5 August 2016
Two modest but highly distinguished stalwarts of the law were among the major winners at the Law Society’s annual awards night last night.
Philip Page, Chair of the Law Society’s Property Committee and partner at Mellor Olsson, received the Brian Withers Award for outstanding commitment to the legal profession, while Lynn Valentine, who has dedicated her career to helping disadvantaged women, won the gender equity in law award.
For the first time in the award’s history, the Justice Award went to an organisation rather than an individual, with the Women’s Working Centre SA taking out the prize.
The annual dinner, held at the Stanford Grand Glenelg on August 5, featured guest speaker Tony McAvoy SC, Australia’s first Indigenous silk.
BRIAN WITHERS AWARD – PHILIP PAGE
Philip Page has been a Member of the Society’s Property Committee for more than 30 years and its Chair for 15. He is also Deputy Chair of the Law Council's Australian Property Law Group.
For years, Philip has acted as an intermediary between the legal profession and the real estate industry, regularly providing practitioners with important information relating to property law. He has presented and chaired numerous seminars and authored several articles on issues relating to property law, and is in constant communication with Australian Institute of Conveyancers and the Real Estate Institute of Australia.
With the most significant changes to property transactions in 150 years coming into force this year, Mr Page has been busier than ever, leading the development of the Law Society’s’ voluminous suite of education materials and forms, which are essential for any lawyer working in property law. This has all been done voluntarily, highlighting his commitment to the helping the profession.
“Philip’s service to the Society has been immense, but he never seeks to be exalted, and is the type of person who would never expect or covet such an award,” Law Society President David Caruso said. “But it is only right that we sing his praises and recognise the work he does, day in day out, for the benefit of the legal profession.”
GENDER EQUITY IN LAW AWARD - LYNN VALENTINE
Lynn Valentine has been a tireless advocate for women, especially Indigenous women, in her 30-year career in law. In 1994, she was on the Establishment Committee and was the inaugural chairperson for the Women's Legal Service, set up to meet needs of women, in particular victims of domestic violence. The role involved hundreds of pro bono hours per year.
She also worked at the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement where she developed the family law and child protection branch to protect the rights of Aboriginal women. Judge Charlotte Kelly credited Ms Valentine with “single headedly increasing the capacity of Aboriginal women within SA to access justice through the Family Law Court".
In 2007, Lynn took the position of the senior lawyer and coordinator at the Women’s Legal Service. Under her management the service established a partnership with the Alice Springs Family Violence Unit to ensure that Aboriginal women on Lands had a complete service in SA and the NT. This partnership still operates today under the successful model she established.
“Lynn has made a significant difference for women in South Australia, both in her roles of supporting women lawyers and women who are the most marginalised in our State - all for little or no reward,” Mr Caruso said.
JUSTICE AWARD – WOMEN’S WORKING CENTRE SA INC.
This year’s justice award, for outstanding commitment to access to justice, has been awarded to the Women’s’ Working Centre SA.
“The staff at the Women’s Working Centre do an incredible job to improve access to justice to women facing difficulties in the workplace. Many of the centre’s clients are the most socially and economically disadvantages workers in the State,” Mr Caruso said.
The centre has been a long-time advocate for equal pay, and has also set up a centre in Timor-Leste to help women protect their employment rights and combat workplace violence.
YOUNG LAWYER OF THE YEAR AWARD – NATALIE WADE
Natalie Wade is an outstanding young lawyer and advocate for people with disabilities.
In 2015, through her work as a solicitor at the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission, Natalie examined the laws, policies and procedures surrounding the State’s child protection system and their impact on vulnerable families and children in care. Her contribution on the topic of vulnerable children who identify with a disability was particularly valuable to the work of the Commission.
Natalie has dedicated much time and research into people with communication disabilities in courts. Following the introduction of the SA Disability Justice Plan, Natalie prepared a comparative analysis, published in the Alternative Law Journal, of the law reform in South Australian and Commonwealth jurisdictions to evaluate their effectiveness in upholding the international human rights of people with communication disabilities.
“Natalie is an active community member who volunteers for a number of charitable organisations, and has shown that having a disability does not prevent someone from helping others and achieving a great deal. She is a fantastic role model for young people with a disability, is a wonderful young lawyer and very deserving of this award,” Mr Caruso said.
PRESIDENT’S MEDAL – DIANNE MIFSUD
The inaugural President’s Medal was awarded to Dianne Mifsud, the long-standing personal assistant to the Chief Justice. Not only does she is an organiser extraordinaire, she is the epitome of hard work and efficiency, and is integral to the everyday operations of the courts, to the great benefit of the legal profession.
BULLETIN ARTICLE OF THE YEAR AWARDS – REBECCA HALKETT & THE HON. JUSTICE MELISSA PERRY
The award for best article in the Law Society’s flagship publication was awarded to Rebecca Halkett of Kain Lawyers, for her article Busting the Myths on Halal Certification. The special interest article of the year went to Justice Melissa Perry of the Federal Court for her piece There should be more women in the courtroom.
The Law Society congratulates all award winners and nominees. See the full list of nominees below:
Archived media releases are available here.