Media Release

Law Society award winners announced

10 August 2018

Law Society President Tim Mellor is delighted to announce the annual winners of the Society’s most prestigious awards, presented at the Legal Profession Dinner tonight.

The winners are:

  • Brian Withers Award (for outstanding service to the Law Society): Ralph Bonig
  • Justice Award (for commitment to and promotion of access to justice): Alan Lindsay
  • Gender Equity in Law Award (for a contribution to the advancement of women lawyers): Leah Marrone
  • Young Lawyer of the Year Award: Michael Pagsanjan
  • Bulletin Article of the Year Award: James Caldicott
  • Bulletin Article Special Interest category: Stephen McDonald



Ralph was appointed to the Law Society’s Council on 2005, and became an Executive Member the following year. He was Treasurer, Vice president, President-Elect and eventually President of the Law Society in 2010, a role he held for two years, rather than the standard one-year term.

At the beginning of his Presidency, Ralph placed an intense focus on the mental health and wellbeing of the profession.  This led to a number of specific activities designed to highlight the prevalence of depression in legal workplaces, raise awareness and provide avenues for assistance. This included the formation of the Wellbeing & Resilience Committee and Young Lawyers Support Group.

Later in his Presidency, Ralph brought a number of Aboriginal Elders together for meetings.  This resulted in the establishment (via SACOSS) of a group that aimed to bring Aboriginal Elders together and advocate as a collective on issues such as Aboriginal incarceration.

Ralph chaired the Society’s Committee on the National Legal Profession Project. The amended Legal Profession Uniform Law now in place in Victoria and NSW has reflected many of the concerns that the Society, under Ralph’s leadership, raised.

Ralph drove the Society’s contribution to the revision of the Legal Practitioners Act in 2013.  South Australia’s legislation in this regard had fallen a long way behind the other jurisdictions until Ralph took carriage of the issue.

 Ralph was also:

  • the driving force behind the implementation of the Limitation of Liability Scheme, since renamed as the Professional Standards Scheme;
  • an inaugural member of a Justice Reinvestment Working Group;
  • instrumental in the establishment of the GDLP Working Group which culminated in the agreement with the University of Adelaide for joint delivery of the GDLP course.

Ralph has been a member of the various Law Council of Australia Working Groups. He continues to represent the Society on the Law Council’s Indigenous Issues Committee, having done so since 2013. 

Mr Mellor said: “Ralph’s advocacy and work ethic on behalf of the Society has been tireless and effective. Two years as President constituted a huge commitment and contribution. Under Ralph’s leadership, there was an enhanced focus on excellence in service to its Members.”



Alan Lindsay has for over 20 years worked ceaselessly to assist Indigenous members of our community, in particular Indigenous Law Students. He’s done so without ever seeking any acknowledgement, driven by a passion to address Indigenous disadvantage.

Alan has been a member of the Society’s Aboriginal Issues Committee of the Law for over 20 years, and is an inaugural Member of the Reconciliation Action Committee and a member of several other committees. 

In 2005, recognising the difficulties being encountered by indigenous law students navigating the path from study to employment in the profession, Alan started a mentoring program for indigenous law students at both Adelaide University and Flinders University, and then UniSA students when its Law School opened.

In 2011, after tireless efforts by Alan and other members of the Aboriginal Issues Committee, TAFESA commenced delivery of a Certificate IV course in Legal Studies for indigenous students at its Port Augusta campus, providing an alternate pathway to our Law Schools for Indigenous students.

The success of the mentoring program, as shown by the increased numbers of Indigenous students completing law degrees is due in very large part to Alan’s work, both on the Committee and behind the scenes.

Justice Sulan, who chaired the mentoring Committee for over 10 years, said that without Alan’s tireless work and passion, the program would not exist or continue in the way it has, let alone achieve such success.

Mr Mellor said: “Alan is the epitome of what this award stands for.  In an exceptional way, he has provided outstanding assistance to the benefit of socially and economically disadvantaged people, with a lasting benefit to our community as a whole.”



After some years working for the SA Native Title Service, Michael Pagsanjan founded MPS Law. In that capacity, he has become an agent of change for his indigenous clients and has made significant contributions to Indigenous communities and the development of native title law. This includes the resolution of several native title claims and the finalisation of Australia’s first successful native title compensation determination. This has paved the way for future native title compensation applications.

Michael has recently been working on the confidential negotiation of a large-scale native title settlement in WA involving several thousand traditional owners.

While still dealing with the establishment of his firm, Michael provided many hundreds of hours of pro bono services to unfunded indigenous clients.

Mr Mellor said: “Michael is regarded throughout the profession as a committed, skilled, professional and passionate lawyer with the utmost ethical integrity.”



Leah Marrone has worked for many years worked towards gender equality for women and improved rights and services for women in the community.  

Leah has been involved in a broad range of activities, both as a Member of the Women Lawyers’ Committee and of the Women Lawyers’ Association of SA, of which she has been the President since 2015.

Leah is a passionate advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work and has contributed to the development of the Society’s submissions in relation to various proposals to effect decriminalisation including appearing for the Society in 2016 before the Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill 2015.  

Leah has been integral to advocacy for facilities for mothers with infants in SA Prisons, an organiser of Reclaim the Night events, and of International Women’s Day marches.  She is a member of the University of Adelaide Alumni Council, and is on the Premier’s Council for Women.  Leah is also on the Board of Australian Women Lawyers and the Law Council of Australia’s Equal Opportunity Committee. 

Leah has also mentored many young law students through their transition into the profession.

Mr Mellor said: “Leah’s tireless advocacy does not stop at the advancement of women in the legal profession, or even women’s rights in general. She is a dedicated and effective champion for social justice.”


BULLETIN ARTICLE OF THE YEAR AWARD: “Trial advocacy tips for Young Lawyers”, by James Caldicott

Mr Mellor said: “James’ article is a must-read for any young lawyer embarking on trial work. It is a practical, thoroughly researched and accessible guide to advocacy that is not just of great value to young lawyers, but serves as a helpful refresher for anyone whose practice involves the court room. It’s also a feather in the cap for the Young Lawyers Committee, which contributes regular Bulletin articles for the edification of those in the early years of their career.”


BULLETIN SPECIAL INTEREST ARTICLE OF THE YEAR AWARD: “Poems for the Citizenship Seven”, by Stephen McDonald

Tim Mellor said: “Stephen McDonald’s lyrical musings on the trials and tribulations of the first seven politicians to be embroiled in the dual citizenship saga was witty, beautifully constructed and very, very funny. A clear favourite among readers. I particularity recommend “The Ballad of Barnaby Joyce”.

Click here to see previous award winners