Watch the 2019 Law Oration

In his first major speech since 2017, the Honourable Justice Chris Maxwell AC, President of the Court of Appeal, explored how judges deal with bad business behaviour at our 2019 Law Oration.

180 people attended the historic Banco Court of the Supreme Court to hear Justice Maxwell’s oration ‘Equity and good conscience: the judge as moral arbiter and the regulation of modern commerce’.

Justice Maxwell began the Oration with a quote from Jiminy Cricket, ‘Let your conscience be your guide’. From here he investigated the concept of unconscionable conduct – how it is understood in law and what its implications are for judges, lawyers and the business world. His aim is to highlight the implications of our continued use of this powerful but elusive concept of good conscience.

‘The shocking reports we have all read about large-scale and widespread unethical behaviour in the financial services industry would tend to suggest that not very much moral reasoning has been going on there. The dictates of good conscience do not appear to have held much sway when decisions have been made by service providers about what sorts of transactions to embark on, which sorts of customers to engage with or what marketing and selling techniques are to be adopted.’

‘Is that a failing in the law, either as enacted or as applied? Even if it is not, could the law — meaning, in particular, judges and practitioners — do more?’

Check out our previous Law Orations

Victoria Law Foundation is building its research team

Victoria Law Foundation is delighted to announce two new appointments to our Research team.

Dr Hugh McDonald will be joining us as Principal Researcher and will lead the evaluation stream.

For over fifteen years, Hugh has been a senior researcher at the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, where he worked on critical projects in access to justice, legal needs and service evaluation.

Throughout his career, he has worked closely with legal aid commissions, community legal centres, state and federal governments, giving him a deep understanding of legal institutions and issues throughout Australia.

Cosima McRae comes on board as Senior Researcher.

Cosi has worked on gender equality and access to justice projects in both academia and the public sector.

She has extensive experience looking at the law through the lens of human rights, particularly gender equality, LGBTIQ rights and Indigenous sovereignty. Most recently Cosi worked on the Independent Review into Victoria Police at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

We are delighted to welcome Hugh and Cosi to our team, led by Prof Nigel Balmer. Their appointments increase our capacity to undertake research that will make a vital contribution in supporting better justice for Victorians.

Read our current three-year research program to find out more about the work that our research team is doing.

Law of contempt – does it need fixing?

If you’re involved in court proceedings, it’s important to understand something about the laws of contempt so that you don’t accidentally fall foul of the law.

At its most basic the law of contempt is a set of laws, developed over centuries, that prohibits people from being disrespectful or contemptuous of courts.

It covers a wide range of things including prohibiting people from being disruptive in court or publishing things which should not be published about court proceedings. It can also include contempt by jurors, which is when members of juries, for example, do their own research on the internet about a case.

Ultimately the aim of the laws is to protect the proper administration of justice.

However, with rapidly evolving ways of communicating, critics argue the laws of contempt are out of date.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission has been asked by the government to investigate the laws of contempt and make recommendations on how the laws might be improved to better reflect contemporary life.

“One question is how the law of contempt can be applied in the digital age when people have access to much more information and when news items can be spread around the globe much more quickly than they used to be,” says the VLRC’s Nick Gadd.

VLF talked to Nick Gadd about the inquiry and how the public is invited to make a submission by 28 June 2019.

Cardinal George Pell – what next?

The next instalment in the legal saga that has mesmerised and shocked the public as well as Catholics worldwide, is about to begin.

In December Cardinal George Pell, the former archbishop of Melbourne, was found guilty of the historical abuse of two teenage boys. His sentence was handed down in March, but that was by no means the end of the case.

Cardinal Pell’s defence team applied for leave to appeal. And the hearing will be held in the Supreme Court on Wednesday 5 and Thursday 6 June.

So how does an appeal work? What can or cannot be considered by the judges in this case?

This week Victoria Law Foundation had a chat to barrister Nick Papas QC about one of the arguments being advanced in the case. Check out our video interview below.

The Supreme Court will be live streaming the hearing, so you can watch as the appeal unfolds.

Law Week Law Talks 2019

We had a full house of 220 students attending from 12 schools, including some who had travelled from Hamilton. Law Week Law Talks was hosted by the Leo Cussen Centre for the morning, students then spent the afternoon attending sessions in the County Court.

Our speakers included Former Attorney General Rob Hulls, VCAT President Justice Michelle Quigley, Juries Commissioner Paul Dore and County Court Judge (retired) Jane Patrick. The students also participated in a mock mediation and had the opportunity to attend a tour of Parliament.

Law Week (13-19 May) and Law Week Law Talks are highlights every year. Law Week 2019 was the biggest and best yet, with over 280 events throughout the state. This year for the first time, Law Week ran for the full seven days, with Parliament holding an Open Day on the Sunday. Thousands of people across Victoria attended events which included information sessions, mock trials, pop ups and community forums.

Courts Open Day on the Saturday was a major success with members of the public embracing the opportunity to visit the Magistrates, County and Supreme Courts, talk to judges, hear from the Juries Commissioner and experience a cells tour.

The second Law Week podcast is out now!

Colourful characters, crime and consequence – law on the small screen is the second Law Week podcast by Victoria Law Foundation.

Listen to host Lynne Haultain and a panel of three of Australia’s most prominent television writers discuss crime on the tele – why do we love it and what does it do to our understanding of justice?

Niki Aken is a television writer who has worked on shows including Underbelly and Janet King.

Hillary Bonney is a practising barrister and true crime author whose books include The Society Murders and The Double Life of Herman Rockefeller.

TV writer Elizabeth Coleman’s credits include Wanted, Newton’s Law, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Our podcast was recorded live at Deakin University’s Deakin Downtown, in Melbourne’s Docklands.

Listen now to Law on the Small Screen

Last year, Victoria Law Foundation presented our first podcast as part of Law Week 2018 – Law in the digital era: What goes into creating investigative podcasts?

Thanks from the Executive Director

Well, that’s a wrap!

Law Week 2019 is done and I’d like to extend my warm thanks to everyone who came along to an event, visited the Law Week Hub or bought a snag from the Judges’ BBQ at Courts Open Day – you’ve all helped make this Law Week one of the best yet.

From humble beginnings Law Week has grown into a state-wide festival of over 280 events that helps all Victorians unlock their law.

I’m extremely proud to say that this year we reached out further into regional Victoria than ever before.

There were exhibitions and presentations in Geelong, well-attended community legal events in Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine and Echuca, and networking events and police outreach sessions across northern Victoria. Deakin University took their CrimeBusters bus across the state, stopping in Shepparton, Ballarat and Geelong.

Melbourne was bigger than ever, as well. Mock trials, films, info sessions, tours, theatre and music and the chance to speak to some of our state’s most influential judges – the diversity of activity and location was impressive. To all the event organisers – congratulations on an outstanding week!

None of this would be possible without the help of the sponsors: Victoria Legal Aid, the Law Institute of Victoria, Deakin Law School and the City of Melbourne.

We are also grateful for the generous support of the Victorian Ombudsman, the Victorian Bar and the Department of Justice and Community Safety.

And many thanks to Fed Square and the Leo Cussen Centre for Law, for providing us with spaces to hold our events.

I’d also like to thank the talented VLF team, who work very hard to ensure that Law Week comes together.

You can keep up with what we’re up to the rest of the year by visiting our website, following Your Law Victoria on Facebook and @VicLawFoundn on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter @VLF_Exec.

I look forward to seeing you all again at Law Week next year

Many thanks


Congratulations LGBTIQ Legal Service

The LGBTIQ Legal Service – part of the St Kilda Legal Service – is a finalist for Community Lawyer or Organisation of the Year at the 2019 Victorian Legal Awards.

In 2017, St Kilda Legal Service and the Victorian AIDS council received the biggest ever grant made by the Victoria Law Foundation for $111,000.

The grant helped establish the LGBTIQ Legal Service, which was the first legal service of its kind in Victoria.

‘With Victoria and Australia slowly working towards equality for the LGBTIQ community, we’re thrilled to be able to support this project, which will help close the justice gap,’ VLF Executive Director Lynne Haultain said at the time.

Since then, the LGBTIQ Legal Service has well and truly hit its stride.

Sam Elkin, St Kilda Legal Service’s LGBTIQ Outreach Lawyer

Helping the trans community change their IDs

Along with Transgender Victoria, it spearheaded Change Your ID Day during Law Week, an event where trans and gender-diverse people could update their identity documents with multiple agencies in one convenient location.

Representatives from the Australian Department of Human Services, the Australian Passport Office, Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria, and VicRoads, as well as lawyers from St Kilda Legal Service, were all on hand to help.

The free event was booked out, demonstrating the way that the LGBTIQ Legal Service’s work strongly resonates with the community.

Representatives of organisations at Change Your ID Day

The Impact of the Service

‘The Foundation firmly believed that the LGBTIQ Legal Service was an idea whose time had well and truly come when we funded it, and their success clearly proves this,’ says Ms Haultain today.

Sam Elkin, St Kilda Legal Service’s LGBTIQ Outreach Lawyer, says the service has proven invaluable.

‘This service has had an enormously positive impact on the community,’ they said.

‘There’s a longstanding fear within parts of the LGBTIQ community of the legal system, coloured by previous negative experiences with police, lawyers and other legal institutions.

‘Having a dedicated service staffed with someone like myself, who is also trans, gives the community the confidence to engage with the legal system and goes a long way towards rebuilding trust.

‘This means that when trans and gender diverse people come in for one issue, we are able to diagnose and treat other legal issues they are facing but may have been avoiding due to mistrust or lack of access.’

Sam also praised the LGBTIQ Legal Service’s partnership with Thorne Harbour Health, the first partnership of its kind in the world.

‘The passion and dedication of everyone involved has been amazing,’ they say.

Victoria Law Foundation is thrilled to see the LGBTIQ Legal Service grow into its own and congratulates the team on their nomination.

The Law Institute of Victoria’s Victorian Legal Awards, now in its 15th year, is the most prestigious legal awards program in Victoria.

Winners will be announced tonight, Friday 17 May.

Bringing the law to life for Warrnambool students

Last week over 230 students from eight regional schools attended our Regional Law Talks program in Warrnambool, allowing students the opportunity to visit the courts and meet legal experts.

Law Talks provides regional students the opportunity to meet some of Victoria’s important legal bodies; usually only practical for students and teachers in Melbourne to access due to distance. In bringing representatives to the region, we are able to fill some of the gaps in access faced by regional communities.

“Each year we visit only two regions in Victoria, so it is a very rare opportunity for local students.” – David Thomson

Students went behind the scenes of the courts, and heard from a great line-up of speakers, including David Thomson, Nick Gadd, Rod Ratcliffe, Greg Hayes, Lisa Nguyen, Damien Pitts, Michael Aitken, Jane Flanagan and Vaughn Koops. Thank you to all speakers for sharing your insight to our regional students.

“It gave us a good insight into how the courts work and what we can do to sort out disputes.” -Thomas Crothers, 18

“It was really cool because it reinforced everything that we’ve been learning throughout this year and last year.” -Libby Holmes, 17

“It was good to get an insight into what we need to know for the course this year, and sticking really close to the study design and constitution.” -Guan Bright, 16



Looking for extra resources for students?

Victoria’s Legal System is a fantastic free resource for teachers and students that explains the role of the most significant legal organisations in Victoria. Download or order copies for your students here.