MAINTENANCE work on Tharwa Bridge has been postponed due to bad weather. Because of the weather, the bridge will be open, but an extra week is needed to complete the project. Tharwa Bridge will be closed […]
WHEN Belinda Miller was in year 11, an indigenous, Redfern lawyer came to Chevalier College, in Burradoo, near Bowral, and shared a story about how, as a boy, he had been saved from being sentenced for something he hadn’t done.
“He explained the lawyer didn’t do anything complicated – he was just calm, rational and able to speak on behalf of the young boy,” Belinda says.
“And everyone listened to and respected the lawyer, resulting in the boy being released.”
It inspired the boy to become a lawyer and, in turn, the story inspired Belinda to go into law and help people who were in bad situations, by being their voices.
After high school Belinda moved to Canberra’s north and began her law degree at the ANU.
“I wanted to be a lawyer because I wanted to help people, I’m not interested in corporate law, I’m more interested in social justice,” she says.
Now, at the age of 29, Belinda has stayed true to her beliefs and recently received the 2017 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award for her professional achievements and community involvement in the region.
She is the Secretary of the Women Lawyers’ Association of the ACT, is a member of the ACT Law Society’s Industrial Relations Committee and a member of the ACT Community Legal Assistance Forum’s Community Legal Education Committee.
But that’s just in her spare time. As her job, and with the help of an “amazing” lecturer at ANU, Belinda was drawn towards a career as an employment and discrimination lawyer at the Women’s Legal Centre ACT.
At the centre she provides all the employment and discrimination legal advice and representation services.
“A common scenario at the Women’s Legal Centre, is a client who has been discriminated against or sexually harassed at work to the point where they were unable to attend work, or were sacked because they complained about their treatment and therefore have lost their income,” she says.
“Often they will have no tertiary qualifications and it is extremely difficult for them to get another job.
“If they are from a single-income household, this can mean they are unable to feed their children and are often about to become homeless.”
In these circumstances, Belinda says the most rewarding part of her job isn’t seeing a client get compensation.
“It’s seeing our client become empowered through that process, and walk away not just with money [to feed their family or pay the bills] but with an understanding of their rights, and hopefully feeling supported and that they’re worth fighting for,” she says.
“Often we can help really vulnerable clients link in with other community services and it’s incredibly rewarding to know their interaction with us has enabled us to help them with a whole range of problems.”
Currently Belinda is drafting a “best practice” toolkit for dealing with how domestic and family violence impacts on the workplace.
She has initiated training sessions with the Community and Public Sector Union around the issue with attendees now implementing it in large government departments.
While Belinda doesn’t make as much as a corporate lawyer, she says she’d be unhappy if she was doing anything else.
And, she says: “I sleep really well at night.”
The Women’s Legal Centre, 6257 4377