Law and the sea

Living Well | Words: Peter Wilmoth | Photos: Shannon Morris | Posted on 14 August 2017

Law Institute of Victoria President Belinda Wilson has combined a love for the law with finely honed expertise in seafood.

Belinda Wilson

Belinda Wilson’s inspiration to become a lawyer stemmed from a moment in year 10 at school. “I had a careers teacher who told me ‘You shouldn’t do law as a Year 12 subject, that will be too difficult’,” she says. “I’m not one to back away from challenges.”

She certainly isn’t. Belinda’s journey from growing up in the tiny Gippsland township of Coongulla (population about 200) to the presidency of the Law Institute of Victoria has been remarkable for its single-mindedness and variety.

While studying law at Melbourne University she juggled work at firm Malleson’s (now King & Wood Mallesons). “I loved it,” she says. “The busier I am the more I seem to fit in.”

Belinda worked as a lawyer in Sale, and then Traralgon. “In Gippsland you’re working with such smaller teams. Instead of 50 lawyers around with support staff … often it’s just you and one photocopier.”

She developed her legal career in Gippsland, serving as Gippsland Law Association president and as a regional representative for young lawyers in Gippsland for the Law Institute of Victoria. In 2011 she was named LIV Regional Lawyer of the Year.

It was while working as a solicitor in Traralgon that Belinda found herself immersed in what was to become her other passion, the seafood industry. She was approached for advice by a third-generation fisherman about an idea to buy a scallop licence for Port Phillip Bay.

The licence was secured and Belinda accepted an invitation to become chief executive of Port Phillip Bay Scallops which harvested live scallops – hand-sourced rather than dredged. She helped develop it into Australia’s largest hand-dive scallop fishery.

I fell into a passion I didn’t know I had.

Belinda supplied scallops to Australia’s top restaurants, including two on the world’s 50 Best list: Dan Hunter’s Brae and Ben Shewry’s Attica. She also worked with Neil Perry, the Lucas Group (Chin Chin) and Andrew McConnell (Supernormal). She is now on the board of the seafood industry’s peak body, Seafood Industry Australia.

“I fell into a passion I didn’t know I had. I still don’t like cooking. I was the type of person who would screw up my nose cutting up a breast of chicken. Going from that to teaching Australia’s top chefs how to shuck and clean scallops.”

Belinda’s two passions – the law and seafood – often worked in unison. “It was a refreshing of my legal career because I got to use my legal skills in an entirely different way,” she says. “One day you’re using your
legal skills in negotiating export agreements with China, next you’re using your advocacy skills when you have to walk into Neil’s restaurants and give a briefing to his chefs.”

Belinda’s passion away from work is eating out, and living in Melbourne is ideal for that. “I’ve been spoiled the last few years with the likes of Ben Shewry saying ‘When do you want to come to Attica?’ ”

She says her “all-time” favourite restaurant is Minamishima in Richmond. “It’s probably going to be on the World’s Best radar in the coming two years,” she says.