President’s Report – March
NATIONAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE FUNDING
The Society has resolved to support the Law Council of Australia’s National Legal Assistance Funding Campaign. The campaign calls upon the Commonwealth Government to:
- develop a National Partnership Agreement with the States/Territories which is based on national objectives, as distinct from Commonwealth or State goals;
- restore Commonwealth funding to Legal Aid Commissions to a 50 percent share (up from 35 percent) on a constant per capita basis. In the 2015-2016 budget, this would have required an additional $109 million (actual budget figure was $208 million);
- immediately provide 50 percent of the further $200 million called for by the Productivity Commission to fund civil law assistance; and
- make Commonwealth increases conditional on States and Territories at least maintaining their funding levels.
Members may have seen the Society’s media statement, which can be found in the ‘Your Voice at Work’ section of this edition of Brief, or on our website. The statement calls upon all stakeholders to join forces to encourage Federal and Western Australian Parliamentarians to help end the legal assistance funding neglect.
The Society will continue to work with the LCA, Legal Aid, Community Legal Centres and Law Access to persuade Federal and State governments to address what is reaching a crisis point for access to justice.
PUBLICATION OF DECISIONS OF WORKCOVER WA ARBITRATORS ONLINE
In January of this year, the Society sent a letter to WorkCover WA regarding the publication of Arbitrators’ decisions online. The letter outlined the Society’s view that it would be beneficial to the public and to the legal profession if online access to Arbitrators’ decisions was made available.
The Society expressed the view that the ability to review Arbitrators’ reasons for decision would provide both the public and the legal profession with a better understanding of the current interpretation and application of the relevant law. This could well aid the early resolution of matters and even result in proceedings not being commenced or defended unnecessarily.
WorkCover WA has now responded to the Society’s letter. In the response WorkCover WA noted that section 199 of the Workers’ Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA) provides that hearings before an arbitrator are to be conducted in private. This requirement can be dispensed with at the discretion of the arbitrator conducting the hearing.
WorkCover WA noted that it was cognisant of the potential benefits of online publication and this issue was raised at a recent meeting of the Dispute Services User Group convened at WorkCover WA.
The Society’s views will be considered as WorkCover WA continues in its attempts to innovate and improve the functioning of arbitrations.
CPD PROGRAMME FEBRUARY-JUNE 2016
The Society’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for February to June is out now. There are a wide range of seminars available to ensure you meet the 31 March deadline for CPD compliance. Just a gentle reminder that this year is the first year of the 4th category, Practice Management, for which we must acquire points, so please ensure that you have covered this area. To access the programme and to register for seminars online, please visit lawsocietywa.asn.au.
NEW GENERAL MANAGER ADVOCACY APPOINTED
I am pleased to announce that Mary Woodford has been appointed to the position of General Manager Advocacy. Mary is currently Senior Legal Counsel at the University of Western Australia, having previously held the role of Consultant, Corporate & Commercial with Jackson McDonald Lawyers, Special Counsel at Deacons and Director of Legal and Policy at the Australian Medical Association (WA).
Mary has held a number of senior legal positions in the public and private sector as well as company secretary and chair for not for profit organisations and statutory authorities. She is currently a non-executive director of HBF Health Limited, non-executive director and Chair, MercyCare Ltd and the Chair of the State training provider, Durack Institute of Technology.
Mary holds a Bachelor of Laws, Masters of Public Health, Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Mary commenced at the Society on Monday, 29 February 2016 and will formally take up the General Manager role upon the retirement of Andrea Lace on 31 March.
LAW WEEK 2016
Law Week returns in 2016, running from Monday, 16 May to Friday, 20 May. Each year, Law Week showcases a broad range of events that provide a chance for both the legal profession and the wider community to engage in open dialogue.
The events that run throughout Law Week aim to foster an improved understanding of the essential role that the law plays in our society. Law Week also gives the profession a chance to promote our own role in enabling an open, independent and impartial legal system.
Law Week will commence with the Law Week Breakfast, which will be held on Monday, 16 May 2016 at the Parmelia Hilton in Perth. Members who attended last year’s Law Week Breakfast will recall an inspiring, challenging and thought-provoking address by Deidre Willmott, Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia.
Another highlight includes the Law Week Cocktail Evening, which will again be hosted and sponsored by Bankwest. The Cocktail Evening will also feature the prestigious WA Lawyer of the Year Awards, which are sponsored by Murdoch University and Profile Legal Recruitment. The WA Lawyer of the Year Awards recognise those practitioners who have made particularly noteworthy contributions to the legal profession in our State, going over and above expectations in the course of their employment.
Law Week 2016 is presented by the Society with financial assistance from the Public Purposes Trust. I look forward to seeing many of you at our events throughout the week. You can find out more online at lawsocietywa.asn.au/community/law-week/.