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.