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Winner of the first William Ah Ket Scholarship announced

By Jason Silverii

• 21 November 2017 • 2 min read
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The first winner of the William Ah Ket Scholarship for the best essay on an issue related to equality, diversity and the law has been announced

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A solicitor in a Victorian government agency is the first winner of the William Ah Ket Scholarship, a $5,000 prize named after the first barrister of Chinese heritage in Australia.

K Abraham Thomas has won the scholarship for his paper Affirmative Action in Piercing the Bamboo Ceiling within the Australian Legal Profession.

Thomas' paper considers the ‘bamboo ceiling’ in the legal profession and whether affirmative action is an adequate means to alleviate any inequalities, ultimately concluding that it would be preferable to harness ‘The Medici Effect’ (developed by Frans Johansson in his 2006 book of the same name) to ensure diversity of thought.

Thomas, who is of Indian heritage, was admitted in 2015 and is ‘passionate about law and its interaction with society’.

The winner was announced tonight at a ceremony in Melbourne.

The judging panel for this year’s scholarship was:

  • Michelle Dixon, CEO, Maddocks
  • Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner
  • The Hon. Michael Kirby, AC, CMG, Former Justice of the High Court of Australia
  • The Hon. Chief Justice Wayne Martin, AC, Chair of Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity

Chief Justice Martin said each of the essays on the shortlist were very interesting.

‘Each was very thorough and reflected a great deal of research and thought. In my view, each would have been a worthy winner of the scholarship.’

The William Ah Ket Scholarship is an initiative by the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) designed to highlight the contribution of William Ah Ket and to encourage debate about issues related to equality, diversity and the law.

The scholarship is sponsored by Maddocks, the law firm where William completed his articles in 1903.

William joined the Victorian Bar in 1904, becoming the first Chinese barrister to practise in Melbourne

AALA vice president William Lye, OAM congratulated Thomas on winning the $5,000 scholarship.

‘The quality of entries this year was outstanding, but it was Thomas' paper that stood out,’ he said.

‘This year was the inaugural year for the William Ah Ket Scholarship and our aim is for this to grow into a prestigious legal scholarship.’

By Jason Silverii

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