Rowan McRae appointed Executive Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity

Rowan McRae appointed Executive Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Executive Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity Rowan McRae
Above: Executive Director Civil Justice, Access and Equity Rowan McRae

Rowan McRae was recently appointed as our new Executive Director for Civil Justice, Access and Equity (and for our Shepparton office) after acting in the role with Melanie Schleiger for the last five months.

A highly respected practice leader, Rowan’s passion for legal aid work has been shaped by her 12 years’ experience working in public law in Australia and abroad.

She has worked in a variety of human rights consulting and advising roles including the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, the International Finance Corporation in Washington DC and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Legal Aid Brief sat down with Rowan to chat about her new role.

What do you enjoy about the role?

The best thing about the work of the Civil Justice, Access and Equity directorate is the fundamental difference it can make to the lives of our clients.

Civil law legal issues are ultimately about human rights: for example, detention of people with mental illnesses, eviction into homelessness and indefinite detention of asylum seekers. The legal assistance our Civil Justice team provides can have a significant and lasting impact on fundamental human rights issues.

Access and equity is ultimately about access to justice – is it chance or by design that we find a teenage client who is stuck on remand because he can’t get the disability supports in place he needs to get bail? Is it by chance or by design that we find an older man who has been served with a faulty eviction notice to leave his home in a caravan park with no compensation? Our Access and Equity team works to ensure broad accessibility by design, so that Victoria Legal Aid continues to assist the most disadvantaged and marginalised people in our community.

What are the challenges you face in the role?

The role is incredibly broad – it covers our Civil Justice team, including our Migration Program, Equality Law Program, Mental Health Disability Advocacy Program and Economic and Social Rights Program. It also covers our Access and Equity team, including Community Legal Education, Community Legal Centre funding, Client Access and Legal Help. The number of people in the team has grown significantly in recent years, particularly through the expansion of Legal Help, the gateway to all Victoria Legal Aid legal assistance.

How do you hope to overcome those challenges?

We need to turn our attention to how the various parts of the Directorate work together, to get maximum impact for our limited resources. This means thinking about how we expand our reach through technology, and exploring how our clients get to us in the first place.

It also means bringing lawyers and our triage team together to create effective digital tools that help to resolve legal problems. And finally, it means reflecting on the work we do in Civil Justice and making sure that it addresses the most pressing legal need and really makes a difference. 

How does the role support a healthy work/life balance?

Victoria Legal Aid has been incredibly supportive of flexible arrangements in this role. These flexible work arrangements have been beneficial to Melanie and me, in that they have allowed us to balance our work and careers with our family responsibilities. But I think they also benefit the organisation – flexible work arrangements help to attract a broader pool of candidates for positions, retain staff as their life circumstances change, increase job satisfaction and improve teamwork.

More information 

Read more about Careers at Victoria Legal Aid.

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