harassment is a serious occupational health and safety issue, the Government also announced it would conduct a review of the policies and practices of law firms that provide services to government, work with key partners to review training on sexual harassment for all barristers and solicitors, and seek internal audits and from justice partners on their processes and measures around sexual harassment. New education and awareness programs will also be developed for vulnerable groups across the wider Victorian workforce, and the Government will work to ensure victim-centred services are available for referrals, support and compensation.

The Victorian Bar represents 2,200 barristers and the LIV represents 19,000 solicitors and legal professionals.

The Victorian Government Press Release is here.

The Victorian Legal Services Board + Commissioner’s report into Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession is  here.


LIV Contact: Kerry O’Shea, Public Affairs Manager M: 0408 727 279 or Amanda Rajendra, Media & Communications Officer T: 03 9607 9597 E: media@liv.asn.au

Vic Bar Contact: Elizabeth Gray, Communications and Marketing Manager M: 0401 561 554 E: elizabeth.gray@vicbar.com.au


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