Friday, 25 August 2017

ACT Law Society 2017 Awards Night

The ACT Law Society’s Annual Dinner and Awards Night, held on Friday 25 August 2017, is an opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to the work of the Law Society over the course of the year. The Dinner is sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher and Vincents.

ACT Young Lawyer of the Year

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. The Award recognises the professional achievements and community involvement of outstanding young lawyers in the region.

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.

Government Law Award

The President of the ACT Law Society, Sarah Avery, awarded the 2017 Government Law Award to Chris Behrens. The Award recognises the achievements of outstanding lawyers working in or for government.

Chris Behrens is a Senior Executive Lawyer working for the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) as a commercial litigation specialist. He has almost 30 years post admission experience.

Chris leads AGS Dispute Resolution’s Civil Claims team, comprising approximately 50 lawyers dispersed nationally in AGS offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Canberra. In the last two years, he has overseen growth of about 40 per cent in the volume of the team’s work, with commensurate growth in the complexity and diversity of matters.

Chris’s skills as a leader, manager, supervisor, mentor and capacity builder mean he has been able to attract, develop, and retain excellent staff.

He has been responsible for several significant legal projects, including in the last two years, representing the Commonwealth in the landmark Federal Court class action brought by residents of Williamtown about PFAS firefighting foams contamination, tenancy agreements over land at the site of the proposed Second Sydney Airport, and claims arising from the early closure of the Home Insulation Program.

He delivers internal training to AGS lawyers on commercial litigation topics, including a very well-received seminar on Contract Termination. He is well-regarded in the department as a supervisor and mentor, and is always willing to share his expertise, and to guide junior lawyers, helping them find solutions and develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence.

Chris was a founding member of the Law Society’s Government Law Committee, serving as its inaugural chair from 2009 to 2013.

Chris has had a long association with the Canberra Southern Cross Club, a not for profit organisation with over 83,000 members that has contributed over $14 million to the Canberra community over the last decade. He is the Vice President of the Club as well as the chair of its Risk and Audit Committee, and has been a director of the Club for the last ten years.

According to his colleagues, Chris is also a talented musician and valued member of choral groups, not least of which is the AGS Dispute Resolution Christmas choir.

The President’s Medal

Liz Huang Hughes-Brown was presented with the 2017 President’s Medal. The President’s Medal recognises significant personal and professional contributions to the betterment of law and justice in the community by an ACT solicitor and member of the ACT Law Society.

Liz Huang Hughes-Brown 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 ACT Law Society commends Belinda, Chris, and Liz for their outstanding contributions to the legal profession and the Canberra community.

For further information contact:
Ms Sarah Avery, President, ACT Law Society, T 02 6274 0300