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Winner of William Ah Ket Scholarship 2021 announced

• 25 November 2021 • 3 min read
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Sydney-based lawyer Sarah Webster is the winner of the 2021 William Ah Ket Scholarship.

Sarah was awarded the scholarship for her essay entitled ‘Unconscious Biases and Uncomfortable Truths: Reassessing Institutional Values and Professionalism in the Law’. Sarah’s essay examines the role of unconscious bias in determining the membership of the Australian legal profession and suggests research-driven measures to assist legal practitioners in bringing an ‘unbiased mind’ to recruitment and promotion.

Sarah, a lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills, received the award at an event held in Sydney and broadcast around Australia tonight.

Herbert Smith Freehills lawyer Sandra Hu and Monash University law student Kevin Nguyen were runners up. Sandra’s essay is titled ‘Movement Lawyering in Australia: ensuring the truth is told’, while Kevin’s essay is ‘The Cost of a Silenced Perspective: Why Judicial Diversity Matters’.

Sarah will receive $6,000 for winning the scholarship, while Sandra and Kevin will each receive $1,000.

This year marks the fourth year of the William Ah Ket Scholarship, an initiative of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA). The scholarship is named after William Ah Ket, who in 1904 became the first Australian barrister of Chinese origin. It is sponsored by Maddocks, where William Ah Ket was an articled clerk in 1903.

This year saw the addition of the University of Melbourne Law School as a supporting partner of the scholarship.

The scholarship was started in 2017. It was not held in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The winning paper was chosen by a panel of legal profession leaders:

  • The Honourable Diana Bryant AO QC, former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and Patron of the AALA
  • Professor Sarah Biddulph, Director of the Asian Law Centre and Professor of Law and Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor- International (China) at the University of Melbourne
  • David Newman, Partner and CEO, Maddocks

AALA National President Kingsley Liu congratulated Sarah on her successful essay.

‘We were very pleased to see such a high standard of essays this year,’ Kingsley said.

‘This year we provided a specific topic for law students and young lawyers to tackle, which was centred on how the Australian legal profession and judiciary or the wider legal system can be improved to ensure the unbiased mind is brought to bear.

‘This is a really important topic when it comes to diversity and equality in the legal profession and the legal system and the level of sophistication of thoughts by this year’s entrants in repose to this topic was truly impressive.’

Maddocks CEO David Newman said the firm was proud to once again be involved with the William Ah Ket Scholarship.

‘The legal profession has come a long way in recent years in promoting diversity and inclusion, but as Sarah’s essay highlights there is more we can and should be doing to ensure the profession better reflects the communities we represent,’ David said.

‘The William Ah Ket Scholarship provides a forum for law students and young lawyers across the country to contribute to the conversation around diversity and inclusion and to test some long-held views of the profession, and that can only be a good thing.’

Melbourne Law School Dean, Professor Pip Nicholson noted that she and her staff were delighted to join the Asian Australian Lawyers Association and Maddocks in supporting the William Ah Ket Scholarship for 2021 and promoting the legacy of one of its greatest alumni.

‘Congratulations to Sarah, Sandra and Kevin for their achievements,’ Professor Nicholson said.

More information on William Ah Ket and the scholarship is available on the AALA website.

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