Legislative Council: Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Young Lawyer of the Year Award

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:08): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the minister inform the council about the winners of the Law Society of South Australia's Young Lawyer of the Year Award for 2023?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:08): I thank the honourable member for his question, and I will certainly be most happy to inform the chamber of the winners of this year's Law Society SA Young Lawyer of the Year Award. The winners were honoured at the annual legal profession dinner on 11 August and have not only demonstrated exceptional legal acumen but also shown a deep-seated passion for advocating for justice, equality and the betterment of society. Their tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed, and we as South Australians and the legal profession are grateful for their contributions.

Zainab Alsweedy's story is one of resilience and determination. As a child, her family fled Saddam Hussein's oppressive regime embarking on a journey that eventually led her to the shores of Australia. As Zainab herself recounts:

When we arrived in the Australian Regional Authority, we were received by the Australian Navy and we were placed in a detention centre in…South Australia where we spent about nine months.

My brothers and I were children. They didn't call us by our names but (we)…had a specific number. We used to eat when the bell rang and then go back to the room or go [outside].

It was these experiences that ignited Zainab's passion for helping others facing similar hardships. Today she stands as a prominent immigration lawyer committed to assisting those who have fled their homeland in search of safety and a better life. Zainab has been a guiding light for many Afghan refugees, in particular, who sought refuge following the Taliban's takeover in 2021.

Zainab's remarkable journey does not end there. She has also been instrumental in establishing hospitality venues, and even worked as an executive assistant to the senior vice president of Emirates airlines in Dubai. Her diverse experiences have enriched her dedication to making a positive difference.

In addition to her legal work, Zainab actively practices in wills and estates, and hosts informative seminars, particularly for the Adelaide Iraqi community. Her focus on educating Iraqi women about their rights in succession law is testament to her commitment to empowering others.

The other recipient of this prestigious award is Raf Piccolo. Raf is a distinguished barrister specialising in criminal law. His commitment to justice extends far beyond the courtroom, as evidenced by his involvement in many committees and organisations. Raf serves as a member of the Law Society Council, where he chairs the society's Human Rights Committee, and contributes thoughtfully to the Corporate Governance Committee, Criminal Law Committee and government structure working group. His detailed and insightful submissions on legal issues, particularly those related to human rights, have been invaluable in guiding the society's advocacy efforts.

In addition to his legal contributions, Raf is deeply committed to education and mentorship. He teaches in the Law Society GDLP, serves as a mentor for law students at the University of Adelaide, and volunteers as a judge for the Law Society's mock trial competition.

Beyond the legal realm, Raf donates his time and expertise to various committees, including the Discipline and Appeals Committee for Football SA, the Human Research Ethics Committee at Torrens University, and the Central Adelaide Local Health Network. At the national level, Raf is a member of the Law Council of Australia's Business and Human Rights Committee, and contributes to the Volleyball Australia internal sports tribunal.

His extensive legal expertise is further evident in his authorship of over 330 headnotes for legal publications. Raf's commitment to human rights extends beyond his role as a member of the Membership Review Committee for Amnesty International, and his active membership in the South Australian Bar Association.

The achievements of Zainab Alsweedy and Raf Piccolo are testament to the remarkable potential and dedication of young lawyers in this state; in particular, their commitment to justice, human rights and community engagement serves as an inspiration. I offer my congratulations to the Law Society's South Australian Young Lawyers of the Year 2023, Zainab and Raf.