The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is the first incorporated association in Australia to focus on the growing number of Asian Australian lawyers and lawyers with an interest in Asia in the profession. At our core, AALA is fundamentally committed to promoting cultural diversity in the law. Our work and advocacy are led by our Founding Objectives and the voices of our Members.
AALA is a national, non-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation that was founded and is run by practitioners and students who volunteer from across Australia. We have a National Executive and Branches in seven Australian states and territories, welcoming Members from all walks of legal life including students, lawyers and principals from small, medium and large firms, barristers, in-house, community legal centre and government lawyers.
AALA is proud that our Membership represents the rich cultural and socio-economic diversity of Australia. Our work advocates for a legal profession that is representative of our Membership as we remain fervently committed to a vision of an Australian legal profession that reflects the communities it serves.
The work of our National Executive and Branches reflects the AALA commitment to intersectional diversity and we welcome individuals and corporate organisations to join us as Individual or Corporate Members. AALA also offers Sponsorship and Partnership opportunities which allow us to form networks that aim to further our connection with communities and contribute to achieving our Founding Objectives.
Finally, our AALA Patrons are a testament to the outreach of AALA and the leadership role we hold in the legal profession.
AALA FOUNDING OBJECTIVES
The objectives of the AALA include:
To bring together members of the legal profession of Asian heritage and cultural background and others with an interest in Asia;
To provide a cohesive professional network to advocate for, and provide support to, our members and to benefit from shared learning and experience;
To improve the capability and reputation of the members in the legal profession through raising public awareness and providing education;
To develop links with Asian legal associations and facilitate and promote access for members to Asian legal markets;
To promote and facilitate Asian cultural diversity in the senior ranks of the legal profession;
To promote a mutual understanding of Australian and Asian legal systems; and
Such other purposes as the association, by general meeting, may determine, as an independent, politically unaffiliated and religiously tolerant organisation.
The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) was founded in mid 2013.
However, the ideas for establishing such an organisation germinated in mid 1995 during gatherings for the Pacific Regional International Bar Association conference attended by William Lye (now OAM QC). Back then, there were very few barristers of Asian descent practising at any Bar Associations in Australia. It was difficult to gain any traction to form an association that represented the interests of Asian Australian lawyers.
It was not until 2009 that the Commercial Bar Association of Victoria founded the Asian Practice section under the leadership of William Lye as the precursor to any kind of Asian Australian lawyers’ association in Australia. In late 2012 a group of lawyers in Victoria came together over a lunch to discuss the formation of an Asian Australian lawyers’ association. This luncheon seeded the idea of establishing AALA and a small team of lawyers drafted the Constitution and prepared to launch AALA sometime in 2013.
On 22 October 2013, AALA was launched at the Victorian Supreme Court Library. About 100 people attended the launch, with Supreme Court justice the Hon Emilios Kyrou introducing the new association which he described as ‘momentous’ and one that reflected the importance of Asian Australian lawyers. It was an historic occasion – see the Law Institute Journal (December 2013) article reviewing the AALA launch.
Reynah Tang AM (then Immediate Past President, Law Institute of Victoria) was appointed the first President of AALA, which grew to include solicitors, barristers and others. The foundation team included William Lye OAM QC (National Vice President 2016-2018), Tuanh Nguyen (National President AALA 2016 – 2018), Zubair Mian (then President, Eastern Suburban Lawyers Association), Cam Truong (now QC), Karin Clark, Victor Tse, Jody Culey, Daniel Nguyen, James Lion, Karen Cheng, joined by Molina Asthana soon after (who has held posts of National Treasurer and National Vice President). See Minutes of first executive committee meeting here.
In 2015, AALA published its landmark findings in its snapshot of the Asian Australian lawyers' survey
The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG joined as its first National Patron. Also in 2015, AALA launched its NSW Branch with Kingsley Liu as its first Branch President.
In 2016, AALA established its Western Australia Branch with Peter Le as its first Branch President.
In 2017, AALA established its Queensland Branch in 2017 with Nicholas Ng as its first Branch President.
Also in 2017, AALA launched the William Ah Ket Scholarship, celebrating the life and achievements of Australia’s first Asian Australian barrister. William Lye OAM QC is the current Chair of the William Ah Ket Scholarship Committee. The first William Ah Ket Scholar was was Thomas Abraham.
In 2019, the Hon Robert French AC became the AALA WA Branch Patron.
In 2020, AALA established its Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania Branches, led by inaugural Branch Presidents Veer Dhaliwal, Jessica Teoh and Jessica Sabapathy respectively.
Also in 2020, AALA held its inaugural virtual National Cultural Diversity Summit, which was AALA’s largest ever event. The Summit attracted 400 registrants and included keynote addresses from Rt Hon Lord Justice Rabinder Singh and California Chief Justice Hon Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Australian and international jurists and representatives from culturally diverse lawyer associations.
In 2021, the Hon Diana Bryant AO QC became AALA’s National Patron and Rt Hon Lord Justice Rabinder Singh became AALA’s International Patron. The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG maintains his association with AALA as our Emeritus Patron. In 2021, the Hon Gareth Evans AC QC became the AALA VIC Branch Patron.
True to the founders’ vision, ie to promote cultural diversity in the law, AALA continues in a multiplicity of activities across Australia and its membership grows.
View the below video, Celebrating Asian Australian Lawyers: From William Ah Ket to Today (Asian Law Centre, The University of Melbourne, 2020) outlining the story of AALA.
In 2021, AALA became a proud
organisational Member of LAWASIA.