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High Court asylum legal team wins professional accolade

The pro bono legal team behind the successful High Court challenge to the legality of the Government’s proposal to process asylum seekers offshore has been recognised by a peak legal professional body.

user iconThe New Lawyer 21 November 2011 The Bar
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THE pro bono legal team behind the successful High Court challenge to the legality of the Government’s proposal to process asylum seekers offshore has been recognised by a peak legal professional body.

The entire team of lawyers won the President’s Honorary Award at this year’s LIV Legal Awards.



LIV president Caroline Counsel said the award recognised the extraordinary contribution of an entire team of lawyers from the Refugee Immigration Legal Centre (RILC), Victoria Bar and Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR).


“This team of lawyers devoted countless hours to fighting for the legal rights of asylum seekers and have possibly changed the course of Australian history as a result,” she said.


The team honored included, from RILC – David Manne, Shelley Burchfield, Malvina Hagedorn and Adrienne Anderson; from Victorian Bar – Debbie Mortimer SC, Richard Niall SC, Kristen Walker, Elizabeth Bennett and Matthew Albert and from AAR – Malcolm Stephens, Claire Forster, Rebecca Kelton and Tom Prince.


“These awards show the breadth of talent within our profession, and represent lawyers from major law firms, community legal centres, government lawyers as well as suburban and country lawyers,” Counsel said.


A key award is the Paul Baker Award which was presented to Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke, who was appointed in September this year. Dr Szoke was the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner and was with VEOHRC between 2004 and 2011. 

Her achievements include her outstanding contribution to human rights by championing the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act, and for reforms leading to the enactment of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010. She was also a member of Attorney General Rob Hulls’s Human Rights Leadership Forum and spoke regularly at human rights events across Victoria.


Honorary Life Membership was awarded to Russell Kennedy principal and former LIV president John Corcoran. Corcoran has experience in commercial property and securities and business law and is an accredited specialist in business law. He was elected to the LIV Council in 1998 and served as LIV President in 2001-2002. In 2009 he became Law Council of Australia president, citing human rights as a key issue. He is also a board member of the International Bar Association.


Other President’s Award winners included:


Access to Justice

Rob Melasecca Partner, Melasecca Kelly & Zayler.

Melasecca has always strongly advocated for the importance of rehabilitation and drug and alcohol counseling in the sentencing process and has been active in achieving improved conditions and access to justice for prisoners in the court system. Earlier this year, he was made the Victorian Custody Issues Group chair and is aformer LIV Criminal Law Section chair.


Accredited Specialist

Craig Lynch, Practice Group Leader, Slater & Gordon.

Since becoming a Specialist in Personal Injury in 2001, Lynch has displayed a commitment to the Specialist Accreditation Scheme second to none and goes beyond the call of duty as both an advisory committee member and board member. He also regularly delivers CPD activities for legal education providers and contributes to LIJarticles to promote accredited specialisation.


Community Lawyer

Kairstien Wilson, Principal Lawyer, Association of Employees with a Disability Legal Centre.

Wilson came to legal practice after 20 years in the nursing industry. As a lawyer, Wilson established the Association of Employees with a Disability Legal Centre. Through this service, the provision of access to justice for one of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society – people with a disability – has significantly increased.


Government Lawyer

Alison O’Brien, General Counsel, Victorian Government Solicitors Office.

O’Brien is one of Victoria’s pre-eminent constitutional litigation lawyers and is in demand for her advice on statutory interpretation, novel questions of law, legislative development, parliamentary and electoral law and procedure. However, it was her recent involvement with the 2010 Bushfires Royal Commission that most illustrated the depth and breadth of her expertise.


Legal Organisation of the Year

Peninsula Community Legal Centre

The Peninsula Community Legal Centre has been providing free legal services for 34 years, targeting its services at disadvantaged people who would otherwise ‘fall through the cracks’ of the justice system. The centre is now one of the largest CLCs in Australia, and provides information and referrals to over 12,000 individuals each year.


Mentor Award

Lynette Barratt, Sole Practitioner and Community Lawyer, Moreland Community Legal Centre

Barratt has mentored countless young lawyers, clerks and trainees in her current role and formerly as a Victoria Legal Aid deputy regional office manager and principal of Seniors Rights Victoria and the Fitzroy Legal Service. She mentors both to aid the professional development of young lawyers and improve service delivery to consumers of legal services. She is LIV Elder Law Section deputy chair.

Rising Star

Kim McFarlane, Lawyer, Tyler Tipping & Woods, Morwell.

MsMcFarlane is Gippsland Law Association secretary and has been a LIV Gippsland Young Lawyer representative since 2007. Since that time she has helped establish a thriving and successful young lawyers group within Gippsland which has proven crucial in addressing staff retention for young lawyers in the area. She also developed the criminal law practice at Wakefield & Vogrig Lawyers.


Regional Lawyers

Belinda Wilson, Associate, Tyler Tipping & Woods, Traralgon.

Wilson is current Gippsland Law Association (GLA) president and, during her term, has revitalised GLA by providing a uniformed voice for Gippsland lawyers. She has also taken responsibility for many tasks, such as ensuring members are provided access to professional development requirements and arranging networking events. She is also a member of the LIV Business Law Committee.


Suburban Lawyers

Melvyn Barnett OAM, Principal, Barnett and Barnett, Box Hill.

Mr Barnett is a fine suburban lawyer and a servant to his local community who, in

1998, received an Australia Day Honors List Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to victims of crime. Mr Barnett is also a past board member of Crimestoppers and a former member of the LIV Disability Law and Sole Practitioners Committees.


Rogers Legal Writing Award

Paul Kallenbach, Partner Minter Ellison.

His article was “Piracy Suit Sunk – The iiNet Case” which was published in July 2010 LIJ.

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