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‘The profession should encourage its lawyers from diverse backgrounds to seek leadership positions’

Having a more diverse judiciary reflective of the community needs to be a priority for the profession, according to the Asian Australian Lawyers Association.

user iconLauren Croft 11 November 2021 Big Law
Judicial Diversity Panel event
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In October, the association held their Judicial Diversity Panel event, with panellists Justice Walter Sofronoff, president of the Queensland Court of Appeal; The Honourable Roslyn Atkinson, retired Supreme Court judge; and Judge Nathan Jarro of the District Court, the first indigenous judge appointed to the District Court.

The discussion covered a wide range of diversity topics, which Asian Australian Lawyers Association member, barrister and discussion moderator Dominic Nguyen said was particularly important to “inspire and propel” those from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds.

“While in recent years there has been an increase in women who have been appointed as judicial officers, the same could not be said of judicial officers who identify as indigenous Australians or those from other non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds,” he said.


“We have more Asian Australians studying law in Australian universities than ever before, yet the judiciary simply does not reflect this diversity.”

This was the second event from the association to feature judicial officers from a non-Anglo background speaking about diversity within the judiciary. Mr Nguyen said it was continually important to discuss what can and should be done to encourage diversity within the judiciary moving forward.

“The profession should encourage its lawyers from diverse backgrounds to seek leadership positions. Just as the Queensland Bar Council actively encourages and reserves positions for women barristers to serve on its Council, perhaps the same could be done for barristers who identify as being from non-Anglo-Saxon backgrounds,” he said.

“It increases public confidence within the judiciary and removes the perception of old white men sitting in ivory towers making decisions which are out of touch with community values and expectations.”

In March 2021, Magistrate Anthony Gett was promoted to deputy Chief Magistrate of Queensland. In Victoria, the first Vietnamese-Australian was appointed as a judge of the County Court of Victoria, Judge My Anh Tran, as well as the first Vietnamese-Australian magistrate was appointed, Magistrate Trieu Huynh. In NSW, the first Australian of Indian descent was appointed to the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Hament Dhanji.

Furthermore, there continue to be increasing numbers of Asian-Australians gaining admission as solicitors. Mr Nguyen said that although these are small steps, visibility of diversity within the profession needs to be paramount in order for large-scale change to happen.

“The importance of mentoring cannot be underestimated, and young law students and lawyers should seek suitable mentors. There are current judicial officers who have reached decision-making positions who come from a variety of different backgrounds and circumstances,” he said.

“There are still barriers that exist for aspiring barristers and judicial officers; those barriers of racism, unconscious bias and unfair stereotyping of one’s ability have been overcome and will continue to be overcome.”