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Victorian Bar members to vote on body’s Voice stance

Any decision by the Victorian Bar to support the proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, or not take a public position, will be made by its members, its council has determined.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 10 May 2023 The Bar
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Yesterday (Tuesday, 9 May), the Law Institute of Victoria resolved, while acknowledging that there is a “diversity of views” among LIV members to support the Voice — which will ultimately be decided by a referendum later this year.

LIV president Tania Wolff said: “It will be both a substantive and practical measure to better inform policy and legal decisions that impact the lives of Indigenous Australians.

“The consequences of the constitutional change have been interrogated by constitutional experts and have been found to be sound.”


A diversity of views has also been apparent among members of the Victorian Bar, with president Sam Hay KC (pictured) having recently written that “many members of all seniorities” have contacted him about the proposal to amend the Australian Constitution, with some strongly supporting the Victorian Bar Council taking a positive stance on the proposed Voice, and others urge it not to take a position.

Mr Hay’s reflections on the matter were published in his weekly In Brief message, earlier this month, following an article, published in The Australian, titled: “Pro-voice barristers are ‘financially motivated’”.

“To my very clear observation, not one of those in favour of the bar taking a positive stance has been motivated by personal financial gain,” Mr Hay wrote.

“Indeed, just as with those expressing the contrary position, those in favour have expressed sincerely held opinions with respect, integrity and independence. Those very same traits, which are rightly treasured and celebrated by our bar, were clearly evident during the preliminary Bar Council discussion we had about the Voice [on Thursday, 27 April].”

The Victorian Bar Council hosted a special purpose meeting last night (Tuesday, 9 May), to discuss the member body’s position on the Voice, if any.

At that meeting, the Victorian Bar Council determined to poll its members in respect of their position on the Voice.

In a statement provided to Lawyers Weekly, a Victorian Bar spokesperson said that members “will be asked to either: a) support a motion that the Victorian Bar does not publicly take a position on the Voice; b) support a motion that the Victorian Bar publicly supports the ‘yes’ vote; or c) abstain from voting”.

As has been reported by Lawyers Weekly, most BigLaw firms are supporting the Voice. Arnold Bloch Leibler senior partner Mark Leibler told this brand, late last year, that lawyers are “ideally placed” to play a role in ensuring the public understands the Voice and how it operates — something that Professor Anne Twomey detailed recently.

Last month, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue KC provided advice noting that the proposed Voice would “enhance” the Australian Constitution, the Law Council called the Voice “just and legally sound”, and six silks — all of whom are former presidents of the Australian Bar Association or Law Council — threw their support behind the “Yes” campaign.

Voting in the poll will open on 31 May and close on 8 June, the spokesperson said, and its results will be announced on 9 June.