18 Dec President’s Report – December 2019
As 2019 draws to a close, on behalf of the Women Lawyers Association of SA Committee, I would like to extend my since thanks to all of our members and the many others across the profession who have continued to support the important work of the WLASA this year.
2019 has been another incredibly busy and successful year for the WLASA and much has been achieved. As we come to the end of the 2015 – 2019 Strategic Plan I am incredibly proud of the significant achievements that have been made against that Strategic Plan and the progress towards achieving our broader objectives for the benefit of our members, women in the profession and women in society more generally.
I encourage you to take a few moments to read the WLASA Annual Report 2018 2019 for a detailed overview of the work of the WLASA over the course of the year. I have, however, provided a snapshot of 2019 below. Happy reading!
The WLASA continues to enjoy a growing membership base from all different corners of the profession and the State.
In order to ensure that the WLASA is hearing from and addressing the needs and interests of all sections of our membership, this year we have actively sought a student member from each of our Universities, a member from the Bar and a regional practitioner to join the Committee in a representative capacity.
I am thrilled to welcome our three student representatives Anya Miller, Airdre Mattner and Ashleigh De Silva and look forward to sharing their ideas and initiatives with our members in the coming months.
We are in the process of finalising our Bar member representative and are still on the look-out for a regional member representative.
As our membership continues to grow and diversify, it is incredibly important that the WLASA continues to explore and implement ways to engage and communicate effectively with our members.
To achieve this we have added some further strings to our communications bow by publishing regular e-newsletters and the distribution of my monthly President’s Reports to our members. I hope you have enjoyed reading these as much as we have enjoyed putting them together.
The WLASA Facebook page continues to be an important vehicle for communication with our members and the wider public. In addition to posting regularly on issues of interest, this year we have applied a strategic ‘lens’ to our Facebook communication strategy by introducing ‘Winning Women Wednesday’ posts – a weekly profile of the achievements of women in our profession and ‘FAFL Fridays’ – advertising the ‘Find a Female’ Directory.
It is great to see that the number of members and non-members following the WLASA page has increased significantly this year and the WLASA Facebook page has gained 400 new followers over the last 12 months to bring the total number of followers to over 1300.
Getting to know our members
Over the last year the Committee has very much enjoyed getting to know as many of our members as possible.
At the International Women’s Day Breakfast held on 8 March 2019, we were thrilled to be joined by Maggie Yarak, Principal Guarana Legal who was the winner of our WLASA Members’ Competition.
A number of our Committee members also attended the joint University Law School Careers Fair on 15 March 2019.
On 2 August 2019 some of the WLASA Committee Members shared a table at the Law Society of South Australia Legal Professional Dinner where we were joined by WLASA member and our ‘Inspirational Suffragette’ competition winner, Josephine Battiste from Mitchell Chambers.
We also continue to support our members through the ‘Find a Female Database’ initiative. Next year we will be expanding the promotion of the directory to a wide number of community organisations and will be encouraging practitioners on the directory to send us their professional profiles and/or information about the work they are doing so that we can promote and advertise their work through our social media platforms.
Events and networking
WLASA Committee members have worked incredibly hard to develop projects and hold events to benefit our members, the legal profession and women more generally.
The WLASA celebrated the start of the new financial year in style when we proudly partnered with the Law Society of South Australia to host this year’s Honourable Margaret Nyland Long Lunch at the National Wine Centre. The lunch continues to go from strength to strength with over 250 members and friends attending this year’s event.
Our guest speaker Judge Advocate Joana Fuller (as she then was) gave the audience a fascinating insight into her role as Judge Advocate and Defence Force Magistrate in the Australian Defence Force.
This year we are witness to a powerful moment in history as we commemorate the 125th Anniversary Women’s Suffrage in South Australia. The WLASA celebrated this momentous occasion at our panel event held at Bonython Hall on 26 September 2019 where we explored the topic of modern suffrage and what it means in today’s profession.
A huge thanks to our panellists the Honourable Justice Natalie Charlesworth, Magistrate Jayanthi McGrath, Caroline Mealor, Katrine Hildyard MP and our Chair, Brooke Hall Carney for generously lending us their wisdom and their valuable insights and to Laura Grenfell for her introductory remarks.
We rounded out 2019 with our most well attended ‘Drinks with Judiciary’ in the history of the event. Photos from the event can be found in our December newsletter and on the WLASA Facebook page.
To complement our formal networking and events program, we also arranged more informal networking opportunities to allow our members to maintain or establish friendships and connections in a relaxed environment – including a members’ movie night where a number of our members attended the Palace Nova Cinema to see the box office hit ‘On the Basis of Sex’, we held a ‘Mums and Bubs – Keeping You Connected Picnic’ on the grassed area outside the Sir Samuel Way Building and we also held an incredibly successful ‘Bring a Friends Drinks’ event at one of Adelaide’s hottest new spots, Sparkke at the Whitmore.
While these events might not sound as important as the ‘big issue’ discussions we should not underestimate the importance of women making connections across the profession and sharing their experiences.
Our CPD program is also an important feature of our annual calendar.
At our first CPD held in March 2019 at the offices of Cowell Clarke, we tackled the issue of ‘Tips for how to smash the glass ceiling.’ Our panellists – Magistrate Jackson, Alison Shaw, Suzanne McKenzie and Cheryl Phillips shared their perspectives on the importance of women holding leadership and advocacy roles and the challenges that women leaders, senior women in the profession and those aspiring to be leaders face.
With over 60 attendees joining us at the event (a full house!) it was clear that this topic resonated strongly with our members and, with that in mind, we decided to continue the conversation at second CPD event which will be held 31 October 2019 at the offices of Lipman Karas.
The discussion was led by our fantastic panellists, Her Honour Judge Leisl Chapman, Her Honour Judge Penelope Kari, Laura Stein the Assistant Crown Solicitor, Attorney Generals Department and Tania Leiman, Dean of Law at Flinders University.
Our profession continues to be plagued by issues arising from unconscious bias, sexual harassment, the gender pay gap and the attrition rates of female practitioners, to name a few. More needs to be done to shift the cultures and practices that limit women’s opportunities for career advancement and access to leadership roles. Although there are some real barriers that we must overcome, I believe that in partnership as a profession, great strides can be made towards resolving these issues once and for all.
The ‘Charter for the Advancement of Women in the Legal Profession’ has a key role to play in eradicating these barriers. Any signatory to the Charter is committing to ensuring that female lawyers within their organisations are provided with equal opportunity and inclusive workplace cultures. The Charter and its associated Guidelines can be found on the WLASA website.
I am incredibly encouraged by the fact that the Charter has already been embraced by a number of members of the profession already agreeing to sign up to the Charter.
In addition to our recent work on the Charter, we have also maintained a strong voice against sexual harassment in the profession. WLASA’s peak body, Australian Women Lawyers (AWL), has set the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace as one of its key priorities. Earlier this year, the AWL released a policy paper titled ‘Seven Strategies for Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Profession’ that sets out seven actions which could be adopted to address the issue of sexual harassment more directly. In the coming year the WLASA will focus on imbedding some of these strategies across the South Australian legal profession.
Campaigning for Women in the Community
One of the WLASA’s key objectives is to achieve justice and equality for all women and the Policy Sub-Committee has dedicated enormous time and effort into campaigning for a number of key policy priorities.
In previous years the WLASA’s major campaigning effort has been dedicated to advocating for the establishment of a Mother and Infant Facility in the Adelaide Women’s Prison. With this project now agreed to by Government, the Policy Sub-Committee has focused their efforts this year on contributing to the Department for Correctional Services’ consultation into their next 5 year action plan regarding women in the criminal justice system by speaking to women with lived experiences of prison and supervision orders in the community.
One of our other major campaigns was lobbying and assisting with research and advice in relation to the proposed Decriminalisation of Sex Work Legislation. The WLASA has continued to work closely with the Sex Industry Decriminalisation Action Committee (SIDAC) to support the decriminalisation of sex work in South Australia. The defeat of the decimalisation bill in SA in Parliament on 13 November was incredibly disappointing. However the WLASA will continue to campaign for decriminalisation and push for this important public reform.
The WLASA has also campaigned in support of abortion law reform. The Policy Sub-Committee prepared a submission for the SALRI review into abortion reform and participated in the associated round table discussions that were held. The WLASA will continue to work hard to support the achievement of this important outcome. The WLASA also proudly supports the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition by volunteering time on law reform projects.
Another key area of focus for the WLASA has been to celebrate and recognise the achievements of women in our profession. To that end, the Dr Robyn Layton AO QC Award was established. This will be awarded each calendar year to a female practitioner in South Australia who, like Dr Layton AO QC, has made an outstanding contribution to her field.
We are delighted to announce that the 2019 winner of the Dr Robyn Layton AO QC award is Zita Ngor, CEO of the Women’s Legal Service SA. We are delighted to acknowledge her important contribution to the profession in this way.
With the 2020 – 2025 strategic period on our doorstep, the development of WLASA’s new 5 year strategic plan is well advanced.
In order to inform this strategic planning process, in July 2018 we conducted a members’ survey to obtain your feedback on the work of the WLASA and to gain your valuable insights into how we, as a Committee, can provide you with the most value from your membership with the WLASA.
The member engagement with the survey was incredibly positive (we received over 50 responses from individual and corporate members) and we received some incredibly useful feedback. This feedback has been invaluable and has formed the basis for our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan.
The Committee’s annual Strategy Day will be held on Sunday 9 February 2019.
We are excited to share our 2020-2025 Strategic Plan with you next year and look forward to 2020 with great enthusiasm.
Wishing you and your families a restful, safe and enjoyable holiday season. See you in 2020.