We are thrilled to announce the Law Week 2019 event program is now available. There are over 200 events across the state to inform and entertain you. With performances, behind the scenes tours, information sessions and plenty of children’s activities, Law Week makes learning about the law easy for all Victorians.
Something for everyone
Uncover our rich legal history, enjoy a theatrical performance, view a film screening or simply enjoy a sausage sizzle. Go behind the scenes at the courts or take part in debates, tours, mock-court trials, legal health checks and music performances.
On Saturday 18 May, enjoy a wonderful day out with the whole family at Courts Open Day. On Sunday 19 May, experience the stunning architecture of the building where our laws are made at Parliament Open Day.
Stop by our Law Week Hub at Fed Square to find out what’s on and pick up a Law Week program.
Get ready for Law Week, a dynamic festival of events designed to help people explore the law in fun and informative ways. From 13 –19 May choose from over one hundred free events from court tours, to mock trials to activities for families, and more.
This week Victoria Law Foundation awarded $20,000 in grants to bring 13 of these events to life across Victoria, including legal health checks, information sessions and opportunities to find out where to get help with legal problems. More details will be released shortly.
Regional and new events were given priority for Law Week Grants this year to provide opportunities for those outside Melbourne. We’re excited to see the reach of Law Week extended through this funding.
There was intense media interest at Melbourne’s County Court this morning as Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced Cardinal George Pell for sexually assaulting two choirboys. Promoting transparency of the court, Judge Kidd’s sentencing remarks were broadcast live, including to a large group of media and onlookers outside the County Court.
Judge Kidd imposed a total sentence of six years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and eight months. That means Pell will be eligible to apply for parole after serving this non-parole period. His release after parole is a matter for the Parole Board.
In his sentencing remarks Judge Kidd said –
Finally, sentencing is often simplistically portrayed by some in the public sphere as being an easy and uncomplicated task. From where I sit today, the exercise is far from an easy one. And it is certainly not simple. I am required to weigh all of the relevant matters in this case and then reach a conclusion as to a just and appropriate penalty that reflects all of the circumstances of your case.
Cardinal Pell has already lodged an appeal against the conviction, which is set to be heard in the Court of Appeal on June 5.
How did Chief Judge Kidd come to his decision?
Judges must consider many factors when making a decision on sentencing. These decisions are then made publicly available.
It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of the Honourable Justice Philip Cummins AM. A much-loved friend of the Foundation, his professional commitments revealed his deep and abiding humanity and concern for others.
A Judge of the Supreme Court from 1988 to 2009, Justice Cummins had a distinguished legal career characterised by intelligence and energy, that he continued to demonstrate in the years after his retirement from the Bench in 2010.
Showing his underlying commitment to helping the vulnerable and to improving the law, from September 2012 he served as Chair of the Law Reform Commission, and President of the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies based in London.
Justice Cummins chaired the inquiry into Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry in 2010/11 and served also as President of the Court Network, supporting Victorians in their dealings with the court system.
While Justice Cummins had a sparkling legal career, at the Foundation we knew Philip best as a witty, warm-hearted and generous friend. As Chair of the Foundation from 2009 to 2014, he was particularly passionate about our Education function, cementing our strong reputation in helping Victorians understand the law.
More recently as a Law Talks presenter, he engaged hundreds of young Victorians with his judicial experience, and stories funny, interesting and wise. A beloved member of our team, we will miss him dearly.
We want students to get a Headstart on Unit 4 Legal Studies. That’s why we visited Bendigo with experts from the most important legal organisations in Victoria.
Students visited court and found out what it’s like to be on a jury. They heard from the Victorian Law Reform Commission on how laws are improved. And the Dispute Settlement Centre explained how to resolve legal disputes through mediation. Lawyers also spoke on how community legal centres work.
And of course, there were study tips on how to do well in VCE.
For more information about Headstart, or to arrange a session for your students, contact our Education Manager, Fabiola Superina, on (03) 9604 8100 or email.
In October 1998 a young gay student Matthew Shephard was lured from a bar to the outskirts of town in Laramie, Wyoming. On a bitterly cold night he was tied to a fence, savagely beaten and left begging for his life. He died soon after being discovered the following day.
‘What came of the crime was an outcry in relation to hate crime, and eventually led to former US president Obama enacting anti-hate crime legislation, which was known as the Matthew Shepard Act, says director Nicky Neville-Jones, a Melbourne family lawyer with a background in performing theatre.
‘In America at that time there was no legislation relevant to that particular crime. And I wanted Bottled Snail to take on the project because of the various human rights themes, and the fact that it’s still relevant in 2019,’ she says.
Push for change in Victoria
Twenty years since the Matthew Shepard case, there is a growing campaign to strengthen laws in Victoria to respond to prejudice motivated offences, and violence against the LGBTI community.
In their recent End the Hate report the Human Rights Law Centre called on the Victorian Government to legislate specifically against hate crimes, to ensure everyone including the LGBTI community are treated with dignity and respect.
‘There is concern that existing laws and policies may not effectively deter or combat prejudice motivated crime practice,’ the report says.
In particular, the report calls on the Victorian government to introduce a Hate Crimes Act to ensure all people are equally protected, and to support more research and data collection into the prevalence of prejudice motivated conduct to improve responses.
Lee Carnie, who co-authored the HRLC report with Anna Brown, will be speaking on the opening night of The Laramie Project about the ongoing relevance of the case to Victorians.
Over six hundred members of the legal fraternity came together for Victoria Law Foundation’s annual Legal Laneway breakfast in the CBD’s Hardware Lane. The gathering heard about a landmark initiative by the VSLB to tackle sexual harassment in the legal profession, got an update on the Foundation’s work and the new research program.
The year ahead at Victoria Law Foundation
‘The new research function at the Foundation is underway, headed up by Research Director, Professor Nigel Balmer, an international leader in legal empirical research.’ The Foundation is working on a three-year research program to improve Victorians’ access to justice, with more details to be released in coming months, said Lynne Haultain, the Victoria Law Foundation’s Executive Director.
Lynne also reminded all that Law Week 2019 will run from May 13 – 19. ‘We look forward to your participation – backing up again after a bumper year of 220 events last year across the state.’ The Foundation’s annual Oration will take place mid-year, and the third Law and You forum is scheduled for October.
Lynne commended a range of people from across the sector who support the Foundation’s work with schools through the Law Talks and Classroom Law Talks series, which she pointed out make a significant difference in the lives of young people who would not otherwise have that exposure to the law and the people in it.
New initiative against sexual harassment in the legal sector
Legal Services Commissioner and CEO Fiona McLeay launched a long-term campaign to raise awareness, investigate, quantify and address sexual harassment in legal workplaces.
‘Sexual harassment in the profession is unacceptable and it won’t be tolerated,’ she said. Over the next few years the VSLB will investigate complaints, initiate complaints where appropriate, and in either case use their powers to address the problem.
She reported that since beginning her role as Commissioner last year, she has been approached by many lawyers who have asked her to address the problem. ‘It’s clear to me that sexual harassment is occurring in the profession and it’s too common. It’s a serious issue, and we need to address it.’
Ms McLeay said colleagues at the Legal Services Board are concerned the problem is under-reported, with lawyers too afraid to formalise a complaint for fear of negative impacts on their lives and careers.
She asked leaders in the profession to call out inappropriate behaviour to ensure employees have a safe environment, with equal opportunities to succeed.
She also encouraged those who have experienced such behaviour to come forward with complaints, and to support colleagues who have such complaints. The VSLB has developed a special group of staff to take calls and investigate complaints.
Lawyers can contact the VSLB to discuss a matter confidentially, or make a complaint relating to sexual harassment by a lawyer.
Later in the year the Board will launch a survey to investigate the prevalence of this problem.
Ms McLeay reiterated that the legal profession cannot be quiet in addressing this kind of conduct. All lawyers should be able to practise their craft free of harassment of any kind,’ she said. ‘Our profession demands a higher standard of ethics and behaviour.’
The official VLF Executive Director account is up and running. Our Executive Director Lynne Haultain will be talking about developments and activities in the justice sector as well as showcasing the great work of the Foundation.