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New voice for NSW regional women lawyers launched

Women lawyers in regional, rural, and remote NSW have created a new voice with the formation of NSW Regional Women Lawyers (NRWL).

user iconJess Feyder 08 March 2023 Big Law
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The new professional body has been formed to ensure current and future women lawyers in those areas of NSW have the same benefits and opportunities as their Sydney central business district colleagues.

Chapters are being established across NSW.

Inaugural NSW Regional Women Lawyers president and Central Coast-based lawyer Michelle Meares said the new body is about giving women lawyers from regional, rural and remote areas of the state a voice. 


Ms Meares said NSW Regional Women Lawyers is about inclusion, consultation, diversity and increased regional representation for all NSW women lawyers. 

“We will provide support to women lawyers in regional, rural and remote NSW and advocate on key issues impacting them,” stated Ms Meares. 

“There is a serious shortage of lawyers in regional and rural NSW. Our group will work with all legal groups, including the NSW Law Society and regional law societies, the Women Lawyers Association of NSW, regional law schools and the Law Council — the latter having a national attrition and retention strategy,” she said.

“There is interest from women lawyers to make the move to regional areas for reasons including lifestyle and a better work/life balance,” explained Ms Meares. 

“But they can experience unique issues such as distance and resulting lack of collegiality, isolation, lack of critical services for their clients, impacts of climate and, in some areas, significant socio-economic disadvantage.

“Women lawyers in the regions play important roles in their communities and undertake significant pro bono work.”

Over 50 people attended the first event in Newcastle last month. Guest speakers included chief integrity officer and former dean of the School of Law at the University of Wollongong Trish Mundy and lawyer and academic turned business consultant Dr Natasha Cica. 

The pair discussed the challenges and opportunities of being a woman lawyer outside Sydney and how women lawyers can influence justice-related change. 

They were introduced by Professor Tania Sourdin, dean and head of the Law School at the University of Newcastle.

Ms Mundy’s academic areas of interest are gender issues and regional legal practice. She co-authored the book Place of Practice – Lawyering in Rural and Regional Australia.

Dr Cica studied law and worked as an academic at ANU. For the last 20 years, she has been working on designing and delivering change and has a business developing the capacity of individuals, teams and organisations. 

A second event — a one-day conference — will be held in Orange on 24 March. 

It will cover topics including attracting and supporting more women lawyers in the bush as well as ways the legal sector can assist in addressing the health crisis in regional and rural NSW.

The other NRWL founding members include Catherine Henry, principal of Newcastle-based regional NSW law firm Catherine Henry Lawyers. 

Ms Henry is a former executive member of the NSW Women Lawyers Association and the founder and former convenor of its Newcastle chapter. She is a former president of the Newcastle Law Society.

Bronwyn Ambrogetti, another founding member, is a principal solicitor at the Hunter Community Legal Centre. 

Ms Ambrogetti has held senior roles in the community legal sector in Newcastle and on the Central Coast and has mentored many young lawyers doing their practical legal training.   

Nicole Armitage is the principal of Newcastle-based eConveyancing NSW and is another founder of NRWL. 

She previously worked as a costs lawyer in Sydney and was appointed a costs assessor by the Supreme Court in 2014. She has practised in personal injury law, administrative law and in superannuation litigation.