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2017 Past Events: Thought Leadership

 The Law Society plays an important role in leading discussion, raising awareness and changing behaviours on issues that impact the growth and progress of the profession.
The 2017 Thought Leadership program focuses on the rule of law. This year's series of events will focus on what it is, why it matters and how the principles it embodies can be respected.
The first panel discussion considered security, the rule of law and civil liberties. The next panel will run on 17 October and focuses on how lawyers can think innovatively about legal issues in light of human rights principles, and use human rights jurisprudence in their practice, given that Australia does not have a charter of rights. The third panel 14 November will address the Indigenous justice gap.

Mind the Gap – Advancing Indigenous Justice – 14 November 2017

Indigenous incarceration rates have repeatedly been described as a national crisis. In NSW, Indigenous people are 14 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous people. The rate is even higher for Indigenous women and youth.

These rates have been universally condemned as unacceptable for decades. Clearly, current approaches to reducing indigenous incarceration are not working. How can NSW mind the Indigenous justice gap and reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system? Specific approaches such as justice reinvestment, therapeutic justice and trial Koori Courts are attempting something different. Join our panel, facilitated by Larissa Behrendt, as they look directly at the problem and discuss meaningful reform.



Professor Larissa Behrendt

Professor Larissa Behrendt is a Eualayai/Gamillaroi woman who holds the Chair of Indigenous Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is a graduate of UNSW and Harvard Law School. She has published numerous textbooks on Indigenous legal issues and several novels and has written and produced short films and documentaries. Larissa was awarded the 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year award and 2011 NSW Australian of the Year. She is the host of Speaking Out on the ABC Local Radio and Radio National.



Judge Matthew Myers AM – Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Adjunct Professor of Law UNSW, ALRC Commissioner Inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

His Honour Judge Matthew Myers AM was appointed as an ALRC Commissioner in February 2017 to lead the inquiry into the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He was appointed to the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in 2011. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at UNSW. Judge Myers was awarded the NSW Law Society President’s medal in 2011 and received the award of Member of the Order of Australia in 2013 for services to the community in the area of welfare and family law.

Magistrate Sue Duncombe- Magistrate Children’s Court of NSW, Youth Koori Court

Magistrate Sue Duncombe was sworn in as a Magistrate of the Local Court and appointed to the Children’s Court in 2010. In February 2015 Magistrate Duncombe presided over the first sitting of the NSW Youth Koori Court which began its operation on a pilot basis that year. She continues that work at Parramatta Children’s Court. Prior to her appointment Magistrate Duncombe was a Foundation Director of the Mawul Rom Association and worked closely with the Yolngu people of North East Arnhem Land developing and delivering cross cultural mediation, negotiation and leadership training.

Sarah Hopkins – Chair of Just Reinvest NSW and Managing Solicitor of Justice Projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT

Sarah Hopkins is Chair of the Just Reinvest NSW and the Managing Solicitor of Justice Projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW and is an accredited specialist in criminal law. She is a member of the NSW Bar Association’s Joint Working Party on the Over-representation of Indigenous People in the NSW Criminal Justice System. Sarah is Project Director of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke, which was the recipient of the 2015 National Rural Law and Justice Award. In 2017 she was named the Community Lawyer of the Year by the Women Lawyers’ Association of NSW.

Melanie Hawyes - Executive Director Juvenile Justice NSW

Since Melanie was appointed to the role of Executive Director, she has begun a significant wide-ranging review and reform of Juvenile Justice, focusing on implementing improved training and support for frontline staff. Prior to joining Juvenile Justice, Melanie held senior roles in the Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Office of Environment and Heritage. Melanie’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Science from The University of Queensland, and a Masters of Environmental Law from Sydney University.

Human Rights in Unchartered Territory – 17 October 2017

In its campaign to join the UN Human Rights Council for the 2018 to 2020 term, Australia has pledged to be a ‘pragmatic, principled, and passionate’ promoter of human rights around the world. However, we remain the only Western democracy yet to enshrine a national human rights act or bill of rights. In the absence of such formal legislative protection, and in light of continuing encroachments on the rule of law by government, it is incumbent on practitioners to find creative ways to integrate and rely on human rights jurisprudence in their everyday practice. In doing so, practitioners can play an integral role in building Australian human rights jurisprudence from the ground up, cultivating a culture of respect for human rights while also building the case for a bill of rights to cover gaps in the legal protection.

Join NSW Supreme Court Judge The Hon Justice Stephen Rothman AM, Barrister Kate Eastman SC, UNSW Law Dean, Anthony Mason Professor and Scientia Professor George Williams AO, and Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project and Adjunct Professor of Law at Macquarie University George Newhouse as they discuss how practitioners can think innovatively about legal issues in light of human rights principles.



Mr Richard Ackland AM

Richard Ackland AM graduated in law and economics and was admitted to the NSW Supreme Court in 1986. He is the founder of Law Press of Australia. He has been a reporter for The Australian Financial Review and a columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, a presenter of ABC TV's Media Watch, SBS’s Business Show and Radio National's Late Night Live and Breakfast programs. Currently, he is a columnist for Guardian Australia and The Saturday Paper.


The Hon Justice Stephen Rothman AM

Justice Rothman AM commenced practice at the Bar in 1982, was appointed Senior Counsel in 1995 and appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW in 2005. Prior to his appointment to the Court, Justice Rothman was involved in cases for the protection of persons applying for refugee status in Australia and two ground-breaking cases on racial vilification and freedom of speech (Toben and Scully). As counsel, his Honour was selected by the UN and ILO to advise the Soviet Union on human rights.

Ms Kate Eastman SC

Kate Eastman SC has been a member of the New South Wales Bar since 1998. She was appointed Senior Counsel in 2012. Before joining the New South Wales Bar, Ms Eastman was a Senior Legal Officer with the Australian Human Rights Commission and before that she worked with a commercial law firm in Sydney. Over the past 20 years, Kate has taught international human rights law at several Australian universities. She is currently a Senior Fellow in the Faculty of Law at Monash University.

Professor George Williams AO

George Williams AO is Dean of UNSW Law. He has written and edited 35 books, the most recent being A Charter of Rights for Australia. He has appeared as a barrister in the High Court in many cases over the past two decades, including on freedom of speech, freedom from racial discrimination and the rule of law. As chair of the Victorian Human Rights Consultation Committee in 2005 he helped bring about Australia’s first State bill of rights, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

Mr George Newhouse

George Newhouse is a prominent Australian human rights lawyer, Adjunct Professor of Law at Macquarie University and an advocate for law reform and social justice. Mr Newhouse is the principal solicitor and a director of the National Justice Project. He is well known for his work with vulnerable individuals. Most notably, he represented Vivian Solon, who was illegally deported from Australia and Cornelia Rau who was wrongfully detained in an Australian detention centre for 10 months

Bending the Rule of Law – 24 August 2017

NSW law enforcement agencies must have appropriate powers to ensure public security and safety. It is also critical that laws granting these powers do not undermine the rule of law. NSW now has a large body of laws which encroach on essential rights and freedoms and defending the rule of law in the face of expansion of executive powers is an important challenge facing the legal profession today. Is the rule of law being bent too far in the name of security and safety and what can we do to prevent it from breaking?


Stephen Blanks - Stephen Blanks is President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. He took this position in October 2013, having been Secretary since 2005 and a member since 1993. Stephen has been a solicitor since 1985 specialising in commercial law, intellectual property, litigation and dispute resolution. However, Stephen has taken on many legal cases involving civil liberties issues including asylum seekers, protesters, paedophiles and people smugglers.

Professor Martin Krygier - Professor Krygier is Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory, UNSW, Adjunct Professor at RegNet, ANU, and recurrent visiting professor at the Graduate School of Social Research, Warsaw, and the International Institute of Sociology of Law, Onati. He is also a fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. He has written extensively on the rule of law and as well contributes to journals of ideas and public debate. In 2016 he was awarded the Dennis Leslie Mahoney Prize in Legal Theory.

Commissioner Michael Fuller APM - Commissioner Fuller was appointed Commissioner of Police in March 2017. He joined the NSW Police Force in 1987 and has had a long and distinguished career holding many positions including Inspector, Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner. Commissioner Fuller has been recognised for his service receiving many awards from 2004 to 2014 and was awarded the Australian Police Medal in 2009.



FLIP initiative - Future of Law and innovation in the Profession Commission of Inquiry2016 past event: Thought Leadership breakfast with special guest, solicitor Deng Adut2011-2015 Events