Farewelling the late Malcolm Bennett

Farewelling the late Malcolm Bennett

Monday, 16 August 2021

Malcolm Bennett with staff
'Endless compassion': (L–R) Senior Family Lawyer Chelsea Trang, Malcolm Bennett, International Social Service Australia Senior Lawyer Jenny Tam and Research Assistant Meilisa Southwick.

Our current and former staff have paid tribute to Victoria Legal Aid veteran and mentor Malcolm Bennett, who passed away last month. 

Malcolm started his career with us more than 30 years ago, when we were the Legal Aid Commission of Victoria. 

Originally starting in the Assignments Division in 1988, he worked his way up to become the Deputy Director of the Family Law Division. 

Former staffer Alexandra Andriopoulos met Malcolm at work, kicking off what would be a 33-year friendship. 

‘Malcolm was an amazing leader, with endless compassion and fortitude to help all those who interacted with him,’ she said. 

‘He was a most generous, wise, warm and humble person. In short, Malcolm was a great soul. He will be missed tremendously.’ 

After leaving Victoria Legal Aid in 1996, Malcolm spent some years working in private practice before running the Family Law Assistance Program, a student law clinic, at what is now known as Monash Law Clinic Clayton. 

Pritika Siliveru, now a Senior Family Lawyer in the Frankston office, worked for Malcolm at the clinic for two years. 

Their friendship lasted many more. 

‘Malcolm was a great mentor, he was hard-working and also a big believer in having a good work/life balance,’ she said. 

‘We would often wander off to campus for a quick coffee break to debrief, volunteer students in tow. His legacy lives on in all those whose legal careers he inspired and encouraged.’ 

Syd Balachandran, now at Deakin Law Clinic, was just one of those people. He said Malcolm’s impact was profound. 

'He inspired us not only to become better lawyers but perhaps more importantly, better people,’ he said. 

‘Malcolm’s spirit will continue to provide the guidance to so many of us. He will be missed but not forgotten.’ 

Liz Hughes is the Managing Lawyer at the Sunshine office. 

'Malcolm had an interesting sense of humour,’ she said. 

‘He’d tell every student not to even think about going into family law, a terrible profession! You came to realise it meant that the people who saw past this were the ones most committed to helping others, just as he was.’ 

Federal Circuit Court Judge John O’Sullivan paid tribute to Malcolm’s extensive career, having helped not just the community, but a whole generation of new lawyers. 

‘Like most people labouring in the service of others he was another drop in the ocean but like in Malcolm’s case, some of those drops do sparkle,’ said Judge O’Sullivan. 

‘Malcolm’s grace and commitment to helping others along with his humility and professionalism were an example to others and will be sorely missed.’ 

Malcolm, 77, passed away peacefully at his home on 24 July. He is survived by daughters Felicity and Olivia and his grandchildren Ruby and Bennett. 

More tributes for Malcolm 

‘Malcolm inspired many lawyers through the Monash Family Law Assistance Program and his legacy will live on in the many students that he mentored and supported.’ – Acting Associate Director, Family Law, Brigid Jenkins 

‘Malcolm’s philosophy was that everyone deserved some form of legal advice and assistance and he passed that philosophy and a strong work ethic onto his students. Many of the students he supported and supervised went on to successfully practice in family law and continued to maintain contact with Malcolm years after graduating. Such is his legacy.’ – Barrister Dr Renata Alexander 

‘I first met Malcolm Bennett when I joined the Family Law team of Legal Aid Commission of Victoria in the 1990s. He struck me as firm and fair and was highly respected by the team.’ – Program Manager, Child Support Legal Service, Kathleen Ng 

‘A humorous man who believed in giving every budding law student a chance to gain hands-on legal experience while helping disadvantaged parents to gain access to justice in a complex family law system.’ – Senior Family Lawyer, Melbourne, Chelsea Trang 

‘Malcolm was a great teacher, mentor, and friend. Many of us didn’t realise the things we learned from him would stay with us for the rest of our lives. Many of us would not be doing what we are doing today if it wasn’t for him.’ – Deputy Managing Lawyer, Dandenong, Gary Lung

‘Malcolm was a good friend and mentor. He taught and inspired us. There are so many happy memories along the way that I will treasure. I will play a tune for you on the tin whistle.’ – Senior Lecturer, Family Law Clinic, Monash University, Jennifer Lindstrom

‘Malcolm was passionate about providing access to justice to self-represented litigants and had a passion for mentoring the younger members of our profession, which he did with great care and an indomitable wit.’ – Practice Manager, Family Law, Peninsula Community Legal Centre, Brendan Stackpole

More Information

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