Buoyant mood at Legal Profession Dinner as profession celebrates peers

30 August 2021

In a Herculean feat of logistics and planning, the Law Society held its Legal Profession Dinner on Friday, hosting a buoyant congregation of 300 guests.

Despite a number of restrictions being imposed on guests, including compulsory mask wearing, a strict no dancing policy, and a ban on that most time-honoured of social custom – vertical consumption – it was so heart-warming to see such an enthusiastic response to the event.

While immense credit must go to the organising staff of the Society and SkyCity for putting on such a successful event, especially after the disappointment of last year’s lockdown-forced cancellation, particular gratitude must go to practitioners who attended the event in such high spirts. They were clearly in a generous mood, as over $10,000 was raised on the night for the President’s chosen charity, Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation.

Law Society President Rebecca Sandford (right) with MC Corrine Grant, former comedian turned lawyer who moved to Adelaide earlier this year.

It was also a privilege to honour the nominees and award winners on the night, and particularly to hear about their incredible achievements.

The Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service was the highly deserving winner of the Justice Award. The staff who work at the service helps women who have been exposed to domestic violence navigate the justice system. They provide advice about intervention orders and tenancy disputes, and have guided thousands of clients through the process, including all throughout the pandemic. The importance of this work cannot be underestimated. One particularly moving note from a client read: “Thank you for giving us our freedom and safety back. My kids are now growing up in a home free of DV abuse because of your help."

Attorney General, The Hon Vicki Chapman MP, flanked by Danielle Stopp (left) and Bianca Paterson of the Women's Domestic Violence Court Assistance Service, which won the Justice Award.

The four nominated Young Lawyer of the Year nominees showed that the future of the law is indeed in good hands. In a hotly contested field, Antonella Rodriguez was named Young Lawyer of the Year. The family lawyer excelled in her first role as Associate to Justice Berman in the Family Court of Australia and has continued to impress at current firm Tolis & Co. As an associate, Antonella was heavily involved in the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity’s efforts to improve services to culturally diverse participants in the justice system

Antonella has also been volunteering with the Red Cross Emergency Services, assisting people to access shelter, resources, and emergency funds and reuniting families following last year’s bushfires.

She volunteers in numerous other environmental organisations, in yet another example of practitioners making time to give back to the community.

Young Lawyer of the Year winner Antonella Rodriguez flanked by Young Lawyers Committee Co-Chairs Patrick Kerin (left) and Bianca Geppa.

The Mary Kitson Award winner, for outstanding contribution to the advancement of women in the profession, was presented to the trailblazing Justice Trish Kelly.

Justice Trish Kelly’s exceptional legal career alone is a source of inspiration for women in the profession. In her roles as prosecutor at both State and Federal level, a senior legal officer at the Equal Opportunity Commission, and of course judicial officer culminating in her appointment as the inaugural President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Kelly has been a purveyor of the law par excellence, and her contribution to protecting the rights of victims of crime has been particularly noteworthy. In addition, Justice Kelly has been a Member of the Intellectually Disabled Services Council of South Australia and a member of the Rape Crisis Centre Board.

The Hon Justice Livesey (right) accepts the Mary Kitson Award from Law Society Rebecca Sandford on behalf of award winner Justice Trish Kelly, who was unable to attend.

It’s pleasing to see the issue of gender equity become an important issue for the judiciary, and Justice Sam Doyle’s considered article “The path to gender equality requires removing cultural & structural barriers in the profession” reflects the heightened awareness and commitment to the cause. His article won the “Bulletin Article of the Year - Special Interest Category” on Friday Night. The Bulletin Article of the Year, among a field of exceptional articles, went to Dr Philip Ritson for his article “Supreme Court decision highlights pitfalls of raising money for charitable purposes”.

There are so many members of the profession who may never win awards but are equally deserving of commendation, despite never seeking accolades for their outstanding contributions to the community. The Society thanks all of those who serve the profession and broader society in their own way.

Guest speaker Gabrielle Kelly, founder of SAHMRI’s Wellbeing & Resilience Centre, delivers a fiery address.