The ACT Young Lawyer of the Year

The ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award was established in 2007 to promote professional and community involvement of the Territory’s young lawyers and to recognise the efforts of the young lawyers in the legal profession and in activities beyond core employment duties.

The judging panel is chaired by the Patron of ACT Young Lawyers (the most recently appointed Justice of the ACT Supreme Court), and comprises the President of the Law Society, and a volunteer Councillor of the Law Society.

The ACT Young Lawyer of the Year

28 year old Canberra Lawyer Elizabeth Lee is the ACT Young Lawyer of the Year for 2007.

Elizabeth was presented the Award by Justice Malcolm Gray of the ACT Supreme Court at the ACT Law Society’s Annual Dinner on 25 October 2007.

Elizabeth was recognised for her substantial contributions as Chair of the Law Society’s Young Lawyer Committee up until August 2007, in which Elizabeth and her Young Lawyer colleagues provided a myriad of professional and social events including seminars for ACT young lawyers and social and fund raising events which raised funds for several major charities.

In July 2007 Elizabeth was appointed Chair of the Law Council of Australia’s Australian Young Lawyers Committee, and in September 2007 Elizabeth presented at the International Young Lawyers Conference in London.

Elizabeth is a successful young legal practitioner working in a busy commercial litigation practice at Meyer Vandenberg. She is also undertaking a Master of Laws in Government and Commercial Law at the ANU.

In her spare time, Elizabeth is a body combat and body jam instructor and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Law Society President Rod Barnett commented: “Elizabeth embodies commendable attributes and is a wonderful ambassador for the Canberra legal profession. She is an outstanding example to other lawyers both young and old.”

Heidi Yates of the Women’s Legal Centre was awarded the 2008 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award.

Apart from her substantial contribution to the Women’s Legal Centre, Heidi has been a very active member of the ACT Pro Bono Clearing House and has served on the Society’s Collaborative Law and Functions and Law Week Committees.

Heidi serves on the Boards of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, ACT Welfare Rights and Legal Centre, Alternative Law Journal Editorial Board and the Women’s Centre for Health Matters.

In the area of community law reform, Heidi has been involved as media spokesman, writer and legal researcher on family law and discrimination matters. 

On 3 December 2009 Justice Richard Refshauge presented the 2009 ACT Law Society’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award to young lawyer Nicholas Tebbey.

Presentation of the Award recognises Nicholas’ contributions to the legal profession and to the Canberra Community and also recognises Nicholas’ professional achievement.

ACT Law Society President Athol Opas commented: “Nicholas embodies outstanding attributes of a young lawyer and a legal practitioner. Presentation of this award recognises Nicholas’ many achievements and contributions to the legal profession and to the Canberra community.”

“Lawyers often volunteer their time and make substantial contributions to community activities. Nicholas is a fine example of a willing volunteer.”

Nicholas is a Senior Associate at Snedden Hall & Gallop and practices in commercial and business law and migration law. Nicholas has been admitted as a lawyer for 2.5 years.

The judging panel comprised of ACT Supreme Court Justices Refshauge and Penfold, Law Society President Athol Opas and Councillor Mark Tigwell, were impressed with Nicholas’ accomplishments and contributions including:

  • lecturing at the ANU in its Graduate Certificate in Migration Law and Practice;
  • teaching professional development courses for the Migration Institute of Australia;
  • participating in Snedden Hall & Gallop’s University Scholarship Program in which Nicholas has judged year 12 students in interviews and presentations;
  • committee member of the ACT Chapter of the Migration Institute of Australia;
  • volunteer board member on the ACT Conservation Council;
  • volunteering as an executive member of a Canberra chapter of Business Networking International;
  • fund raising for Marymead Child and Family Centre and assisting in events run by the Starlight Foundation;
  • assisting in an annual sports day run by Snedden Hall & Gallop and ACT Sport for children with a disability; and
  • volunteering at the Salvation Army’s Wills Day.

Anthony Williamson was awarded the ACT Young Lawyer of the Year award for 2010.

Mr Williamson is a talented, conscientious and dedicated young lawyer. He has been a prosecutor with the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions since 2009 and in this time has established himself as a widely respected practitioner in the area of criminal law.

He is a member of the Law Society Criminal Law Committee and a board member of Civil Liberties Australia. Mr Williamson has appeared on behalf of Civil Liberties Australia at committees of the Australian Parliament and the ACT Legislative Assembly and has lobbied government for increased protection of civil liberties.

Additionally, he is a member of the Rural Fire Service, the Rivers Bush Fire and Emergency Services Brigade and is a qualified member of the Remote Area Firefighting Team.

Mr Williamson graduated from the Australian National University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Laws / Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political science and history. He completed his Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice at the ANU in 2007 and was admitted to the ACT Supreme Court in October 2007.

Nithya Sambasivam is the winner of the ACT Law Society’s Young Lawyer of the Year Award for 2012. Nithya was presented with the Award by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice John Burns of the ACT Supreme Court.

Nithya, who is employed at Goodman Law, was admitted as a solicitor in October 2008 after achieving her combined Bachelor of Commerce and Laws degrees at the Australian National University in 2007.

Nithya’s many professional achievements include serving as an active member of the ACT Law Society’s Dispute Resolution Committee. When she joined the committee in 2010 she was the only young lawyer member. On behalf of the committee she convened a seminar aimed at educating young solicitors like herself about ADR processes in the ACT.

She also has a major role with the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT (WLA ACT). Nithya joined the organisation in 2011 and became its President in mid-2012. She has led several initiatives for the WLA ACT, such as creating a Facebook page to engage young lawyers and law students; reintroducing breakfast seminars to connect young lawyers with senior practitioners; and conducting the first WLA ACT Junior Lawyers Pay and Conditions Survey.

As a complement to her legal career, Nithya has sat on the boards of several local companies, including as Director and Company Secretary. She describes the experience of sitting on these boards as an opportunity that young lawyers rarely experience, and which gave her an appreciation for the mechanics of running small to medium businesses in Canberra.

As well as her outstanding contributions to the legal profession, Nithya also works hard in the wider Canberra community. While a law student, she served on the ANU Students Association, and was elected General Secretary of that body in 2006. She is a member of the YWCA of Canberra, and in 2012 she marshalled the Reclaim the Night march, an event which raises awareness of sexual violence against women.

Nithya grew up in Canberra as part of the Sri Lankan Tamil community, and she is an active member of the Canberra Tamil Association (CTA), an organisation she describes as having taught her the value and importance of community. Over the years she has spoken at and compered the CTA’s annual Deepavali celebration, and has supported community initiatives such as sponsoring a young family in the post-2009 Sri Lankan conflict environment.

The ACT Law Society commends Nithya for her dedication and commitment to the legal profession, her passion in promoting the interests of both young lawyers and women lawyers in the ACT, and her tireless support of community work outside the law

Dr Jessica Kennedy was presented with the 2014 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice John Burns of the ACT Supreme Court, at the Law Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 29 August. 

Jessica is currently employed by Farrar Gesini Dunn as a family law solicitor, and previously worked as a lecturer and tutor at Canberra University in the areas of Family Law, Gender and the Australian Legal System, and Women and the Law.

She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy last year, with a thesis examining the changes made by the ACT Sexual and Violent Offences Legislation Amendment Act 2008. She volunteers at the Women’s Legal Centre, providing advice and representation to women twice a week.

She is on the Nexgen Committee at Marymead, a community organisation providing support to children, young people and families. She is also on the Management Committee of Inanna Crisis Service, which provides crisis accommodation and support services to people in the community who are experiencing mental health issues, are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and/or those who have experienced trauma.

She is an active member of the Canberra Collaborative Practice Group, and has been instrumental in developing collaboration as a preferred method of dispute resolution in family law matters.

Jessica is widely respected by her colleagues and peers and is a valued member of her firm, Farrar Gesini Dunn. She has developed a busy and diverse practice and runs cases in many areas, with a particular focus on collaborative law and cases involving domestic violence and substance abuse. She has a passion for cases where women need to be given a voice, and she works hard to protect the rights of women who may not have the strength or ability to do so for themselves.

The ACT Law Society commends Dr Kennedy for her passionate advocacy for women’s rights, particularly in cases involving domestic violence, for her commitment to developing collaborative dispute resolution in family law, and her dedication to the legal profession.

Kavina Mistry was presented with the 2015 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice John Burns of the ACT Supreme Court, at the Law Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 28 August. 

Kavina moved to Canberra in 2012 after completing a Juris Doctor (Hons) from Bond University in 2011, graduating with Honours in the top 5% of her class. As both a new young lawyer and a new Canberran, she saw firsthand the difficulties of connecting with other young lawyers in the region, and networking with more experienced members of the legal profession. Faced with this challenge, Kavina approached the Young Lawyers Committee with a mentor program designed to connect young lawyers with more senior practitioners for advice, guidance and support. Her program was accepted in whole by the Law Society, and since its launch in 2014, has received a fantastic response.

Kavina is justly proud of the mentor program. She says: “Your first few years as a lawyer can be overwhelming, and one of the best ways to avoid burnout and thrive in the profession is to develop positive connections with other members of the legal community. The Mentor Program helps facilitate this.”

Kavina is an advocate for promoting mental health awareness in the legal profession. She raises funds for the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation, helping to raise awareness of work-related psychological ill-health in the legal community and promoting workplace psychological health and safety. She is a regular writer for the Law Society’s member magazine Ethos, encouraging open discussion of mental health issues.

Kavina also runs a blog and podcast (called Lawyer Jr.), where she provides general advice, support and a sense of community for young lawyers. She says: “I conceived Lawyer Jr. as a safe place for young lawyers to ask the ‘silly questions’. It’s important to know that you are not alone in what can be a trying (but rewarding) profession. It’s also good to simply have a laugh and remember why we chose to do law!”

Kavina is employed as a family law solicitor at Claire Naidu & Co, and currently serves as Secretary of the ACT Law Society’s Young Lawyers Committee. She is also a regular volunteer at the Women's Legal Centre and the Legal Advice Bureau, providing pro-bono legal advice to Canberra’s most vulnerable people.

The ACT Law Society commends Kavina for her contributions to the legal profession and the Canberra community.

Katrina Marson was presented with the 2016 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice Michael Elkaim of the ACT Supreme Court, at the Law Society’s Annual Dinner on Friday 26 August. 

Katrina's particular passion is for criminal law. In her final year of university she was the recipient of the Maree Ayers Prize for Criminal Justice, and completed her Honours thesis on the topic of sexual assault law reform. She was awarded the Tillyard Prize in 2012 in recognition of her role in founding and running ANU Volunteers. In 2013 she was named the ANU's Student of the Year.

Katrina joined the ACT Director of Public Prosecutions as a prosecutor in 2012, and her most recent role there was as a family violence prosecutor. She has delivered training to AFP officers in relation to the new Family Violence Evidence in Chief Interview law reforms, and she represented the ACT DPP at a range of family violence and sexual assault fora.

Katrina recently commenced a secondment to Legal Aid ACT's criminal practice, representing the most vulnerable members of the community. She also tutors in Evidence Law at the ANU, and organises the annual ACT DPP Mock Trial during Law Week.

A strong supporter of new policy initiatives and innovative progression in the criminal justice system, she has helped to raise awareness of issues around sexual assault and family violence within the criminal justice system. She has published articles on the use of expert evidence about the 'freeze response' in a sexual assault trial in the ACT, and reforms to the legal definition of family violence in ACT Legislation.

Outside of her work within the legal profession, she is heavily involved in the community. She has sat on the Governance Committee of the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre since 2012. She is a co-founder and director of the Pillow Talk Project, a business venture which delivers training to young people on issues of consent, relationships, and ethical behaviour.

Despite having been admitted as a lawyer for less than three years, she has run dozens of hearings in the Magistrates Court, and has instructed in several serious matters in the ACT Supreme Court, including high profile and complex murder and sexual assault trials.

Katrina has spent most of her legal career as a prosecutor, and more than a year of that time in the family violence unit. In her words: "Success as a prosecutor must never be measured in number of matters 'won'. Rather, I believe my achievement as a family violence prosecutor was in giving a voice to those victims within the criminal justice system, and adequately representing the community interest in stemming the epidemic of family violence."

The ACT Law Society commends Katrina for her contributions to the legal profession and the Canberra community.

Belinda Miller was presented with the 2017 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award by the chair of the judging panel, the Hon Justice David Mossop of the ACT Supreme Court, and President of the Law Society, Sarah Avery. 

Belinda is an Employment and Discrimination Lawyer at the Women’s Legal Centre ACT, providing all the Centre’s employment and discrimination legal advice and representation services. She has been an advocate for the whole ACT community legal sector, attending rallies, writing for the Canberra Times, and meeting with politicians to promote the important work that CLCs do.

She has delivered seminars to both legal practitioners and to the wider community about employment law, including the management of disability in the workplace. She has also delivered training on sexual harassment for young women, and spoken on radio about employment rights.

She is currently drafting a best practice tool kit for dealing with how domestic and family violence impacts on the workplace, and initiated training sessions with the Community and Public Sector Union around this issue. Union delegates who attended the training are now implementing it in large government departments.

Belinda has worked to mentor and encourage female law students in the ACT. She has been a mentor through the ANU Women in Law Organisation since its inception in mid-2016, and has supervised interns considering legal careers at the Women’s Legal Centre.

She is the Secretary of the Women Lawyers’ Association of the ACT, and is a member of the ACT Law Society’s Industrial Relations Committee and the ACT Community Legal Assistance Forum’s Community Legal Education Committee.

Outside of her legal role, Belinda is a volunteer English tutor for newly arrived refugees through the Navitas Adult Migrant English Program.

Georgina McKay and Kellin Kristofferson were presented the joint 2018 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Awards by Patron of ACT Young Lawyers, the Hon Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson of the ACT Supreme Court.

Kellin Kristofferson was admitted in December 2013, and opened his own practice – Artisan Law – in 2016. He is 29 years old. Artisan Law is a business designed for community good, part small law firm, part social initiative. The firm’s mission is to make Wills and estate law services more affordable and accessible in the Canberra region.

Kellin saw a need for these services after acting as executor for his own parents, who were not wealthy, and were not aware of the ramifications of estate law. Kellin was a 22-year-old student at the time, and found himself unexpectedly the oldest member of his family, and bewildered by the myths that abound about Wills and estate administration. During his supervised practice, he also witnessed countless situations where people could not afford, or were unaware of, the need for legal advice in estate matters. The avoidable disputes, and financial and emotional cost to families and communities, affected him deeply.

It was for this reason that Kellin left salaried employment for the uncertainties of small business. Artisan Law is a specialised estate law firm that offers Wills, Enduring Powers of Attorney, estate administration and elder law advice at heavily discounted rates for pensioners and low-income earners. On three days of each week, it is also a mobile service travelling to clients who cannot otherwise access legal advice.

Kellin accepts pro bono referrals every week from ACT Legal Aid, the Council for the Ageing (COTA), the Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Similarly, he accepts referrals from social workers at the Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital to assist with estate and Enduring Power of Attorney advice. A large portion of Kellin’s daily work is devoted to pro-bono or reduced-fee services, and between two and four weeks each year, he gives up paid practice entirely to volunteer the services of his firm for ‘Wills Days’ that he co-coordinates with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Each year, Kellin writes between 150 and 200 Wills pro bono for these two charities. He also volunteers to provide legal advice on Wills issues as part of the ACT Law Society’s Law Week initiative each year.

Kellin also actively engages in community education about Wills and related topics by hosting workshops and information sessions with local not-for-profits. In the past few years, he has run such sessions at public libraries, for DUO (a disability support service provider), A Gender Agenda (a not-for-profit advocate for gender diverse people), Sharing Places (another disability service provider), at local schools, and ACT Legal Aid. He has appeared on ABC community radio to speak about Wills myths, and has created several tool-kits for executors and people planning their estates, which are free for use by the public.

Kellin has been a teacher in the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice/Masters of Legal Practice combined programme at the ANU Legal Workshop since 2013, where he has taught courses on estates, professional ethics, and core practice skills, and written and recorded lecture podcasts. He has tutored undergraduate succession law, and also been a volunteer judge of ANU Law Students Society moots, negotiation and witness examination competitions for the past nine years, and has written and revised questions, manuals and other materials to assist the students and coordinators.

Kellin obtained his law degree with Honours from the ANU, and continues to maintain a relationship with the university. He has been invited to speak to students, including on the topics of innovation in legal practice and non-traditional business models. He is also a published academic, having co-authored a chapter in The Public Law of Gender, published by Cambridge University. In 2013, he received a high distinction for his thesis on the social implications of life and indefinite sentencing.

In addition to his ongoing support of the Canberra branches of the Red Cross and Salvation Army each year, since early 2017 Kellin has sat on the board of directors for Sharing Places, which is a disability support provide for adults living with severe and complex disabilities.

Kellin is to be commended for his dedication and long hours spent managing his practice for the good of the community, volunteering the bulk of his limited personal time without expectation of recognition or reward.

Georgina McKay and Kellin Kristofferson were presented the joint 2018 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Awards by Patron of ACT Young Lawyers, the Hon Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson of the ACT Supreme Court.

Georgina has made a significant contribution to the legal profession in her short time as a lawyer after being admitted in 2014.

Georgina is currently a Legal Officer in the Transnational Crime Section of DFAT’s Legal Division. In her almost three years with the Department, she has worked on high-profile and topical legal challenges facing the Department and the government broadly. These include the assertion of foreign state immunity on behalf of several Commonwealth agencies in foreign courts (a niche and highly specialised area of law), the coordination of sensitive and complex surrogacy matters that engage internal client areas in Australia and overseas (including consular, passport and bilateral desks), and the handling of complex complaints before the Australian Human Rights Commission.

She has advocated for cultural change within DFAT’s legal areas, carrying forward the Secretary’s ‘Women in Leadership’ strategy by organising inclusive leadership training for all legal staff. She has also facilitated the in-house counsel team’s engagement with the local and broader legal community, including coordinating the Department’s Women Lawyers’ Association Corporate Membership, and promoting a culture of pro bono work and legal volunteering, which is new to DFAT.

She has initiated a number of enduring legal advices that are now on the Department’s intranet, which assist internal clients manage low risk legal issues, and devised knowledge management tools in an environment of high internal churn (including through the development of ‘induction guides’ on complex areas of law). She has also actively mentored junior staff and new recruits.

Georgina’s passion for supporting women in the law and promoting gender equality within the legal profession and the broader community is exceptional.

She is an active member of the Women Lawyers Association of the ACT (WLA ACT). Georgina has been a committee member of WLA ACT since 2014, first serving as Membership Officer for two years, and then as Vice President from 2016 to present. She is also Chair of the WLA ACT Awards Subcommittee.

She coordinated WLA ACT’s introduction of barrister jackets for pregnant women. These adjustable jackets will be available shortly to barristers when pregnant, enabling them to continue appearances in comfortable clothing.

Under Georgina’s recommendation, WLA ACT will be publishing a newsletter dedicated to breaking down the barriers that women face in becoming barristers. Georgina is also working with the WLA ACT committee to develop a scholarship for ACT women to attend the bar readers course. The costs of attending the course are significant, particularly as the course is located in Sydney, and as such, can be a prohibitive factor for women looking to pursue a career as a barrister. The scholarship will significantly reduce the financial burden and encourage more women to the bar.

Georgina is a regular volunteer at the Women’s Legal Centre, working on the Centre’s advice line to provide free legal advice in the areas of employment and discrimination law, family law, and family violence. The clients Georgina assists are often vulnerable and at a very stressful and emotional point on their lives, and she approaches them with empathy and understanding, taking all steps to ensure the women receive timely and appropriate legal advice.

Georgina has also shown her commitment to diversity in the legal profession through her membership of the Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group of the ACT Law Society and the body that oversees it, the Inclusion and Diversity Committee.

Georgina also provides guidance to junior members of the Canberra legal community. She has participated in both the ANU Women In Law Organisation mentoring program and University of Canberra Women Lawyers Mentoring Program since their inception.

Georgina also volunteers her time outside of the legal community. She has hosted a meal through the Welcome Dinner Project, which connects newly arrived Australians with established Australians over dinner conversation in the comfort of their own home. She has also volunteered with SHINE for kids at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, supporting children with a parent in the criminal justice system.

Farzana Choudhury was presented the 2019 ACT Young Lawyer of the Year Award by President of the Law Society, Chris Donohue, and Patron of ACT Young Lawyers, the Hon Justice Chrissa Loukas-Karlsson of the ACT Supreme Court.

Farzana is a Senior Solicitor in Street Law, a program of Canberra Community Law that provides outreach legal services for people who are experiencing, or are at risk of, homelessness. She regularly appears in the ACT Magistrates Court for Street Law in criminal cases, and she has developed new outreach legal services for the most marginalised and disadvantaged members of our community to complement Street Law's existing services.

In October 2018, she established Street Law's health justice partnership with the Junction Youth Health Service. This is the only youth focused health justice partnership in the ACT, and only the second in Australia. Farzana has worked alongside health practitioners and youth work staff to address the unmet legal needs of young people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Through this partnership, Street Law has provided legal assistance in a healthcare setting to young people who might not have otherwise received support on a range of legal issues, including dealing with debt and fines, housing law issues, criminal matters, obtaining ID, and connection to other free legal services.

Earlier this year, Farzana established the Women in Prison Legal Empowerment Sessions (WIPLES), a series of legal education seminars and advice clinics with the goal of supporting and empowering women in prison. WIPLES aims to improve the health and wellbeing of incarcerated women by addressing their legal problems, building their knowledge in legal areas that affect them, and preventing legal issues from escalating. WIPLES also supports women in prison who are at risk of being evicted from their public housing tenancies. Farzana has secured funding from the Capital Giving grant and the Chief Minister's office for the program to operate into September 2020.

As well as her work with Street Law, Farzana volunteers with several community organisations. She is a volunteer with the Night Time Legal Advice Service. She researched, edited, and co-authored a book on the history of Australia’s oldest women’s refuge, Beryl Women Inc, which is sold to generate funds for the refuge’s child and youth programs. She is also Chair of the Board of Directors for the Women's Centre for Health Matters, Chair of the Management Committee of Beryl Women Inc, and serves on the organising committees of Homeless Connect Canberra and the International Tenants' Day.

Farzana has contributed to law reform in relation to public space offences that impact marginalised groups, and she has spoken to the media about access to justice for people in poverty. She has written articles on youth homelessness and health justice, and the impact of public space laws on people experiencing homelessness. She also coordinated the ACT arm of the Australian Research Council's national study into the criminalisation of poverty and homelessness in Australia.

For the past three years Farzana has been co-convenor of the National Association of Community Legal Centres' National Human Rights Network, working with legal services across Australia to develop and implement national policy on human rights violations confronting individuals facing poverty and disadvantage. She is also a member of the Law Society’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee, and was elected to Council in September 2018.

Farzana was recently shortlisted for the Churchill Fellowship for her ground-breaking project on 'empowering people facing poverty through social and housing status rights-based models'.

Particularly impressive is Farzana's drive to use the law to improve the lives of members of our community facing significant disadvantage. She is doing this through a multifaceted approach, including the practice of law, law reform, community engagement, and innovation. She is an impressive young lawyer with an arsenal of self-driven and impactful accomplishments spanning the course of her relatively short career.

 

 

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