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How you can contribute to animal law reform

How you can contribute to animal law reform

By LIV Young Lawyers

Environment Young Persons 

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Young lawyers can use their skills and knowledge to advocate for law reform and promote animal welfare.

The LIV Animal Welfare Working Group does important work to push for changes to legislation and regulations to prevent cruelty to animals. For example, the Animal Welfare Working Group has prepared submissions on RSPCA Victoria, the Animal Welfare Action Plan and Standards and Guidelines on Poultry.

The LIV Young Lawyers spoke to Animal Welfare Working Group chair Nicky Neville-Jones about her experience and asked what advice she would give to young lawyers looking to contribute to animal law reform.

Can you tell us about your legal  background and the area of law you currently work in?

I am employed as a family lawyer at Clancy & Triado and attained an accreditation in this area from the LIV last year. I have been in family law since my admission but I I have also always been passionate about animal welfare and animal law. Once admitted, I sought out opportunities at the LIV in both animal and family law and joined other legal groups including the Animal Law Institute which advocates for animal welfare. Because of my background, I hold a special interest where my two legal worlds collide – how animals are treated under the Family Law Act.

Why did you join the LIV Animal Welfare Working Group, and what motivated you?

I was lucky enough to be one of the founding members of this group when it was created as a Young Lawyers Group. In 2016 we were given the opportunity to reform the group as a Working Group under the Administrative and Humans Rights Section of the LIV with me as chair. As I was always passionate about animal welfare and advocating for change in areas of law that affect animals, this group provides me with the opportunity to use my background and lawyer skill-set to advocate for change.  I am intent on promoting the group as a prominent animal welfare advocacy force recognised for promoting change where the law fails to protect the welfare of animals. The group is currently working with the Victorian government to overhaul the anti-cruelty law in Victoria, being the Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Act 1986. We also hope to become a a committee rather than a working group, but this will take some time.

Did you have reservations about joining an LIV Committee and what helped you join?

It was certainly daunting as a young lawyer taking the plunge, however once you do it, especially in an area you are passionate about, you realise what a great opportunity you have been given to promote change and awareness in the legal community and beyond. We as lawyers are lucky to have certain skills, including advocacy skills. I realised I could use these skills to help the plight of animals and give them a voice. The same goes for vulnerable individuals in our community who need lawyers to advocate on their behalf. Once you get over the initial nerves of putting your name down and attending your first meeting, you won’t look back because you will see how great it is to be proactive and be part of a wider legal community. I have also been lucky enough to meet some great people along the way, both at the LIV and outside, who share the same passions for animal welfare as I do.

What kind of work have you contributed to as a member of the LIV Animal Welfare Working Group?

As chair for the last 18 months, I have drafted several submissions and have been lucky enough to attend government workshops and inquiries on behalf of the group as an advocate. Many of our  members have also contributed to several submissions and prepared research. We always have an open dialogue between our members in relation to what specific areas of animal welfare each member would like to focus on at our meetings.  Any new member would certainly be given the same great opportunities.

How have your professional skills benefitted from being a member of the LIV Animal Welfare Working Group?

Being part of a LIV working group or committee allows you to hone professional skills, including legal research, writing skills particularly on policy and submissions, general administrative law skills that you might not have ever used except at university, and advocacy skills. I think you also become a more “well rounded” lawyer by not only being focused on your position as an employee (although it is certainly also important) but also issues in the wider community. I am also a member of the Family Law Executive Committee, so I try to have an awareness of and am proactive in the area of law I work in as well as the area of law where I have developed a skill-set and am highly passionate about, being animal law and animal welfare.

What do you enjoy most about it, and why do you stay involved?

I enjoy the opportunities being involved in LIV committees and working groups has given me as a lawyer to develop professional skills, particularly advocacy, which I now use to promote awareness in animal welfare and I am as active as possible in generating interest in our group so that any submissions or position papers we produce will be well regarded. I have also been given other advocacy opportunities through my involvement in the group, including recently speaking on a panel at La Trobe University discussing animal welfare in Australia from the lawyer perspective.

What would be your advice to a new committee member?

Don’t feel intimidated or anxious. Every lawyer on the committee or working group you join felt the same when they decided to take the plunge. It is a rewarding and positive experience and my experience working with the LIV is that you will always be encouraged to contribute as much as you can working around your other professional and personal commitments.

The LIV’s Animal Welfare Working Group promotes awareness of animal welfare issues among the legal community, prepares submissions on legislation, policy and codes of practice, engages with key stakeholders in animal welfare, promotes education about animal law in universities, and otherwise works towards eliminating animal cruelty in Victoria.

You can read more information here.

If you would like to apply to join the LIV Animal Welfare Working Group, please send a copy of your CV and a short expression of interest to ALHRSection@liv.asan.au


Disclaimer: Views expressed by commentators are not necessarily endorsed by the Law Institute of Victoria Ltd (LIV). No responsibility is accepted by the LIV for the accuracy of information contained in the comments and the LIV expressly disclaims any liability for, with respect to or arising from any such views.

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