Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Women Lawyers Association Awards

The Hon. M. EL DANNAWI (14:56): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the minister inform the council about this year's Women Lawyers Association winner of the Honourable Dr Robyn Layton AO KC Award?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:57): I thank the honourable member for her question. It is becoming a yearly tradition that the Women Lawyers Association of South Australia host their annual end of year event at Mrs Q on Gouger Street, and it is the second year that I have been privileged to enjoy the event as part of the government.

As I have spoken about before in this place, the Women Lawyers Association is a group comprised of many members from all sectors of the legal profession progressing meaningful work through their aim of promoting justice and equality for all women within and beyond the law. The association is known for their commitment to improving the career prospects of women within the law and supporting women as they navigate the profession at all levels.

It also creates a supportive and vibrant community for women lawyers practising and working in the profession, and a strong network was certainly on display at the event. Among many other things, the association regularly prepares feedback and submissions to both government and other stakeholders on legal issues relevant to women. I have had the benefit of regular meetings with the association and their representatives to discuss many issues that they progress in detail.

I would like to thank the Women Lawyers Association for engaging so collaboratively with government and sharing their expertise and insight during our regular meetings. The feedback passed on is invaluable to ensure that the view of female lawyers in South Australia is being listened to and supported at the highest form possible.

The function with the judiciary was once again an opportunity to meet with and celebrate South Australia's female lawyers and judiciary. It was especially encouraging to see many young female practitioners having the opportunity to speak and spend time with more senior members of the profession.

The annual Honourable Dr Robyn Layton AO KC Award was presented at the function, once again to honour a practising female lawyer in South Australia in recognition of their outstanding efforts in the law. This year, the award was presented to a particularly deserving candidate, Ms Zainab Alsweedy, now a solicitor at MSM Legal specialising in migration law and wills and estates.

Ms Alsweedy has a particularly moving story of how she came to be practising law in South Australia. Ms Alsweedy came to Australia with her family as a refugee in 2000 to seek a safer life, but her family were kept in detention under Australia's migration laws. It was particularly moving as Ms Alsweedy recounted that Dr Layton, the presenter of the award, was one of the lawyers who provided pro bono legal representation to her and her family while in detention and ultimately when they were free from detention before they settled in South Australia.

This experience is largely what inspired Ms Alsweedy to study law and to go on to work in migration law, where she now represents many families in the same position that she and her family were once in. I congratulate Ms Alsweedy for this award for which she is very deserving and thank her for the work that she does in representing migrants and others in South Australia. Funds raised on the night of the event from entry and raffle tickets went towards the Zahra Foundation, a South Australian based charity supporting women and children affected by family and domestic violence.

I want to thank the organisers of the event, in particular president Marissa Mackie, and the others who volunteer many hours of their time in the promotion and standing of the work of women lawyers in South Australia.