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A pair of law students have gained a first-hand insight into life at the Supreme Court as part of an initiative aimed at promoting cultural diversity in the legal profession. 

Justice Jacinta Forbes and internship student Hanna Amin
Pictured: Hanna Amin and Justice Jacinta Forbes

The inaugural Diversity Internship, launched by the Victorian Bar this year, paved the way for the students to spend a week in the chambers of two Supreme Court judges to gain hands-on experience and learn more about the work of the Court. 

Hanna Amin, who spent a week-long placement with Justice Jacinta Forbes, said being in chambers was a privilege and she was thankful for the opportunity. 

During her placement, the University of Melbourne student sat in on Court hearings, shadowed associates and met with a number of Supreme Court judges. 

“More than anything, this internship experience has affirmed my drive towards working with and around the law,” she said. 

“While still a student, I think it’s so helpful to be able to visualise how we ourselves would operate as future lawyers and beyond. 

“It is a program that has been so thoughtfully crafted and tailored to those from either culturally diverse backgrounds, those who come from families with no prior connection to the law, or both.” 

La Trobe University student Halima Weli, who interned with Associate Justice Ian Irving’s chambers, said the internship had reinforced her commitment to pursuing a career in law. 

“This experience was invaluable and inspiring,” she said.

“Diversity within the legal profession has improved significantly over time, however, there are still certain gaps that make it difficult for students like myself to envision a place for ourselves within the profession.

“This internship is a fantastic opportunity that helps bridge these gaps.”

The idea behind the Diversity Internship was first raised by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Rodney Randall, and later developed by the Victorian Bar, with input from judges from multiple courts. 

It is tailored to law students from culturally diverse backgrounds and is intended to develop experience and connections with members of the legal profession, particularly for students without networks in the profession.

As part of the three-week program, students spent one week at the Victorian Bar, as well as two weeks in either the Federal Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Victoria, or the County Court of Victoria. 

Justice Forbes, who served as Chair of the Victorian Bar’s Equality and Diversity Committee prior to being appointed a judge, said it was critical that the legal profession embraced diversity. 

“I think it’s really important because a diverse team is always going to approach a problem in a way that is stronger and more nuanced than a team that is not culturally diverse,” she said. 

“For our own benefit, and for the community to have confidence in what we do, I think we have to reflect the community, and Australia is a diverse community.” 

Carl Moller SC, a member of the Victorian Bar’s Equality and Diversity Committee, said the plan is for the internship to be offered annually. 

He encouraged law students to consider applying for the internship in the future. 

“The feedback we’ve got from the first interns has been fantastic,” he said. 

“They’ve really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. 

“Hopefully the internship will encourage law students to consider careers as barristers when they might not otherwise have done that.” 

Published on 15 December 2023