It is an honour to serve as President of the New South Wales Bar Association.
Almost 200 years ago, the first name was entered on the roll of the Bar of New South Wales: that of Saxe Bannister, newly appointed Attorney-General of New South Wales. Following an appearance in the Supreme Court on 27 July 1824, The Sydney Gazette reported: “This is the first time a Barrister has pleaded in the Law Courts of this Colony.” Barristers have practised continuously in this State since that time.
An independent, ethical and competent Bar is a basic aspect of our legal system, and a legal system operating subject to the rule of law is a substantial human achievement. The New South Wales Bar continues to flourish in a context of institutional continuity and change: with the upcoming bicentenary of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 17 May 2024 and a federal judiciary newly led by Chief Justice Gageler AC and Chief Justice Mortimer. On 26 November 2023, the Honourable T E F Hughes AO KC, a former President, and true leader, of our Bar will turn 100. Hughes’s home, as he sets out on his second century, is Bannister Station, named for Saxe Bannister, who retired there in October 1826.
The Bar also is, and should be, a space of collegiality, friendship and growth. I emigrated to Australia 22 years ago, leaving my then connections 10,000 miles away. The New South Wales Bar has been a place of inclusion, opportunity and support for me. My focus as President will be to ensure that that is true for as many of its members as possible.
In doing so, I will be continuing the course steered by the immediate past President, Gabrielle Bashir SC. Gaby has given decades of service to the Association and served for years upon the profession’s national governing bodies. Thank you, Gaby, personally, and on behalf of the members, for your remarkable commitment to the growth and wellbeing of the Bar.
A priority for the Association in the coming year will be providing additional assistance for the physical and mental demands of life at the Bar, including those involved in caring for children. The Association will advocate for evidence-based policy and law reform and the maintenance of the rule of law in an increasingly fragile political environment. In particular, we will continue our resolute support for measures to reduce the unacceptably high levels of incarceration of First Nations adults and children in New South Wales, and will press for reforms to the coronial system in NSW.
Change awaits us in various shapes: the radical challenges posed by artificial intelligence, the extension of the federal Anti-Money Laundering regime to the legal profession, the newly established National Anti-Corruption Commission, and the Administrative Review Tribunal, which is expected to replace the Administrative Appeals Tribunal next year. The Association is proactively pursuing a range of initiatives in these and other areas to assist the Bar. I look forward to updating you about all of these initiatives in coming months.
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