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Winner of William Ah Ket Scholarship announced for 2022

• 15 December 2022 • 3 min read
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Lawyer Helen Leung has been awarded the 2022 William Ah Ket Scholarship for her essay on the issue of cultural underrepresentation at the bench and an approach to judicial reform.

Helen, who is based in Sydney is a corporate lawyer at Herbert Smith Freehills, won the annual prize for her essay entitled Piercing the Veil of Merit: The Path to a Representative Australian Judiciary.

In her paper, Helen considers what changes can be made to the Australian judiciary’s established processes and ancient regimes, in the context of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s recent report into judicial impartiality, Without Fear or Favour.

Clayton Utz lawyer Shelley Cheng was named a co-runner up for her essay entitled Unequal Representation the Australian Legal Profession: A By-Product of an Unequal Society. Claire Ruiyan Smart who is a lawyer with the Australian Government Solicitor was also a runner up for her essay, Structural Improvements Required: Building a Culturally Diverse Legal Profession.

Now in its fifth year, the scholarship was announced this week at a ceremony in Brisbane. Helen will receive $6,000 as this year’s winner while Shelley and Claire will each be awarded $1,000.

The Asian Australian Lawyers Association established the scholarship in 2017 to encourage final year law students, law graduates and lawyers in the early stages of their career to contribute to the development and promotion of cultural diversity in the legal profession. It is named after William Ah Ket who became the first Australian barrister of Chinese origin in 1904.

The award is sponsored by Maddocks where William Ah Ket was an articled clerk prior to joining the Victorian Bar, which is also a new sponsor this year along with the University of Melbourne Law School, where Mr Ah Ket studied.

This year’s judging panel included Justice of the Federal Court of Australia and President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, the Honourable Justice Sarah C Derrington AM, Associate Professor at Adelaide Law School Anne Hewitt, along with Maddocks Partner and CEO David Newman.

William Lye OAM KC, Chair of the William Ah Ket Scholarship, said: ‘This year, we are delighted to welcome the participation of the Victorian Bar as a supporting partner together with the University of Melbourne, and Maddocks as our principal sponsor.

“These three institutions were instrumental in the development of William Ah Ket’s life in the law. His legacy will live on through the participation of the younger generation of lawyers through their contribution to the body of knowledge on the topics of equality, culture, and diversity in the law."

Molina Asthana, National President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, added: “The research from the winner of this year’s scholarship will contribute to our advocacy. We congratulate Helen on her win and we look forward to using her insights to inform our work."

Speaking about the scholarship’s significance, Maddocks CEO David Newman said: “William Ah Ket holds an important place in Australian legal history and a special association for Maddocks. We are very proud to be once again supporting this award that will continue to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

“Congratulations to all the finalists and particularly Helen on her winning essay that makes a significant contribution to the conversation about how we increase broader and more diverse representation amongst the Australian judiciary.”

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

About Maddocks

Maddocks is a proudly independent Australian law firm that works closely with corporations, businesses and governments throughout Australia and internationally. We advise national and international clients across infrastructure and development and the education, government, healthcare, and technology sectors from our Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney offices. Our specialist expertise includes dispute resolution and litigation, employment and safety, financial services, franchising and insolvency.

For more information:

Lisa Macnamara
Head of Communications
Tel: 02 9291 6114
[email protected]

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