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The Board and Commissioner operate several committees under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014. Each of the committees has a Board member appointed as Chair. The committee functions are listed below.

While the committee functions remain the same year to year, the membership of those committees does occasionally change. External experts are co-opted to committees as necessary. The details of members of these committees for any given year are listed in the annual report for that year, which are available from the Annual Reports page.

Board and Commissioner Audit Committees

The Board and Commissioner each operate an Audit Committee, however these committees meet together for operational reasons. Their duties are identical. The duties of the Audit Committee include:

  • Reviewing the maintenance of the accounting system and ensuring there are effective internal controls;
  • Reviewing and approving the Board’s accounting policies and application of relevant accounting standards and requirements of Government Departments including those set out in the Financial Management Compliance Framework;
  • Reviewing the findings of the Auditors (Internal and External) and ensuring that management’s actions to redress control weaknesses are appropriate;
  • Reviewing the annual financial statements with the Chief Executive Officer and External Auditors and recommend approval by the Board;
  • Reviewing major changes in accounting policies and determining the impact of those changes on the presentation of the Board’s results;
  • Reviewing the performance of the internal and external auditors;
  • Recommend to the Board the appointment and remuneration of the auditors (internal and external);
  • Preparing a report to the Board on the Audit Committee performance that summarises the activities of the Committee to fully discharge its duties during the year;
  • Monitoring IT strategy, systems implementation and the IT control environment of the Board;
  • Monitoring the actuarial reviews of the Legal Practitioners Fidelity Fund;
  • Reviewing and monitoring the risk management practices of the Board on a quarterly basis; and
  • Reviewing processes for monitoring compliance with law and regulations, the organisation’s code of conduct and the financial code of practice.

Finance and Investment Committee

The functions of the Finance and Investment Committee are:

Finance

  • Review yearly budgets for the Board;
  • Review yearly funding for the Commissioner;
  • Review yearly funding applications from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the Victorian Legal Admissions Board, the professional associations, the Victoria Law Foundation, the Victorian Law Reform Commission and Victoria Legal Aid;
  • Review annual reporting requirements of the Victorian Government;
  • Monitor performance against budget and funding allocations; and
  • Review amount to be transferred to the Distribution Account at financial year end;

Investments

  • Review investment objectives annually and recommend acceptance to the Board;
  • Recommend the appointment of investment managers in line with the investment objectives approved by the Board;
  • Review investment managers performance at least bi-monthly;
  • Monitor returns on investment at least bi-monthly;
  • Review investment administration processes and authorities;
  • Meet with investment managers as required;
  • Liaise with investment advisers twice yearly or as required;
  • Review updates of the Investment Manual; and
  • Review the banking arrangements in relation to authorised deposit-taking institutions for trust accounts made by the Board.

Grants Committee

The functions of the Grants Committee are to:

  • Review guidelines and application forms and policies for funding;
  • Review funding applications using established criteria;
  • Oversee Grants staff review of grant applications for duplication;
  • Review funding program and provide strategic advice on development of specific areas of focus.
  • Monitor the effect of funding recommendations on the Distribution Account and amounts available in future years to finance core operations and delegated functions;
  • Determine clear outcomes for each successful applicant; and
  • Prepare a report to the Board outlining the Committee’s grant recommendations.

Consumer Panel

Our Consumer Panel is one way we’re trying to gain a better understanding of what this large cohort of the community needs and expects from the legal profession.

Established in March 2020, and the first of its kind in Australia, Panel members bring a wealth of knowledge of consumer research, customer and disability advocacy, consumer policy and regulation and change management. 

Its purpose is to help improve outcomes for consumers by: 

  • Finding out what consumers think, expect and need
  • Bringing the consumer voice and experiences to the VLSB+C
  • Helping us protect vulnerable consumers and
  • Improving trust and confidence in, and access to legal services

Ultimately, the Committee will provide information and guidance that help legal services be more responsive to all consumer needs. This will help to shape the work of the Board and Commissioner. It will also provide insights to lawyers so they can improve and provide new kinds of services that address gaps in the market. 

Panel members

Ms Catherine Wolthuizen, Chair

Catherine brings her considerable experience as a consumer advocate and ombudsman to the Panel. She is the Customer Advocate at NAB, where her role includes making decisions about complex and sensitive complaints and advising on how to improve complaints handling and customer outcomes more broadly. She is also a Board member of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, independent consumer representative to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority and Chair of the Victoria-based Consumer Policy Research Centre, a specialist consumer policy think-tank. Catherine was previously an Ombudsman and Head of Market Affairs at the UK’s Financial Ombudsman Service, and is a former CEO of the Consumer Law Centre Victoria (later the Consumer Action Legal Centre). She was Senior Policy Officer at Choice, and is a former Chair of the Consumers Federation of Australia. Her overseas experience includes running international human rights legal NGO, Fair Trials, and the UK’s whistleblower NGO, and she was a member of the Legal Services Consumer Panel in England – the expert advisory body to the UK’s Legal Services Board.

Lee Archer

Lee works at Justice Connect managing the Seniors Law program across NSW and Victoria, focusing on Elder Abuse.  Working in disability for NDIA as part of Scheme Design and rollout, Lee has worked to transform the sector to a market model that provides real options for people with disability as consumers, and promotes choice and control. As a consultant, Lee works with organisations in the health and justice sectors, as a facilitator, a service designer, a presenter and a researcher. Currently engaged with Yoke, she is working to develop a new credentialing system that standardises training for practitioners treating eating disorders, ultimately increasing consumer visibility and choice. 

Sharon Barker

Sharon has a long-held passion for consumer rights and brings considerable consumer policy, engagement and advocacy expertise to the Panel.  She has held consumer rights roles within State Government and not-for-profit agencies, including Consumer Affairs Victoria and the (then) Financial and Consumer Rights Council. Her current social policy, planning and evaluation roles in Local Government and wide-ranging community networks enable Sharon to identify, articulate and share with the Panel present and emerging views of citizens. She has a Master of Arts in Community Development, as well as formal qualifications in the social sciences, project management and workplace training and assessment.

Paula Giles

Paula has held executive positions in large global professional service firms and the public sector. Her consulting and executive positions have spanned public policy reform in regulated sectors, organisation strategy, business effectiveness, governance, service design and customer experience. While Director Strategy and Commercial at the Municipal Association of Victoria Paula led several major reform programs in Planning, Food Safety, Library Services, IT Shared Services and Procurement. Paula was previously a Partner at Accenture.

Paula is currently a non-executive director of the Lyceum Club, Chair of the CEO Employment Matters Committee at Bayside City Council, partner with Social Venture Partners supporting Youth Live4Life, a youth suicide prevention and mental health entity providing services in rural and regional Victoria. and an investor in private companies led by women.

Paula has written and spoken on topics such as service design, customer experience, culture change, procurement, and strategic supply chain management. She holds a BA (Hons), MA and Executive Management Program from Melbourne Business School.

Ben Martin Hobbs

Ben is a Senior Research and Policy Officer at the Consumer Policy Research Centre, leading the organisation’s research on consumer choice and behaviour across a range of essential and complex markets. In this role, Ben has managed a range of collaborative research projects with academic partners from various Australian universities, engaged in regulatory reform consultation processes, and produced a range of research and discussion papers to improve outcomes for consumers through policy and practice change.

Ben has previously worked closely with the Vice Chancellor in Chancellery Operations at the University of Melbourne and for Andrews Group, research-based strategy consultancy. Ben has a Masters of Public Policy and Management and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Melbourne. He recently completed further postgraduate study in impact evaluation at the University of Melbourne.

Bronwen Jennings

Bronwen is a consumer policy expert with a deep understanding of consumer interests in regulated markets. She draws on over 20 years in policy, legal and advocacy leadership roles across the public, private and community sectors in Australia, the UK and New Zealand.

Bronwen started her career as a litigation lawyer, and is currently Director of Consumer Policy with the Australian Energy Regulator where she leads strategies to address consumer vulnerability. She previously led consumer protection, compliance, competition advocacy and infrastructure regulation initiatives with the ACCC, including introducing Australia’s first independent, verified broadband speed testing program.

Bronwen has provided leading policy advice to the Victorian Government on the formation of the Australian Consumer Law, advised the Victorian Law Reform Commission on regulating privacy and surveillance in public places, and led consumer campaigns in the UK. Bronwen enjoys working with diverse teams to solve complex market problems and deliver improved outcomes for consumers.

Karen Willis

Karen Willis is a health sociologist and qualitative research methodologist. Her current role is Professor of Allied Health Research at La Trobe University. Karen’s research examines how people interact with complex systems; and the social and economic resources they need to do so. She has undertaken research on how people navigate healthcare, why they choose to take out private health insurance, and interactions between health professions and people with chronic conditions. Her current research projects are examining the health effects of loneliness for people with chronic conditions; and the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the frontline health workforce. Karen has experience as a former member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and she is currently a member of the DHHS Ethics Committee.

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