Vol 12, Issue 11
This time last year, Gabby and I were gearing up for our time as 2017 Women’s Directors and figuring out how we would approach our term. Our three immediate goals were implementing our campaign promises of a Facebook page, an outreach program and interactive workshops.
It’s clear that we can never be politicians because we’ve managed to keep all of our election promises.
We kicked off 2017 with our keystone International Women’s Day panel with Kristen Walker QC and Magistrate Urfa Masood. The panel was incredibly insightful and a brilliant way to start the year. In semester one we ran three workshops – a consciousness raising session, Women of Colour Breakfast, and legal writing crash course. For the breakfast we collaborated with Karri Walker, the 2017 Indigenous Representative, and had author and former MLS Women’s Officer Alice Pung speak. It was incredible to hear Alice share her story of her time at MLS and experiences since.
Semester two began with the Breaking the Glass Ceiling panel which was masterfully chaired by Dean Jenny Morgan. We were lucky to have 4 partners from our sponsor firms openly and honestly talk about their career paths and experiences as women in the corporate world. It was a frank discussion and we received positive feedback from students. This semester we ran two workshops, namely, a feminist reading of the law with Hilary Charlesworth, and a verbal assertiveness workshop. Our workshop with Hilary ended in a discussion of experiences of sexism, sexual assault and faculty training. Gabby and I took what students said and met with the Dean to discuss student concerns and MLS’ response to the HRC sexual assault survey. Outside of events, a key role of the Women’s Directors is to advocate for students, and to be a point of contact when and where students need support.
This semester we also launched the Women’s Portfolio Outreach Partnership Program through which we facilitated the placement of MLS students in our four partnership organisations – Women and Mentoring, safe steps Family Violence Response Centre, Women’s Property Initiatives, and Fempower. This was one of Gabby’s and my proudest achievements. MLS is an incredibly privileged bubble, it’s important that we acknowledge that and use our position in the community well.
This week is the Women’s Moot Grand Final which I would encourage everyone to attend. We worked closely with the Competitions Directors to expand and solidify the moot.
The Women's Portfolio has been fortunate enough to have a lot of support from the student body, the LSS, MLS Faculty, and sponsors. I’ve only named a few of the incredible women we’ve worked with this year. However, it’s no secret that the Women’s Portfolio can court controversy at times. Indeed, I’m sure there are people within MLS who do not think it should exist. Contrary to this mentality, feedback we received from students and Faculty throughout the year has made it abundantly clear that the Women’s Portfolio is needed and remains relevant.
There is still more work that can be done in this portfolio. MLS is majority women, but each woman and non-binary student’s experience is not the same. The Women’s Portfolio does not exist in a vacuum, it exists within MLS which is synonymous with upper middle class, white, heterosexual privilege due to its history. The Portfolio needs to act as a platform and facilitator to project other voices and experiences. It’s role as an advocate can, and should, be strengthened by addressing intersectional issues like class, race, sexuality and non-binary gender identity. Gabby and I have tried this year to achieve that, and I do think progress has been made, but I am not arrogant or naive enough to think that it was enough. Any systemic change within MLS cannot occur without student support so I would encourage everyone to get involved with advocacy, diversity and equality initiatives throughout MLS, not just Women's Portfolio ones.
It has been a privilege to work alongside Gabby, Natalie and Sophia in the Women’s team and a privilege to represent the students of MLS. I can’t imagine being a Women’s Director with anyone except Gabby. She is an inspiration with her endless enthusiasm and warmth and I have no doubt that she will change the lives of so many women in her career to come.
The incoming Women’s Directors are just as passionate as we are and I’m sure they’re excited to get going. The Portfolio can be strengthened by working closer with other LSS portfolios to address intersectional issues, and with other universities. It would be wonderful to use our position and resources to collaborate more with other Victorian universities to address systemic issues.
Annika McInerney is a third-year JD student and one of the outgoing LSS Women's Officers
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