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  • Media Release - Asian Australian Lawyers Association welcomes landmark 24% CALD target forCommonwealth senior public servants

    30 April 2024 The Asian Australian Lawyers Association welcomes the landmark announcement by the Australian Public Service Commission that it will introduce a “reportable benchmark” of 24% for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) representation in the Commonwealth Senior Executive Service (SES). While approximately 25% of Australians and 25% of Commonwealth public servants have a CALD background, only 11% of the Commonwealth SES come from a CALD background. The 89% of the Commonwealth SES who have a non-CALD background is similar to the statistics for ASX300 directors recently published in the 2024 Watermark Search International Board Diversity Index, which showed that 90.5% of ASX300 directors had an Anglo-Celtic background in 2017, increasing to 91.2% in 2024. Section 10A(1)(g) of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1999 states that the Australian Public Service “recognises the diversity of the Australian community and fosters diversity in the workplace.” AALA National Vice-President, Belinda Wong, said: “The low level of multicultural representation in the upper echelons of the Commonwealth public service does not reflect the rich cultural diversity of Australia. “It is vital that public servants in our national government, particularly the Senior Executive Service, General Counsel and senior legal staff, are drawn from the wide variety of cultural backgrounds in the Australian community. “A more representative public service would not only better reflect the Australian community – it would also strengthen our democratic institutions and contribute to the improvement and adaptation of laws and public policy to suit that community. “Senior multicultural public servants bring their lived experience, cultural backgrounds and linguistic capabilities to their roles, contributing their unique perspectives, strengthening government decisionmaking and increasing the community’s confidence in public administration. “AALA commends the Australian Public Service Commission for setting a landmark CALD target for senior Commonwealth public servants and looks forward to its implementation across government agencies.” MEDIA CONTACT: Belinda Wong,

  • Media Release - Embargoed until 8 April 2024 Asian Australian Lawyers Association responds to 2024 Watermark Search International - Board Diversity Index landmark findings

    7 April 2024 The Asian Australian Lawyers Association is very disappointed that the level of cultural diversity on Australia’s ASX 300 boards has stalled over the past decade, according to the landmark findings of the 2024 Watermark Search International Board Diversity Index. In 2024, only 6.6% of ASX300 directors have a non-European background and this includes non- European Anglo-Saxon directors from countries like USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa. In 2017, 90.5% of ASX300 directors had an Anglo-Celtic background, increasing to 91.2% in 2024. This is despite the 2021 Census revealing that 27.6% of Australians were born overseas and 48.2% of Australians have at least one parent born overseas. Further, approximately 1 in 4 Australians have a non-European background and around 18% of Australians have an Asian background. The Watermark Index states that ASX300 boards “could be described as the ‘whitest shade of pale’” and that “we’re often simply replacing white men with white women from a similar background.” AALA National Vice-President, Belinda Wong, said: “The levels of multicultural, First Nations, LGBTIQA+ and disabled representation on ASX 100, 200 and 300 boards are disappointingly low. The composition of Australian boards does not represent the diversity of the talent in the communities that they serve. “Multicultural communities, which include AALA’s diverse membership of over 1,000 members, are highly qualified and aspire to serve our Australian community in roles where we can best utilise our skills, lived experience, cultural backgrounds and linguistic capabilities. “By failing to raise the representation of multicultural communities on Australian boards, our institutions risk succumbing to inequitable and fixed expectations, where stubbornly monocultural boards oversee an increasingly diverse workforce to which they bear little resemblance.” Katrina Rathie, AALA NSW Patron, said: “These entrenched structural issues affect access to opportunities and can result in directors being chosen based on old school networks and ties. Unconscious affinity bias, fishing from the same pond and a lack of transparency around access to merit-based selection processes prevents new blood being found. “Forward thinking and enlightened chairs and their recruiters need to look more widely to find and meet talented candidates from a variety of multicultural backgrounds who are hungry for opportunities to shine. I know so many amazingly skilled culturally diverse men and women just waiting for the call that never comes. “More needs to be done to connect the talent with the opportunities to provide the diverse talent pool for Australia to grow and succeed in the markets of tomorrow.” Matt Floro, AALA National President, said: “Of course, appointments to leadership should be made on merit. But, in doing so, we should be careful not to entrench a hereditary meritocracy, drawn from a narrow cultural, socioeconomic, and professional hue. “Ten years of data show that the dial hasn’t moved on cultural diversity. AALA is committed to advocating for change. We will be the change we want to see.” MEDIA CONTACT: Belinda Wong,

  • Media Release- Asian Australian Lawyers Association congratulates new Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Giridharan Sivaraman

    11 February 2024 The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) congratulates Giridharan Sivaraman on his appointment as the new Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner. “Through Mr Sivaraman's work, including as Chair of Multicultural Australia and his conduct of state and federal Race Discrimination cases, Mr Sivaraman's appointment gives us faith that Australians can expect to be robustly and fearlessly defended against race discrimination,” said AALA National Vice-President, Belinda Wong. “His tireless advocacy for systemic equality and human rights, coupled with his extensive legal expertise, will undoubtedly make a profound impact in fostering a more inclusive and equitable Australia.” “Here's to a future of greater understanding, tolerance, and harmony in Australian society. AALA extends its best wishes to Mr Sivaraman on this important appointment. AALA looks forward to working with him to achieve these goals.” MEDIA CONTACT: Belinda Wong,

  • Media Release - Asian Australian Lawyers Association welcomes the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration's updated handbook on diversity in judicial appointments

    14 February 2024 The Asian Australian Lawyers Association welcomes an increased focus on cultural awareness and diversity in the selection of Australian judges, as described in the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration's updated handbook titled "Suggested Criteria for Judicial Appointment". AALA National Vice-President, Belinda Wong, said: "Embracing diversity within the judiciary is not merely about representation - it is about fostering a judiciary that is sensitive to the needs of a multicultural society." "Judicial diversity brings varied perspectives, lived experiences and insights into the courtroom. It empowers marginalised communities to see themselves reflected amongst decision makers and instils confidence in the fairness and impartiality of our legal institutions." "By promoting both diversity and merit in judicial appointments, as the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration's report suggests, we affirm our commitment to upholding the principles of equality before the law." "It is heartening that the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration has recognised that consideration of diversity is an important factor in enabling courts to better address the complex social, cultural, and systemic issues that form the context of underlying disputes." "AALA stands ready to support and advance initiatives that promote diversity and inclusivity within our judiciary and tribunal appointments." MEDIA CONTACT: Belinda Wong, References:

  • NSW Launch of the Cultural Diversity Focus Groups Project: Pilot Outcomes Report 2022

    On Thursday 10 November, King and Wood Mallesons hosted the official launch of the Cultural Diversity Focus Groups Project: Pilot Outcomes Report 2022. Together with the Women Lawyers Association, the NSW Branch of the AALA led this Pilot Project to gather data to better understand the barriers to career progression faced by culturally diverse solicitors in NSW. The Project was successfully coordinated by two AALA NSW Committee Members: Barrister Lee-May Saw, and 2022 30-under-30 Recipient / AMP Legal Counsel Michael Tangonan, with the assistance of the Advisory Team and key volunteers which consisted of: the Honourable Melissa Perry of the Federal Court of Australia and Patron of the Hellenic Lawyers Association, NSW Chapter; Jenifer McClean and Catherine Duff, both of the Australian Human Rights Commission; Jane O’Leary, Diversity Council of Australia; Helen Macpherson, Baker McKenzie; Sarah Khan, Past President of the Muslim Legal Network; Cathy Kim, Women Lawyers’ Association; Jasmine Feng, NSW Branch (AALA); Tom Lee, NSW Branch (AALA); Emma Wei, NSW Branch (AALA); Sam Haln, NSW Branch (AALA); and William Zhou, NSW Branch (AALA). Our Project Coordinators also extend their thanks to Katrina Rathie, Inaugural NSW Branch Patron, Marija Gurlica, NSW Branch President, Dora Cheung, NSW Committee Member, and Maggie Chan of King and Wood Mallesons and her wider team for their ongoing support in coordinating the Pilot Project and the special launch event. The Report is based on two sets of data: data collated from a state-wide Survey, open to all practising NSW solicitors; and, a Focus Group. The Survey was released in February 2022 and closed in June, and was circulated via the Monday Brief’s platform of the Law Society of NSW together with other social media platforms hosted by AALA, the Women Lawyers’ Association and the Muslim Legal Network. The Focus Group was hosted by King and Wood Mallesons on 7 July 2022, with the assistance of the facilitators, including Shelley Goswami; Arielle Cirillo; and, Lyndal Gowland. While the absence of data should not be seen as a barrier to progression, the presence of collated data and research certainly solidifies the core objective of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association: to advance cultural diversity in the legal profession. The Report is a collaboration between so many organisations where advancing diversity of being, thought and culture are at its core. It is a powerful result that reaffirms that more must be done not only to elevate Asian leadership but also to create genuinely inclusive workplaces. To discuss the outcomes of the Report and the implications of the data and stories collated, the AALA welcomed the AALA National President Molina Asthana and the following special guests on the night: the Honourable Tom Bathurst KC, Keynote; Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan; Mariam Veiszadeh, CEO Media Diversity Australia and Founder of the Islamaphobia Register; Dr. Alanna Kamp, Academic, Western Sydney University and project coordinator of a report reviewing the Asian Australian’s Experience of Racism during the COVID 19 Pandemic; Jahin Tanvir, 2022 Young Australian of the Year Finalist; and Sonia Gandhi, Advisory Board Member, Multicultural NSW (who could not attend on the night). Our panel was chaired by the vibrant, Katrina Rathie NSW Branch Patron, who navigated the intense themes raised by the Report including workplace racism, barriers to reporting and the important role of language in changing attitudes and advancing progression. In attempting to discuss some type of practical solution, Commissioner Tan suggested that perhaps the solution adopted to tackle the gender gap can be applied to the issue of cultural diversity. This was caveated with a word of encouragement that "firms themselves have to lead their own solutions, including tackling the distrust of clients noting that culturally diverse lawyers thrive in an environment that is safe and inclusive, free from harassment or harm." In discussing the outcomes of the Report, Dr Kamp commented on the parallels between the results of the Report gathered from the small data pool, and the results of the large-scale research she has led over the last decade or so. Dr Kamp comments that the Report reflects the results, themes and outcomes of the large-scale results which is a positive testament to the Pilot Project. Led by data, Dr Kamp commented on the correlation between experiencing racism and poor sense of well-being and mental health, noting that 42% of participants in her study who experienced racism at work did not report it (and this includes not even telling a friend). By internalising these negative and sometimes traumatizing experiences, there are ongoing consequences and our whole panel reaffirmed the importance of reporting all experiences of racism - no matter how brief, seemingly insignificant or little you know about the other person(s). In discussing these barriers to reporting, Mariam Veiszadeh shared that this is one of the direct reasons she started the Islamaphobia Register noting "the lack of photos, bruises, names or other details should not be a barrier." When asked about the power of the conscious use of direct language, such as actually saying the word "racism or racist", Mariam Veiszadeh shared her own experiences reflecting on the power of language commenting that calling out racism takes courage and this is why we need to be bold, build allies and have transparent frameworks to "call it out." In discussing the courage required to call racism out, Jahin Tanvir shared that in preparing a TEDX Talk he was actively advised not to talk about racism;- that he would not be able to get employed if his 'calling out' mentality or behaviour went on the public record. Jahin Tanvir noted here that fear is also another barrier, and it's fear within our own diverse communities and institutions that limit the progression of our wider society. In reaching question time, NSW Branch President Marija Gurlica also reaffirmed the importance of being an activist not only in the office or in the CBD, but continuing your activism in your church community and in your home. Tackling intergenerational and institutionalised racism begins at home, participating in those difficult conversations with your elders and including a diversity of culture and thought in your conversations, playtime and books read with your children. While the panel discussion perhaps could have gone for the entire night, the event certainly triggered a clear passion in our audience. We encouraged our participants and audience to be bold, build allies and be a changemaker in whichever capacity possible and suggested that this energy could be invested into organisations such as the Asian Australian Lawyers Association which as a volunteer and non-for-profit organisation, needs your passion to continue projects and conversations such as this! We again duly thank our Project Coordinators Lee-May Saw, and Michael Tangonan, the Women Lawyers' Association, and King and Wood Mallesons for their genuine support of and interest in this Pilot Project. The NSW Branch wish to note that this is a Pilot Project and we hope that this research can be built upon in the coming years on a national scale so that the stories of all our culturally diverse colleagues can be shared, more evidence can be collated, and action and funding can be targetted and tailored. View and share the NSW Pilot Outcomes Report. It can be accessed on the AALA Publications page on our website, which features all of our ground-breaking publications throughout the years including the Foreign Qualified Newsletter! To join the AALA NSW Branch, please register as a Member and join us at our Annual Branch Meeting on Monday 21 December 2022, or at an event or Committee Meeting in 2023! We offer individual memberships and corporate memberships, including special rates for students, offering flexibility to how you invest in AALA. Your membership goes directly to funding the work of AALA, a national and not-for-profit organisation run completely by hard-working and ambitious volunteers. Be the change and join us in 2023. Photos from the Launch Evening:

  • Successful Launch of CALD Issues Paper

    24 September 2022 On 12th September 2022, the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) along with the University of Melbourne celebrated the launch of the CALD Issues Paper authored by Mai Chen and Andrew Godwin. The event was joined by 80 participants, in person and online and was highlighted with valuable insight from Honourable Paul Coghlan AO KC (former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria) and her Honour Judge My Anh Tran of the County Court of Victoria. His Honour Justice Coghlan stressed the need “to understand the nuances cultural diversity brings”, reasoning with the evidentiary issues in the prime Australian case Polyukhovic v The Commonwealth (1991) 172 CLR 501, and his own experience where an interpreter stated that the translation was futile because his honour was “talking about the onions” while the party was “talking about the garlic”. “People should be able to communicate what they want to communicate and do it properly, the judges should be informed” his Honour said. The CALD Issues Paper elucidates the need for judges to be informed and proposes initiatives to overcome the challenges faced by CALD communities in the court. Her Honour Judge Tran stated that the CALD Issues Report serves as the inception for change by “giving voice to the issue.” “Diversity and the ways to address it has always been an issue in the legal profession. In order to address these issues, we need to read the detailed report and learn from it…This is the path to working through those differences and reaching towards respect for all.” AALA President Molina Asthana shared her own experiences of some of the issues that CALD litigants face in accessing the justice system, including the concept of dowry, translators and appointment of expert in a matter that was cross jurisdictional. She highlighted that ‘unique issues require unique solutions because justice should not only be done but also seen to have been done’. She reiterated the importance of the research that has been carried out by the Superdiversity institute led by Mai Chan, which she said is revolutionary and has the potential to remove many barriers to access to justice for CALD litigants in the court system in Australia. We thank Mai and Andrew for all their hard work in authoring this Issues paper and and Andrew and the Asia Law Centore for hosting the event. The event was met with great enthusiasm from the audience and has received media coverage by ABC: We hope to continue promoting such impactful projects and work towards building a system that truly serves justice to all. For all media inquiries, please contact Molina Asthana on or 0400785299.

  • Media Release - CALD Issues Paper Launch Event

    07 September 2022 The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is proud to announce the Australian launch of the Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CALD) Issues Paper drafted by Mai Chen and Dr. Andrew Godwin with the support of The University of Melbourne, Super Diversity Institute, and AALA, on 12 September 2022. CALD parties have long faced barriers that disrupt their access to justice. The CALD Issues Paper seeks to identify these barriers and suggest ways of addressing them. The purpose of this Issues Paper is: 1. To outline for readers in Australia the key findings and recommendations of the CALD Report of the Superdiversity Institute in New Zealand entitled ‘Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Parties in the Courts: A Chinese Case Study’, published November 2019; 2. To outline the changes to the legal landscape elicited by the CALD Report; 3. To reflect on the insights that the recommendations of the CALD Report offers to Australia; 4. To propose an action plan for related initiatives to meet the challenges arising out of increasing superdiversity in Australian courts; and 5. To contribute to public discourse. Following its launch in November 2019, the CALD Report was acknowledged as ground-breaking and has materially assisted the consideration of the unique challenges for CALD parties in getting equal access to justice in New Zealand courts among the judiciary, the legal profession, and the broader community. The report was subsequently cited in the New Zealand Court of Appeal case Zheng v Deng [2020] NZCA 614 and in the recent Supreme Court case of Zheng v Deng [2022] NZSC 76. Given the report’s significant influence in New Zealand’s legal landscape and the long-term impacts of the discourse it has sparked, with a Global Symposium in Cultural Experts in the courts in the Sorbonne in 2023, we believe that these developments will provide valuable insight for Australia with its substantially similar legal system and superdiverse population. The launch will take place at The University of Melbourne Law School at 5.30 pm (registration) for a 6 pm start (AEST) and will be joined by the Honourable Paul Coghlan AO QC (former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria) and her Honour Judge My Anh Tran of the County Court of Victoria. The launch will be a hybrid event allowing both in-person and online attendance. Registration is essential and can be done through the following link - We hope to see as many attendees as possible at the event so that the true impact of the CALD Issues Paper can be realised, thereby promoting greater access to justice for CALD parties in the courts and justice system. President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association Molina Asthana says that “This ground-breaking research from New Zealand, as contextualised for Australia, will for the first time explore issues of access to justice for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities in the court system in Australia and recommend actions and initiatives that may assist in overcoming these challenges so that ‘Justice is not only done but seen to have been done’. We want to hear from all interested stakeholders so that the Comprehensive report when published, takes into account views of those who are directly involved in implementation.” Authors Mai and Andrew state they “hope that the Issues Paper will make a useful contribution to the discourse in Australia and elsewhere concerning the challenges facing CALD parties in the courts and how those challenges might be overcome to ensure everyone gets equal access to justice. We look forward to engaging further with stakeholders on these important Rule of Law issues.” For all media inquiries, please contact Molina Asthana on or 0400785299.

  • Obituary Statement in memory of John K Arthur

    The Asian Australian Lawyers Association has recently received the very sad news of the passing away of our very valued member, John K Arthur in a tragic motorbike accident in NSW. While we are still coming to terms with this tragedy, we want to acknowledge the valuable contribution that John made to the AALA as an executive member, and as our dear colleague and friend. Some words that have been used to describe him are kind, generous, insightful, empathetic and an amazing friend. He provided tremendous support and encouragement to many of us and was a wise counsel and enthusiastic supporter of our initiatives. His loss will be felt deeply across the AALA, the Victorian Bar and the profession. We provide our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.

  • Judicial impartiality, an encouraging move towards cultural diversity

    4 August 2022 The Australian Asian Lawyers Association (AALA) congratulates the Australian Law Reform Commission and its President, Hon Justice SC Derrington AM FAAL, on the launch of the report “Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias”. AALA made a submission to the inquiry into the laws relating to judicial impartiality and bias as they apply to the federal judiciary in July 2021, highlighting the lack of cultural diversity within the judiciary and the senior ranks of the legal profession. AALA also noted the importance of education and training in reducing unconscious cultural bias when appearing in court. These submissions have been extensively referred to in the Report. AALA National President Molina Asthana says that the report is an encouraging step in ensuring greater cultural diversity in the legal profession. “AALA welcomes the report’s fourteen recommendations. We are very happy that our call for greater inclusion and diversity in the legal profession has been embraced in the report. In particular, recommendation 7 calls for a transparent appointment process for judicial officers with selection to be based on criteria such as cultural awareness and the enhancement of diversity of both expertise and lived experience on the bench. Recommendation 8 calls for the collection of statistics on judicial diversity. AALA believes that these recommendations are important for maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice and are also reflective of the value of diversity in the delivery of justice. We call on the Government to commit to immediate action to implement these recommendations in order to address the issues of real, apparent, and apprehended bias in the judicial system.” Sources

  • AALA Congratulates National Vice President Matt Floro

    On behalf our entire Membership, AALA congratulates Matt Floro, National Vice President of AALA who is the recipient of the 2022 Mahla Pearlman Australian Young Environmental Lawyer of the Year Award. The recipient of the Award is a young lawyer who has made a significant contribution to environmental law and to the legal and wider community. The Award is conducted annually by the Australian Environment and Planning Law Group of the Law Council's Legal Practice Section. With humble origins in Western Sydney, Matt continues to navigate his journey as a champion of diversity. Matt's diligence, attention to detail and continued passion for advocating for the environment, vulnerable communities and future generations has been recognised by this prestigious award. His colleagues on AALA are immensely proud of him. We refer our Members to the following Media Statement published by Law Council Australia.


    Dedicated to improving our Member experience and value, the AALA National Executive have released our 2022 AALA Member Survey. The 2022 AALA Member Survey has three key objectives: to understand who our Members are; to understand the expectations of our Members and whether we meet these expectations; and to improve our advocacy in pursuing our fundamental objective, being to promote cultural diversity and inclusion in legal profession. We are committed to providing maximum benefits to our Members, being our corporate and individuals members, including our sponsors whose support we genuinely appreciate. Understanding the demographics of our Membership will shape our strategy for the coming years, ensuring we have the type of opportunities desired by our Membership, offered in the way and places required by our Members. As a national organisation completely founded and run by grass-root volunteers, being fellow students and legal professionals, we are here to lead the conversation on cultural diversity in a way that is inclusive. To support the sustainable growth of our organisation, AALA continues to recruit in every Australian state and territory, implementing formal policies that govern and guide the work we do. As our Membership grows, we get one step closer to achieving genuine intergenerational change. The small conversations we can spark in the elevator, the hard core data we help collect and publish, and the networking and support opportunities we provide, all lay the foundations for genuine change. The work we do is underpinned by the fundamental understanding that change starts with us: us as individuals, leading major branches, communities, and boards and driven by the faith that a better tomorrow exists;- that the work we do matters. So, tell us what matters to you. Tell us who you are and how we can continue to drive change. Be the change. Complete our 2022 AALA Member Survey. The Survey is open to all registered AALA Members and closes Wednesday 31 August 2022.


    We officially launched the 2022 William Ah Ket Scholarship on Wednesday evening at the Peter O'Callaghan QC Gallery in Melbourne, where a portrait can be viewed of William Ah Ket, Australia’s first barrister of Chinese descent together with an exhibition of memorabilia about him. The Honourable Michael Black AC QC, former Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia gave an evocative keynote speech through His Honour’s anecdotes about Mr Ah Ket that we have not heard before including the circumstances in which His Honour came into possession of Mr Ah Ket’s nominate law reports. This year, we are supported by all three institutions where Mr Ah Ket has journeyed through his trailblazing legal career – law firm Maddocks, as founding sponsor, and the University of Melbourne Law School and the Victorian Bar, as supporting partners. The winner of the Scholarship will receive $6,000. A further $1,000 prize will be given to each of the two shortlisted entrants. Shortlisted entrants will also have the opportunity to meet senior legal professionals and members of the judiciary during the Award Ceremony in Brisbane on 1 December 2022. Expressions of interest to submit an essay are open until 5 pm on Thursday 7 July 2022. The deadline for submitting an Application Form and original unpublished paper is 5 pm on Monday 29 August 2022. For more information on the William Ah Ket Scholarship, head to the AALA website. If you have any queries, please email us at Photographs courtesy of the Victorian Bar and Peter Bongiorno Photography.

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