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Inspiring inclusion: International Women’s Day 2024

Celebrating wonderful, brave and inspiring women was the focus of the Nicholes Family Lawyers’ International Women’s Day (IWD) breakfast, held at the firm’s Melbourne offices on 5 March 2024.

In response to the IWD 2024 theme of “Inspiring Inclusion”, guest speakers The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO, Lesley Podesta and Jade Blakkarly shared personal stories and insights into how to inspire inclusion. Nicholes Family Lawyers founder and Managing Partner Sally Nicholes moderated the event.

The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO
The many achievements of The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO in the legal profession include serving as a Magistrate of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, a Judge of the County Court of Victoria, the inaugural President of the Children’s Court of Victoria, the first female State Coroner of Victoria, a Judge of the Family Court of Australia and one of the commissioners in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In 2019, she was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Her Honour’s breakfast address focused on the on-going difficulties women face in taking their places in seats of power, authority, and influence. In relation to IWD, she highlighted how societal factors such as historical exclusion and gender bias contribute to workplace disparity between men and women.

Reflecting on her personal experiences, Her Honour encouraged women to embrace their unique voices and believe in their own capabilities and emphasised the importance of solidarity amongst women throughout their professional careers.

Jade Blakkarly
Jade Blakkarly is the CEO of Women’s Information and Referral Exchange (WIRE), the only Victoria-wide free generalist information, support and referral service run by women and gender diverse people, for women and gender diverse people. Jade’s passion and commitment to advancing gender equality and her dedication to this cause is reflected in her daily work.

With a profound understanding of the complexities surrounding gender inequality, Jade’s discussion offered a complex insight into how to promote and ensure inclusivity in the workplace. Jade focused on the importance of acknowledging individual differences as a way to help foster an inclusive society and made a connection between historical struggles faced by women and the challenges of modern society. Jade also stressed the need for deliberate action and warned against the dangers of becoming complacent. In addition, Jade urged those in attendance to carefully reflect on the language they use, encourage marginalised voices and promote the visibility of marginalised communities. Jade observed that such deliberate actions will help to create workplaces and communities that embrace diversity and encourage the notion of belonging for everyone.

Lesley Podesta
Lesley Podesta’s career has seen her involved in a myriad of esteemed organisations. Lesley is a board member for UNICEF Australia, the World Congress on Family Law & Children’s Rights, and The Queen Elizabeth Centre. Additionally, she chairs the Board of the Young and Resilient Research Centre at Western Sydney University and was previously the CEO of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation and a member of the Twitter Trust and Safety Council.

Lesley spoke about how social media, the inescapable medium of the modern world, can induce feelings of being excluded. Those present were urged to exercise caution in their interactions on such platforms, due to the power of social media to very quickly marginalise and exclude individuals. Lesley also observed that on the journey toward an inclusive society, individual commitment and action were vitally important; that no effort was too small or insignificant; and that change must start somewhere.

Sally Nicholes
Sally Nicholes, founder and Managing Partner of Nicholes Family Lawyers, reflected on trailblazers within the legal profession, namely The Honourable Elizabeth Evatt AC. As the first Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the first female judge of an Australian Federal Court, and President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, Her Honour’s pioneering achievements serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for aspiring female lawyers.

Reflecting on the IWD 2024 theme of “Inspiring Inclusion”, Sally also spoke of the importance of embracing diversity in all its forms and building a world in which a seat at the table is awarded based on merit rather than outdated perceptions.

As Sally observed: “International Women’s Day is more than just a day; it is a movement, a call to action, and a reminder of the progress we’ve made in terms of gender equality. However, it is also a day to reflect on the challenges that remain and the work that lies ahead.”

Nicholes Family Lawyers was privileged to host such an inspiring event and would like to express our gratitude to The Honourable Justice Jennifer Coate AO, Jade Blakkarly and Lesley Podesta for so generously sharing their insights into how to inspire inclusion.

By Nicholes Family Lawyers


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