Diversity and equality

Diversity at the New South Wales Bar is encouraged, so that leaders of the profession are visibly representative of society. This sends the message to those from diverse backgrounds: if you are bright, articulate and hard working you will succeed at the bar regardless of your gender, ethnic or cultural background.


Diversity and Equality Committee

The Diversity and Equality Committee leads the development, implementation and promotion of strategies, policies and initiatives designed to attract, retain and nurture members of the NSW Bar so that the NSW Bar reflects the community it serves. Through education and the provision of guidelines, the Committee aims to promote diversity, the value of difference, eliminate prejudice and bias and encourage equality and collegiality among the members of the NSW Bar. It seeks to ensure that people who wish to join the NSW  Bar and existing members of the NSW Bar, are treated equally and not disadvantaged by their unique attributes. 

Women Barristers Forum

The WBF was established on 19 June 2004 to assist women at the New South Wales Bar. In 2007 it became a section of the Bar Association. Visit the WBF web site.

Advocates for Change

In September 2016, Bar Council approved a redesign of the Advocates for Change program. The Advocates for Change program now has two main purposes:

  • To provide role models who, through the example of what they do and say in their professional lives as barristers, represent the full width of diversity and inclusion that the NSW Bar Association wishes to promote at the Bar; and
  • Require that those designated as an Advocate for Change should be asked to undertake particular tasks within their role as Advocates for Change.

The Advocates for Change program is no longer limited to issues of gender diversity. It   also focuses on issues of racial diversity  disability, LGBTI and challenges facing older practitioners. Learn more about the Advocates for Change program and how members of the NSW Bar can be involved here. Learn more about the Advocates for Change program and how you may be involved here.

Indigenous lawyers

For over a decade, the Bar Association has worked to improve the educational path for Aboriginal law students studying at NSW universities and to assist in providing career development opportunities and career prospects for Aboriginal lawyers through the Indigenous Barristers Trust The Mum Shirl Fund and the First Nations Committee.

Policies and initiatives

Best Practice Guidelines

The New South Wales Bar Association encourages best practice in professional conduct and compliance with New South Wales and Commonwealth laws in the area of equality and diversity among its members and their chambers/floors. To this end, on 19 June 2014 the Bar Council approved the Best Practice Guidelines (BPG).

Diversity and Equity Policy

The New South Wales Bar Association is committed to fostering fairness, equity and tolerance in a manner that reflects the social and cultural diversity within the legal profession and the communities it serves. The policy is available here.

Fee Waiver Policy

The New South Wales Bar Association has adopted a policy to grant fee waivers to barristers taking parental or carer’s leave. In summary, a barrister taking parental leave will be entitled to a waiver of 100% of his or her practising certificate fee as long as the leave is taken in connection with the birth or adoption of his or her child and the barrister will be the primary care giver for the child during a period of leave of at least two months. A barrister taking carer’s leave will be entitled to a pro rata waiver of his or her practising certificate fee if the barrister takes a period of leave for at least two months in order to be a primary care giver for another person. Information about making an application for a fee waiver pursuant to this policy is set out in the policy.

Engagement with universities

Since 2000, the New South Wales Bar Association has conducted an annual Open Day for female law students in their final two years of their degree. These students are invited to the Bar to meet women barristers and judges, visit various Chambers and attend court. The aim of the annual Open Day is to actively encourage female law students to consider practising as barristers.

Equitable Briefing Policy

The Bar Association supports a fair, equitable, dynamic, inclusive and diverse Bar which continues to attract and retain the best talent. One way it does this is by actively promoting the aims of the Equitable Briefing Policy (Policy), launched by the Law Council of Australia (LCA) in June 2016 and formally adopted by the Bar Association in September 2016. The Policy was updated in November 2022 following a Review of the Policy. Find out more about the Bar Association’s Equitable Briefing work here.

Pride in Diversity

The New South Wales Bar Association became a member of Pride in Diversity on 1 June 2016. Pride in Diversity is Australia’s first and only national not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTI workplace inclusion. A social inclusion initiative of ACON, Pride in Diversity are specialists in HR, organisational change and workplace diversity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of LGBTI people by reducing exclusion, invisibility, homophobia and stigma in the workplace.

Racism. It Stops With Me

In March 2016, the Bar Association became a supporter of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Racism. It Stops with Me campaign. The campaign invites all Australians, both at the individual and the organisational level, to reflect on what they can do to counter racism, wherever it happens. It aims to:

  • Ensure more Australians recognise that racism is unacceptable in our community;
  • Give more Australians, at an individual and organisational level, the tools and resources to take practical action against racism;
  • Empower individuals and organisations to prevent and respond effectively to racism wherever it may happen.

Court sitting hours

In 2014, the then president of the New South Wales Bar Association raised the issue of certainty in relation to court sitting hours with the chief justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, the Hon Tom Bathurst AC. The president specifically noted the difficulties that arise when there is a lack of certainty around sitting hours for those members with carer’s responsibilities. While the adoption of a formal protocol by the Supreme Court in relation to this issue has the potential to fetter judicial discretion in relation to case management, the following practice has been suggested by the chief justice to judges of the Supreme Court:

  • That the parties be notified at the earliest possible time of a proposal to commence proceedings any time before 9.30 am or to sit beyond 4.30 pm in the case of divisions or 4.45 pm in the case of the Court of Appeal.
  • If possible, 24 hours’ notice be given of a proposal for an early start date and notice of extended sitting hours be given no later than prior to the luncheon adjournment on the day it is proposed to sit the extended hours.
  • In considering whether or not to set extended hours, it is relevant to consider the family or other carer responsibilities of the practitioner

These suggestions will not apply to bail applications or applications in the Duty Judge list. The suggestions listed above are for guidance only, and are not binding. The following courts have all adopted similar practices to ensure predictable sitting hours in their jurisdictions, including:

  • District Court
  • Land and Environment Court
  • Federal Court
  • Local Court
  • Supreme Court
  • Federal Circuit Court