Brian Withers' Award

Prior to his appointment as a Master of the Supreme Court and a Judge of the District Court in November 2004, His Honour Judge Brian Withers was very actively involved with Access to Justice issues at both State and Federal levels for some 30 years. 

Judge Withers chaired the Society’s Justice Access Committee for 11 years from 1989 to 1998. For the 13 years prior to his appointment to the bench, he was involved with the Law Council of Australia’s Access to Justice Committee, for part of that time as its Chairman. 

In 1998 Judge Withers became a Commissioner for the Legal Services Commission of South Australia. He served as Chairperson of the Commission from 1997 until his appointment to the Bench. 

In 1996 Judge Withers was instrumental in setting up the national summit on legal aid funding held at Parliament House, Canberra. In February 2004, he participated in the establishment of a research project entitled “Erosion of Legal Representation in the Australian Justice System”. 

The Society recognised Judge Withers’ outstanding commitment to promoting access to justice in South Australia when he was presented with the inaugural Justice Award in June 2004. 

At its meeting on 21 February 2005, Council resolved that the Society present the Brian Withers Award for Services to the Law Society and the Profession annually at the end of each calendar year.

The Award was established to recognise a Member of the Law Society who through their involvement with the Society, whether via Council or Committee or in another exceptional way, has provided outstanding service to the Society, its members and the profession, above and beyond the call of duty.

Nominations are sought from Council Members and then adjudicated by a panel consisting of the President, the Chief Executive and Judge Withers.


The award will not be conferred in any given year if suitable candidates are not identified
No more than one person may receive the award in any calendar year

Awarded annually at the Law Society Annual Dinner

2017 - Elizabeth Olsson

2016 - Mr Philip Page

2015 - Mr Stuart Cole

2014 - Mr Martin Keith

2013 - Mr Morry Bailes

2012 - Mr John Goldberg

2011 - The Honourable Justice John Mansfield AM

2010 - Mr David Meyer

2009 - Ms Deej Eszenyi

2008 - Ms Margaret Kelly

2007 - Mr John Fountain

2006 - Ms Casandra Francas

2005 - Ms Claire O'Connor/ Mr George Mancini

2017 - Elizabeth Olsson

Elizabeth Olsson been a Member of the Society since the day she was admitted to the profession in December 1987.  Her contribution to the work of the Society has been outstanding and selfless, and has been to the benefit of every Member of the Society. 

Elizabeth has been Chair of the Bulletin Committee since 1995, when she replaced Mr Simon Hannaford. 

The role of Editor was created in 1986. Since that time, 12 editors came and went while Elizabeth remained a constant and reliable presence.  She stepped down from the Chair at the end of 2016 but after a few months break she again assumed the position. 

The Bulletin has undergone several transformations, but the one thing that has stayed the same under Elizabeth’s leadership is the journal’s reputation for quality, insightful comment relating to the law and its practitioners. 

Elizabeth has ensured the Bulletin publication provides education, information and professional reward to all members of the profession. 


2016 - Philip Page

Philip Page has been a Member of the Law Society since the week after he was admitted to the profession in early 1973.  His contribution to the work of the Society in relation to property law has been consistent and committed, however his contribution in the last year has been truly exceptional.  He has assisted the SA legal profession through extensive legislative and systematic changes to the property industry.  

At the time of presenting the Award, Philip had been a Member of the Society’s Property Committee for over 35 years (since 1980) and the Chair for 15.

Substantial amendments to the Real Property Act 1886 came into effect on 1 July 2016.  In part those amendments introduced a system of electronic conveyancing, which has been a project Philip has contributed to and kept on track over several years.  He has been instrumental to the work of the LCA’s National Electronic Conveyancing System Working Group.  The Property Committee made substantial submissions to a review of the Real Property Act 1886 in relation to such changes.

Verification of Identity and the Australian Taxation Office’s consultation on its new foreign resident withholding tax provisions have been other significant issues for Property Committee, as to which Philip has kept Members informed. 

In his own right, Philip is a Member of the Law Council's Australian Property Law Group, currently as Deputy Chair.   Philip also liaises with the Registrar-General, Lands Titles Office and Australian Institute of Conveyancers SA.  He contributes to the Property Law Reform Alliance, which is working on a proposed Uniform Torrens Title Act.  The Society benefits greatly from these connections.

Philip and the Property Committee have worked tirelessly on the review, revision and redrafting of the Society’s suite of property documents to accommodate the recent changes.  Philip personally prepared two new documents for the suite, being two interim annexures to the Contract.  He continues to oversee the integrity of the Property document suite.

Philip has presented and chaired numerous industry professional development seminars.  He has delivered CPD’s for the Society including at the Legal Profession Forum and Country Conference, written informative articles for the Bulletin, overseen updates to Members published in InBrief and on the Society’s website - a continuous, significant contribution to the great benefit of Members.  

Philip is in constant communication with the Australian Institute of Conveyancers and the Real Estate Institute of Australia.  Philip is representing the Society on a “Stakeholder Reference Group” convened by the Department of Treasury and Finance after the announcement the Lands Services Group/Lands Titles Office was to be privatised. 

Philip is a very modest, hard working person with a passion for assisting the profession.  His outstanding contribution and determined efforts fit all aspects of the Award criteria.  

2015 - Stuart Cole

Stuart Cole was awarded the 2015 Brian Withers’ Award in recognition of his outstanding commitment to promoting access to justice in South Australia through the Society’s Litigation Assistance Fund.  The Fund is a non-profit charitable trust which provides financial assistance to eligible litigants under a self-funding model allowing access to cost of disbursements and legal representation to many who may not otherwise have the opportunity.

Stuart has made significant contributions to the Fund’s ongoing success.  He has been an Assessment Panel member since 1992 and a Board member since 1999.  He is currently Chair of the Litigation Assistance Fund Advisory Board and his leadership has been exemplary.  It should be noted that under Stuart’s leadership, the Fund’s net assets have nearly doubled which has resulted in a greater number of claimants being assisted.


2014 - Martin Keith

The 2014 Brian Withers Award was presented to Martin Keith in recognition of his significant and valuable contribution to the Society and the profession as a Director and Chair of Lawguard Management Pty Ltd.
Mr Keith joined the Board of Lawguard in 1999 and at the end of that year, the Total Equity of the Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund managed by Lawguard was a little over seven and a half million dollars.

In February 2001, Martin was appointed Chairman of Lawguard.  At 30 June that year, the Total Equity of Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund was nine and a half million dollars. 

During this period Lawguard's decision to stay with existing underwriting/ reinsurance arrangements in the face of cheaper premiums being offered by HIH was justified by the collapse of HIH/FAI General Insurance in March 2001.  

Because of the HIH/FAI collapse the entire insurance market was then in considerable turmoil.  Under the wise and steady guidance of Lawguard, the SA Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund weathered the storm significantly better than the insurance schemes of other professions.

After the HIH crisis, the mid 2000s were a period of consolidation for Lawguard and the Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund.  As at 30 June 2008 the total equity of the Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund had reached more than twenty two and a half million dollars. 

During the 2007/08 policy year the cover provided for each claim increased from $1.5million to $2million, generally in line with the coverage provided by other State schemes.

The late 2000s will be remembered for the impact of the Global Financial Crisis on investment returns. Again, under the wise and steady guidance of the Lawguard Chairman and his co-Directors, the Professional Indemnity Insurance Fund was able to absorb the effects of the Crisis without the need to raise additional funds from the profession. 

The Base Insurance Premium Contribution per practitioner had (up to the 2014/15 Scheme year when the premium is calculated on a per firm basis) remained at the same figure - $2,400 - for the last three years – after being reduced in both the 2009/10 and 2010/11 Scheme years.

This cover is undoubtedly one of the most cost effective in Australia. Although the figures for the various PI Schemes in Australia are difficult to compare – because they are calculated in different ways – as best as we can work out the SA premiums are between $1,350 and $4000 cheaper than premiums for PI Insurance in other States of Australia.

Mr Keith was a long-serving member of the Law Society. He had been on several committees, including the Civil Litigation Committee, Murray Law Library Committee, Bulletin Committee, Professional Standards Committee, Council Disciplinary Committee and GDLP Course Advisory Committee.  He was President of the Society in 2000-01 and had represented the Society as a Director of the Law Council of Australia. 

2013 - Morry Bailes

Morry Bailes was awarded the 2013 Brian Withers Award for his extraordinary achievements and work as Chair of the CTP Reform Executive and the GDLP Working Group.
When the State Government released its Compulsory Third Party (CTP) “Green Paper” in March 2012, it threatened the compensation rights of the thousands of people injured on South Australian roads each year. Morry Bailes took a leading role in pulling together a team and a strategy to campaign against the proposed scheme and lobby the State Government. 

The Joint CTP Executive comprised the Presidents and representatives of the Society, South Australian Bar Association and Australian Lawyers’ Alliance.  Morry spent countless hours planning and working on a public awareness campaign, meeting with influential parties including industry groups and politicians, negotiating with government ministers and representatives and reporting back to the legal profession with the developments.
After months of work and negotiations, Morry and the Joint CTP Executive were able to sign off on a scheme that was much more reasonable for injured South Australians than what the State Government had initially proposed. 

In summary, there is little doubt that without Morry’s tireless efforts and leadership, thousands of injured South Australians would be far worse off, with slashed entitlements and reduced access to justice.

As Chair of the Society’s GDLP Working Group, Morry was instrumental in the development and implementation of a Joint Venture Agreement with the University of Adelaide for the joint delivery of the GDLP Course. 

Morry’s contributions in these two areas coincided with a raft of other activities and involvements across the Society in addition to his role as a Member of the Council and Executive of the Society.


2012    John Goldberg

John Goldberg was awarded the 2012 Brian Withers Award for continuous extraordinary support to the Society across a wide range of its functions, over a long period of time.

At the time of presentation of the Award John was, amongst other things

  • a Director (since 1996) of Lawguard Management Pty Ltd, having been involved in 2012 in a review of the Management Agreement between the Society and Lawguard, the development of the Professional Indemnity Fund Property Strategy, a National Electronic Conveyancing Submission update on identity fraud and consideration of policy coverage issues. 

  • Chair of the Professional Standards Committee (since 2010) having been a member of the Committee since 2007.  

  • the inaugural Chair (since 2005) of the Audit and Risk Management Committee.

John had previously made significant contributions

  • during his terms as a Member of Council (since 2002), Executive (2004-2009) and President (2008) 

  • as Chair of the Society’s Magarey Farlam Lawyers (MFL) Inquiry Committee (2009-2012) 

  • during the Government’s consideration of the Legal Profession Bill 2007, which the Parliament failed to pass.  This coincided with the serious issues surrounding the MFL defalcation and required a huge commitment, statesmanship and diplomacy. 


2011 - The Honourable Justice John Mansfield AM

The Honourable Justice John Mansfield AM was awarded the 2011 Brian Withers Award for continuous support and contribution to the Society and the profession over a long period.  His most recent contribution was as Chair of the Society’s GDLP Education Committee, charged with overseeing the delivery of the GDLP Course (since 2004).  

Justice Mansfield is a former President of the Society (1988-99) who has held a long and distinguished relationship with the Society.  He was a Member of the Council of the Society from 1982 to 1990.

At the time that he was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in September 1996, Justice Mansfield had served on 11 of the Society’s Committees, including Common Law, Complaints, Administrative and Common Law, Discipline, Civil Litigation, Professional Conduct and Practice (Chair), Accident Compensation, No Fault Liability, Professional Indemnity monitoring, Convention Planning, Professional Development Advisory Group and LawAsia.  

In addition, Justice Mansfield had served the profession in many other exemplary roles including

  • President of the South Australian Bar Association 1992

  • President of the Law Council of Australia from 1993-1994 – the fourth President from South Australia (joining Cedric Thomson, Dr Howard Zelling and Sir Harry Alderman).  In 1994 he chaired a meeting of the LCA which saw the adoption of a blueprint for a national legal profession.

  • Chairman of the SA Legal Services Commission 1995-1996


2010 - David Meyer

David Meyer was awarded the 2010 Brian Withers Award for his significant contributions, not only to the Society and the profession but to the community.  Mr Meyer was described as a passionate advocate, driven, energetic, personable, generous, a man with a razor sharp mind, a person of complete integrity and a fine lawyer.  He was known to be a committed supporter of those in the profession who need a little help on the way, particularly young lawyers. 

Mr Meyer was admitted in 1973 and joined the Society at the time of his admission.  At the time of receiving the Award, his contributions included 

  • in 1991 joined the Professional Standards Committee and was appointed Chair in 2003.  He served in that capacity until October 2010.  

  • was a Member of the Litigation Assistance Fund Advisory Board for ten years from 1994 to 2004 and a Member of the LAF Assessment Panel 1997-2002. 

  • joined the Board of the Law Foundation of South Australia in 2000 and remains a Member of the Board

  • was a Member of the Society’s Legal Assistance Committee from 1990 to 1991.

  • has served on a number of the Society’s Committees including Criminal Law Committee, Civil Litigation Committee, Murray Law Library Committee and the Finance Advisory Committee. 

  • was President of the Society from 1996-1997

  • was currently a Commissioner of the Legal Services Commission

  • represented the Society on the Law Council of Australia’s Ethics Committee.  He was nominated for this position based on his extensive exposure to issues of professional conduct as a Member and later Chair of the Society’s Professional Standards Committee. 

David not only devoted his time to the Society and its valuable work but contributed significantly to the community including as Chair, Westside Community Legal Service; and as a Commissioner of the Hutt Street Centre for the Daughters of Charity.


2009 - Deej Eszenyi

Ms Deej Eszenyi won the 2009 Brian Withers Award for her significant contributions to the Society and the profession, including in the previous year as 

  • Chair of the Child Death and Serious Injury Committee

  • Chair of the Legal Services Commission

  • Director of Lawguard Management Pty Ltd 

  • a member of the Executive and Council 

  • a member of the SA Working Group considering the National Conduct Rules

  • Director of the Law Council of Australia appointed by the Society  

  • a Member of the Law Council’s Governance Committee

  • a Member of the Board of the Litigation Assistance Fund

  • a Member of the Society’s Costs Committee since 1991 

  • a Member of the Society’s Human Rights Committee since 1999

  • a Member of the Society’s Justice Access Committee since 2007

  • the representative of the Society on the Law Council’s Access to Justice Committee. 

Not only did Ms Eszenji provide outstanding service to the Society, its Members and the profession generally, she did it with passion and commitment in a manner that “does us proud”.  

2008 - Margaret Kelly

The 2008 Brian Withers Award was presented to Margaret Kelly in recognition of her intense, long-term, broad commitment over many years to the work of the Society, particularly in the field of education.  At the time of winning the Award Ms Kelly was 

Her other contributions included 

  • Member of the Medico-Legal Advisory Group

  • Council Member since 1999 and President 2006-07

  • 2002-Present: Council Disciplinary Committee

  • Member of the Council Disciplinary Committee since 2002 

  • Member of the Litigation Assistance Fund Advisory Board since 1994 

  • Member of a LAF Assessment Panel since 2004 

  • Member of the Professional Standards Committee since 1996

  • Member of the Human Rights Committee since 1998

  • Member of the Justice Access Committee since 1998 

  • Member of the Litigation Assistance Fund Committee 1993-1997 


2007 - John Fountain

Mr John Fountain won the 2007 Brian Withers Award for his tireless and outstanding work for the Society as a Member (since 1990) and Chair (since 2000) of the Accident Compensation Committee.

Mr Fountain had spent countless hours over the years, and particularly in the twelve months leading up to the Award, on the work of the Committee.  This included coordination and documentation of a comprehensive response on behalf of the Society to the South Australian Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme and the coordination of a response to the Motor Accident Commission in relation to proposed changes to Compulsory Third Party insurance claims. All this was achieved against impossibly short time lines imposed by the Government.

In addition, Mr Fountain was the Society’s representative on the Law Council’s Personal Injuries Litigation Committee.  He had also provided outstanding service to the profession generally, including as a member of the organising Committee for the 2007 CRASH Seminar and Both Sides of the Fence Seminar.   

2006 - Casandra Francas

The 2006 Brian Withers Award was presented to Ms Casandra Francas, for her indefatigable and conscientious work as the editor of “Caseweek” and the “Law Society Judgment Scheme”.  These publications are of great benefit to the profession, many of whom rely on them in their work. 

Caseweek is a weekly newsletter which varies between 10 to 30 pages in length.  It covers all judgments handed down in the House of Lords, High Court, Full Court of the Federal Court, Supreme, District and Environment and Resources Courts; sometimes involving up to 30 judgments.  Ms Francas read each of the judgments, synthesized the issues and then dictated a snapshot of each.   

The Law Society Judgment Scheme is a 5-part volume of judgments handed down in the Supreme and District Courts.  Ms Francas read each judgment, decided whether they were to be recorded and then edited each volume prior to their publication.   

While Ms Francas was remunerated for her work, the payment was a pittance compared with the enormous number of hours contributed, in particular on weekends.

2005 - Claire O’Connor and George Mancini

Claire O’Connor

Ms Claire O’Connor was a joint winner of the inaugural Brian Withers Award.  Ms O’Connor won the Award for her work as a champion of the socially and economically disadvantaged people of South Australia, both as an ordinary citizen and as a legal practitioner. She had always worked in areas of public interest and social justice, using her legal skills to advance the legal needs of those who are unheard in the community.  Ms O’Connor demonstrated selflessness and passion for the causes she had taken up, seeking to right the wrongs perpetrated on the disadvantaged.  Ms O’Connor’s contributions included 

  • in 1983 she was involved in the protest to save the Franklin and Lower Gordon rivers, working as a volunteer lawyer and getting arrested in one of the protests

  • In 1985-86 she worked in London in a Community Legal Centre as a case worker for predominantly West Indian youths in the area

  • from 1986 until 1988 she worked at the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement where she was involved in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, acting as solicitor for many of the families and as counsel for the Aboriginal prisoners

  • taking part in many inquiries into access to justice, in particular the Evatt enquiry into Gender and the Law and a recent Senate Inquiry into Immigration Detention

  • involvement in legal education since the 1980’s, teaching in the Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, in particular in criminal law and advocacy

  • serving voluntarily on the South Australian Council of Social Services Justice Committee, the Gambler’s Rehabilitation Fund, the Youth Training Centre Review Board, as a worksite representative for the Public Sector Association, in the management committee of the City Child Care Centre, as a committee member of Friends of Palestine, and being involved in refugee work.  She was also a member of the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties

  • involvement in significant human rights cases as a result of her refugee work – cases involving the status of stateless Palestinians in Australia, the breach of the duty of care for mentally ill detainees in Baxter, Cornelia Rau and the Palmer Inquiry 

George Mancini

Mr George Mancini was an inaugural joint winner of the 2005 Brian Withers Award.  Mr Mancini had tirelessly contributed to the Society’s advocacy in criminal law matters and was a passionate advocate for the rule of law.  

Chair of the Criminal Law Committee since 1998, George had been the principal contributor to the Society’s submissions on criminal law related topics, which was the major area of law on which requests for submissions tended to focus.  Criminal law topics and submissions were also often the subject of intense media interest.  Mr Mancini provided unflagging, key support to Law Society Presidents who were called upon by the media to comment and also spoke on behalf of the Society in response to many media requests.  With Mr Mancini’s assistance in this manner, the public was provided with greater insight into the principles of the rule of law, the work and practices of the courts and of criminal law.  

Mr Mancini was also Member of the Society’s Human Rights Committee (sine 2003) and a Member of the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties.  He was a past Member of the Society’s Justice Access Committee and Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee.