Directors report 2018-19

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 Association 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 year ended July 2019 saw 71 barristers and clerks seek assistance for themselves or for a family member, or advice for a colleague for whom they were concerned. As in previous years, the great majority of these contacts have been self-referred with the next largest group of referrals coming from Bar Association staff.

As in previous years, the most common primary presenting problems were stress and anxiety (25 per cent), usually related to workplace demands and stresses, followed by relationship issues (11 per cent) and depression (10 per cent). While these may be the primary presenting problem there are frequently secondary issues present, such as problematic alcohol use or physical health issues. Advice was also given to a number of chambers on managing workplace interpersonal difficulties, including bullying and harrassment. 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. Alternatively, barristers are able to contact one of the specialists directly to make an appointment.

The Barristers’ Benevolent Association will pay for the first three or four sessions to support the barrister in accessing appropriate professional assistance. The service is a confidential one.

In 2018-19 BarCare provided assistance to eight barristers located outside of the metropolitan area. BarCare is aware that the services it offers are not easily accessible to barristers working outside of Sydney, who are often practising in a setting that is both professionally and geographically isolating. Barristers are always welcome to contact the BarCare director, Jenny Houen, and she will locate a suitable person in their area.

In 2018-19 BarCare submitted seven requests for financial assistance to the Barristers’ Benevolent Association, all of which were granted. These grants were to assist barristers facing a range of unexpected life challenges, including illness and bereavement. Requests for assistance should be discussed with Jenny Houen. These applications are dealt with confidentially by the Bar Association’s Executive.