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Blog Posts (28)

  • 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.

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  • About | Asian Australian Lawyers Association | Diversity in Law | AALA | Australia

    ABOUT AALA T he Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is the national peak body for Asian Australian lawyers and lawyers with an interest in Asia regardless of background. 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 all 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. JOIN AALA 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. Objectives History OUR HISTORY 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. Celebrating Asian Australian Lawyers: From William Ah Ket to Today ​ Asian Law Centre, The University of Melbourne, 2020. Original source can be found here . AALA GOVERNING DOCUMENTS Access key AALA documents such as the Constitution and Policies here: AALA GOVERNING DOCUMENTS AALA PATRONS Meet and learn more about our AALA Patrons here: AALA PATRONS GOVERNING DOCUMENTS & REPORTS ORGANISATIONAL MEMBER In 2021, AALA became a proud organisational Member of LAWASIA.

  • Asian Australian Lawyers Association | Diversity in Law | AALA | Australia

    LEARN MORE NATIONAL APPROACH | LOCAL ENGAGEMENT GENERATIONAL IMPACT The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) is the national peak body for Asian Australian lawyers and lawyers with an interest in Asia regardless of background. ​ AALA is a national, non-for-profit organisation with Branches in all states/territories, welcoming Members from all walks of legal life including students, lawyers and principals from small, medium and large firms, barristers, in-house, government and non-profit lawyers. Since its establishment, AALA has become a leading voice for cultural diversity in the legal profession, working with peak bodies and organisations to promote intersectional diversity in the law and equitable access to the law. JOIN AALA ABOUT AALA Learn more about our AALA, including our Founding Objectives, history, patrons and governing documents & reports. READ MORE LEADERSHIP We are a national organisation with operating branches across Australia. View our current branches and meet our branch members. READ MORE MEMBERSHIP Unlock a national support network with one membership! Learn more about our membership options. READ MORE LATEST NEWS Read about the latest AALA News from our branches, and access past articles via the AALA archive. READ MORE AALA EVENTS We host many different event types, from panel discussions to social catchups. View our upcoming events. READ MORE NATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES We offer a range of programs & national opportunities available for AALA members. READ MORE UPCOMING EVENTS Join up as a member today and gain access to regular events, including career workshops, cocktail evenings, panel sessions and more! VIEW EVENTS OUR NATIONAL SPONSOR Baker McKenzie is an international law firm with 77 offices across 46 countries. As the first truly global law firm, our origins are rooted in the respect for and appreciation of difference. Our own diversity mirrors our commitment to exploring multiple perspectives to develop the best possible solutions for our clients and to fostering a culture of respect and inclusion that celebrates diversity. Inclusion & diversity (I&D) are in our DNA. ​ AALA has enjoyed the generous support it has received from Baker McKenzie over the years and appreciates the genuine passion, support and collaboration.

  • Patrons | Asian Australian Lawyers Association | Diversity in Law | AALA | Australia

    AALA GOVERNING DOCUMENTS As a not-for-profit, volunteer association, AALA is committed to growth that is transparent, diligent and inclusive. By publishing the AALA Governing Documents, the AALA Leadership aims to provide a safe and collegial network for our Members and promote positive succession planning. Should you have any queries, please contact us at AALA CONSTITUTION AALA CONSTITUTION AALA ANNUAL REPORT AALA ANNUAL REPORT (2020) AALA ANNUAL REPORT (2021) AALA ANNUAL REPORT (2022) AALA POLICIES National Anti-Discrimination, Bullying and Harassment Policy: Download here National Sexual Harassment Policy: Download here National Portfolio Subcommittee Policy: Download here National Member Recognition Policy: Download here Election Policy: Download here Technology and Data Policy: Download here Media and Public Message Policy: Download here Petty Cash, Reimbursement, and Bank Account Policies: Download here COVID-19 Policy: Download here Patron Policy: Download here

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