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Lawyers ‘want a workplace which does them good’, says Justice Jagot

Workplace psychological health and safety needs to become a foremost priority in the legal community in the new normal, lest they “be left behind”, according to a Federal Court judge.

user iconLauren Croft 13 September 2021 Big Law
Justice Jayne Jagot
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Last week, the 2021 Minds Count Annual Lecture was hosted to bring awareness to the importance of good mental health practices, both in the workplace and outside of it.

As part of the lecture, hosted virtually in light of Sydney’s ongoing lockdown, Olympian-turned-barrister-turned-politician Zali Steggall OAM MP delivered an opening keynote before the annual award recipients were announced.

Closing the annual lecture, Justice Jayne Jagot (pictured) – who sits on the Minds Count board – spoke about the importance of psychological health and safety at work, particularly in the legal profession.  


“The objective of Minds Count is to promote workplace psychological health and safety in the legal community is more pressing than ever,” her honour said.

“The past 18 months have exposed the fragility of the things in life we once took for granted. When the fragile foundations of our existence are exposed, be it by reason of death, divorce, familial estrangement, unemployment or underemployment or laws to reign in a pandemic, our psychological health comes under pressure.

“We are all suffering some kind of loss; be it financial, be it loss of human contact, be it a loss of activities or simply a loss of time to do the things we enjoy. But loss there undeniably is,” Jagot J added.

Workplaces play a key role in helping to overcome this loss, her honour said.

“My own insight from the last 18 months is that a focus on work not being a potential negative influence on our wellbeing is simply too confined. The pressure of unrealistic demands and expectations and in the law, the need to get things done and to get them done right can seem relentless. In this context, ensuring our workplaces do not harm our mental health is essential.

“But if the pandemic has shown anything, it’s that work can and should be a force for positive support to our psychological wellbeing. Work can give us structure, a way to make positive contributions. It can give us community,” Her Honour said.

“It can make us feel worthwhile and valued. It can give us human connections. It can give us dignity. Of course, workplaces should be safe. Of course, workplaces should not undermine a persons physical or psychological health or safety.”

Jagot J went on to state that these attributes should “underpin all workplaces”, and workplaces who don’t make them a priority would fall behind.

“A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is not one that simply does no harm to our psychological and mental health. Doing no harm should be a given. A psychologically safe and healthy workplace is one that is actually good for our psychological and mental health.

“As we move from a life dominated by pandemic disease responses to hopefully pandemic disease management, we will be left behind if we don’t confront the fact that workers of today don’t want a workplace that just does them no harm,” her honour said.

“They want a workplace which does them good. I see that as our next challenge, and if workplaces don’t catch up, they will be left behind.”

Speaking post-event, Melinda Upton, chair of Minds Count, said that it was inspiring to hear from Ms Steggall on such important issues.

This year’s Minds Count lecture was highly engaging and as inclusive as always. It was fantastic to learn about Zali Steggall’s inspirational mental health journey and explore her personal mantra, ‘polite, positive, prepared’,” she said.

Her powerful insights and guidance resonated so much with the audience in the context of our global pandemic and the current mental health challenges we are all experiencing. Thank you Zali and my colleagues at Minds Count for another extremely memorable evening.

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