VWL is the peak representative body of women lawyers in Victoria,
and a recognised organisation of Australian Women Lawyers.

VWL AIMS TO ASSIST FEMALE LAWYERS IN ACHIEVING A SATISFYING, SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL LIFE WHATEVER THEIR PARTICULAR AND PERSONAL DEFINITION OF SUCCESS MIGHT BE.

One of VWL’s key objectives is to promote the understanding and support of women's legal and human rights. We work to fulfil that objective through a variety of means, including by identifying, highlighting and eradicating discrimination against women in law and in the legal system, as well as by seeking to achieve justice and equality for all women.

VWL’s other key objectives are to remove barriers and increase opportunities for participation by, and advancement of, women in the legal profession in Victoria. Again, we do that in many ways, including by:

  • providing a common meeting ground for women lawyers
  • fostering the continuing education and development of women lawyers in all matters of legal interest
  • encouraging and providing for the entry and retention and advancement of women in the legal profession
  • participating as a body in matters of interest to the legal profession
  • advancing equality for women in the legal profession
  • creating and enhancing awareness of women's contribution to the practice and development of the law
  • providing a professional and social network for women lawyers.

Governance

VWL’s affairs are conducted by its executive committee in accordance with VWL’s Constitution. The The Executive Charter and VWL Diversity and Inclusion Statement guides executive committee members and provides a framework for ensuring the executive committee is accountable to VWL members. VWL conducts most of its work through its subcommittees. Participating in a committee is a great way to become involved in VWL, meet new people and expand skills and knowledge. New committee members are always welcome. Nominations for election to the executive committee (for positions other than committee chairs and AWL representative) are sought prior to each annual general meeting. To be eligible for election, a candidate must be a VWL member and committed to VWL’s objectives.

The affairs of VWL are conducted by a Committee of Management ("the Executive Committee"). The Executive Committee is accountable to the members of VWL. The conduct of the Executive Committee is governed by the Constitution. In addition to the Constitution, the Executive Charter assists and guides members of the Executive Committee in the performance of their roles and provides a framework for ensuring the Executive Committee is accountable to members of VWL.

The Executive Committee comprises:

  • a President
  • a Vice-President
  • an Immediate Past President
  • a Secretary
  • a Treasurer
  • a certain number of elected members
  • the Chair(s) of each subcommittee
  • any other members as may be appointed from time to time.

To be a member of the Executive Committee you must be a member of VWL and be committed to the objectives of VWL. Nominations for election to the Executive Committee (for positions other than Committee Chairs) are sought prior to the Annual General Meeting.

Executive committee – voting members

Deborah Kliger
President
VANESSA SHAMBROOK
Vice President
ELLA VAN DER SCHANS
Immediate Past President
Bonnie Phillips
General Member – Sponsorship
Hannah Fitzpatrick
Treasurer
Eleanor Weir
General Member – Communications
Erin Meeking
General Member – Mentoring
Stephanie Pasharis
General Member – Mooting
Emma Sestito
Secretary
Sophie Lefebvre
General Member – Projects/Membership engagement
Marquita Nolan
General Member – Regional & Suburban

Executive committee – Subcommittee co-chairs

Publications

The Publications Committee is responsible for:

  • developing and fostering projects which enhance ability of VWL to communicate with its members and wider community;
  • supporting the needs of the Voting Executive and other VWL Committees in relation to communications related projects;
  • supervising and assist the production of Portia including formation of an editorial sub-committee and writing of articles according to the Portia Guidelines contained at Annexure B;
  • updating the VWL website, as and when required by the Voting Executive to ensure it exists as an effective communication tool for VWL;
  • preparing and distributing the VWL's monthly email newsletter (VWList);
  • assisting the Communications Officer with organising and co-ordinating the submission of monthly 'According to Merit' articles in the Law Institute of Victoria's Journal, as needed; and
  • providing committee participants with an opportunity to develop new skills, relationships and profile.

Justice

The aim of the Justice Committee is to bring justice and human rights related issues that affect women to the attention of VWL members by:

  • promoting justice;
  • providing a forum for justice related issues to be addressed by VWL;
  • initiating functions and projects which address justice related issues;
  • providing informative summaries in Portia of topical justice related issues;
  • supporting the Voting Executive's action and/or potential submissions on justice related matters that invite a VWL response/comment; and
  • creating and maintaining links with other justice related groups.

Contact the committee co-chairs 
Georgia Dobbyn   

Elizabeth Main    

Contact the committee co-chairs 

Bronwyn Montgomery    

Chloe Taylor    

Law Reform

Working towards law reform and promoting the understanding and support of women’s legal and human rights, including via:

  • monitoring of government law reform activities, particularly in areas of interest to VWL
  • preparation of submissions
  • fostering relationships with other law reform organisations
  • leading publicity in relation to law reform issues

Membership

Ensuring that VWL attracts and retains a diverse membership, and keeps in touch with members' needs and interests, including via:

  • effective communication with members
  • initiatives that accommodates the different conditions in which women lawyers work
  • creation of links with practitioners in suburban and rural areas.

Contact the committee co-chairs
Alex Dworjanyn   
Asmaa Hasanein   

Contact the committee co-chairs
Lauren Cassimatis     

Networking

Providing opportunities for professional friendships and support, and the exchange of ideas, including via:

  • networking events
  • events supporting professional development by way of career planning, mentoring and learning about legal issues
  • collaborations with other groups such as the Women Barristers’ Association

Women in Government (WiG)

Providing a forum for women lawyers (whether practising as lawyers or not) in local, State and Federal government firms, agencies, departments and statutory bodies to:

  • share experiences
  • learn about career progression for women in government
  • network with each other and the wider legal community

Contact the committee co-chairs 
Eleanor Weir    
Hannah Dunai    

Contact the committee co-chairs 
Pia White    
Stephanie Desantis  

Diversity and Inclusion

Working to improve access to the law for women from CALD backgrounds, by:

  • researching the areas of law in which CALD women may face difficulties obtaining information or assistance;
  • undertaking projects to inform women from CALD backgrounds about their legal rights; and
  • working with and in support of other organisations that deliver legal services and assistance to women from CALD backgrounds.

Work practices

Exploring, critically evaluating and publicly commenting on issues concerning women lawyers in the workplace, including:

  • employment issues affecting women such as sexual harassment and discrimination
  • the state of flexible work practices for lawyers
  • retention, attrition and pay equity
  • progression of female lawyers into leadership roles,

as well as designing practical training and resources for the legal profession to tackle such issues.

Contact the committee co-chairs
Naomi Hickey-Humble   
Oriana Torcasio   

Contact the committee co-chairs

Sanishya Fernando   

Kirsty Mastores   

Sponsorship

Managing, co-ordinating and liaising with the sponsors of the VWL to ensure the ongoing support and success of the organisation and its objectives, including:

  • Facilitating VWL events;
  • Enabling VWL projects and submissions to be conducted; and
  • Providing updates and insights to the sponsors regarding achievements and relevant matters concerning the VWL, it’s sponsors and members.

 


Publications

The Publications Committee is responsible for:

  • developing and fostering projects which enhance ability of VWL to communicate with its members and wider community;
  • supporting the needs of the Voting Executive and other VWL Committees in relation to communications related projects;
  • supervising and assisting in the production of Portia including formation of an editorial sub-committee and writing of articles;
  • updating the VWL website, as and when required by the Voting Executive to ensure it exists as an effective communication tool for VWL;
  • preparing and distributing the VWL's monthly email newsletter (VWList);
  • assisting the Communications Officer with organising and co-ordinating the submission of monthly 'According to Merit' articles in the Law Institute of Victoria's Journal, as needed; and
  • providing committee participants with an opportunity to develop new skills, relationships and profile.
Contact the committee co-chairs 
Georgia Dobbyn   
Elizabeth Main    

Justice

The aim of the Justice Committee is to bring justice and human rights related issues that affect women to the attention of VWL members by:

  • promoting justice;
  • providing a forum for justice related issues to be addressed by VWL;
  • initiating functions and projects which address justice related issues;
  • providing informative summaries in Portia of topical justice related issues;
  • supporting the Voting Executive's action and/or potential submissions on justice related matters that invite a VWL response/comment; and
  • creating and maintaining links with other justice related groups.
Contact the committee co-chairs 
Bronwyn Montgomery    
Chloe Taylor    

Law Reform

The Law Reform Committee aims to work towards law reform and promoting the understanding and support of women’s legal and human rights, by:

  • monitoring State and Federal government law reform activities, particularly in areas of interest to VWL;
  • preparation of submissions;
  • fostering relationships with other law reform organisations; and
  • leading publicity in relation to law reform issues.
Contact the committee co-chairs
Victoria Muravchenkov   
Elspeth McConaghy   

Outreach

The Outreach Committee aims to support and establish relationships with regional, suburban and other members with limited access or connection to Melbourne CBD by:

  • expanding VWL's digital outreach offerings;
  • ensuring that members in regional and suburban areas have access to VWL and feel supported and included by VWL;
  • undertaking projects to expand and broaden the membership of VWL in respect of regional and suburban members;
  • supporting participation of student members in VWL initiatives, particularly those students in regional and suburban areas;
  • ensuring members who identify as having a disability are supported and included in VWL initiatives and have access to VWL events; and
  • building relationships with regional and suburban law associations and law student associations

The composition of the Outreach Committee is a representative model comprising members from across Victoria at various stages of their career.

Contact the committee co-chairs
Abbey Mason     
Bethany Wilkinson     

Networking

The Networking Committee aims to:

  • develop and foster events which support the aims of VWL;
  • develop a range of events, including those focusing on career development, legal issues, practice development, networking and socialising;
  • develop events which are of interest to people at different stages in their careers and from different areas of practice;
  • provide committee members with an opportunity to develop some new skills and relationships; and
  • encourage relationships with like organisations.
Contact the committee co-chairs 
Linda Hart    
Lucy Prowse    

Women in the Public Sector (WiPS)

The Women in the Public Sector Committee aims to provide a forum for women lawyers (whether practising as lawyers or not) in local, State and Federal government firms, agencies, departments and statutory bodies to:

  • share experiences;
  • learn about career progression for women in the public sector; and
  • network with each other and the wider legal community.
Contact the committee co-chairs 
Kathleen Beirne    
Stephanie Desantis  

Diversity and Inclusion

The aims of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee are to champion the rights of, and work to promote equality and opportunities for members who identify as:

  • culturally and linguistically diverse;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander;
  • having a disability; and/or
  • LGBTIQA+.
Contact the committee co-chairs
Joanna Abraham   
Oriana Torcasio   

Work Practices

The Work Practices Committee aims to:

  • advance equality for women in the legal profession;
  • encourage and provide for the entry of women into the legal profession and their advancement within the legal profession;
  • participate as a body in matters of interest to the legal profession;
  • create and enhance awareness of women's contribution to the practice and development of the law; and
  • to provide:
    • a professional and social network for women lawyers;
    • educational seminars and research reports on issues relevant to women working in the legal profession;
    • an opportunity to effect cultural changes in the legal profession;
    • a forum for the exchange of views by peer support and mentoring; and
    • a voice for women lawyers on issues affecting women in the legal profession.
Contact the committee co-chairs
Audrey Capasso   
Mary Quinn   

Sponsorship

Managing, co-ordinating and liaising with the sponsors of the VWL to ensure the ongoing support and success of the organisation and its objectives, including:

  • Facilitating VWL events;
  • Enabling VWL projects and submissions to be conducted; and
  • Providing updates and insights to the sponsors regarding achievements and relevant matters concerning the VWL, it’s sponsors and members.

 


Our History

1996

VWL takes on legal form as an incorporated not-for-profit association

Ms Deanne Weir is appointed first convenor of VWL

1997

VWL releases a video entitled ‘Willpower’ highlighting five women with varied legal careers who discuss the challenges and obstacles they have faced in the legal profession

1998

VWL, in conjunction with the Office of Women’s Affairs, Victoria Law Foundation and the Law Institute of Victoria, publishes a report on flexible work practices entitled Living and Working Together - Looking to the Future and distributes it to all Victorian law firms with two or more partners

VWL supports the Women Barristers' Association in its submission to the Victorian Bar Council in response to the report Equality of Opportunity for Women at the Victorian Bar

VWL makes a submission on a State government draft report Two Year Action Plan for Women 1998-2000

1999

VWL enters into a sponsorship arrangement with the Law Institute of Victoria

Ms Elizabeth Bishop, on behalf of VWL, organises the production of a child care kit entitled Child Care is a Family Issue

VWL, in conjunction with Victoria Law Foundation, publishes Taking up the Challenge: Women in the Legal Profession – a collation of all available research on lawyer satisfaction, attrition and productivity in legal workplaces. The report is launched at the annual conference of the Legal Practice Managers Association

2000

VWL holds a series of seminars involving the legal profession and corporations in relation to the issues identified in the Taking up the Challenge report

2001

VWL publishes its work practices guide A Snapshot of Employment Practices 2001: A Survey of Victorian Law Firms and subsequently Flexible Partnership – Making it Work in Law Firms

2005

VWL makes a submission to the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on its draft discussion paper Striking a Balance: Women, Men, Work and Family

VWL makes submissions in relation to the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and to the Senate Inquiry into Voluntary Student Unionism

VWL conducts a 360-degree review of flexible work practices and its report Confronting Myths and Realities in the Legal Profession is launched by Pru Goward, Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner

2006

VWL, in conjunction with the Law Institute of Victoria, releases a report entitled Bendable or Expendable: Practices and attitudes towards work flexibility in Victoria‘s biggest legal employers

2007

VWL, in conjunction with the Women Barristers' Association (WBA), launches the inaugural VWL & WBA Law Student Mentoring Program

2009

VWL makes a submission to the Victorian Parliament endorsing the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill

VWL commissions a Scoping Study for an Attrition Study of Victorian Lawyers – Report to Victoria Law Foundation (RMIT Centre for Applied Social Research) – which subsequently informs the Law Council of Australia’s National Attrition and Retention Study

2010

VWL publishes its work practices guide A Snapshot of Employment Practices 2001: A Survey of Victorian Law Firms and subsequently Flexible Partnership – Making it Work in Law Firms

2013

VWL collects survey data and makes a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission on its Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review

2015

VWL’s new Flexible Work Protocols: A best practice guide for productive and engaged legal workplaces are launched by Kate Jenkins, the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner

2016

VWL gives evidence to Senate Committee on 'revenge porn' advocating for the introduction of a criminal offence, focusing on consent, to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.

The Membership Committee was reestablished to broaden VWL membership by hosting events for regional and LGBTI practitioners.  A number of regional events were held in Geelong, Bendigo and Shepparton, as well as recording and posting videos of events on the VWL Website, in an effort to reach all Victorian women lawyers. 

In November 2016 VWL reaches over 800 members.

VWL gives evidence to Senate committee in support of the Fair Work Amendment (Gender Pay Gap) Bill

VWL Convenors & Presidents

1997

Deanne Weir

1998

Georgina Frost

1999

Dr Elizabeth Bishop

2000

Angela Clelland

2001

Wendy Kayler-Thomson

2002

Glenda Beecher

2003

Joanna Renkin

2004

Sarah Coffey

2005

Rosemary Peavey

2006

Virginia Jay

2007

Justine Lau

2008

Christine Melis

2009

Jennifer Kanis

2010

Astrid Haban-Beer

2011

Kate Ashmor

2012

Patricia Athanasiadis

2013

Verity Shepherdson

2014

Verity Shepherdson

2015

Kirsten Adams 

2016

Stephanie Milione 

2017

Bianca Quan  

2018

Michelle Berry

2019

Ella van der Schans

2020

Deborah Kliger