Changemaker- Joh Kirby
19 August 2013 at 10:25 am
Joh Kirby is the Executive Director at the Victoria Law Foundation, an independent Not for Profit organisation that aims to help Victorians understand the law and use it to improve their lives.
This week we profile Joh in our Changemakers- a weekly column that examines inspiring people and their careers in the Not for Profit sector.
The Victorian Law Foundation produces easy-to-understand publications, education programs for secondary school students and grants program, which helps support legal projects that benefit the Victorian community.
The foundation was formed in 1967 and has been instrumental in the establishment of many Victorian legal bodies including Victorian Law Reform Commission, Leo Cussen Centre for Law, PILCH Homeless Persons Legal Clinic, Human Rights Law Resource Centre.
Joh has been the Foundation’s Executive Director since 2008 and is strongly committed to making the law understandable for all Victorians. She has spoken at many national and international conferences on the topic and was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 to investigate best practice in community legal education.
What are you currently working on in the organisation?
Lots of things! A major focus for Victoria Law Foundation at the moment is on promoting plain language and the importance of effective communication in the law. Almost half of Australians have issues with literacy. We believe it is important that the community have the best possible chance to understand and actively participate in their legal system. Good clear communication is a critical first step.
What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?
I have always been attracted to roles that work towards helping the community. They were the jobs that I was most stimulated in.
How long have you been working in the Not for Profit sector?
Apart from a short stint as a commercial lawyer I have always worked in the Not for Profit sector including statutory bodies. You get a richness working in this sector that you don’t get in others.
What was your first job in the Not for Profit sector?
I worked as a paper conservator at the Victorian Centre for the Conservation of Cultural Materials, caring for art collections throughout Victoria. The organisation no longer exists, but it was a great job that allowed me to see and appreciate art collections throughout Victoria.
What is the best thing about working in the Not for Profit sector?
That idea of richness I mentioned before and knowing that what you are doing has a positive impact on the community.
What do you like best about working in your current organisation?
Victoria Law Foundation focuses on helping Victorians understand the law and legal system. I work with a fantastic team of people and it is great to look at the impact we have had over the past five or so years.
I consider my greatest achievement to be……
Receiving a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 to research best practice community legal information. This allowed me to travel to other countries to look at what others are doing to improve the quality of legal information for the community. The fellowship has really influenced the work of the foundation and has been well received in Victoria and further afield.
Favourite saying …
It’s ok to reach for the stars as long as you don’t hit a tree on the way!
I’m always being asked …
Why did I become a lawyer and give up being an art conservator.
I’m very bad at …
What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?
I am enjoying the new series of Newsroom. The show is written by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote West Wing, and I am a fan.
If you could be or do anything else, what would it be?
I would pursue something in the arts. It is my first love.
If you could have dinner with 2 people from history, who would they be?
Jane Austen and Emily Bronte. I would like to understand what it was like to be writer at that time.
My greatest challenge is …
Not getting carried away and being unrealistic about what can be achieved.
School taught me …
What does a typical day for you involve?
Every day is different. My days tend to be filled with meetings. These can be with external meetings to set up partnerships for the Foundation or with my team making sure they have all the information they need to move forward.
What inspires you? Who inspires you?
I am always inspired by people of great integrity. People who were brave enough to take risks and take us forward as a society. Nelson Mandela is an example.