WLWA sends hope and prayers to all those caught up in the hostage situation taking place currently in Martin Place, Sydney.

There are a number of hostages, believed to be anywhere between 13 and 50 people, being held inside a cafe in Martin Place by man with possible links to terrorist organisations. Just before 10am Channel 7 reported that an armed man was holding hostages in the Lindt Chocolate Café opposite the Channel 7 broadcaster's Martin Place studios. The broadcaster has since been evacuated.

Police have confirmed they were called to the café earlier this morning after a woman reported seeing a man with a gun. Some reports say there is a single gunman inside but other reports suggest there might be two.

The number of hostages inside is yet to be confirmed; some are estimating there could be as many as 40 people. Four separate hostages have been seen with their hands pressed against up the windows of the cafe. A white flag bearing Arabic writing has been hung in the café window; the flag was initially described as an ISIS flag but this is incorrect. The area has been cordoned off.

Hundreds have been evacuated in the Martin Place area while others in the CBD have been told to stay inside their buildings.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on Australians to stay calm and trust the police to do their job as the tense hostage situation continues. Mr Abbott said Australians had to understand there were people in the world who wished to harm the country, but he stopped short of calling the incident terrorism-related.

"We don't know whether this is politically motivated, but there are some signs it could be," he said. He also said there was no cause for panic. "I would urge all Australians today to go about business as usual," he said.

To read more and listen to live coverage click here.

According to this article written by Sophie Schroder and published online today on Australian Lawyer a senior associate has spent the past year undertaking comprehensive research and gathering contributions from the most senior members of the legal community to put together a practical guide to attaining balance.

Schroder writes that Julia Batchelor-Smith, a respected lawyer at Minter Ellison's Kiwi affiliate, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, has recently completed her book: Balancing Work and Life: A Practical Guide for Lawyers, which is set to be released this Wednesday by LexisNexis.

The lawyer and mum of two had previously been writing a regular column for Australasian Lawyer's sister magazine NZ Lawyer on the subject when the idea came about to take things a step further and write a book.

At the time, she was getting ready to go on maternity leave for a year. "My overarching objective was to create a practical resource for practitioners and professionals navigating challenges in their daily lives," Batchelor-Smith says.

As well as providing constructive advice for lawyers on prioritising daily workload, dealing with stress, nurturing family and friends and striving for balance personally and professionally; five of the 30 chapters also explore issues relating to women in the law.

The book was put together following extensive research from a wide range of sources, including professional body and academic reports as well as assessments of underlying statistics. Batchelor-Smith also included over 90 case studies from lawyers from Australia, NZ, the Middle East and the UK.

Contributions include those from senior members of the judiciary and the bar, general counsels and company secretaries of a number of major corporates, barristers sole, in-house lawyers, a number of directors and consultants, academics, a lawyer who is now an international bestselling author; alongside a broad range of partners, senior associates, senior solicitors and solicitors from major firms.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

According to this article by Kim Rubenstein published online by Canberra Times on 12 December 2014 a rethink is needed as new High Court Justice appointment seems to maintain gender imbalance.

Rubenstein writes that the appointment of Geoffrey Nettle QC, as the replacement for Justice Susan Crennan on the High Court of Australia when she retires next February calls, yet again, for a radical rethinking of the way High Court judges are appointed. It provides further impetus to those who believe in equality of opportunity in Australia to call for a mandated commitment to at least 40 per cent composition of either gender at any time on the High Court of Australia.

Attorney-General George Brandis, in announcing the new appointment, made reference to the following attributes of the new appointment – his ''brilliant career in the law" his combined degrees from the ANU and Melbourne University, and his Bachelor of Civil Law from Madgalen College, Oxford. There are a growing group of women judges on the Courts in Victoria, both sitting on the Supreme and Federal Courts who could have been announced in the same fashion – as having brilliant careers, of being Supreme Court prize winners and Rhodes Scholars and Law Review editors. Why was a man preferenced over the woman who could have been extolled in the same, or arguably even more meritorious fashion?

At the moment it is (save for the one single woman) an entirely male conservative cabinet deciding who the "best" person is for the job. Indeed, our century-old experience of judicial selection has shown that when male politicians gaze at the available gene pool of potential High Court appointees, they see only reflections of themselves and what they understand as depictions of merit.

And while there are plenty of women now who would tick all the boxes required, we need to also acknowledge that other matters that are essential to the role of High Court justice include: reflection of the community, responsiveness to the community's needs, life experiences reflecting those of the community. This is because law is not just a scientific tool used to determine answers - it is full of values, and values are developed through life experience.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

According to this article written by Natasha Harradine and published by the ABC on 7 December 2014, Trauma victim support group angelhands  is struggling for funding and sustainability.

Harradine writes that twenty years ago Ann O'Neill was the victim of a horrendous crime - her estranged husband entered her home, shot dead their two children and maimed Ann before taking his own life. There were no specific support services for a person who had experienced such trauma in the mid 1990s. Since then she has worked to ensure that no-one else needs to deal with such complex issues on their own.

Despite leaving school at 15, she returned to study seven months after the incident, completing her high school certificate, graduating from university with first-class honours and then completing a PhD into how people affected by homicide and serious violence experience their trauma recovery. That award-winning research underpins the services offered by the organisation she founded in Western Australia - angelhands.

As well as providing "befrienders" who work with victims to help manage their trauma, angelhands delivers victim-awareness training within the justice system and advice to government. WA's Attorney-General Michael Mischin said angelhands gives a voice to victims of crime. "It seeks to educate the community on the needs of people affected by violence and has done sterling work in that regard," he said. Dr O'Neill said the organisation has helped create a much more victim-aware community.

"I think if the community had of been more victim aware then as it is now, I wouldn't have had so many re-victimisations," she said.

Despite the extraordinary work angelhands does, funding is an ongoing issue. In the last financial year, the group provided support to hundreds of trauma victims across the country on a budget of less than $90,000.

If you would like to learn more about angelhands or make a donation please visit their website here.

Click here to read the rest of the article on the ABC Website.

Jennifer Hoffman, Commissioner for Victims of Crime has released the Summer 2014 edition of Your Voice: Update from the Commissioner for Victims of Crime newsletter.

The Commissioner for Victims of Crime has particular responsibility to ensure that both members of the public and government agencies are aware of the Victims of Crime Act 1994 and of their corresponding rights and responsibilities under that Act.

A new community education initiative comprises a series of videos to provide information to victims of crime to assist them navigate the criminal justice system. The first three videos completed include:

1. Your Voice: Overview - This video provides information to assist victims of crime understand how they could be involved in the criminal justice system and support services they can access. It explains the standards of treatment victims of crime can rightly expect in accordance with the guidelines of the Victims of Crime Act 1994.

2. Your Voice: Victim Impact Statement - A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) tells the judge or magistrate about how a crime has affected you. It may be taken into account when the offender is sentenced. This video includes information about a VIS, when they are required, who can write one and what could be considered for inclusion.

3. Your Voice: Children and Adolescent Witnesses - Young people are often witnesses in court proceedings. This video has been developed to assist young victims of crime, and other young people, prepare to give evidence in Court.

Click here to watch the videos on the Commissioner's website.

According to this article written by Judith Ireland and published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 December 2014, Coalition MPs have welcomed Prime Minister Tony Abbott's move to water down his unpopular paid parental leave scheme, but have warned that he should not ignore support for stay-at-home mothers in the process.

Ireland says that Mr Abbott will spend the summer holidays revamping his signature policy, but faces a tough task with divergent backbench views about how he should approach it. Some MPs are keen to see him pay down national debt with PPL savings, rather than boost funds to childcare. On Sunday the Prime Minister announced he would divert funds away from paid parental leave towards childcare. Mr Abbott did not give any specific details of his plans, but said the scheme would be "better targeted", in a sign wealthier mums could no longer be eligible. He also stressed that the policy would still be based on "a woman's real wage" and include superannuation.

Confused Coalition MPs contacted each other on Sunday, trying to work out what the announcement meant. Mr Abbott's revamp plan comes after sustained and widespread criticism of his existing $5.5 billion policy that would have replaced a new mother's income for 26 weeks, with superannuation, up to a cap of $50,000.

Those within the government have argued the scheme is too expensive and others, such as the Productivity Commission have suggested that the money would be better spend on early childhood education. The Coalition has also been unable to secure Senate support for the scheme, with opposition from Labor, the Greens, Palmer United and other crossbenchers.

Click here to read the whole article.

WLWA would like to thank all it's members who attended our Christmas Function on Tuesday night at Rubix Bar. The night was a great success with a large cross section of members both from law school and members of the profession. We will be posting photos from the event shortly so please check our website and facebook page. Special thanks must go to Social Chair Tara Connolly for arranging the well attended event.

The WLWA Committee were overwhelmed with the generosity of its members who brought along toiletries to be donated to the Women's Refuge. There were many many bags to remove from the venue and we truly were blown away. Thank you all again for displaying the true Christmas Spirit. Congratulations also to Elizabeth Heenan who won the door prize of a lovely bottle of Moet. A perfect prize to start the Christmas celebrations early!

We would like to take this opportunity to again wish all our members a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope everyone enjoys a well deserved break and comes back rejuvenated for a busy and exciting 2015!

 

According to this article written by Angela Priestly and published by Women's Agenda on 26 November 2014, progress on workplace gender equality has been painstakingly slow. Waiting around for women to educate themselves further, or another generation of men to enter the workforce, is simply not good enough.

Priestly says that if women are going to have the same opportunities as men for satisfying and fulfilling careers, then we're going to need change: Big, uncomfortable, inconvenient change. We need the kind of change that does not simply occur with an overnight fix – nor even by throwing a huge amount of money at it. We need change that touches every aspect of business, society, politics and the community – from the assumptions we make about each other, to the roles we take on at home, our national system of care, and the way we've come to accept how we structure our work.

Women's Agenda recently polled 144 of its members and asked them what they want from their careers in 2015.

At the end of the survey, they asked them to share in one sentence on what needs to change for the careers of women in 2015. The readers came up with a large variety of responses and, given it was an open-ended question, it's difficult to offer a data-based summary. But a quick text analysis found the key phrases and words used most often included childcare, flexible work, gender, leadership, unconscious bias and acceptance.

This is an overview of the 20 most prominent changes that their readers said need to take place. WLWA asks its members to consider what changes they think will be critical in 2015.

1. Childcare. This came up over and over again and appeared to be the biggest pain point for readers. The childcare system isn't meeting the current needs of families. It needs to be more accessible, affordable and flexible. Childcare should move from being a 'women's issue' to a 'societal issue'. Meanwhile, the importance of addressing the care system should also extend to before and after school care.

2. Mainstream flexible work. The ability to ask for flexible work, to pursue flexible careers and to successfully sustain a satisfying role flexibly, is vital for women -- as it is for men too. Flexible work must move from being a 'nice to offer working mothers' to something that's actively encouraged in order to create happier and more holistic human beings.

3. Equal pay for equal work. You'd think by 2015 we'd have this one figured out. But as data released last week from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows, the difference in base remuneration between men and women working full-time is now 19.9%. Equal pay for equal work is essential for improving the careers of women.

4. More female role models. We know they exist, but we don't hear enough about them. They are not quoted enough in major newspapers, nor are their stories celebrated enough within organisations. Visible role models are necessary for inspiring ambitions in others, particularly in ensuring young women realise the full potential for their careers. We need to know more about just how certain female leaders have reached the position they're in, to learn how they've personally overcome the barriers that stand in the way of so many others.

5. Address the imbalance. The juggling act -- particularly the one that includes managing work, kids, home and other pressures -- is hurting women. We need to better share the load between the genders, and to keep working at removing the social expectations that currently exist on men and women. If women are going to have a better chance at work, they need more help at home. A true, greater share of the domestic work -- and a shift in ended stereotypes and assumptions regarding who takes on the caring responsibilities -- will result in better opportunities for women in paid work.

6. Bring men into the discussion. As one reader put it: "Women need to stop talking to women about discrimination or 'women's issues' and make the men the discussion'. We admit that on Women's Agenda we can be a little guilty of directing the discussion at women, but men must also be engaged in order to facilitate. Or as another reader said: "We need to stop preaching to the converted - women - and inspire, encourage and support men to be the instruments of change."

7. Less judgement, less guilt. Women have been given more choices over their careers, now it's time to exercise it - without the added baggage of guilt and judgement. It's up to women to determine if and how they're going to pursue a career, which will ultimately give more men a choice too. It's up to all of us to watch our language and actions when responding to the choices of others.

8. End the boys club. It's still there, although changes dramatically in size according to where you work and the industry you work in. The so-called 'boys club' mentality has seen women miss out on opportunities -- new roles, promotions and pay -- for far too long and needs to be dismantled once and for all. Often, this means a significant overhaul of promotion and recruitment procedures.

9. Political action over rhetoric. Some of you lamented the fact that for all the talk of providing more equal opportunities for women there's little action on the ground. Equality needs to be "championed" in politics, rather than being used as a vote winning mechanism. Indeed, it'd help to have more than one woman in Cabinet, no matter how many others are 'knocking at the door'.

10. Quotas and transparency. A number of readers believe quotas are now necessary at the board level in order to see a greater representation of women. Transparency will also help: in hiring practices, in determining promotions, and promoting equal pay

Read more: 20 things that need to change for women’s careers in 2015 →

According to this article by Georgia Dent, published by Women's Agenda on 27 November 2014, women, and particularly mothers, are often told to ditch the guilt. The advice is often given alongside the popular refrain that women are their own worst enemies. In some cases that might ring true; they may impose impossible standard upon themselves. But in every case those standards and the associated guilt are not their own private creation.

Telling women to stop feeling guilty is good advice to an extent. But in the same way that merely telling women to lean in won't of itself create new workplaces that are more supportive of female leaders, telling women to stop feeling guilty is futile unless we look at and address the context in which women feel guilt.

Dent asks why do women feel so guilty? Is it because they wake up and think they want to try and make their lives as complicated and angst-ridden as possible? Because they want to anguish over how and when they work, and over how and when they will have a family, or care for their family?

Tempting as it is to dismiss this guilt as a rod women build for their own backs, it's disingenuous to dismiss the role we all play in building that rod. We are all responsible for the social context in which women and men live. And, whether we accept it or not, the social context in which women and men live creates a raft of difficult standards for women.

Despite plenty of rhetoric our workplaces do not adequately accommodate females. The report card handed down by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency last Tuesday is unequivocal in this regard. But many women entered the workforce believing structural discrimination was no longer an issue. They are hardwired to believe that their hard work will be rewarded; blaming the system is counter intuitive to many. But whether they like it or not their progression at work is hampered by their being female. And it's worse when they have a baby.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

According to this article written by Angela Priestly and published on Women's Agenda on 28 November 2014, almost 70% of employees in the legal profession are female, but don't expect anything like that figure when it comes to the sector's top management positions. And don't even think for a minute that women working in the profession would be earning anything like their male counterparts.

According to data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency this week, the Australian legal sector is doing particularly poorly when it comes to workplace gender equality. And it's especially true when it comes to pay, with women working full-time in law earning an average 35.6% less than their male counterparts.

Sixty six legal organisations reported to WGEA, covering a total of 28,109 employees. It's clear the legal profession has long had a problem when it comes to the still too few number of women in partnerships, but never before has the true imbalance of the profession's gender composition been so evident.

WGEA found women make up just 6.5% of 'CEO/Head of business' positions in the legal sector (compared with a total average of 17.3%). This is despite the fact that women hold 36.3% of the next layer down of management positions and 30.6% of 'general manager'positions — both higher than the average across all industries, at 26.1% and 27.8% respectively.

Go two more management layers down and women appear to be doing particularly well — holding 44.9% of 'senior manager' positions and 60.2% of 'other manager' positions.

But something is clearly going wrong on the way to the very top.

Meanwhile, something is seriously askew with pay and it's not something that can be blamed on 'women not negotiating for bonuses' alone. The total remuneration gap is 35.6%, just slightly under the 35.8% base remuneration gap. (The pay analysis does not include equity partner remuneration.)

Click here to read the rest of the article.

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