This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #EachForEqual. MLC is celebrating the inspirational leaders who promote this value everyday by assisting women and other vulnerable groups who may be exploited in the workplace, escaping domestic violence, or locked out of affordable housing. These are some of the dynamic characters who are progressing gender equality through their work, while advancing access to #JusticeForUsAll.
Lisa Woodgate (pictured top-left) has worked as a solicitor at MLC since 2005. From a background at the national parks as a Firefighter, and student advocate at RMIT and University of Sydney, Lisa has also worked on the frontline at Redfern Legal Centre as generalist solicitor and at Working Women’s Centre as employment solicitor. On the value of working in the community legal sector, Lisa says “there is a lot of satisfaction in working with vulnerable and disadvantaged people who would otherwise not have very many options to access the legal system.”
“In some ways things have not changed, despite all the advances in legislation, such as flexible working arrangements, return to work guarantee and paid parenting leave, some employers continue to behave in an unreasonable manner. Women in many cases still face discrimination at work on the basis of pregnancy, parenting leave, carer responsibilities and requesting flexible work arrangements etc. Women are still being made redundant whilst they’re on parenting leave. Disrupting their careers and financial security. Often the entire family’s financial needs are dependant on a woman going back to work – that is until they find out they’ve been made redundant. In these scenarios they’ll have already organised and paid for childcare. It’s the employer puts them in a position where they lose cash as well as income. We applauded the changes to legislation but there’s still employers who don’t acknowledge and progress with tangible change. The old adage applies – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. That being said, we see hundreds of women who share with us, “Thank goodness for MLC. I didn’t know where to turn to for help.” Everyday we identify that there’s a whole series of [legal] problems that are gendered. Our role is to assist the women who come to see us and represent them so they don’t lose out.”
Jackie Nicholas (pictured top-right) began a life in law during the latter years of a 30-year career in academia. In 2006 Jackie undertook the LPAB course – an equivalent course to a law degree – and got her practising certificate at the end of 2015. Jackie initially came to MLC as she was interested in family law and the MLC held a weekly family advice clinic. She became passionate about employment law after being exposed to the difficulties our clients had with their employers and has been volunteering at the Centre in employment law since 2015.
“The Sex Discrimination Act was an absolute breakthrough for women’s rights in 1984 but even in 2020 women are experiencing discrimination in the workplace because of their gender. An Australian Human Rights Commission review found that 49% of women reported experiencing workplace discrimination at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work. Also, women with family responsibilities are more likely to be employed in low paid casual or part-time positions in places like supermarkets so the recent underpayments scandals of the grocery giants disproportionally impacts them. The #metoo movement has made young women more aware of their rights but the ramifications of speaking out and making a complaint still may have large and negative impacts on the complainant’s career. Sadly, the changes to legislation haven’t materially helped our clientele. Law reform relies on an employer’s goodwill to adopt best practice in order to implement change and stamp out sexual harassment and discrimination. The MLC, therefore, provides a vital service to women in assisting them to stand up for their legal rights.”