Practice area(s): Social justice
Location(s): Melbourne
Qualification(s): BA (Hons), LLB (Hons), GradDipEdAdmin, GradDipEd

Jennifer Kanis is a Principal Lawyer and leads Maurice Blackburn’s dedicated social justice practice, through which much of our pro bono work is conducted.

Based in Melbourne, Jennifer leads our pro bono legal work and her team also engages in broader advocacy, campaigning and relationship building to ensure the legacy of our clients’ cases extends beyond a legal outcome.

Jennifer is an experienced lawyer with a particular interest in taking on matters that challenge the structural and systemic issues that entrench disadvantage. She believes the law should help everyone, not just those who can pay for lawyers. Her team fights for the rights of everyday people across a range of issues including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights, asylum seeker rights, challenges to corporate and government power, gender equality, LGBTIQ equality, protecting communities and environments and workers’ rights.

“Success in social justice work is delivering outcomes for our clients that also work to eliminate injustice for others – for example our legal action getting children off Nauru was vitally important for the children’s health, but it also highlighted and challenged the policies and laws that see refugees abandoned on Nauru and Manus Island indefinitely.   

“I’m passionate about working with people who would otherwise not have access to justice and ensuring they are heard and can achieve the outcome and changes they want.” 

Jennifer and her team have been at the centre of our pro bono work with people seeking asylum and refugees. This has included:

  • Running an unlawful detention class action, representing refugees on Nauru to ensure they receive proper medical attention and representing women who have been sexually assaulted in immigration detention
  • Overseeing lawyers, paralegals and support staff in clinics in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia to help complete “Fast Track” protection visa applications, and
  • Supporting fundraising for charities that help people seeking asylum.

Jennifer worked on Maurice Blackburn’s ground-breaking legal challenge to poker machines and is passionate about eliminating the harm caused by addiction to poker machines.

She provides valuable input and oversight of our legal work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) rights, such as our work with Indigenous people in South Australia who are fighting the potential placement of a nuclear waste dump on their land.

Jennifer has also helped lead the firm’s stance of fighting economic injustice by acting for people who have been subjected to unfair consumer lending practices.

“We constantly push for change and challenge practices that entrench disadvantage. Our lawyers across the firm contribute thousands of hours of pro bono work each year to shine a light on the many structural and systemic issues that led to injustices.”

Memberships & accreditations

  • Law Institute of Victoria Member
  • Australian Lawyers Alliance Member
  • Victorian Women Lawyers Member
  • Maurice Blackburn Social Justice Practice Steering Committee Co-chair
  • Victorian Legal Aid Board Director (2015 – 2018)
  • Melbourne Health Board Director (2016 – 2018)

Awards

  • Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards Pro Bono Program of the Year, 2018