Judges take a stand against male-only clubs

Judges take a stand against male-only clubs

29 July 2015 By Felicity Nelson

Image: Felicity Nelson

Melbourne is famous for its hip underground bars and charming back alley cafes, but there is one variety of establishment that has persistently defied the tug of modernity – elite male-only clubs.

Gentlemen’s clubs, which provide an exclusive, male-only space for members to discuss business while presumably smoking expensive cigars in leather armchairs, may seem like a bizarre hang over from the 18th century. However, Australia currently has no fewer than 30 of these “amusing relics”, as former Victorian attorney-general Rob Hulls described them.


Melbourne judges have recently decided they are fed up with these establishments.

As reported by the Herald-Sun last weekend, Victorian Court of Appeal president Justice Christopher Maxwell and Victoria’s Chief Justice, Marilyn Warren, have refused invitations to speak at four such clubs in Melbourne.

“I do not believe that a public official should appear to be endorsing discrimination,” said Justice Maxwell.


Chief Justice Warren is the first female to be appointed to this position in Australia. She is also the first Chief Justice to be refused membership of these elite clubs on the basis of her gender.

 “It is remarkable that, for the first time in Victorian history, the Chief Justice has not been offered membership of any of these clubs – simply because she is a woman,” Justice Maxwell said.

“Gender equality is a fundamental issue of human rights.”

The Melbourne, Australian, Athenaeum and Savage clubs boast powerful members, such as former prime minister John Howard, James Packer and current federal attorney-general, George Brandis.

According to attorney-general Hulls, single-sex clubs are exempt from the federal Equal Opportunity Act.

Melbourne also has two female-only clubs, the Lyceum and Alexandra.

Judges take a stand against male-only clubs
Intro image
lawyersweekly logo
The Women in Law Awards is the benchmark for excellence, recognising the empowering women influencing the Australian legal profession, celebrating the female leaders, role models and future champions of the industry. Register for the waitlist today for the opportunity to attend this remarkable awards ceremony and network with top legal professionals and fellow peers.
Visit womeninlaw.com.au