Diversity and equality
Committees and working parties
The Diversity and Equality Committee leads the development, implementation and promotion of strategies, policies and initiatives designed to attract, retain and nurture members of the NSW Bar who are reflective of the community they serve. The committee fosters best practice, diversity, inclusion of difference and equality of opportunity for its members. It seeks to ensure that people who wish to join the bar and its members are treated equally and not disadvantaged by their unique attributes which contribute to the overall advancement of the profession. Through education, the committee aims to promote diversity, the value of difference, eliminate prejudice and bias and encourage equality and collegiality among the members of the bar.
Membership of the Diversity Committee and the Indigenous Barristers Strategy Working Party can be found on our Committees and Sections page
Policies and plans
Best Practice Guidelines
The New South Wales Bar Association considers that achieving best practice in professional conduct and compliance with New South Wales and Commonwealth laws in the area of equality and diversity should be encouraged among its members and their chambers/floors. To this end, on 19 June 2014 the Bar Council approved the Best Practice Guidelines (BPG).
Diversity and Equity Policy
The New South Wales Bar Association is committed to fostering fairness, equity and tolerance in a manner that reflects the social and cultural diversity within the legal profession and the communities we serve.
Equitable Briefing Policy
In September 2016 the Bar Association formally adopted the Law Council’s National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy . The policy includes interim and long term targets with the ultimate aim of briefing women in at least 30 per cent of all matters and paying 30 per cent of the value of all brief fees 2020.
The policy is intended to drive cultural change within the legal profession, support the progression and retention of women barristers and address the significant pay gap and under-representation of women in the superior courts.
The policy is available for adoption by counsel in addition to briefing entities and clients of briefing entities operating in Australia.
Fee Waiver Policy
The Bar Association has adopted a policy to grant fee waivers to barristers taking parental or carer’s leave. The full policy is available here. In summary, a barrister taking parental leave will be entitled to a waiver of 100% of his or her practising certificate fee as long as the leave is taken in connection with the birth or adoption of his or her child and the barrister will be the primary care giver for the child during a period of leave of at least two months. A barrister taking carer’s leave will be entitled to a pro rata waiver of his or her practising certificate fee if the barrister takes a period of leave for at least two months in order to be a primary care giver for another person. Information about making an application for a fee waiver pursuant to this policy is set out in the policy.
Court sitting hours
The President of the New South Wales Bar Association raised the issue of certainty in relation to court sitting hours with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the Hon Tom Bathurst AC.
The President specifically noted the difficulties that arise when there is a lack of certainty around sitting hours for those members with carer’s responsibilities.
The adoption of a formal protocol has the potential to fetter judicial discretion in relation to case management.
The following has been suggested to judges of the Supreme Court:
- That the parties be notified at the earliest possible time of a proposal to commence proceedings any time before 9.30 am or to sit beyond 4.30 pm in the case of divisions or 4.45 pm in the case of the Court of Appeal.
- If possible, 24 hours’ notice be given of a proposal for an early start date and notice of extended sitting hours be given no later than prior to the luncheon adjournment on the day it is proposed to sit the extended hours.
- In considering whether or not to set extended hours, it is relevant to consider the family or other carer responsibilities of the practitioner
- These suggestions will not apply to bail applications or applications in the Duty Judge list. The suggestions listed above are for guidance only, and are not binding.
The following courts have all adopted similar practices to ensure predictable sitting hours in their jurisdictions, including:
- District Court
- Land and Environment Court
- Federal Court
- Local Court
- Supreme Court
- Federal Circuit Court
Reconciliation Action Plan
Our Reconciliation Action Plan , which commenced on 1 January 2013, has been endorsed by Reconciliation Australia. The Bar Association has worked for many years to improve the educational path for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students studying at NSW universities and to assist in providing career development opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lawyers. Our primary goal is to increase the number of Aboriginal barristers practising at the NSW Bar. Enquiries can be directed to Megan Batchelor, firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 92324055.
The Indigenous Barristers' Trust The Mum Shirl Fund
The New South Wales Bar Association seeks a legal profession in NSW that demonstrates equality and an absence of any discrimination and reflects the cultural and racial diversity of the general NSW community. A special trust fund was established in 2001 to which members of the Association make generous donations to the trust so it can meet the needs of Aboriginal law students, graduates and barristers.
The fund has deductible gift recipient status as a public benevolent institution under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth). Contributions of $2 or more are allowable deductions for income tax purposes.
Mentoring Indigenous law students
The purpose of the mentoring program is to provide opportunities for barristers to share their wealth of information and life experiences with Indigenous law students or Indigenous young lawyers. If you are a barrister interested in mentoring, please read the guidelines and complete this form.
Please save the application form to your computer and return it as an email attachment to the address provided.
Employment for Indigenous law students
All barristers, clerks and chambers are encouraged to offer casual or part-time employment opportunities for Indigenous law students. Ideally this would be for a day or half a day each week on a regular basis involving tasks such as loose-leaf filing, administrative or clerical tasks or research. If you have are able to offer any employment, please contact Ting Lim at email@example.com or on (02) 9232 4055
Interested Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students and practitioners should visit the Indigenous Barristers' Trust page.
The New South Wales Bar Association became a member of Pride in Diversity on 1 June 2016. Pride in Diversity is Australia’s first and only national not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion. A social inclusion initiative of ACON, Pride in Diversity are specialists in HR, organisational change and workplace diversity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people by reducing exclusion, invisibility, homophobia and stigma in the workplace.
In March 2016, the Bar Association became a supporter of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Racism. It Stops with Me campaign. The campaign invites all Australians, both at the individual and the organisational level, to reflect on what they can do to counter racism, wherever it happens. It aims to: Ensure more Australians recognise that racism is unacceptable in our community; Give more Australians, at an individual and organisational level, the tools and resources to take practical action against racism; Empower individuals and organisations to prevent and respond effectively to racism wherever it may happen.
Advocates for change
In September 2016, Bar Council approved a redesign for the Advocates for Change program. The Advocates for Change program now has two main purposes:
- To provide role models who, through the example of what they do and say in their professional lives as barristers, represent the full width of diversity and inclusion that the NSW Bar Association wishes to promote at the Bar; and
- Require that those designated as an Advocate for Change should be asked to undertake particular tasks within their role as Advocates for Change.
The Advocates for Change program is no longer limited to issues of gender diversity but also now includes attributes such as racial background, disability, LGBTI and older practitioners.
Learn more about the Advocates for Change program and how you may be involved here.
Women at the bar
The Bar Association began addressing the problems faced by female barristers in 1995 when it established a Gender Issues Committee. The committee was later renamed the Equal Opportunity Committee (EOC) which, under the chairmanship of Michael Slattery QC, put in place a number of programmes to help women establish successful practices at the bar.
The Women Barristers Forum was established on 19 June 2004 to assist women at the New South Wales Bar. In 2007 it became a section of the Bar Association. Visit the WBF web site
Each year a number of senior women barristers act as mentors to women in their second and third year at the Bar. This particularly effective scheme, which commenced in 2001, has received excellent feedback.
For some years the bar has conducted a scheme in which women law students in their final two years of their degree are invited to the bar to meet women barristers.