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


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.
VWL is a signatory to the Diversity and Equality Charter.


VWL’s affairs are conducted by its executive committee in accordance with VWL’s Constitution. The Executive Charter 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

General Member/Communications
Priya Wakhlu
General Member – Mooting
Deborah Kliger
Vice President
Bonnie Phillips
General Member – Sponsorship
Sophie Lefebvre
General Member – Projects/Membership engagement
Patricia McMullan
Marquita Nolan
General Member – Regional & Suburban
Immediate Past President
Natalie Plumridge
General Member – Mentoring

Executive committee – Subcommittee co-chairs


Coordinating and promoting communication between VWL and the legal profession, and among members, including via:

  • VWL's annual journal, Portia
  • VWList e-newsletter
  • regular ‘According to Merit’ articles in the Law Institute Journal
  • various external media channels


Bringing justice and human rights related issues that affect women to the attention of VWL’s executive and members, including via:

  • projects, panel discussions and other events
  • submissions and reports
  • links with other justice related groups

Contact the committee co-chairs 
Georgia Dobbyn   

Stephanie Pasharis    

Contact the committee co-chairs 

Bronwyn Montgomery    

Erin Meeking    

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


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
Siobhan McGee     
Lauren Cassimatis     


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  

Cultural Diversity

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

Claire de Koeyer   

Emily Creak   


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


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

Ms Deanne Weir is appointed first convenor of VWL


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Deanne Weir


Georgina Frost


Dr Elizabeth Bishop


Angela Clelland


Wendy Kayler-Thomson


Glenda Beecher


Joanna Renkin


Sarah Coffey


Rosemary Peavey


Virginia Jay


Justine Lau


Christine Melis


Jennifer Kanis


Astrid Haban-Beer


Kate Ashmor


Patricia Athanasiadis


Verity Shepherdson


Verity Shepherdson


Kirsten Adams 


Stephanie Milione 


Bianca Quan  


Michelle Berry


Ella van der Schans