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GG talks up women in the law
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GG talks up women in the law

Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce Women lawyers have a distinct capacity to respond to

Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce
Women lawyers have a distinct capacity to respond to injustice due to their inherent differences, the Governor-General Quentin Bryce told the Australian Women Lawyers Conference over the weekend.

Over time, added Bryce, such differences have meant that women "assumed the role of being our own protectors and attendants".

Bryce arrived in Brisbane on Saturday afternoon (7 August) to the Conference to launch the new book Women and the Law in Australia, edited by Australian National University academic Patricia Easteal and published by LexisNexis (also publisher of Lawyers Weekly).

Through a variety of authors, the book explores gender bias across a number of different areas of law and provides practical advice to practitioners for responding to the needs of women.

Bryce said the authors of the book understand the full capacity of the law to influence lives and whole societies. "And while impartiality and freedom from bias are intrinsic to proper justice, they are not prepared to assume their uncompromising and unshakable presence," Bryce said.

She added that the book held some particular opportunities for women lawyers, especially in responding to Justice Mary Gaudron's declaration at the launch of Australian Women Lawyers in 1997 - that "women lawyers can question the assumptions in the law and in the administration of law that work injustice, either because they proceed by reference to differences which do not exist, or because they ignore those that do."

Having come to accept such matters, added Gaudron at the time, it will not be long before women lawyers also become sensitive to the differences of others and can assist in articulating such differences when necessary and questioning the law as it affects them.

These were words that Bryce also quoted when she gave a QUT lecture marking the centenary of women in the law in Queensland in 2005, something she said she still stands by today.

Bryce noted the importance of women lawyers in the context of what she believes feminism means, particularly by reflecting on "the distinctive qualities" that women carry. "The values, qualities and beliefs that ensure that we protect what we might otherwise seek to dominate or suppress and pay attention to what we might otherwise fail to see," Bryce said. "No wonder women make such good lawyers."

Angela Priestley

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