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’s affairs are conducted by its executive committee in accordance with VWL’s Rules of Association. 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 committees. 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 co-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 Rules of Association. In addition to the Rules of Association, 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

Joanna Abraham
Linda Hart
Annaleise Vulin
Elizabeth Cooper
Sophie Lefebvre
Immediate Past President
Alexandra Lioudvigova
General Member – Communications Officer
Sounita Viravout
General Member – Wellbeing Officer
Alanna Attard
General Member – Competitions Officer
Maddison Harrington
General Member – Competitions Officer
Shaniya Vilash
General Member – Engagements Officer
Bridgett Coutts
General Member – Special Projects Officer
Isabella Armao
General Member – Sponsorship Officer

Executive committee – Subcommittee co-chairs


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;
  • 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.

Publications Committee Co-chair

Shifa Shaikh

Nancy Abdalla


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.

Justice Committee  Co-chair 

Zefy Souvlakis

Amanda Emerson

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.

Law Reform Committee Co-chair

Casey Guilmartin

Sophie Lloyd

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.

WiPs Committee Co-chair

Natalie Plumstead

Rachel Matulis


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.

Networking Committee Co-chair 

Harriet Whiteley

Shannon Hubert


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.

Outreach Committee Co-chair 

Annabelle Ballard

Lucy Padula

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+.

Diversity and Inclusion Committee Co-chair 

Felicia Leong

Shivani Pillai

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.

Work Practices Committee Co-chair

Julia Eastoe

Nina Milner


The Mentoring Committee aims to assist women lawyers and law students by:

  • conducting annual mentoring programs which, connect junior women lawyers and law students with more senior legal practitioners to gain insight into working in law and opportunities for career advancement;
  • creating a network and space for professional and rewarding mentoring relationships to develop;
  • expanding VWL’s outreach by connecting with students and lawyers in metropolitan, suburban and regional areas; and
  • offering experienced lawyers a platform to share their skills and knowledge by developing mentoring skills with targeted training sessions:

Mentoring Committee Co-chair

Cordilia Thomas

Maira Dad

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