Meet A Member

WLA ACT's works to promote women lawyers in the ACT and profiles members as part of our quarterly newsletters. If you or your staff are interested in being profiled, please email contact@wlaact.org.au. 

Nisha Selvaraj

Senior Legal Officer, Indigenous Affairs Legal

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Artwork by Doreen Djorlom from the Oenpelli area in West Arnhem Land, NT

Artwork by Doreen Djorlom from the Oenpelli area in West Arnhem Land, NT

Nisha was profiled for our July 2017 newsletter. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is a WLA ACT Corporate Member

Why did you join WLA?

I joined the WLA because I wanted to support the work of the WLA in advocating and promoting the interests of women lawyers in the ACT. I know the WLA has already made significant headway in drawing attention to issues such as pay conditions of junior lawyers and diversity in judicial and tribunal appointments in the ACT. Being part of the WLA means that I can contribute to future work of the WLA in this space. It also provides some great development opportunities for lawyers in the ACT, as well as the chance to hear and learn from the experiences of other women lawyers.

What WLA event or initiative are you looking forward to, and why? 

I am looking forward to the Mentor Breakfast with Jennifer Wyborn on September – I think it will be a great way to start the day! As a government lawyer, I am particularly interested to hear about Jennifer’s experience working in government versus her current role in private practice.

Who is a professional that inspires you and why? 

I would have to say I have learned a great deal from many of my colleagues in the public service. In both my current role as a government lawyer, and in my previous job as a legal policy officer, I have been lucky enough to work with women and men who have shown great leadership and strength in both their professional and personal pursuits.

I am still in the relatively early stages of my career, and it has been quite inspiring to see how other legal professionals – in various stages of their careers - have dealt with the challenges of balancing their professional roles with their personal roles as carers, partners, friends and mentors. In particular, I’ve admired their courage to take time ‘out’ of their careers, whether it has been because of family responsibilities, to pursue further study, to travel or even to make a complete career change.

Quite a few of my colleagues have now become a great source of guidance, support and friendship to me in my own career.

If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?

I think the best piece of advice I could give myself, and it’s a piece of advice I have given to friends and colleagues alike, is to back yourself.

When I began my first job as a graduate lawyer, I was constantly underselling my abilities, even when I received positive feedback from others. But eventually I learned that people don’t give positive feedback just to be nice; they give it to you so you can keep harnessing and developing your strengths. The confidence that others had in me has helped me to build up my own confidence in myself.

 

Dr Loretta Zamprogno

Deputy Chief Solicitor, ACT Government Solicitor

Dr Zamprogno was profiled for our September 2016 newsletter.

Why did you join WLA?

I used to attend ACT Law Society Law Council meetings on behalf of the (then) Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, and I was always impressed by the reports given by WLA representatives, including Nithya Sambasivam when she was WLA President. Nithya is now a lawyer in my office, the ACT Government Solicitor, as is Tamara Sullivan, WLA ACT VicePresident. A couple of years ago WLA had a membership drive and at that time Tamara was WLA’s Treasurer. It was clear that it was time to support such a wonderful organisation.

What WLA event are you looking forward to, and why? Or alternatively, what WLA event have you enjoyed attending this year and why?

It’s hard to choose, but at the moment I would say I’m so pleased to see WLA ACT’s support of the Women in Law Organisation program. I really hope that many WLA members will offer themselves to mentor women law students of the ANU, and to share their experiences in the legal sector from across the public, private and tertiary education fields.

Who is a professional that inspires you and why?

Lynn Du Moulin, currently ANU Legal Workshop Senior Lecturer and Coordinator of the Master of Legal Practice completion courses, and for many years before that Special Counsel (e-Commerce) with the Health Insurance Commission until, through various machinery of government changes, she rose to Deputy General Counsel within the Department of Human Services.

Lynn has been an inspiration to me in several ways, including through her passion about inter-disciplinary approaches to legal practice, and in the post-graduate education and training she delivers. In the 25 years I’ve known her, I’ve always found Lynn deeply interested in a wide range of specialisations, with an ever enquiring mind, and well informed about how other fields can enhance the work that lawyers undertake.

Her training and mentoring law graduates and young lawyers is selfless and has been highly valued by a succession of lawyers and students. The generosity of Lynn’s time with colleagues shows a genuine care which we should value highly in whatever career or workplace we find ourselves.

If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?

Definitely to join an organisation like WLA or the Young Lawyers Association. Having relocated across three jurisdictions over a number of years while I was studying law as an external student and working, I didn’t have a network of friends outside of my law firm when I came to Canberra in 1990. Joining an organisation whose members were in the same profession, and with whom I could have shared common experiences, would have given me an interest to balance the long hours of legal practice. That’s why I think WLA is such a vital organisation for the legal profession in the ACT.

Belinda Miller

Women's Legal Centre

Belinda was profiled for our newsletter in June 2016.

Why did you join WLA ACT?

I joined the WLA because I wanted to get to meet more female professionals in my field. I think it is a great way to stay engaged with issues affecting us as women in the legal community, and also meet some great new people.

What WLA ACT event are you looking forward to, and why? 

I am most looking forward to the mentor breakfasts. As a young career professional, the opportunity to hear from local women with successful careers and meet other people in a similar position is really exciting. While there is a lot to be said for learning from inspiring leaders like Julia Gillard or Dr Fiona Wood, as someone at the beginning of their career, it is also extremely useful to hear from people in a similar position to where you are, with recent experience of the difficulties you face when starting out.

Who is a professional that inspires you and why?

My current boss is someone who really inspires me. She is extremely clever and efficient at her job, gets things done and isn't afraid to make difficult decisions. She works really hard and has been incredibly successful, but also really values work life balance and works part time (as does her husband) to care for her child. She has taught me that you don't have to sacrifice your personal life to be a successful professional, and to always be brave in completing your work.

If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?

Having not been a 'professional' for too long, my advice would be to take every opportunity, don't take things too much to heart, never be afraid to ask people for advice, and trust that things will work out alright.

Eileen Webb

ACT Government Solicitor

Eileen was profiled for our newsletter in March 2016.

Why did you join WLA?

I first joined the WLA because I liked the concept of women in the legal profession joining forces to offer support, exchange experiences and learned wisdoms, and share cake. The concept of high tea should not be underestimated. Seriously.

More recently I had the opportunity to join the Committee and I jumped on board for two reasons. Firstly - and I appreciate this may sound bonkers - in recent years I have taken to setting a theme for the year ahead, and the theme for 2016 is involvement. Jumping into situations, events, social situations and locations that I wouldn’t ordinarily. So far my theme has me signed up for guitar lessons despite my demonstrative lack of rhythm, taking a hot air balloon ride in blatant disregard of my lack of enthusiasm for heights, speed dating Europe (London, Bath, Paris and Sweden in 2 ½ weeks), aaaaaaand joining the WLA Committee.

Secondly, it has been slowly dawning on me that expecting equality isn’t enough; if you want something to happen you need to be a positive agent for change. So here I am.

What WLA event are you looking forward to, and why?

I’m looking forward to the book launch of Dr Skye Saunder’s book, Whispers from the Bush: The Workplace Sexual Harassment of Australian Rural Women. I think this book will offer a fascinating (and horrifying) insight into the conditions female employees in a rural setting have been subject to, and how our legal system has responded to either protect or hinder these women. Melinda Tankard Reist (Women & Girls Advocate) and Belinda Barnard (Deputy ACT Discrimination Commissioner) are the guest speakers for the launch; I’m pretty keen to hear what they have to say on the subject.

On a separate and shallow note, I’ve got high hopes that I can persuade Dr Saunders to sign my copy and then in 20 years’ time I can sell my autographed first edition for a bajillion dollars.

Who is a professional that inspires you and why?

That’s a tough one. I admire a lot of people for a lot of reasons. I think I’m going to have to identify a class of professionals rather than a specific person. I am in constant awe of working mothers. I’ll be honest, at least 50% of the time I find it a challenge to turn up to work in a dry cleaned suit and stockings without holes in them and then get home at a reasonable hour to feed my cat. My obligations end at that point. Working mothers NEVER STOP. The decisions never end. The obligations never end.

The requirement to be a functioning human being who can juggle work and parenting commitments is relentless. Every time one of the mothers in my office describes their day to me, my jaw figuratively drops. I think it takes bravery, persistence, resilience and fantastic time management skills to navigate through the day, and those are skills I admire greatly.

If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to get it wrong. You are going to do both of those things anyway, so take the leap and soak up the lessons that come from stumbling. That’s a piece of advice I continue to give myself today! As you get further along in the legal profession you gather more knowledge and skills, but if you are doing it right, the learning never ends.

Julia Heinze

Infinity Legal

 

Julia was profiled for our newsletter in October 2014.

Why did you join the Association?

I think that it is very important to surround yourself with other women in the same industry to build positive networks and support systems. I joined the association to be able to support other women and act on my belief that gender equality within the law is important for both men and women.

What WLA initiative or event are you looking forward to, and why? 

I am looking forward to the Survey Launch Event on 30 October 2014 which my firm Infinity Legal has been fortunate enough to sponsor. I believe that the annual Pay and Conditions Survey done by WLA ACT is a very important initiative to help young lawyers, both women and men recognise their value. I also encourage my staff to attend as many WLA ACT events as possible to be able to meet other likeminded people and form supportive networks throughout the wider legal community.

Who is a professional that you look up to/ inspires you and why? 

Whilst not a comment on her political views, for me Julia Gillard is an example of a female lawyer who achieved great success. Julia Gillard is an inspiring example of what intelligence, hard work and a passion for your chosen career can have. I think that all female lawyers can use our first female Prime Minister as a great example of a woman leading the way.

If you could give one piece of advice to your first-year professional self, what would it be?

“That it will get easier.” Entering the legal industry as a graduate is daunting and you become very aware of how much you didn’t learn at law school. However, as you gain experience everything becomes easier and you will feel comfortable. Law really is a rewarding career, despite the often long hours and hard work and I enjoy mentoring young lawyers throughout their first few years of practice.