It is an honour and privilege to serve as the president of the NSW Bar. I am extremely grateful to the bar and bench for the cascade of messages I have received over the last two weeks. On behalf of the bar and personally, I would like to express my thanks to Michael McHugh SC for his dedication to the profession. McHugh SC served on the Bar Council for an extraordinary 19 years in total and, in addition, on several Committees and Working Parties. McHugh SC has provided outstanding service, including during his recent stewardship of the Bar through the continuing pandemic. The profession wishes him well in all his future endeavours.
As a law student, I was given a yellow notepad and asked to assist with the taking of a draft statement from a First Nations woman who was to be the first Stolen Generations claimant in this State. She recounted to me her journey in life, which was traumatic and heartrending. Of course, her dreadful experiences as a young child and woman were shared by many, as the later 1997 Bringing Them Home report documented. The injustices recounted by the Stolen Generations are but one testament to the pressing need for a Voice to Parliament enshrined in our constitution. Tomorrow being the fifty fifth anniversary of the 1967 referendum, which finally counted First Nations as part of the population, on behalf of the oldest independent bar in Australia, I re-affirm our commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Next week, the bar will launch its updated Best Practice Guidelines, which incorporate recent changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) and the Barristers Rules. The Bar Council is wholly committed to driving reform to underscore the necessity of respectful interactions in the practice of the law and in relationships connected with that practice. Changes like these are fundamental to attracting and maintaining a diverse bar and public confidence in the profession. The Bar Council will maintain its work with Heads of Chambers to ensure that cultural change continues at the bar.
On a final note, I remain committed to seeing the profession through this pandemic, and getting us back together in person - in chambers, in court and tribunal hearings, and for CPDs and events - while being ever protective of those who remain vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic, whose health remains of paramount concern. I have been heartened, throughout my time on Executive, by the unwavering collegiality of our members and the broader profession and have no doubt that, together, we will embrace the increasing opportunities to be together again.
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