This article was written by our Pro-Bono legal partner MinterEllison.
Brisbane Partner Jennifer Veiga from @MinterEllison’s Workplace team, specialises in advising on and undertaking workplace investigations. She is also a proud member of @MinterEllison’s PRIME network, which focuses on creating an inclusive and safe workplace for their LGBTQIA+, non-binary, gender diverse and intersex people.
Read on to learn more about Jennifer’s personal journey and how she is proud to strive for justice and equality on the eve of Sydney WorldPride 2023.
Jennifer in 2002, as a Colorado Senator, you made history as the first openly gay person in the Colorado legislature. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, I was first elected in 1996 and resigned in 2009 to move to Australia. I didn’t run as an openly gay candidate but never tried to hide my sexuality. Like any candidate I wanted to be recognised and respected for the work I did. When running for re-election in the early 2000s, an opponent tried to make an issue of my sexual orientation which led to my decision to come out publicly.
Although the process of coming out in such a public way was terrifying at times, I was ultimately re-elected by a large margin. It was one of the best decisions I ever made and was such a freeing feeling not to have to self-censure or worry about what people knew. This is probably why I’m so committed to the goals of PRIME –so that everybody can feel supported to be out at work if that is their choice.
I spent a lot of my time in the Colorado legislature trying to pass laws to protect LGBTQIA+ individuals in employment and other areas of public life. In Australia we take it for granted that you cannot fire somebody or refuse to hire them because of their sexuality but that is not the case elsewhere. I think the upcoming WorldPride festival is a timely reminder that in many countries across the world, LGBTQIA+ individuals still don’t have these fundamental protections. It’s an ongoing issue of civil rights.
Can you tell us a little about how you became a part of PRIME (Pride, Respect and Inclusion at @MinterEllison)?
My colleague Gordon Williams a Sydney Partner, was instrumental in getting PRIME started at @MinterEllison. I knew Gordon through the Workplace team and he asked if I’d be willing to join the committee. Eventually I joined Gordon as an executive co-sponsor of PRIME. I felt it was an important thing to start up as we had no LGBTQIA+ inclusion strategy or network. This was more than seven years ago and since then, we have seen the growth of PRIME to almost 500 members firmwide which shows just how much we have evolved as an organisation.
At PRIME’s inception, we wanted to make sure @MinterEllison had a visible presence of LGBTQIA+ inclusion so that our people felt comfortable being out at work and felt they had someone to safely talk to about being out at work and what that might involve for them. The network has evolved over time to include education and training, advocacy, client engagement and so much more.
How does it make you feel to march in the 2023 Mardi Gras parade?
Very proud. Especially as I’ll march as part of an organisation that so openly celebrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Jennifer’s passion for inclusion and equality for all is echoed by many across MinterEllison, who are excited to proudly march for the fourth time in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade as it returns to Oxford Street in 2023!