It's time to RISE because inclusion and diversity has never been more important

5 minute read  05.03.2021 Gordon Williams, Jennifer Veiga

In a year dominated by COVID-19, it’s fair to say that 2020 gave everyone pause to consider what’s important to them. And for us at MinterEllison, staying connected with our clients and our people, looking out for one another, and creating inclusive spaces has never been more important.

That’s why we’re delighted to be celebrating both the 2021 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and International Women's Day this month.

Coming off the back of a year where restrictions and lockdowns have increased anxiety, stress levels and feelings of isolation for many, this year’s Mardi Gras theme, RISE, represents an opportunity for connection and an uplifting and inspiring call to action. There’s great power when people are united in a common purpose and this year’s message around ‘helping each other to rise’ resonates strongly.

For over 20 years now, MinterEllison has been providing pro-bono legal advice and support to the Mardi Gras, and this year will also be the second year we’ve had our very own float at the parade. The anticipation is certainly rising as people look forward to joining friends and colleagues from our Sydney office on 6 March for a COVID-safe event at the Sydney Cricket Ground. We will however be missing our interstate colleagues and look forward to them joining us again next year.

For Nathan Deveson, our Sydney Managing Partner, it’s one of the highlights of the MinterEllison calendar. “Everyone marching this year is so excited (including me) particularly after the challenges of last year. It’s always great fun, but this year feels particularly special.”

Through our client listening sessions and more informal conversations, we know that our clients also value our focus on inclusion and diversity, from a business as well as a community perspective.

And that was certainly the case for Robbie Bayros, in Regulatory and Public Affairs at Optus, who attended MinterEllison’s virtual ‘drag bingo’ as part of our celebrations for International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT) last year. “Although I’ve attended similar functions, MinterEllison’s are the ones I have the fondest memories of. I felt like I could easily connect with everyone I met, and it was wonderful seeing so many allies genuinely there to support and celebrate their colleagues.”

Making diversity, in all its forms, central to collaboration is a core element of the MinterEllison Way, and to the culture we strive to create with our people, our clients and in the community. Whether that’s diversity in gender, sexual orientation, skills, background, religion, age or ethnicity, diversity matters to us because we know it enhances our thinking, builds strength, and helps us to create lasting impacts.

From Robbie’s perspective, the importance of MinterEllison’s ongoing commitment to LGBTIQ+ inclusion is twofold: “It creates a safe space for people at any part of their journey to better identify with their colleagues; and it sets the expectation for its people that this level of support and awareness is what must be extended to everyone. This in turn drives personalised, human interactions and exceptional customer experiences.”

MinterEllison Chairman, David O’Brien, is clear on the value of having diverse and inclusive teams, and that it is key to the firm’s success now and into the future. “We stay relevant to our clients by being as diverse as the communities we serve and inhabit. Diversity makes us better problem solvers: we can solve clients’ complex problems by drawing on diversity of all kinds: diversity of cultures, professional skills (legal and non-legal), backgrounds and outlooks.”

Setting the right tone from the top is vital to fostering a firm-wide culture of inclusion and diversity, and at MinterEllison it is also the lived experience for many. In the words of Dolly Sequeira, from our Digital team: “There is an honest hunger for making impacts within the community and within the firm. What stands out most for me is the open conversations we can have now with different people across the organisation. The second thing is diversity and the effort the firm makes to include people from different backgrounds.”

Also this month, to mark the significance of both the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and International Women's Day, the firm hosted a panel discussion, featuring Anna Brown (OAM), CEO, Equality Australia, Nicki Elkin, Senior Relationship Manager, Pride in Diversity, Nadiah Alhadidi, Sales Development Manager, Salesforce, MinterEllison CEO, Annett Kimmitt (AM) and Jennifer Veiga, Special Counsel and Co-Chair of PRIME. Jennifer moderated the engaging and informative discussion focusing on the intersection of gender equality and LGBTQI+ inclusion, recognising that this community faces a double glass ceiling.

This space is constantly evolving, which makes it even more important for us to be both open-minded and open to continually learning and taking the appropriate action in our workplaces. The message is clear: don’t be a bystander. When you see behaviour that’s not inclusive, speak out and be conscious of including the views of those ‘who are not in the room or not at the table’.

And for Sonja Read, the issue of gender is central to much of her work. "As a Partner in the national health practice at MinterEllison, I’ve provided advice to the Children's Hospital in Brisbane to support the Gender Clinic (and previous versions) for over 10 years. We’ve represented a number of families through making applications to the Family Court for authorisation of hormone treatments for Gender Dysphoria. It’s certainly evolved over the years, and we’ve seen a number of important changes to the law on consent for this form of treatment."

Equality and justice are long-standing themes for MinterEllison, and we’ll continually strive to create inclusive spaces in our organisation and in our communities. In David’s words, “We are the best firm we can be when we make it possible for everyone to succeed and feel comfortable. It makes sense on all levels.”

Happy Mardi Gras everyone!


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