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Welcome speech to celebrate LIV's 160th birthday and launch of new home

Welcome speech to celebrate LIV's 160th birthday and launch of new home

By LIV Media

A New Home 


On Thursday 4 April 2019 LIV president Stuart Webb opened the LIV's 160th birthday celebrations and the launch of its new home at 140 William St.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we meet - the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. I acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. I recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. I am honoured to be on the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation.

I acknowledge the First Australians as the traditional custodians of the continent, whose cultures are among the oldest living cultures in human history. I pay respect to the Elders of the community and extend my recognition to their descendants who are present.

I would like to thank you all for joining us tonight and in particular acknowledge:

  • Attorney General and Minister for Workplace Relations Jill Hennessy
  • Minister for Corrections, Crime Prevention, Victims’ Support and Youth Justice Ben Carroll
  • Shadow Attorney-General Edward O’Donohue
  • Reason Party leader Fiona Patten
  • Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass
  • Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell
  • Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen
  • Judge Andrea Tsalamandris from the County Court 
  • A Greek chorus of LIV Past Presidents … 20 here tonight
  • And all our friends and distinguished guests from the VGSO, VLSB + C, the courts, OPP, Victoria Legal Aid, Federation of Community Legal Centres, VLF, VWL, LCA, law firms, Council colleagues, section chairs, country and law associations … and Jon Faine.

Welcome and thank you all for joining us on this auspicious occasion. We have much to celebrate. Tonight offers us the opportunity to both celebrate our past and embrace our future.

Our past

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the Law Institute of Victoria, and we proudly claim to be the oldest law society in the country. We date back to the glory days of the Victorian gold rush.

With the 1850s gold rush came an avalanche of lawyers …I’m thinking early commercial disputes and property settlements as well as some criminal law skills were required.

The LIV was established in March 1859 by the founders of the Bread and Cheese Club that met regularly at the Mitre Tavern, then, as now, just around the corner in Bank Place. Twenty-six lawyers joined under first president David Ogilvy.

But it took until 1905 until the first woman, Flos Greig, was admitted to practice in Victoria, a first for Australia. Her appointment was met with some resistance, but how times have changed. In 2018, the Victorian legal profession reached a significant milestone when fir the first time the number of women outnumbered men – 11,155 to 10,944.

For more interesting historical titbits, I’d encourage you all to review our new historical wall, which we also launch tonight. And also read historian Simon Smith’s four-part series in the Law Institute Journal on the history of the legal profession and the LIV. Simon will also release a book later this year.

Suffice to say that since our early days the LIV has focussed on maintaining standards and preserving practice areas for the profession, as well as advocating justice for all.

The buildings might have come and gone, indeed one was burnt down with the most likely suspect being a disbarred solicitor, but our purpose has remained constant. We led the establishment of a Legal Aid Committee. We have always advocated for access to justice on behalf of the community.

We moved to our then new building at 470 Bourke St in 1978 under the stewardship of Gordon Lewis as secretary. He was supported by a talented and reforming Council which oversaw the introduction of new disciplinary procedures, the development of sections to allow policy development, a management advisory service, compulsory professional indemnity insurance, an accredited specialist scheme and mandatory continuing legal education.

In the years since, the Government appetite for self-regulation of the profession waned and in 2014 the Legal Services Board and Commissioner assumed responsibility for regulating the profession.

We now work closely with the LSBC to maintain standards and public confidence in our profession and I am confident that relationship will continue and grow.

Looking forward

So, what does the LIV look like now? In 2019 we represent over 19,000 lawyers and people working in the legal profession. We are the peak membership body for the profession in this State and we are the leading voice for the Victorian legal profession.

With our members we advocate for justice for all and promote excellence in the practice of law. Our purpose is to be the trusted voice of our members, respected for delivering value to members, while driving excellence in the profession and steadfast in safeguarding the rule of law on behalf of the community.

This year sees us focus on embracing the new. We have a new CEO – and I acknowledge and thank CEO Adam Awty who joined us last year. We have a new LIV strategy 2019-2022 which was developed with feedback from our members, our stakeholders and our staff and leadership team.

New building

And last, but by no means least, we have these purpose-built new premises. Let me tell you about our new home. I think many of its advantages are obvious to those here tonight.

After we sold 470 Bourke St last year, we signed a long-term lease for level 12 and 13 at 140 William St and moved in from January this year. Our goal is to provide a comfortable space for our members to conduct business, learn, and relax, as well as modern facilities for our staff.

The new look was designed by GrayPuksand and they have created a wonderful member service area here on Level 13.

All on one floor you can access the library, bookshop, lounge, kitchen, lockers, wellbeing room, media room, six meeting rooms, conference room for up to 120 people and free Wi-Fi. And of course, as the law is fuelled by coffee there are several coffee/break out areas to relax and recharge and network.

At last we have cutting edge technology, security, acoustics, and appropriate and flexible meeting facilities for our members.

We surveyed members to see what they wanted – and they got it. Improved facilities and more natural light. There are even tree lined views up Bourke St to Parliament and we are still firmly ensconced in the legal precinct.

On Level 12, our 100 staff are all in “supported open plan” which means no offices – including for the CEO and President– but staff have their own desks and many different spaces for team meetings and private conversations.

Early reviews from both members and staff have been good!

I am especially keen for members who don’t practise in the city to come by and use the facilities. If you are a suburban and regional practitioner, we want these premises to be available for you to use while you wait for court, as a respite between meetings, or a visit to the bookshop or library, you are most welcome.

With a respectful nod to our history, we have also incorporated two new features into the design on Level 13.

You can see in our public area a Timeline of the LIV. It covers highlights of our both our history and the history of the profession dating back to 1859.

You will see at a glance that the profession has changed considerably since then, though we still have a way to go with both equality and diversity in the law.

From the images on the wall to people on screen. Our interactive TV screen profiles LIV presidents from first President David Ogilvy to present day. We will update this as we move confidently into the future.

We want this to be a place that our members feel comfortable to work, learn and interact.

Our new home is all about connecting with members. We want them to drop in next time they are in the neighbourhood and treat the place like a home away from home.

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