Say “cheese” but not Roquefort … another pro bono matter

Say “cheese” but not Roquefort … another pro bono matter

Many lawyers put in a considerable amount of time on pro bono work – that is, working without fee.

We at Nevile & Co. are no exception. In the past, we’ve acted for a variety of organisations on a pro bono basis, including the Variety Club, the Childrens Charity, Mission to Seafarers, Road to Refugees, Mahendra, The Balinese Society, and many others. We’ve also acted at times unwittingly for clients who have failed to pay their bill for a miscellany of reasons, several of which may or may not have been valid.

Our most recent foray into pro bono was occasioned by me attending a Melbourne Food and Wine Festival event at which I was accepting an award on behalf of my late wife for being an Honorary Legend for her continued service to the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival for a period of some 20 years.

At that dinner, I met with Will Studd, a well-known cheesemaker and one who has been seeking a change of legislation for cheeses made from unpasteurised milk to be made in Australia. He informed me sadly that our present laws and regulations do not permit the manufacture of such cheese in Australia like Roquefort. However, we are allowed to import those cheeses.

Now, as a lawyer, it seemed to be not only strange but inequitable that our government, as a result of various treaties, has been effectively forced to admit a range of cheeses made from unpasteurised milk from Europe but does not have enough faith or trust in our local producers to allow them to compete by manufacturing them here.

Now while this might seem a David and Goliath type fight, it is one that we have embarked upon with the services of one of our very capable interns and taken on as a pro bono matter. We don’t expect an early solution, particularly as government at various levels seem to be totally opposed or have no faith in the ability of our local producers to ensure that unpasteurised milk is turned into cheeses that match appropriate safety standards. We all agree that health and safety are paramount.

What we cannot agree with is that cheeses made from unpasteurised milk are allowed to be imported into Australia while on the other hand they cannot be produced here. Our intern has already made some excellent inroads into determining inconsistencies in legislation and their application and with the cooperation of Will Studd, we will move forward to do battle with the bureaucracy.


We, as with many other lawyers, see our pro bono contributions as being not only an obligation to the community at large, but also as a way of assisting where appropriate to take up the cause of matters which without legal advice would have little chance of success.


Having said that, in a case like the one above, we do not, of course, guarantee success, but we are not going to pass it up wondering whether the bureaucrats are right when we think they are wrong.

We acknowledge biosecurity, health and safety are paramount as I mentioned, however, there are too many inconsistencies to allow this to remain as the status quo.

Wish us luck! •

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