NSW Government Solicitors Week winners announced

Sarah Wyatt, a solicitor in the Department of Premier and Cabinet NSW, has been awarded the John Hennessy Legal Scholarship during the Law Society of NSW’s 2020 Government Solicitors Week.

Established by the Law Society’s Government Solicitors Committee in honour of the late John Hennessy, the legal scholarship is awarded to a NSW public sector solicitor interested in undertaking a research project into legal systems in another jurisdiction or undertaking further study.

Sarah Wyatt has chosen to conduct original research with her scholarship, exploring whether there is a case for Constitutional recognition in NSW of the independence of integrity agencies, such as the NSW Ombudsman and Auditor General.

In announcing the award, President of the Law Society of NSW, Richard Harvey, said Ms Wyatt has been described by her colleagues as being “a highly motivated and committed Government lawyer” with “excellent legal skills” and a genuine interest in “understanding and developing the law in ways that benefit the community at large”.

On learning of her win, Ms Wyatt said she was looking forward to embarking on her research project and engaging with integrity agencies in both NSW and Victoria.

“I am interested in exploring the relationship between the Executive and oversight agencies and the ways that the exercise of Executive power can impact the independence and functionality of those agencies,” she said.

“The ability for integrity agencies to freely and independently oversight government can improve and enhance government accountability which underpins our legal and political system in NSW.

“My research will involve consideration of the separation of powers and explore how independent oversight agencies ensure that the government acts in the public interest,” she said.

Mr Harvey also announced that the winner of the 2020 Michelle Crowther PSM Excellence in Government Legal Service Award is Emma Langton, a Senior Legal Officer in the Aboriginal Services Branch of Legal Aid NSW.

This annual award recognises a public sector solicitor, or group of solicitors, who perform above and beyond their usual responsibilities, and is judged by the Law Society's Government Solicitors Committee. It honours the life of the late Michelle Crowther PSM, who rendered extraordinary public service to the people of NSW through her work at Legal Aid NSW.

Emma Langton, a proud Yaegl woman, has made key contributions to “The Bugmy Bar Book”, which collates research about deprivation and disadvantage to inform criminal law matters and has helped develop Best Practice Standards for representing Aboriginal clients. More recently she was an active member of the First Nations Advisory Committee for the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug “Ice”.

“This award is a befitting acknowledgement of Ms Langton’s already significant contribution to working for better outcomes in relation to Indigenous justice,” Mr Harvey said.

In accepting the prestigious award, Ms Langton acknowledged the calibre of the previous recipients of the prestigious award and thanked those who have supported and encouraged her legal work.

“I would like to thank Brendan Thomas, the CEO of Legal Aid and Annmarie Lumsden, the Director of Crime for nominating me for this award,” she said.

“I would also like to thank Scott Hawkins, Manager of the Aboriginal Services Branch, for his continued support and encouragement and for providing me with the opportunity to work on these amazing projects that aim to make a real difference and contribute to practical change and better outcomes for our people in the legal system.

“I would like to give a special shout out to my family in Maclean and my fiancé for always supporting me to achieve my dreams.”

The Law Society also congratulates Felicity Dougherty, General Counsel at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, who was awarded a highly commended nomination in the Michelle Crowther PSM Excellence in Government Legal Service Award for 2020.