Working as a journalist in the 1990s, Kylea Campana was looking for a degree that would not only enhance her knowledge of the law but also provide her with future career options.
‘I worked in commercial and ABC radio and television around Victoria but was also looking for an area of study that would provide me with unlimited opportunities, including being a better court reporter with a greater understanding of the legal system,’ she recalls.
It was Deakin’s offer of an off-campus law degree that was the drawcard for Kylea as it meant she was able to continue working fulltime as a journalist. She successfully completed her degree over six year on a part-time basis maximising her employment and academic potential.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Laws, Kylea undertook her articles and began working as a solicitor at Goldsmiths in North Melbourne. In 2002, she was admitted to the Victorian Bar where she spent the next ten years working as a barrister in commercial law.
In 2012, Kylea decided to move her career in another direction and became a sessional member of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
‘While I was working at Goldsmiths’ we briefed a barrister who also was a sessional member at VCAT. She always spoke highly of the Tribunal and I felt it was the right avenue to pursue. After 12 months as a sessional member, I was appointed a fulltime member of VCAT in 2013,’ she says.
Less formal than a court, VCAT makes decisions on more than 85,000 consumer, building, human rights and property disputes in Victoria each year.
As a fulltime member of VCAT, Kylea sits on the Residential Tenancies, Owners Corporation, Civil, Building and Property, Guardianship, Human Rights and Review and Regulation Lists – a role that sees her conducting cases at 35 venues around Victoria.
In 2014, she was appointed Deputy Head of the Residential Tenancies List. Making decisions about a range of diverse – and often difficult - cases, Kylea says the most rewarding aspect of her work is also often the most challenging.
‘It’s knowing how to go beyond just making a decision according to the law, but also trying to assist people in need to access services. The personal stories can be extremely emotional – both heartbreaking and uplifting. To do this job you have to be caring and compassionate and that means there are cases that will have an impact on you.’
Over her career, Kylea says she’s observed growing change in social attitudes, behaviours and the practise of law.
‘I have been witness to a dramatic shift in attitude towards domestic violence and the impact it has on families, children and the community at large. I’ve also seen those in the legal profession made more accountable for launching and pursuing litigation.’
With the boom in communications technology, Kylea expects there to be even more change across the legal profession in the next decade.
‘We’ll see greater access to justice, with technology allowing parties to appear from any location in the world. Video conferencing and digital discovery of documents will ensure a fair hearing for everyone involved. I also expect that VCAT will only grow as a preferred option for the resolution of disputes’, she says.
Kylea’s decision almost 20 years ago to undertake a law degree and transition to a new career has now delivered her a profession that provides both diversity and life balance.
‘While many see a successful career in law involving long hours and little time for a social life, the legal profession offers so many opportunities that mean you really can have it all. I have a young family, live on acreage within an hour’s drive of Melbourne and also have a rewarding career at VCAT,’ she says.
Reflecting on her study and career pathway, Kylea also continues to be a strong advocate of flexible, accessible learning.
‘I am incredibly grateful to Deakin University. The ability to study by correspondence as a mature-age student – while being able to work full-time – allowed me to develop a strong work ethic, efficient and effective time management, and most importantly, a love of law.’