The Australian Young Lawyers' Committee (AYLC) of the Law Council of Australia today (2 February) announced Louisa Fitz-Gerald as winner of the 2011 Australian Young Lawyer Award.
LCA president Alexander Ward said Fitz-Gerald was a "deserving winner" thanks to her work with patients dealing with chronic illness.
"Louisa has worked tirelessly to establish a legal referral service for cancer patients in New South Wales over an 18 month period," he said.
"She has been the sole driver of the project and was, until very recently, the only person working with the project as the Professional Services Coordinator. Louisa's outstanding achievement resulted in her unanimous selection as the deserving winner of this prestigious Award."
The Australian Young Lawyer Award recognises the achievements of individual young lawyers and organisations for outstanding contributions to the profession and the community.
"The nominations for this year's award were of a very high standard and all of the nominations, both individual and group, highlighted the commitment the nation's young lawyers have to the public ... selecting the winner was a difficult decision," said Ward.
Fitz-Gerald said she viewed the award as a significant achievement, from both a personal and professional perspective.
"There's a place for all of us in giving back to the community and when you have a career that allows you to do that, it's really the luckiest thing we have," she said.
The Cancer Council Legal Referral Service for cancer patients in Sydney and broader NSW assists cancer patients and carers across NSW to access legal services, when they would otherwise be unable to do so due to cost, illness or other barriers.
"To get the recognition of the service is a real bonus. One of the great things I think that will come out of receiving the award is people are going to hear about the Cancer Council's referral service," said Fitz-Gerald.
"The award is going to be really helpful for the service; it's going to deliver a real boost, and that's great because so far we've been able to help 600 cancer patients and their families. Hopefully that number will grow exponentially as a result of this award."
The areas of law and practice involved in the service include wills and powers of attorney; access to superannuation; mortgage hardship and other consumer credit problems; insurance; employment; and immigration issues relating to access to Medicare and overseas relatives for those in the final stages of life.
"Eventually, we'd like to expand across the country, so that's going to involve engaging a lot of lawyers and hopefully getting them involved in the service," Fitz-Gerald said.
The Australian Young Lawyer Award is conducted annually and will be formally awarded at the University of Adelaide 2011 Advocacy Conference on 4 February.