Mental health and wellbeing have been a longstanding issue amongst legal professionals, which has only recently begun to come to the forefront of conversation.
Some 46.9% of law students, 55.7% of solicitors and 52.5% of barristers reported that they had experienced depression.
On Monday 28 August, the St Patrick’s Law Students’ Society hosted its Inaugural Law Breakfast, which was attended by guest speakers Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG, Dr Michelle Sharpe and Jerome Doraisamy.
The event was organised by the Director of Events Nicholas Tsekouras, Director of Professional Development Najd Hussein and the Director of Equity and Wellbeing Emma Garrett.
The Inaugural Law Breakfast was a wellbeing and professional development event, which aimed to raise awareness for mental health within the legal profession and promote positive wellbeing.
The Law Students’ Society hoped to contribute to the conversation surrounding mental health and consequently reduce the associated stigma. It was a fantastic opportunity for students to listen and to gain knowledge of the obstacles they may encounter in their future careers and to seek advice about how to overcome them.
We were extremely fortunate to be joined by three prestigious, knowledgeable and inspiring speakers; Dr Michelle Sharpe, Jerome Doraisamy and the honourable Justice Kirby AC CMG.
Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG is the longest serving High Court Judge in Australia, being appointed in 1996 and retiring in 2009. In addition to his judicial duties, Justice Kirby has remained active in the legal and political sphere, as an advocate for human rights. In 2014, he was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to lead an inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea. In 2017, Japan conferred on his the Order of the Rising Sun – Gold and Silver Star, for his work in this inquiry.
Dr Michelle Sharpe is a Victorian Barrister who practices primarily in the area of general commercial and regulatory law, specialising in contract, property and consumer protection law and disciplinary hearings. She is the founding member and former chair of the Victorian Bar's Health and Wellbeing Committee. Michelle helped to establish a wellbeing program which included a 24/7 counselling service for barristers. This program was a finalist for the Australian Psychological Society Health and Wellbeing Award for 2015.
Jerome Doraisamy is a 29 year old lawyer, public advocate and writer from Sydney. In 2015, he published his novel The Wellness Doctrines, which has now become synonymous with mental health in the Australian legal profession. The book is recognised both in Australia and worldwide for the positive impact it has had on managing wellbeing and for altering the perception of mental health in the legal profession.
Each of our speakers candidly discussed their personal and professional journeys and how they overcame the obstacles life dealt them to become the people they are today. It was an extremely empowering event.
We hope everyone was able to leave the breakfast feeling inspired by our speakers, having learned something new and feeling inspired to make a difference.
In the words of Justice Kirby “be kind.”
Mardi Grivas, President St Patrick's Law Students' Society