Legislative Council: Tuesday, October 31, 2023


Law Society of South Australia Justice Award

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:23): Thank you, Mr President. I just got my memory back. My question is to the Attorney-General. Can the minister tell the council about the winners of the Law Society of South Australia Justice Award for 2023?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:24): I thank the very healthy looking honourable member for his question and his interest in this area.

The Law Society Awards, a couple of which I have mentioned in this chamber over the last few weeks, recognises contributions that legal practitioners and those involved in the law in South Australia have made to the profession. The Law Society's Justice Award recognises the contribution that legal practitioners in particular have made to promoting access to justice in South Australia, particularly for socially and economically disadvantaged people. The Justice Award is presented to an individual legal practitioner or practitioners whose commitment to promoting access to justice in South Australia has been demonstrated in a range of activities over an extended period or in a single activity of significance.

I am most pleased to inform the council this year that the Justice Award was won by Mr Graham Russell and Mr Greg Mead SC. The two winners of this year's Justice Award, who were honoured at the legal professional dinner earlier this year, have left lasting impacts on the access to justice in this state, something for which I am very grateful, as are many other South Australians.

Mr Graham Russell has been at the Legal Services Commission for an incredible 46 years. He has championed the legal rights of children and families right throughout his career. Graham was the manager of the Legal Services Commission's Family Law Unit for 28 years. Throughout his tenure he has established a number of programs, including the child support specialist unit, do-your-own-divorce classes, the independent children's lawyer's program, the family dispute resolution program, the family advocacy and support service and the cross-examination scheme. All of these programs have extended the reach of Legal Aid to many people who would not otherwise have been assisted with their family law disputes.

In more recent times, Graham has been a key member of the Legal Services Commission's policy team, providing practical and well-informed advice to the leadership on legal policy and matters relevant to South Australia and nationally. Graham's decades of service to the development of access to justice in family law have been fittingly acknowledged, with the co-awarding of the Justice Award for 2023.

The other winner, as I mentioned earlier, of the Justice Award is Greg Mead SC, who has also spent almost his entire career at the Legal Services Commission, starting out as a legal officer in the criminal practice division. In 1993, Greg set up a free after-hours custody service, which is run by volunteers and enables people charged with serious criminal offences to navigate their legal rights, access legal advice and receive support for special needs. This service still operates today, after having been set up way back in 1993.

In 2005, Greg was appointed as the Legal Services Commission Chief Counsel, and his expertise was recognised when he was appointed Senior Counsel in 2010. Greg has been one of the state's key figures in ensuring that people going through the criminal justice system can access their legal rights. He has been instrumental in the introduction of the legal practitioner panel system, developing merits testing for Legal Aid applications and protecting confidentiality and protecting legal professional privilege.

An enduring presence in the criminal courts, often to be seen as counsel in some of the most serious trials, Greg is well-known for his courteous demeanour, even when defending his clients with utmost tenacity and skill. A keen legal mind, dedicated to ensuring that the most vulnerable South Australians get legal representation, Greg Mead is obviously a worthy recipient of the Justice Award for 2023.

I commend the winners of the 2023 Justice Award. They serve as an example to anyone considering a career furthering access to justice, particularly as both these winners are from the Legal Services Commission, and a career in the Legal Services Commission. Those two aims—furthering access to justice and working with the Legal Services Commission—in my experience are very closely related.

Mr Graham Russell and Mr Greg Mead SC have had an unwavering commitment to ensuring that justice is accessible to all, regardless of circumstance or background, so I am very proud of this year's winners and commend their achievements to the council.