LAW INSTITUTE JOURNAL
LAWYERS WITH DISABILITIES:
READY, WILLING AND ABLE
Lawyers with disabilities overcome many
barriers to earn their degree,
but most ﬁnd their greatest battle
is to ﬁnd employment.
But, as this special edition of the Law
Institute Journal shows, once employed,
such lawyers often excel and the ﬁrms
and organisations in which they work
reap unexpected beneﬁts.
Lawyers with disabilities overcome many barriers to earn their degree,
but most find their greatest battle is to find employment.
But, as this special edition of the Law Institute Journal shows,
once employed, such lawyers often excel and the firms and organisations
in which they work reap unexpected benefits. By Jason Gregory
ver 3 0 y ears a go a c areers “Then he a lso told me t hat I w as t he b est “But we often later f ind that our assump-
adv i s e r t old A u st r a l i a’s applicant,” he said. tions were wrong, and if we can change that
Disability Di scrimination But t his i s no t a re port a bout Gr aeme approach we can go a long way to improving
Commissioner Graeme Innes Innes alone. It is about all those graduates the situation.”
that he should put the univer- for whom h is e xperience resonates – a nd The 2 008 Gr aduate C areers C ouncil of
sity books away and weave baskets. for those employers still placing barriers Australia’s graduate destination survey shows
The words hurt, but Mr Innes, blind since
before them. 5 per cent of bachelor degree graduates seek-
birth, knew it was simply the latest barrier
to be overcome in a long line that had been “Law is no worse or better than other ing full-time work had not found it. The ﬁgure
placed before him. professions in thinking some people with rose to 11 per cent for those with disabilities.
Soon a fter M r I nnes obt ained h is l aw disabilities cannot do the job. The problems According to t he Australian Bu reau of
degree a pro spective e mployer, w ho d id are mainly attitudinal and when we don’t Statistics, 20 per cent of Australians have
not h ire h im, s aid a b lind m an could not understand something we assume the neg- some form of disability – and they have a dis-
be a lawyer. ative,” Mr Innes said. posable income of $54 billion a year.
20 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 PHOTO ALEX CRAIG
L AW Y E R S W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE:
sioner Graeme Innes.
Law is no worse or better than other
professions in thinking some people
with disabilities cannot do the job. The
problems are mainly attitudinal and
when we don’t understand something we
assume the negative. GRAEME INNES
L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 21
There co uld b e a ny n umber o f re asons
employers constantly overlook his applica-
tions, which have all declared that he has
Mr C apuano d eveloped t he d egenera-
tive eye condition when a teenager. It caused
legal blindness, but his vision was partially
restored through corneal transplant surgery
Pauline Bernard believes herself lucky to
have been hired to work for two large private
ﬁrms, then as a government lawyer and now
as a private consultant while managing mac-
ular dystrophy, or central vision loss.
“There are hard luck stories so I feel it is
very important to give credit where it is due.
Firms do take a risk employing non-standard
types and then they have to put in extra effort
to make it work,” she said.
However, she has heard the “hard luck sto-
ries” and knows some employers will not hire
disabled lawyers in the belief they would be
less versatile and reliable, slower, more expen-
sive and cumbersome for supervisors.
They would rather an employee they think
would be no trouble and could work endlessly.
SCHOLARLY: 2005 Victoria University valedictorian and current Oxford
University Rotary scholarship holder Angelo Capuano. “Others just want young, glamorous, pre-
sentable people. Maybe the LA Law-style ﬁrm
has to have a black employee nowadays. It
deﬁnitely needs a woman and in the future
Firms look for intellect, commercial maybe it will need someone in a wheelchair
acumen, gravitas, determination, and I think or with a guide dog,” she said.
The f ederal Disability Discrimination Act
I have all of these. ANGELO CAPUANO 1992 deﬁnes disability as the total or partial
loss of the person’s bodily or mental functions.
n t he early 1980s, t he on ly technologi-
cal aids available to law student Pauline
Bernard were the volunteers who read law
texts onto cassette so her ears could help her
where her eyes could not.
Nowadays, employers can access countless
technological aids and ﬁ nancial and organ-
isational support to help them take on an
employees with disabilities.
Most cost nothing.
But e ven wi th thi s s upport o n o ffer,
sometimes the best and brightest are unable
to convince prospective employers of their
Angelo Capuano graduated from Victoria
University as the 2005 valedictorian, has
been p ublished i n l aw jo urnals, w orked
as a judge ’s a ssociate a nd i s st udying a t
Oxford University a fter b eing awarded a
But he is in England only because he “has
applied to every law ﬁ rm in town” since he
graduated five years ago and has had con-
“Firms look for intellect, commercial acu-
men, gravitas, determination, and I think I
have all of these. It is certainly disappointing
to miss out on jobs over ﬁve years and seeing
less qualiﬁed people hired,” he said. INSIGHTFUL: Hartleys Lawyers solicitor Daniel Piekarski.
22 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 PHOTOS SUSAN GORDON BROWN/THE FAIRFAX COMMUNITY NETWORK
L AW Y E R S W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S
It can be temporary or permanent, physical,
intellectual, sensory, a medical illness or
Lawyers with disabilities told the LIJ the
fact disability was still an evolving concept
and that the many problems, suffered to dif-
fering degrees, meant they could never be an
The National Mental Health and Disability
Employment Strategy has acknowledged that
a c onsiderable b arrier to e mployment for
people with a disability was the lack of infor-
mation for employers.
Hartley Lawyer’s solicitor Daniel Piekarski
has suc cessfully worked si nce 2 004 w ith
bioptic ne rve h ypoplasia, w hich c auses a
loss of peripheral vision and delayed sight,
astigmatism and nystagmus.
He suggests both employees and employ-
ers “need to focus on the ability and not the
“I know it sounds clichéd, but it is good
advice for people in my position. If you focus
on the negative you are giving people an out,
but you are going to be more successful in life
by focusing on the positives,” he said.
“For instance, you cannot expect a three-
person f irm t o o utlay t he c apital f or a
wheelchair ramp for someone who may last
“But if you ask if they minded if you placed
a small ramp over the single step out the front
of the ofﬁce then the problem is solved.” A FORTUNATE CAREER: Solicitor Pauline Bernard counts herself lucky to have worked in a variety of legal roles.
Mr Innes agrees that people with disabil-
ities needed to persevere more and try new
ways to land employment. Maybe the LA Law-style firm has to have
“Women knew for years that to get equal
jobs to men they had to be better than them a black employee nowadays. It definitely
and had to try harder and it is the same for
people with disabilities – but that is the real- needs a woman and in the future maybe
ity and the challenge,” he said.
it will need someone in a wheelchair or
minent Melbourne criminal lawyer
Peter Ward, w ho h as b een v ision- with a guide dog. PAULINE BERNARD
impaired since birth, said it would
often come down to whether a ﬁrm believed However, this pity swung to admiration. He “It is quite obvious why that would happen.
clients would care if a disabled lawyer han- offered Mr Ward a full-time job a year later When we are given an opportunity we make
dled their matter.
and he was made a Galbally & O’Bryan part- damn sure that it works. And it is never as
“You m ay b e very t echnologically e ffi-
cient, but the employer wanting to support ner in 1989. much trouble as it sounds,” he said.
Mr Ward said disability was no longer
you is outweighed by the fear of what the cli-
ent will think. If the client is paying the bills an issue for him because he had the runs on aw graduate Adam Lewis-Jones
they may not care if the blind kid is getting a the board. approached t he L IV a y ear ago ,
go,” he said. “But I could understand then, as I do today, frustrated that the profession lacked
In the summer of 1974, Mr Ward posted employers looking at, say, five applicants, a co ordinated a pproach t o l awyers w ith
40 job applications to ﬁrms, all disclosing his including someone with a d isability, who disabilities.
vision impairment, and failed to land a single have similar marks and saying: ‘We would “We are too busy ﬁghting our own individ-
interview. (See pages 28-29, “The marvellous like to help him out, but why pick the guy ual battles to think about getting together,”
tale of Mr Average”.) he said.
with the disability?’,” he said.
His disclosure was a congenital eye defect
“When I started it was an immense worry Mr Lewis-Jones’ approach led to a working
that left him short-sighted, with less than 10
per cent vision in each eye and glaucoma. for me.” group being established to investigate how a
Legal luminary Frank Galbally QC gave Mr Innes said research showed employees more contemporary and progressive view of
Mr Ward a job a fter taking pity on his son with disabilities tended to be more loyal, stay those with disabilities could be spread across
David’s luckless university mate. in jobs longer and work harder. the legal profession.
L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 23
isability conﬁdent” is a term that
peppers t he d ialogue o f t hose
involved in any aspect of disabil-
Law ﬁrm Sparke Helmore began its journey
to disability conﬁdence in 2000 when then
chair Nick Maher saw the trouble his disabled
son had in securing full-time work.
Sparke Helmore pro bono and community
programs director Michael Rosenfeld said
social responsibility had now become part of
the ﬁrm’s fabric.
“You remove the barriers but it never con-
cludes. You h ave t o b e ev er-vigilant a nd
ensure your processes allow every person
possible to be employed,” he said.
“I never hold ourselves out as being a leader
– I feel we are just an organisation that has
made it a priority and we encourage others
to follow these or other processes.
“Why be disability conﬁdent? It is the right
DISABILITIES ADVOCATE: Recent law graduate Adam Lewis-Jones was a major
proponent behind the LIV Lawyers with disAbilities Committee. thing to do, it’s good for the workforce and it
is good for business.”
He said the ﬁrm had found employees with
Why be disability confident? It is the right a disability did not normally require exten-
sive workplace adjustments, were reliable
thing to do, it’s good for the workforce and it
with lower turnover, had fewer scheduled
absences from work and were no more likely
is good for business. SPARKE HELMORE PRO BONO to be injured.
It took a decision at the top to get the ﬁrm
AND COMMUNITY PROGRAMS DIRECTOR MICHAEL ROSENFELD on the path to disability conﬁde nce.
From th ere i t j oined th e A ustralian
The working group presented a concept paper practice, how t his would b e assessed, t he
Employers’ Network on Disability (AEND),
to the LIV Council, which in January this extent of information required and human
year approved that a Committee of Council before committing to a c harter, participat-
rights implications relating to discrimina-
be established called the Lawyers with disA- ing in a mentoring program and embracing
tion and privacy.
bilities Committee – to emphasise the ability Corporate Social Responsibility.
The board has since clariﬁed that it will
of its members. (See page 31, “LIV champions The f irm t hen d esigned a wo rk e xperi-
amend the practice direction to require appli-
lawyers with disabilities”). ence program, had its workplaces assessed
cants to disclose past conditions only when it
The LIV move follows similar initiatives by and reviewed internal policies.
may affect their capacity to practise.
other law associations in Australia and over- Tangible changes have included lowering
seas. For example, the Law Society of England The new committee also hopes to ensure all
workbenches and providing enlarged com-
and Wales has a Lawyers with Disabilities courts are disability-friendly.
puter screens, a si gn language interpreter
Division. An LIV member recently disclosed frus-
tration that practitioners in wheelchairs were when recruiting a hearing-impaired person
The L IV com mittee w ill, a mong o ther
unable to gain access to the heritage-listed and regular meal breaks for a person with
things, write a disability action plan, a strat-
egy for changing practices that may result in Supreme Court building by the front door. diabetes.
discrimination. Employers can lodge corpo- In r esponse t o in quiries b y th e LIJ, According to Pauline Bernard, changes
rate action plans with the Australian Human Victorian C hief J ustice M arilyn Warren to government tendering pro cesses me an
Rights Commission. said: “The Supreme Court is pressing for a ﬁrms are now keener to diversify their work-
The committee has already successfully new building partly on the basis of provid- places to meet corporate social responsibility
achieved change to the Board of Examiners’ ing appropriate access for the disabled”. criteria.
policy regarding disclosure of past mental “They may value diversity or may be cyn-
She said the Court had recently installed
impairment. ically ticking the boxes, but sometimes they
wheelchair ramps and a chair lift and sensors
The LIV raised the issue that the Board’s are looking for an Indigenous Australian or a
Practice Direction 4 said that only an appli- and buttons on most doors to courtrooms.
“The steps at the main entrance remain part-time mother or someone with a disability.
cant “who had suffered or is suffering from
problematic a nd t here is v ery l ittle t hat But who cares, it is a lucky break,” she said.
a material mental impairment, including
alcoholism a nd d rug dependence, should could be done there, but either entrance via However, t he l atest Australian Human
disclose this”. Little Bourke and Lonsdale Streets provides Rights Commission Work-Ability report on
The LIV pointed out that there were no ready access to the three heritage buildings employment of people with disabilities found
guidelines about what was actually a mate- which comprise the Supreme Court precinct,” managers viewed employing someone with a
rial me ntal i mpairment, i ts re levance t o she said. disability as taking a risk.
24 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0
L AW Y E R S W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S
“Unless they are supported by senior manage-
ment to employ people from disadvantaged
groups, they are unlikely to. The barriers are
organisational culture risks and litigation
risks,” it said.
here are sharply opposed views on
whether d isability sho uld b e d is-
closed on job applications. Mr Innes
In t he 1 2 mon ths a fter g raduation, he
unsuccessfully applied for 30 legal jobs and
said half the time he lost to a better appli-
cant and the other half because “employers
just couldn’t contemplate how a blind person
could function as a lawyer”.
“I ﬁ nally despaired and took a job i n the
NSW public service as a clerical assistant. I
used to joke that I was the only clerical assist-
ant in the service with a law degree,” he said.
”When I w alk i nto t he ro om m y g uide
dog g ives it away. O ver t he phone it is not
apparent and if I w as speaking with a pro -
spective employer over the phone I would not
However, while Mr Ward believes it a mis-
take to accentuate or emphasise the disability
he would always disclose.
“[Mr Innes] is an eminent person, and I am
not saying he is wrong and I am right, but I
vigorously disagree,” he said.
“I did not disclose [my disability] because I
am ridiculously honest, but because the rela-
tionship between the employer and employee
is one of trust and you have to start on t he
right foot and you just have to sell yourself
with how you would cope.
“There is a real difference between disclos-
ing it and blowing it out of all proportion.”
Mr Piekarski believes the best way to forge
understanding is to help potential employ-
ers u nderstand t he d isability a nd w hat
it means i n pr actical terms at t he earliest
“My e xperience is t hat I d o not re quire
major changes, just some small adjustments. I
went into my interview with a can-do attitude
and that allayed most concerns,” he said.
“A person with a disability needs to be real-
istic. If you go in and say ‘my eyesight is not
perfect, but 99 per cent of the time you will
not know the difference although I cannot
drive’, then you can quickly move on.”
n March this year, Parliamentary Secretary WINNERS ARE GRINNERS: Former Paralympian and commercial solicitor and
for Disabilities Bill Shorten launched a current Quantum Legal litigation funding manager Stuart Ewin.
program to place Paralympians in work-
places to build awareness about the beneﬁts
of employing those with a disability. My disability is a wheelchair, but it is one of the
He said employment rates of those with a
disability were still too low and more had to least problematic disabilities . . . It would be much
be done to remove barriers.
Anyone slow to embrace the cause of those harder for those who may be blind or deaf.
with a disability should ponder the case of
Stuart Ewin. STUART EWIN
L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 25
“There should be no stigma. I just tell people
I have depression, but I have it under control
and I am in no different position to the per-
son taking medication for a heart condition
or back pain.”
When determining a p erson’s su itabil-
ity to hold a practising certiﬁcate, the Legal
Services Board (LSB) may consider whether
a mental impairment may result in them not
being a f it and proper person to engage in
legal practice in Victoria.
In managing health assessments, the LSB’s
major a im i s t o pro tect con sumers w hile
supporting mentally impaired lawyers to
continue to practise where possible.
The L SB w ill t reat t he i mpairment a s a
professional standard and not a health issue.
It encourages lawyers to voluntarily seek
appropriate health care and will treat sufferers
fairly and sensitively and protect privacy.
BATTLING ON: Barrister Greg Barns was diagnosed with depression in
1997 and has since successfully managed the condition.
Mr Ewin was 13 when a neurological
disorder left him in a wheelchair.
There should be no stigma. I just tell
He eventually played wheelchair basket- people I have depression, but I have it
ball in three Paralympics, winning a gold
medal in 1996 in Atlanta. under control . . . BARRISTER GREG BARNS
He is also a lawyer working for litigation
funding company Quantum Legal.
The 41-year-old, who worked for Melbourne In 2009, Sydney barrister Charles Waterstreet The LSB considers major depression, severe
Water for over a decade, said he felt greater wrote a n i mpassioned newsp aper a rticle anxiety d isorder, s chizophrenia, bi polar
personal satisfaction from being accepted about depression in the profession. disorder, anti-social personality disorder,
into the law than from Olympic glory. “Depression, like bad weather, will in most gambling addictions and Alzheimer’s dis-
“My disability is a wheelchair, but it is one cases pass, even category ﬁves. We have lost ease as relevant health conditions.
of the least problematic disabilities because
four l awyers i n t hree mon ths a nd ev ery
if I have access to buildings then there are no
suicide has its own story,” he wrote. ormer Sydney University Law School
other problems. It would be much harder for
those who may be blind or deaf,” he said. “[Lawyers] traditionally practise alone Dean Ron McCallum, who is blind,
Surprisingly, ma ny d isabled la wyers and the agonies of decisions, contradictions, said w hile uni versities g enerally
believe it is better for their careers to start choices, clashes, taxes are all in your own did a good job i n encouraging people with
with a disability than to become disabled head to work out. a disability to study law, helping ﬁnd them
mid-career. “If we don’t talk about it, it will never go employment “was not their strong point”.
Mr Ward believes the dilemmas would be away or will be called by another name, such Many law students with a disability have
“tenfold” for practitioners who suffered a dis- as alcoholism.”
felt, like all other graduates, the glory and relief
ability mid-career. In 2007, a beyondblue survey found law-
of achieving their education goal, but unlike
“In my early 40s the glaucoma got worse yers experienced t he highest incidence of
and my sight crashed and I really struggled. most others, have sometimes felt the misery of
depression across all surveyed professions.
For four years it deteriorated and I h ad to being given no opportunity to apply it.
Greg Barns, 47, was diagnosed with depres-
bluff all the time,” he said. Some ﬁrms are trying hard to give a hand
sion in 1997 and manages the condition with
“It would be a lot harder if you were not dis- up to these graduates, others are on the road,
medication and sabbaticals. He practised at
abled from birth.” the Victorian Bar for several years before others not at all.
Modern workplace and occupational health The LIV is getting its house in order and
moving in to po litical a dvisory r oles. H e
and safety laws mean employers will usu- encouraging many Victorian ﬁrms to do the
returned to the law in 2003 and now prac-
ally be obliged to look after an employee who same.
tises at the Victorian and Tasmanian Bars.
becomes disabled. We will never know what the legal profes-
But while disability is usually associated “I have supported colleagues over the years
experiencing depression and the profession’s sion has missed out on should ﬁrms continue
with a physical condition, such as blindness,
deafness or a spinal injury, many people understanding is getting better,” he said. to overlook lawyers like Angelo Capuano and
carry an invisible but no less severe disabil- “But there are examples of where people feel Adam Lewis-Jones.
ity or medical condition. stigma, when they indicate they have been The a chievements o f P eter W ard a nd
Many of these, especially depression, arise diagnosed and their employers, and not for Graeme Innes suggest the loss could be sig-
mid-career. any evil reason, ﬁnd it difﬁcult to deal with. niﬁcant. ●
26 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0
L AW Y E R S W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S
AS LAWYERS KNOW, EVEN THE MOST HUMAN OF TOPICS CAN
BE BROKEN DOWN INTO BLACK LETTER LAW.
isability discrimination is treating Exceptions to the law FWA or other federal law or state or territory
someone l ess fa vourably b ecause anti-discrimination laws (s351(2)).
they have, or are presumed to have, In limited circumstances, it is lawful to dis-
a disability. It is unlawful when it occurs criminate against a person with a disability, Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic)
in e mployment, e ducation a nd a ccess t o for example if the person is genuinely unable
The Equal Opportunity Act 1995 (Vic) (EO Act)
premises. to perform the inherent requirements of the
uses the term “impairment” rather than disa-
job (even after reasonable adjustments or spe-
cial services were provided) (s21A). bility, and includes a present, past or imputed
Disability Discrimination disability where a p erson i s p erceived to
This exception applies to job applicants and
Act 1992 (Cth) persons already employed, who become una- have a d isability b ecause o f a p ersonal
ble to meet the inherent requirements of the characteristic.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
job, and enables employers to change their The EO Act covers all employees and all
(DDA) is aimed at protecting people with a
terms and conditions of employment on that stages of employment including recruitment,
wide range of disabilities from unfair and
basis. Practitioners and employers must be employment conditions, access to entitle-
aware of their rights and obligations under ments, promotions and training, returning to
The DDA, which was recently amended by
other relevant legislation – for example, if an work, dismissal and retrenchment (Part 3).
the Disability Discrimination and Other Human
employee sustains an injury at work, under The prop osed Equal O pportunity B ill
Rights Legislation Amendment Act 2009 (Cth),
the Accident C ompensation Ac t 1985 ( Vic), 2009 is likely to introduce a positive duty
prohibits disability harassment and discrim-
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) to e liminate d iscrimination. I f i t c an b e
ination against (among other things):
and Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). proven, f or e xample, t hat a n em ployer
• a person on the grounds of disability in all
has taken positive steps to address and elim-
stages of employment from recruitment to
Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) inate discrimination by ensuring their staff
understood their equal opportunity policies,
• associates of people with disabilities (s7); The Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FWA) provides the employer can potentially reduce their
and general protections in relation to workplace
liability for discrimination claims. This is
• a person because they have an assistance discrimination.
important because employers are vicariously
animal, a disability aid or a carer (s8). An employer is prohibited from taking
liable for the behaviour of their staff.
The r ecent a mendments i ntroduced a n adverse action against a p erson who is an
explicit and positive duty on employers to employee or prospective employee because of Charter of Human Rights and
make reasonable adjustments for employ- the person’s characteristics, including physi- Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)
ees or applicants with a d isability, subject cal or mental disability and family or carer’s
responsibilities (s351(1)). The Charter provides a number of mecha-
to other provisions in the DDA. Reasonable
Adverse action is taken by a n employer nisms to promote the enjoyment of human
adjustments are deﬁned as adjustments that
against an employee where the employer: rights in Victoria, including the right to non-
do not impose an unjustifiable h ardship
• dismisses the employee; or discrimination. I n add ition, a ll Vic torian
on the employer making the adjustment. A
• injures the employee; or statutory provisions must be interpreted in a
refusal to make reasonable adjustments for
• alters the position of the employee to the way that is compatible with human rights, so
people with a disability may amount to direct
employee’s prejudice; or far as it is possible to do so consistently with
• discriminates between the employee and their purpose (s32). ●
Factors t aken i nto a ccount w hen d eter-
mining unjustifiable hardship include the other employees (s342(1)).
employee’s specific needs, relative cost of, An employer is excluded from the above FRANCESCA HARRISON is the LIV Workplace Relations
and availability of ﬁnancial assistance to the Section lawyer and LAURA HELM is policy advisor for the
obligations where the adverse action is due
LIV Administrative Law and Human Rights Section.
employer to ma ke t he adjustment a nd t he to the inherent requirements of the position, The information above is intended as a guide to the law
impact of the adjustment on others (s11). and where the action is authorised under the and does not constitute legal advice.
L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 27
THE MARVELLOUS TALE
OF MR AVERAGE
PETER WARD IS ONE OF MELBOURNE’S BEST CRIMINAL LAWYERS,
BUT WITHOUT AN EARLY HAND-UP HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN UNKNOWN TODAY.
cent vision in each eye, may have convinced why take on someone with a problem was the
Mr Galbally to take him on. philosophy of the time”.
“I don’t think I would have got in the front “Saying that, if I took the same approach
door of a ﬁ rm of this calibre without the dis- today I t hink I w ould get a f ew offers for
ability as my marks only really entitled me to interviews that may be more or less lip serv-
work in a suburban ﬁrm,” he said. ice because I don’t know when it came to the
“It m ust b e s aid I h ad t he b all b ounce crunch whether I would get a job,” he said.
my way.” “But I might be – I hate to use the word –
In t he e arly su mmer of 1975, M r Ward the token disabled lawyer they need on the
posted 40 job applications, all disclosing his books.”
vision impairment, and failed to land a sin- Mr Ward said he was actually the third
gle interview. blind a rticled c lerk t o w ork f or F rank
He w as g iven h is f irst bre ak by F rank Galbally, whom he described as a “disabil-
Galbally, who took a punt on his son David’s ity pioneer”.
luckless university mate. “Generally, once I get established and used
“I di dn’t think [the di sability] s hould to things I am ﬁ ne. I have always wanted to
be treated normally and was raised that way.
work for me or against me. Frank was a kind,
I don’t like to acknowledge that I cannot do
supportive and good person and he said he
things,” he said.
would give me articles, and that gave me 12
“If you have a disability you tend to be very
months to settle in and adjust. If they only
determined and that helped me because I
gave me a week, I might not have survived,”
think in the early days it was a very nervous
Mr Ward said.
beginning as I had a responsibility to help
KEEPING THE FAITH: Criminal lawyer Peter Ward “The f irm was t hinking: ‘So what if we
continues to work hard to repay the faith others carry the ﬁrm’s name.
have a disaster? He is an articled clerk and
showed in him. “I thought I had to do really well to justify
we will not go into liquidation if it doesn’t
their faith in me and if I failed I did not want
f one m ark of t he t rue gentleman is work out’, and it worked for me because even people to say it was because of my disability.
humility then Peter Ward is the gen- if they formed a poor view of me I had a year I owe them everything really. They took an
uine article. to change that view.”
In his basement ofﬁce at the William Street enormous punt on me.”
Frank Galbally asked Mr Ward to stay per- Mr Ward was made a Galbally & O’Bryan
headquarters of Galbally & O’Bryan, “Mr
manently on 4 November 1975. “I remember partner in 1989.
Average”, as he calls himself, has sat face to
the time and the place like it was yesterday – He said he had never had to be too technol-
face with some of the country’s most colour-
it was that emotional.” ogy-savvy and used a device that magniﬁed
Nowadays, an authentic wooden door from his computer screen only 2.5 times.
More times than he co uld count he a lso
sat face to face with Frank Galbally QC, held Pentridge Prison adorns the foyer outside He also used a type of magnifying glass to
by many to be Victoria’s greatest criminal his ofﬁce, and the Magistrates’ Court is the read printed text and at times relied on col-
lawyer. 60-year-old’s second home. leagues for help.
Mr Ward said Frank Galbally gave him a “Crime su its my p ersonality a nd it h as He re members a ttending t he B righton
go when no one else would – and the appren- been a g reat t hrill t o re present s ome o f Magistrates’ Court in 1974 when he heard
tice has risen to become one of Melbourne’s the under-privileged people that I have. My something p eculiar f rom t he d efence
top criminal lawyers. role is to defend and get the best result pos- benches.
So what sets this tale of battler’s luck apart sible and protect the interests of the client,” “It was a f emale lawyer a nd I w as very
from all the others? Mr Ward said. surprised that a woman was appearing. Now
In a strange twist of fate, Mr Ward believes The applications he sent to employers all they outnumber the men in the Magistrates’
his blindness, a congenital eye defect that left those years ago proved futile, but “some peo- Courts. You would hope both problems are
him short-sighted and with less than 10 per ple may have been better credentialed and disappearing.” ●
28 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0
Services A ssociation a nd V olunteering
FIRMS EMPLOYING DISABLED LAWYERS HAVE Australia.
Businesses interested in providing work
ACCESS TO MANY TYPES OF SUPPORT. experience or me ntoring op portunities
or e mploying a d isabled p erson w ho h as
undertaken work experience should start by
visiting the Australian Employers Network
he 20 per cent of Australian businesses
on Disability at www.emad.asn.au.
that employ people with disabili- DISABILITY-READY The Network helps businesses achieve best
ties already know of the armoury of
ﬁnancial incentives and support mechanisms
WORKPLACE FUNDING practice, become compliant with the Disability
at their disposal. Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and facilitate
However, a National Centre for Vocational
On 1 May this year, the new federal employer networks.
Education Res earch (N CVER) st udy o f
government Disability (Access to Premises JobAccess advisers also provide free, conﬁ-
– Building) Standards were due to come dential advice on ph 1800 464 800.
employers found many others were willing to
into effect, setting minimum national The N CVER re por t i s a vailable a t
employ people with disabilities, but lacked the
standards for accessibility requirements www.ncver.edu.au/statistic/publications/
conﬁdence that they had the knowledge, under-
standing and capability to do so properly. in a range of buildings. 2219.html.
The study, released in February, found the The new standards reinforce current
employers’ concerns spread across the pre- conditions and encourage employers to Other sources of information
employment, recruitment, placement and ensure their premises are fully accessible for prospective employers of
post-placement stages. to the disabled and elderly.
Employers were also concerned about costs people with disabilities:
Currently, the federal government will
in terms of money, time, increased supervi-
reimburse a business up to $30,000 for • The Victorian Office for Disability pro-
sion, training, equipment and productivity.
So how can employers become “disability
building modiﬁcations, which can vides information on creating disability
include ramps, personal lifts, stair action plans and is a p ortal for research
Industry experts recommend the federal
modiﬁcations, bathroom modiﬁcations and resources relating to disability and
and automatic doors. funding for disability advocacy programs:
Department of Education, Employment and
Workplace Relations (DEEWR) JobAccess Job Access Australia will assess the www.officefordisability.vic.gov.au.
website at http://jobaccess.gov.au as t he workplace free of charge, once a job
• The Australian Employers Network on
best starting point for both employers and offer has been made, to ascertain what
Disability promotes the business case for
employees. equipment or modiﬁcations are needed.
employing people with disabilities and
It provides information on ﬁn ancial incen-
Job Access also fully reimburses employers works in a collaborative way with employ-
tives and advisory and consultancy services,
for any products they purchase, such as ers and clients: www.emad.asn.au.
the recruitment process and how to prepare
larger computer screens, for employees
and modify workplaces. • The Department of Education, Employ-
It also gives links to other industry pro- ment a nd Workplace R elations has a
viders, such as Vision Australia, and trusted Aids for the visually-impaired range range of initiatives and programs to pro-
brokers and mediators. from Braille labels and magniﬁers to mote and support employment of people
The site explores how to establish f lexi- audio books, talking calculators and
with disabilities, including the National
ble workplaces, manage a return to work for mobile phones.
Disability Coordination Officer Program:
employees with disabilities, minimise the Employers can be reimbursed for www.deewr.gov.au.
impact on co-workers and argues the case purchasing door bells with signal
for hiring persons with disabilities. lights, hearing aid microphones, sound
• Many organisations produce a r ange of
The arguments include that people with absorption panels, ampliﬁed telephones free or low cost materials and resources
disabilities tend to have fewer accidents at or those with light sensors and captioning to ensure people with disabilities can
work and have a lower rate of absenteeism services for those with hearing difﬁculties. work effectively. For example, visit Vision
than other employees. Australia at www.visionaustralia.org.au
Employing people with disabilities can Employers can also take advantage of a or Vicdeaf at www.vicdeaf.com.au.
also raise awareness of OH&S issues gener- range of wage subsidies, wage supports
ally, build staff morale and increase customer and other ﬁnancial assistance, such as • beyondblue e quips or ganisations w ith
and staff loyalty. deafness awareness training for all staff, the a wareness a nd sk ills t o e ffect ively
Free courses to increase conﬁdence when through a variety of organisations. manage common mental health prob-
interacting with people with disabilities can For more information see lems at work. It has specifically tailored
be accessed through Jobs Australia, Diversity www.ag.gov.au/premisesstandards. a pro gram f or t he le gal pro fession:
at Work, ACE National Network, National www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?
Disability Services, the National Employment link_id=4.1032#legal_program. ●
30 L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0
L AW Y E R S W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S
CHAMPIONING THE CAUSE: LIV Lawyers with disAbilities Committee meeting attendees. Back row from left: Francesca Harrison, Nicholas Donaghy,
Claire Humble, Steven Blair. Front row: Courtney Guilliatt, Julie Fraser, Alyena Mohummadally, Daniel Piekarski, Adam Lewis-Jones.
LIV CHAMPIONS “ We had to overcome
barriers to get law degrees
and employers should say:
LAWYERS WITH ‘Wow, these people must
be incredible to overcome
all these problems’.
n J anuary t his y ear t he L IV C ouncil The committee was approved after Mr Lewis-
approved formation of the Lawyers with Jones took the working group’s ﬁndings to the
disAbilities Committee. January LIV Council meeting and made an Many working g roup members overcame
The committee will work to promote a more impassioned speech about the importance of additional c hallenges w hile s tudying a t
contemporary and progressive view in the the work. The committee chose the unusual university, undertaking professional legal
legal profession of t hose w ith d isabilities spelling of the word “disAbilities” to empha- training and ﬁnding employment, and still
face barriers to entry and progression.
and the benefits of equity and diversity in sise the abilities of its members.
Alyena Mohummadally, whose “invisi-
the workplace. Mr Lewis-Jones now volunteers in com- ble” disability lupus has caused disruptions
It will develop an LIV disability action plan munity le gal ce ntres. He h as p ermanent throughout her university and working life,
and an equal opportunity statement in rela- double-vision and epilepsy. believes the Committee can challenge mis-
tion to disability in the legal profession and “The automatic assumption of the employer conceptions across the profession.
the LIV and hopes other legal organisations is a disability equals reduced capacity, but Human R ights C ommissioner Gr aeme
will follow its lead. we want to highlight that many difﬁculties Innes congratulated the LIV on the initiative.
An LIV working group, the committee’s can be overcome by technology at little to no “We have to give some people a real
precursor, was established a year ago after an cost,” he said. hand-up and these initiatives will assist not
approach to the LIV by recent law graduate “We had to overcome barriers to get law only the LIV to look at themselves and their
own e mployment pr actices but a ll [ legal]
Adam Lewis-Jones, who said old-fashioned degrees and employers should say: ‘Wow,
businesses,” he said.
attitudes were stopping many lawyers with these people must be incredible to overcome The ﬁrst ofﬁcial meeting of the Lawyers
disabilities from being employed. all these problems and must be committed with disAbilities Committee was on 4
He argued the need to create both pathways and problem-solvers’. March. Those interested in keeping up to
to employment for lawyers w ith d isabili- “It is degrading when people question your date with committee developments should
ties and opportunities for them to meet and capacity because of disability. Why should email Co urtney G uilliatt o n c guilliatt@
network. people needlessly face these difﬁculties? ” liv.asn.au. ●
L I J M A Y 2 0 1 0 31