Directors report 2016-17

Promoting the interests of practising barristers

BarCare is an integral part of the Bar community that provides assistance to barristers who are experiencing difficulties in their professional or personal lives.

The service is funded by the Barristers’ Benevolent Fund and operates independently of the Bar Association. The service is strictly confidential and BarCare does not give any personal information to the Bar Association without the express permission of the barrister involved. In addition to providing professional psychological or other support it also has the capacity to give financial assistance in times of need, such as illness or bereavement.

The last year has been a busy one for BarCare with 73 barristers seeking assistance for themselves or for a family member. The great majority of these contacts have been self-referred. The most common presenting problems have been depression or stress/anxiety, frequently associated with the challenges and demands of life at the Bar. While these may be the primary presenting problem there are frequently secondary issues present, such as problematic alcohol use or relationship difficulties. The at times isolating and unpredictable nature of the work often contributes to a sense of feeling anxious and overwhelmed. BarCare is available to meet and talk with barristers and assist them to seek help from one of the psychologists or psychiatrists on the panel of specialists. The Benevolent Fund will pay for the first three sessions to support the barrister in accessing appropriate professional assistance.

At times colleagues, chambers staff or, on occasion, a judge, will contact the Bar Association or BarCare directly to express a concern about a barrister’s health and wellbeing or to seek advice as to how best to assist a colleague. In such cases BarCare may make a ‘cold call’ to the barrister to offer assistance. While the barrister concerned may be initially surprised at the call, he or she is usually open to receiving support.

Earlier this year a wellbeing survey was carried out on behalf of the Bar Association. The results of this will no doubt be helpful in identifying areas where BarCare can further contribute to promoting the health and well being of barristers in NSW.

January 2017 saw the retirement of Penny Johnston who had been the Director of BarCare since 2008. Penny was instrumental in the establishment of BarCare and worked hard and effectively to build it up to be an effective and professional service. She has been replaced by Jenny Houen. Jenny is a social worker with many years experience as a hearing member with the Medical Council of NSW and with its Health Program.