The National Brief #7

December 2021

New Executive and Council

The ABA held its annual general meeting on Tuesday 23 November 2021. The members of the Executive for 2022 are:

President - Dr Matt Collins AM QC
Vice Presidents - Peter Dunning QC and Michael McHugh SC
Treasurer - Andrew Muller
Chair of the Advocacy Training Council - Ian Robertson SC


The non-executive members of the Council for 2022 are:

Anna Mitchelmore SC (Vice-President, NSW Bar Association)
Duncan McConnel SC (President, NT Bar Association)
Mark Hoffmann QC (President, SA Bar Association)
Martin Cuerden SC (President, WA Bar Association)
Phillip Zeeman (President, Tasmanian Bar Association)
Tom Sullivan QC (President, Bar Association of Queensland)
Róisín Annesley QC (President, Victorian Bar)

Did you know?

The ABA was established in 1963 to be the voice of the independent referral Bars of Australia. All members of State and Territory Bar Associations are members of the ABA.

The ABA’s media release announcing the Executive and Council for 2022 can be found here.

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President's Message

Matt Collins AM QC

Dr Matt Collins AM QC

Dear colleagues,

It was a great honour to be elected President of the ABA at its annual general meeting on 23 November 2021, at which we farewelled outgoing President Matthew Howard SC. Matt expertly led the ABA through two of the most challenging years in the Association’s 58-year history.

When Matt Howard became President in November 2019, the ABA had had an active year, with a highly successful and memorable conference in Singapore, a further conference in collaboration with the New Zealand Bar in Queenstown, and the usual full complement of AdvocacyTraining Council courses and other activities.

On 3 February 2020, the Council came together in Canberra for the annual silks bows ceremony in the High Court, blissfully unaware of what was about to come. There was vague talk of a strange new virus, but I don’t recall it coming up at the Council meeting or silks bows. Little did we know that that would be the last time that we would meet face-to-face for what will be, in total, more than two years.

With COVID-19 came unprecedented challenges for all of Australia’s barristers and each State and Territory Bar Association.

Former President Matt Howard SC
Former President Matt Howard SC

The ABA needed cautious, wise, sound leadership, and in Matt Howard we got that, in spades. In 2020, the ABA suspended capitation fees for a year, giving all of the Bars, but particularly those in the States most affected, none more so than my own—Victoria—breathing space to respond. Under Matt’s leadership, we restructured the ABA so that it could operate, both during the pandemic but also going forwards, with reduced overheads and expenses.

Consistent with the ABA’s strategic plan, Matt significantly increased the ABA’s communications outreach, including by introducing the National Brief, regular podcasts on topical issues, and judicious and apolitical contributions to public debate on matters relevant to the administration of justice, the rule of law and the importance of an independent judiciary and Bar. The ABA has continued, throughout the pandemic, to be an important voice on issues of vital relevance to Australia’s barristers.

I hope, as President over the coming year, to continue and build on these foundations as we emerge from the challenges of the past two years. At our November meeting, with optimism that the worst is now behind us, the ABA Council adopted an ambitious program of activities for the coming year that will demonstrate the value that comes from membership of your peak national body. You can read more about those priorities below.

Before signing off, could I add a word of thanks to Kylie Nomchong SC of the NSW Bar who served, with me, as Vice-President of the ABA this year, and who has retired from the Council with effect from November’s AGM. Kylie made a huge contribution to the ABA in many ways—as joint VPs, we worked closely together on many of the projects I have mentioned above and that members will benefit from in the coming year. I know I speak for all members of the Council when saying that we will miss her expertise, her perspective and her sense of fun.

Finally, could I wish all our members a happy, healthy and restorative summer. Let us all hope for a brighter 2022 in which the spectre of the pandemic recedes, just as in-person hearings and the collegiality of life in chambers returns.

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Thursday 28–Saturday 30 April 2022, in Melbourne and fully live-streamed

Registrations are now open for the ABA’s 2022 National Conference. In-person tickets are limited, book now and take advantage of early-bird pricing to avoid disappointment.

Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne Gaol
Reproduced with permission Showtime Events

RE-EMERGE 2022 will be the first national gathering of the Australian Bar for more than two years—an opportunity to re-engage, reflect on having endured two momentous, pandemic years, and participate in important discussions about what we must do to re-emerge energised, innovative and stronger than before.

In a full program over three days (the afternoon of Thursday 28, all day Friday 29 and the morning of Saturday 30 April) RE-EMERGE 2022 will bring together leaders of unrivalled expertise from the judiciary, the Bar, the legal profession, politics, academia and the media, from across Australia and internationally. Participants will be invited to reflect on the really big issues confronting the Bar, the profession and the administration of justice as we emerge from the pandemic, including:

  • the impact of the pandemic on the Australian federation, the Bar and the profession;
  • adjusting to disruption and change within the legal and justice sectors;
  • managing the ongoing effects of past two years on the courts, the legal profession and our clients;
  • ethical issues that the judiciary and the profession cannot ignore; and
  • current issues of law and practice in commercial, criminal, common and taxation law.

Melbourne has been chosen as the host city for RE-EMERGE 2022 in recognition of the particular challenges it faced during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. Iconic venues in central Melbourne have been secured. The conference will be held in the spectacularly renovated State Library of Victoria. Welcome drinks will be in the Old Melbourne Gaol. A gala dinner will be held at the stunning new W Melbourne. Dinners will be hosted by Victorian Bar Associations and committees to welcome visiting delegates.

Professor Richard Susskind OBE
Prof. Richard Susskind OBE

On the opening day of the conference, Professor Richard Susskind OBE will present a keynote address on justice re-imagined. Speakers at the conference will include, from the judiciary, among many others, Justices Gageler, Gordon, Keane and Steward of the High Court, Chief Justice Allsop of the Federal Court, Chief Justice Alstergren of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, Chief Justice Ferguson of the Supreme Court of Victoria and President Bell of the NSW Court of Appeal. Other speakers have been drawn from the apex of our national life, including Attorneys-General and other politicians, barristers, senior journalists, academics, health professionals and former Royal Commissioners. The full program is available here.

Presented in proud association with our Major Partners, the Australian Financial Review and Legal Home Loans, RE-EMERGE will be the unmissable legal event of 2022.

Register now to take advantage of early-bird rates at


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Strategic priorities for 2022

Following the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021, and in the hope and expectation that we will progressively emerge from the restrictions imposed because of the pandemic, the ABA Council has adopted a program for 2022 which aims to further the ABA’s strategic objectives and priorities, in accordance with the ABA’s Strategic Plan 2020–25.

Priorities for 2022 include:

  • holding the ABA’s first national conference in more than two years in April, RE-EMERGE 2022
  • re-invigorating in-person advocacy training through the Advocacy Training Council
  • holding a series of nationally focused CPD events drawing on the expertise of the ABA’s Committees in areas including the criminal law, diversity and inclusion, ethics, family law, Indigenous issues, practice development and taxation
  • launching the ABA’s national find-a-barrister service, enabling all Australian barristers to establish a customisable and searchable profile on the ABA website to promote their availability to solicitors and clients seeking barristers prepared to advise and appear nationally
  • increasing the ABA’s public profile by speaking authoritatively, where appropriate, to inform debates concerning the rule of law, the importance of an independent and accountable judiciary and legal profession, and access to justice
  • contributing to legal policy and reform debates, leveraging the work of the ABA’s Committees and State and Territory Bar Associations
  • holding two silks bows and dinners in conjunction with the High Court in Canberra
  • continuing to increase communications to and with members, including through The National Brief and regular podcasts.

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High Court Robing Protocol

The High Court in November updated its Robing Protocol for barristers appearing at special leave applications, the hearing of appeals, and matters in the Court’s original jurisdiction:


Counsel appearing before the Full Court exercising its appellate jurisdiction are to wear what is customarily worn in the Commonwealth court or the Court of Appeal or Court of Criminal Appeal of the Supreme Court from which the appeal (or application for special leave to appeal) has been brought.
For appearances before the Full Court in a matter in the Court’s original jurisdiction, counsel are to wear what is customarily worn in the Court of Appeal or Court of Criminal Appeal of the Supreme Court of the State or Territory in which they most commonly practise.


Counsel are not to robe for hearings of any kind before a single Justice, including any listing before a single Justice of a matter in the Court’s appellate jurisdiction.


Counsel are to robe for a hearing, including a directions hearing, before a single Justice of the Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.


When attending a ceremonial sitting of the Full Court, counsel may wear what is customarily worn for a ceremonial sitting in the Supreme Court of the State or Territory in which they most commonly practise.

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Around the country

The ACT Bar Association congratulates Ms Katie Weir (pictured), who was called to the Bar in August of this year on receiving the 2021/22 Women Barrister Scholarship proudly sponsored by BarBooks Australia.

In Victoria, a photographic portrait of Richard Stanley QC was unveiled in the Peter O’Callaghan QC Gallery. Mr Stanley was a leading common law silk and was greatly respected and admired.

A portrait of Chief Justice Bathurst, commissioned by the Law Society of NSW and the NSW Bar Association, was unveiled on 30 November. It will be hung in the Banco Court alongside the portraits of past Chief Justices of New South Wales.

On 10 December, ABA President Matt Collins QC, Victorian Bar President Roísín Annesley QC and Law Institute of Victoria President Tania Wolff, at the invitation of the Hon. Chief Justice Will Alstergren (all pictured) attended the Federal Circuit and Family Court end of year function—excitedly in-person (albeit poorly back-lit).

The SA Bar Association and the Queensland Bar Association will be holding their annual conferences, respectively, on 19–20 February and 25–26 February 2022. Both have impressive line-ups of presenters. More information is available on the SA Bar Association and Queensland Bar Association websites.

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In Other News …

ABA responds to recent commentary about judicial impartiality

The Australian Bar Association notes recent commentary in the media about analyses of the outcomes of decisions reached by individual judges – sitting both by themselves in trials or together on appeals. From those, it has been suggested that certain judges are "pro" or "anti" certain groups…

ABA Announces New Executive Team

The Australian Bar Association has announced the election of its executive team for 2021–22…

ABA Calls for Moderation in Anti-Corruption Debate

The Australian Bar Association has called for moderation in the debate over the proposed federal anti-corruption commission, after the Prime Minister yesterday compared the New South Wales Independent Commission against Corruption to a ‘kangaroo court’…

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Inquiries, Consultations and Submissions

Religious Discrimination Bill 2021

The Senate has referred the Religious Discrimination Bill and related legislation to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 4 February 2022. Submissions may be made prior to 7 January 2022. More information is available here.

Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill

The Commonwealth Parliament has established a House of Representatives Select Committee to inquire into online harms and the issues addressed by the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill and the measures it proposes. Feedback on the inquiry is encouraged and may also be provided directly to the Attorney-General’s department prior to 21 January 2022. Information on how to provide a submission is available here.

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Dates for the Diary

7 January 2022
Last date for submissions on the Commonwealth Religious Discrimination Bill

21 January 2022
Last date for submissions on the Social Media (Anti-Trolling) Bill

7 February 2022
Silks bows and dinner for silks appointed in 2020, High Court, Canberra

19–20 February 2022
SA Bar Association annual conference

25–26 February 2022
Queensland Bar Association annual conference

28–30 April 2022
RE-EMERGE 2022—register now to take advantage of early-bird rates