The ACT Law Society’s President’s Medal is an annual award that recognises significant personal and professional contributions of a local legal practitioner to the improvement of law and justice in the community.
Nominees are judged based on their personal and professional contribution demonstrating outstanding achievement in one or more of the following areas:
- improvement in community access to justice
- promotion or defence of the rule of law
- promotion or defence of the public interest
- improvement in legal policy or legislation which delivers significant benefits to the ACT community
- improvements in the administration of justice in the ACT
- significant service or support to ACT solicitors, and/or to the ACT Law Society.
The President's Medal
The President of the ACT Law Society, Martin Hockridge, awarded the Inaugural President’s Medal to Mr Richard Faulks at the Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 29 August.
Richard Faulks has practised law for over 30 years and has been managing director of Snedden Hall & Gallop since 1997. He joined the firm in 1981 and was admitted as a lawyer in 1983.
For over a decade, Richard has served as Chair of the Law Society’s Civil Litigation Committee, and as a member of the ACT Court Rules Advisory Committee. He is a former board member and National President of the Australian Lawyers Alliance and a member of the ACT Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee.
Richard is actively involved in the local community, sponsoring the Canberra Raiders and supporting the Canberra Repertory Society. He is a member of the Canberra Bilbys Triathlon Club and has completed nine marathons. He served as a committee member of the ACT Paralympic Council and sponsors the annual ‘Be the Best You Can Be’ Athletics Carnival for students living with a disability.
He supports many local charities, particularly those involved in assisting people with a disability. He participates in the CEO Sleepout to raise money for St Vincent de Paul, and on a weekly basis he works as a volunteer for the St Vincent de Paul Society, delivering food.
As a specialist in compensation law, Richard says he is passionate about standing up for individuals against the often unfair power of governments and insurance companies. His expertise covers industrial accidents, public liability, medical negligence, catastrophic motor accidents, workers’ compensation and Comcare matters. Over his career, Richard has led many of the region’s most complex compensation actions.
As coordinator of Snedden Hall & Gallop’s superannuation team, Richard manages lawsuits against the Commonwealth on behalf of workers who were wrongly advised about their superannuation entitlements. In 2007, Richard led the first successful action against the government in the High Court.
Richard is an experienced and compassionate solicitor and a worthy recipient of the first President’s Medal.
The artwork for the 2014 President's Medal is from the 'Urban Grass' series, by Rebecca Hartman-Kearns.
The President of the ACT Law Society, Martin Hockridge, awarded the 2015 President’s Medal to Janean Richards at the Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 28 August.
Janean is Chief Legal Counsel for the Department of Social Services, managing what is one of the largest legislation programs in the federal government, covering social security, child support, family assistance, aged care, disability services, settlement services, multicultural affairs, and childcare. Her first project on taking on the role at DSS was developing the legislation to implement the NDIS.
Janean is a former President of Australian Women Lawyers, the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT, and former Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Women in the ACT. She was awarded the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association Government Lawyer of the Year award in 2014. She has served on the Equalising Opportunities in the Law Committee of the ACT Law Society and the Law Council of Australia.
Janean, with her husband David, is a proud supporter of local charity SIDS and Kids ACT, and they have raised more than $200,000 for the charity over the years. Their annual Christmas light display is a Canberra favourite, and together they hold a Guinness Book record for the most lights on a residential property.
Her previous roles in the Commonwealth public sector include Assistant Secretary at the Office of Legal Services Coordination in the Attorney-General’s Department, and General Counsel positions at both the Australian Customs & Border Protection Service and Comcare.
Prior to joining the public service, Janean was a partner at Dibbs Barker Gosling and Deacons. She holds a Masters in Law, Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (ANU).
While President of Australian Women Lawyers and a member of the Law Council of Australia Equalising Opportunities in the Law Committee, Janean instigated and was on the steering group for the “Beyond the Statistical Gap: 2009 Court Appearance Survey”, an important study which showed the disproportionate representation of women in Australian superior courts and in long running and more lucrative trials.
In her 19 years as a lawyer, Janean has achieved excellence in her professional standing as well as being a significant contributor to the legal profession and the ACT community.
The artwork for the 2015 President's Medal is from the 'Moon' series, by Benjamin Edols & Kathy Elliott.
The President of the ACT Law Society, Martin Hockridge, awarded the 2016 President’s Medal to Michael Phelps at the Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 26 August.
Michael Phelps has been in private practice for 45 years, the last 40 of which have been in Canberra. He has been a panel solicitor for the Law Society for the past 20 years, representing the Law Society in disciplinary proceedings against practitioners.
He served as President of the Law Society for two years from 1989-91, with 16 years on the Council, including 12 years on the Executive. He was also President of the Law Council of Australia in 1995/96 and was the Law Council’s representative on the International Bar Association Council and country representative for six years.
He has served on many Law Society and Law Council Committees, and currently chairs the Society’s Legal Practitioners Act and Ethics Committee. He is also the Society’s representative on the Law Council’s Professional Ethics Committee.
In the Canberra community more broadly, he has been, and continues to be, an active and financial contributor to a number of charities, including the Salvation Army, the Australian Foundation for Mental Health Research, the Fred Hollows Foundation and, in particular, the Australian Cancer Research Foundation through the Canberra Cancerians Committee, where he has served both as a committee member, and several terms as President.
The ACT Law Society commends Michael for his significant contributions to the legal profession and to the ACT community over a long legal career.
The artwork for the 2016 President's Medal is 'Canberra Landscape, On Reflection', by Chris Ramsey.
Liz Huang Hughes-Brown was presented with the 2017 President’s Medal.
Liz is a former refugee, born in Pulau Bidong refugee camp in Malaysia after her family fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1979. Her family were granted refugee status when she was six months old, and she grew up in regional New South Wales.
Liz holds a Bachelor of Asian Studies and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from ANU, and a Master of Laws with a major in Human Rights and Social Justice from UNSW.
Liz is the founder and Principal Lawyer of Welcome Legal, a boutique law firm in Canberra specialising in immigration and citizenship law, anti-discrimination law and dealing with government.
Prior to establishing Welcome Legal, Liz practised in commercial and corporate law. She has worked in private legal practice in Canberra and Sydney. She served as Senior Legal Counsel at the then Department of Industry and Science, where she advised on some of the largest procurements and funding programs administered by the Department, including the Australian Government’s $484 million Entrepreneurs’ Programme.
While working for the Department, she completed her Masters degree part-time (through two pregnancies and the ongoing needs of two small children). Her studies in Human Rights and Social Justice, her reflection on her own family history as refugees and her observation of negative attitudes towards today’s refugees and people seeking asylum led her to helping clients navigate immigration law.
Liz took leave from the Department to work as an unpaid legal intern with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), describing it as a rewarding experience to contribute to the work of an organisation that had helped her family in their time of need.
That was her ‘moment of clarity’, and upon finishing the internship with UNHCR in 2015, she started Welcome Legal as a sole practitioner. She now has three staff members. They are a multicultural and multilingual team who have empathy for their clients and deliver a personalised service to individuals and businesses. Liz has provided an important avenue of referral for legal colleagues whose clients require advice on immigration and citizenship.
Liz has contributed substantial pro bono time to assisting people in need of advice in the community. She has supported the work of Legal Aid ACT and Companion House. Liz has a particular interest in assisting same sex couples apply for partner visas and in helping LGBTIQ refugees.
In 2016, Liz was the inaugural winner of the ACT Women Lawyers Association Woman Lawyer of the Year in the category of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Background. She is also a committee member of the Law Society’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee. She is passionate about promoting diversity in all forms in the legal profession. In particular, she has worked to improve the visibility of CALD women in the profession and encourages other CALD women to take up opportunities in the law.
She has recently founded the Mother's Uplift Movement (MUM). The movement supports and encourages mothers to take time out for themselves to maintain their mental health and sense of identity. Liz and her associate from MUM have recently delivered a sell-out seminar for working mothers in the legal profession to provide them with support to deal with the daily challenge of juggling work with family responsibilities. For her work for and on behalf of the migrant community, for her tireless dedication to the needs of refugees, for her support of women in the profession and the LGBTIQ community, Liz is an outstanding addition to the President’s Medal.
The artwork for the 2017 President's Medal is from the 'Blue Void' series, by Andrew Baldwin.
Julie Dobinson came to the law as a mature age student. Following school, she completed a Catering Course at East Sydney Tech. She worked in Sydney in catering for a number of years, including at the Prince of Wales Hospital as a caterer, before travelling to the UK. Whilst residing in the UK she completed a course in Womens Studies through the open university program, which re-kindled her interest in tertiary study as well as a keen interest in feminist issues. She took part in the now famous Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp protests.
Upon her return to Australia, Julie moved to Armidale in NSW and commenced her law degree at Macquarie University as a remote student, in 1985. Her first child (Nell) was born in December 1984 and whilst completing her degree she had two more children (Sam in 1986 and Ed in 1989).
Julie moved to Canberra in 1991 and completed her GDLP at ANU, commencing practice with Snedden Hall and Gallop in 1992. She started her own firm in October 2000, trading as Julie Dobinson & Associates. Her partner Phil Davey joined her in 2003 and they traded as Dobinson Davey Lawyers. In 2007 Lois Clifford and Di Simpson joined them and DDCS Lawyers was born.
Well-connected in the Canberra legal and business community, Julie has dedicated her time to serve on various boards and Committees. Julie initiated the establishment of the Canberra Region Family Law Professionals Association and served as the Association’s first President. She served on the Executive of the Family Pathways Network for a number of years. In addition to involvement with various Law Society Committees during the course of her career, Julie has served as Chair of Law Australasia, which is a national association of approximately 25 independent law firms committed to best practice management and client service delivery. Until recently Julie Chaired the Board of the Women’s Legal Centre (ACT). She serves on the Complaints Committee of the ACT Law Society. Julie also served on the committee of the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT.
In addition to these roles, Julie has also dedicated time to providing pro-bono advice for the Women’s Legal Centre and has a lengthy involvement in providing advice through the ACT Law Society’s Legal Advice Bureau.
The artwork for the 2018 President's Medal from the 'Pivot' series by Nadina Geary.
Michael Kukulies-Smith is one of Canberra’s most experienced criminal lawyers, and has been deeply involved in local law development and reform. He graduated from the ANU in 2003 before going on to work with Ken Cush & Associates, and since 2010 with Kamy Saeedi Law.
His areas of expertise include sexual offences, serious motor vehicle offences (including those involving death), assaults (including family violence matters), fraud offences, drug trafficking and importation, confiscation of criminal assets, and human rights.
Over the course of an extensive legal career, he has represented clients in the ACT Supreme Court, Magistrates Court, and the ACAT, in NSW local and district courts, and in the Queensland Supreme Court. He has also appeared in the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court, the Federal Court, and the High Court.
He has taken on several matters relating to wrongful imprisonment on a pro bono basis, pursuing one such matter all the way to the High Court of Australia.
Since 2010, Michael has been chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee, and he is often called upon to represent the Law Society in the media, in government inquiries, and in Legislative Assembly committee meetings, where he has consistently shown great dedication to advocating for better laws in the ACT.
On behalf of the Society, he has spoken out on such topics as the recent retrospective legislation changes in the Crimes Act and the Firearms Act; the introduction of the ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court; drink driving and drug driving penalties; proposed cannabis laws; and the government’s CTP changes.
He has also served on a number of court and departmental committees and advisory panels, including in respect of the reform of Sexual Assault Reform Program (SARP) in the ACT.
Each year, Michael participates in the Burgmann College Volunteer Mentor Program, freely giving his time to mentor students considering a career in criminal law. He also gives regular guest lectures at ANU in areas of criminal law.
Michael carries his advocacy work to the national stage as the Law Society’s delegate to the National Criminal Law Committee convened by the Law Council of Australia. In 2015, he coordinated the Canberra protest as part of the Law Council of Australia’s national day of action calling for increased legal assistance funding.
For his outstanding work for the Law Society as a volunteer expert in criminal law, his always cheerful willingness to answer obscure questions at odd times, and his professionalism in dealing with the media and the government, he is a worthy recipient of the 2019 President’s Medal.
The artwork for the 2019 President's Medal from the 'After Ethos' series by Nadina Geary.
Elizabeth Carroll presented the President’s Medal to Margie Rowe, who leads the family violence team at Legal Aid ACT. Margie has built a collaborative relationship between her team, and the Court, the AFP, and the private profession, driving more efficient processes and ensuring her clients’ safety is minimally impacted by delays. She has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of those impacted by family and domestic violence, including working closely with the Court on refining processes to ensure the safety of victims, and being involved in legislative changes around coercive control. She is valued by her colleagues and staff for her leadership and mentoring, by her clients and the Courts for her advocacy, and by all for her humility and commitment to service. Her staff speak extensively of her ability to inspire them, her dedication to improving legal outcomes for domestic violence survivors, and her infectious passion for her work.
Elizabeth Carroll, Immediate Past President of the Society, presented the final award for the night, the President’s Medal, to Claudia Maclean of the Women's Legal Centre ACT.
In just six years, Claudia has transformed the centre’s legal practice. She has stewarded the centre from a small practice able to provide only three hours of public assistance a day, to a service that now supports more than 1500 women a year. She has overseen an increase in the centre’s legal and social work services of more than 212 per cent. For a private firm that would be astonishing, but it’s even more impressive for a community legal centre helping vulnerable women in the Canberra community. She led the centre’s adoption of a practice model that incorporates social work expertise to provide wrap-around support for clients, developed health justice partnerships that connect women with lawyers in non-traditional settings, and added a migration practice to help women on temporary visas. Her contribution has directly enabled more women in Canberra to access expert legal assistance when they need it most.
Under her leadership, she has made the centre a legal practice known for its technical expertise and professionalism, where new lawyers are mentored into meaningful careers. She has developed a range of pro bono partnership with local law firms of all sizes, and with KPMG for financial advice, further expanding the depth of assistance the centre can provide to vulnerable women.
She has also driven the development of the centre’s training program on trauma-informed legal practice, a framework designed to overcome the challenges of providing services to women deeply affected by gender-based violence, systems abuse, and intergenerational trauma. This program helps clients feel heard and respected, and dramatically changes their experience of the legal system. She is now sharing this transformative training program with the legal profession at large.
Claudia has made an exceptional contribution to the accessibility and administration of justice in the ACT, and is a worthy addition to the list of recipients of the ACT President’s Medal.
Tim Dingwall, of the Society, presented the President’s Medal, to Perpetua Kish of Balance Family Law.
Pepe has taken a proactive approach to address her concerns about the potential for burnout, bullying and misalignment of values in the legal field in establishing Balance Family Law. Her commitment to championing kindness, compassion, and a human-centred approach in the practice of law is noteworthy.
Pepe has contributed to the Society and to our membership by sharing her experiences in this area at our CPD events and as a member of the Society’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee.
Pepe also co-founded The Kind Lawyers Movement which held its inaugural forum, "Kindness as Innovation," building on and promoting positive change within the legal profession. It highlights the importance of re-emphasizing the human aspect of law and the potential for a kinder approach to transform the legal landscape.
Her dedication to the kindness movement and making a positive change in the legal profession has the ambition and potential to also improve access to justice, enhance the client-lawyer relationship, and ultimately lead to a more just and compassionate legal system.
Pepe’s commitment is inspiring, and it reflects a broader trend of legal professionals seeking to make the practice of law more compassionate, collaborative, and client-focused.