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EMBARGOED UNTIL 700PM, SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER 2002

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EMBARGOED UNTIL 700PM, SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER 2002

EMBARGOED UNTIL 7:00PM, SUNDAY 27 OCTOBER

    2002

MEDIA RELEASE 27/10/2002

2002 CHILDREN’S LAWYER AWARDS

    The Woomera Lawyers Group of SA has been awarded the National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of Children and Young People. Troy Edwards, lawyer, formerly of Sydney Regional Aboriginal Corporation Legal Service has been Awarded the National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of Indigenous Children and Young People.

The National Children's and Youth Law Centre's 2002 Children’s Lawyer Awards

    were presented at the Children's Court of Victoria in Melbourne on Sunday 27 October in an event coinciding with the commencement of the 16th World Congress of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates. The awards aim to highlight the achievements and commitment of particular advocates who work with young people, as well as acknowledge the work of all who work to advance the rights and interests of children and young people in this under-resourced jurisdiction. The Awards are open to all solicitors, barristers, legal volunteers in legal centres or community organisations, legal policy workers and organisations or departments working in the area of children and the law.

    Out of several nominations received, two national winners were selected, as well as awards for lawyers in States and Territories. The 2002 winners are:

    National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of Children and Young People

    Woomera Lawyers Group

    National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of Indigenous Children and Young People

    Mr Troy Edwards

    Award for Outstanding Representation of Children and Young People: NSW - Ms Kerry Graham

    ACT - Ms Rosemary Benet

    VIC - Mr Tim Mulvany

    WA - Ms Fran Marsh

    NT - Mr Peter O'Brien QLD - Logan Youth Legal Service SA - Woomera Lawyers Group

    National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of

    Children and Young People and Award for Outstanding Representation of Children and Young People in South

    Australia The Woomera Lawyers’ Group: Jeremy Moore, Paul Boylan, Megan Philpot, Robert

    McDonald, Ray Hartigan, Tirana Hassan, Elizabeth Boxall, Kate Chisholm and Alan

    Oxenham.

We have all become acutely aware in recent times of Australia's current immigration

    policies and the sad plight of children in immigration detention centres in this country.

    This year’s award recognises the efforts of some of those who have battled tirelessly

    against this situation. Since November 2000, the Woomera Lawyers’ Group has

    played a pivotal role in providing legal representation to detainees at the Woomera

    Immigration Reception and Processing Centre. Brought together by a powerful

    commitment to principles of social and human justice, the Group was the first to

    provide independent legal advice at Woomera to refugees seeking asylum. The

    Group established the Woomera Legal Outpost in November 2001 to provide free

    professional and administrative assistance, and has been on hand to assist many

    asylum seekers with their Federal Court appeals.

    The Group’s advocacy has focused on: * the provision of better education services;

    * the availability of age-appropriate play equipment;

    * access to health care services;

    * rapid processing of applications for asylum; and

    * the placement of unaccompanied minors within the community.

As this list indicates, the work of the Group demonstrates a strong focus in

    representing the interests of children and young people, in a situation of particular

    vulnerability and disadvantage. They are awarded today for their unique and

    invaluable services to the representation of children and young people, and their

    commitment to the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    National Award for Excellent and Outstanding Legal Representation of

    Indigenous Children and Young People

    Troy Edwards, Children’s Court Solicitor, Sydney Regional Aboriginal Corporation

    Legal Service (SRACLS)

Troy Edwards achieved outstanding results in his time at Sydney Regional Aboriginal

    Corporation Legal Service, including 12 months as the sole Children’s Court Solicitor

    for SRACLS at Bidura Children’s Court to July 2002. Mr Edwards’ decision to work

    at Bidura was a reflection of his commitment to his ideals and his Aboriginality. His

    decision and dedication, as he was working between 60 and 80 hours per week,

    meant refusing easier and more lucrative career paths.

In one of the State’s busiest criminal courts, Mr Edwards rapidly developed the

    respect of the Magistrates, Court staff and police for the professional and dedicated

    manner in which he presented his cases, his thorough knowledge of criminal and

    evidence law and excellent advocacy skills. More vitally, he developed a special

    rapport with, and the respect of, his indigenous clients and their families.

This award recognises Mr Edwards’ commitment to representing the rights and

    interests of Indigenous children and young people.

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN NSW

    Kerry Graham, Youth Drug Court Solicitor, Legal Aid Commission

Kerry Graham’s career history clearly demonstrates her tireless dedication to

    advocacy for children and young people. Her achievements include significant

    involvement in founding the pilot Youth Drug Court Program, the first of its kind in

    Australia and acting as senior solicitor in the Bidura Children’s Court. She drafted

    numerous submissions, including a proposal for a pro bono scheme with major law

    firm Blake Dawson Waldron which resulted in a children’s solicitor visiting detention

    centres. Ms Graham wrote all operational policies for the South Sydney Youth

    Service.

Ms Graham’s consistently high standards of advocacy and her dedication have won

    her the respect of her peers, Magistrates and clients. Ms Graham has remained

    cheerful and a generous source of expertise and advice to her colleagues. She

    brings to her work not only commitment and exceptional skills, but also compassion

    and understanding that has changed the lives of many young people.

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN ACT

    Rosemary Benet, Lawyer, South Eastern Aboriginal Legal Service

Rosemary Benet has worked hard to achieve her goals. Fortunately for others, her

    goals have included being the best advocate she can be for her young clients. Ms

    Benet takes a holistic approach to young people in the legal system, and is

    constantly looking at ways to divert young people from custodial sentences. Her

    commitment to her work has seen her make calls to young clients at police stations

    at any time of the day or night, working many hours longer than she is expected to,

    and running numerous matters each day in court. She brings to her work her

    understanding of the legal issues affecting children within the legal system and

    empathy with her clients.

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN VIC

    Tim Mulvany, Barrister and Solicitor

Over thirty years of legal practice, Tim Mulvany has shown outstanding commitment

    to families and children. He gives freely of his time to ensure that the wishes of the

    child are heard, and the child’s interests protected. His dedication to his principles is

    reflected in his compassionate attention to clients, coupled with sound, objective

    advice. He often acts pro bono or for a greatly reduced fee. Mr Mulvany’s approach

    maximises the possibility of reaching solutions beneficial to children, whilst

    minimising the possibility of further unnecessary and traumatic litigation.

Mr Mulvany’s expertise has been recognised by many in relation to child

    representation and adoption matters and he has actively worked to inform the legal

    and wider community of children’s rights. He has advised and assisted many

    committees, including chairing the Victoria Law Institute’s Children and Youth Issues

    Committee for the past 3 years, and acting as a member of the Advisory Committee

    to the Chief Justice of the Family Court. Mr Mulvany is also the Law Institute's

    Family Law Section representative on the Refugee Law Reform Committee.

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN WA

    Fran Marsh Duty Lawyer, Legal Aid

For over a decade, Fran Marsh has represented children and young people without

    fear or favour; with compassion, dignity and professionalism. Ms Marsh’s

    professionalism and commitment to her clients exist in every aspect of her practice

    she takes the time to develop relationships and a rapport with her clients and their

    families. She doesn’t rush her clients at court, helping them to feel more comfortable

    with the court process and explaining procedures in a manner that they will

    understand.

Children’s liberty is foremost in Ms Marsh’s mind, and she tries her utmost to keep

    them out of detention, whether on remand or sentenced. Her positive relationship

    with Magistrates, Police and Juvenile Justice personnel means that she is able to

    obtain information regarding a child’s record and charges, which assists her in

    entering pleas at the earliest opportunity. She is known for negotiating with

    prosecution personnel to obtain more favourable bail outcomes and non-legal

    sentences. Importantly, as Ms Marsh's nominee states, "Children's liberty is

    foremost in her mind and she works hard to keep them out of detention, whether on

    remand or sentenced."

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN NT

    Peter O’Brien, Criminal Solicitor, NAALAS

Peter O’Brien is Awarded today for his tireless and dogged defence of indigenous

    children facing mandatory sentencing. Although the Sentencing Act in the Northern

    Territory has since changed, Mr O’Brien’s passion and commitment to his clients

    remains. He is the sole indigenous children’s solicitor throughout a large part of the

    Top End and his passion and dedication to his work are reflected in the many

    overtime hours he spends preparing his cases, his participation in law reform projects

    and his interest in wider justice issues, such as traditional and customary law as it

    relates to juveniles. Successful outcomes he has achieved for his clients include

    acquittals and diversions, ensuring that the young person was not detained.

AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUNG

    PEOPLE IN QLD

    Logan Youth Legal Service

The Logan Youth Legal Service is recognised today for its excellence over twenty

    years in providing legal services to young people across a number of issues. The

    Service operates in a low socio-economic area, and the local population is often

    marginalised and lacking educational and employment opportunities.

As advocates, the Service has had outstanding successes, including acting for the

    appellant in a matter that has become the leading Queensland authority on the role

    of an independent person. This decision encouraged the proper implementation by

    both police and courts of the provisions and principles of juvenile justice law,

    particularly in relation to young people’s vulnerability in legal situations. It is a proud

    achievement of the Service that 20% of all charges faced by its clients are reduced,

    dismissed or withdrawn. The Service also developed the world’s first youth-specific

    legal website. This constantly expanding site answers many of the questions that

    young people in Queensland have. The Service has also been very active in law

    reform projects, including submissions on mandatory sentencing, strip-searching and

    child protection. Youth participation is a significant focus of the work of the Service, as is compliance with the entire UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Service's CROC compliance checklist is used by many within and outside of Queensland.

    The dedication of the Service’s staff reflect their own, as well as the organisation's, commitment to addressing social justice issues, respecting the integrity of individuals and promoting self-determination and human rights.

    The NCYLC acknowledges the major partners in these Awards: Mallesons Stephen Jaques and the 16th World Congress of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates.

    For further information contact National Children's and Youth Law Centre 02 9398 7488

    16th World Congress of the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates

    Melbourne, Victoria

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