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What does it really mean to be a part of an LIV Policy Committee?

What does it really mean to be a part of an LIV Policy Committee?

By LIV Young Lawyers

Advocacy Human Rights 

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As a member of the LIV you have the opportunity to join over 90 committees and contribute your time, knowledge, expertise and passion to law reform, policy advocacy and professional development in a particular area of law. In this new blog series the LIV Young Lawyers interviews committee members to find out their advice on how you can get involved and contribute.

Sometimes those who are new to the profession can feel like their contributions would not be worthwhile and that they aren’t experienced enough to participate. This is not true. Even if you are not the most experienced practitioner, you have other attributes and skills to offer a Committee. For example, new practitioners can often more readily contribute their time to drafting submissions on policy issues and can bring a fresh perspective.

In this article, LIV Young Lawyers interviewed Human Rights Sub-Committee deputy chair and Administrative Law and Human Rights Executive Committee member Merys Williams to hear how she became involved in LIV committees.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your legal experience background and what area of law you currently work in?

I am a lawyer at Robinson Gill practising in personal injury and police misconduct. I completed my traineeship at Robinson Gill in 2014 and was admitted to practice in 2015. I am also a volunteer Night Advice Service supervisor at Springvale Monash Legal Service. 

My police misconduct practice involves acting for members of the public bringing claims against the State of Victoria for torts committed by police officers, such as assault and battery, false imprisonment, duty failures, malicious prosecution and wrongful death.

I am also active in advocating on police accountability issues, such as calling for an independent body to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

2. Why did you decide to join the Human Rights sub-committee, and what motivated you?

In late 2014, I attended a panel on “Policing the Police” which had been arranged and hosted by the LIV Human Rights Sub-Committee. After the panel discussion, my supervising principal lawyer, Jeremy King, encouraged me to apply to be on the Committee. I felt underqualified and too junior but I wanted to be able to influence reform in the area and had an interest in human rights more generally.

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

Yes, I absolutely had reservations. At the time I joined I was still a trainee lawyer with less than 12 months experience in police misconduct issues. I felt like I didn’t really have much that I could contribute.

I had also never been involved with a committee. I had no idea how committees functioned. I recall that at my first meeting a speaker wasn’t available to talk about a particular agenda item. I felt like I needed to prove myself and I knew a little bit about something tangential to that item so I decided I would make a comment when it came up.  When that item came up for discussion, I rambled something fairly inarticulate and was met with some confused looks. However, everyone was respectful and responsive, and helped me explain what I had been trying to say. It was noted for further discussion in a future meeting. The experience was embarrassing but also reassured me as the Committee was accommodating and encouraging. 

4. What kind of work have you contributed to as a member of the Human Rights sub-committee?

The Human Rights sub-committee encompasses a very broad range of issues, including homelessness, marriage equality and the human rights charter. There have been times when I haven’t had particular insight on a specific issue so haven’t been able to contribute to the discussion. Other times, I’ve been able to drive the discussions on issues that I’m passionate about. Generally speaking, throughout my time I have been able to contribute thoughts on submissions and bills. Over the last couple of years I have been able to contribute a lot more as police accountability issues have become more prominent. Last year, I assisted in the organisation of a police accountability roundtable at the LIV through the Police Accountability Working Group. Afterwards, I was asked to write an opinion piece which featured in the LIJ. I was also honoured to have been asked to appear on behalf of the LIV at the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into external oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria.

5. How have your professional skills benefitted from being a member of the Human Rights sub-committee?

Much of my committee work has improved my legal practice at Robinson Gill. Because I have been able to work on submissions to parliament through the LIV, I am able to bring these drafting skills to my legal practice. Working on projects with LIV committees means achieving outcomes in a different way to traditional legal practice.

I get to meet and connect with new people and learn about practice areas outside of my own. 

Appearing at the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Police Misconduct on behalf of the LIV was a confidence boost. It was reassuring to have the backing, support and trust of the LIV to represent the views of the legal profession in this forum. It is an experience I am grateful for.

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

Being on an LIV committee means that I can enjoy and engage in broader advocacy to help shape and develop the law for the future. As a personal injury lawyer I act for one individual client in the context of a broader scheme. I see clients come up against the same barriers time and time again. Being on the committee allows me to push for systemic change so that hopefully my clients in the future can avoid these barriers. This brings a new challenge which I find exciting. One of the skills we are taught in law school is to identify issues and problems.  Engaging in law reform though an LIV committee is one way to do something about the systemic issues we identify.

7. What would be your advice to a new committee member?

Go for it! Take the time to get involved in a committee, and be confident that your contributions will be valued. Your voice is valued. As a young lawyer you have the opportunity to contribute something other than your expertise. You may find you have time and eagerness which is valued by committees.

The LIV Young Lawyers thanks Merys for her time.

The LIV committees in the Administrative Law and Human Rights Section are currently accepting applications from Young Lawyers. You can apply to join the following sub-committees:

• Migration Law Committee

• Refugee Law Committee

• Disability Law Committee

• Administrative Review and Constitutional Law Committee

• Human Rights Committee

• Reconciliation and Advancement Committee

• Animal Welfare Working Group

 

To join an LIV committee you will need to be an LIV member.

 

If you would like to join, please submit an expression of interest and a copy of your CV to the Administrative Law and Human Rights Section at alhrsection@liv.asn.au

For more information on LIV Committees please visit the Get Involved section of the LIV website. 

 

 


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