Women Lawyers Milestones Western Australia

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1899

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Women given the right to vote in Western Australia.

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1900

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Edith Haynes is the first woman to register with the WA Barristers Board for the 5 year articles programme. She was advised by the Board that although they had accepted her registration there was no guarantee that her admission as a Legal Practitioner at the end of it would be accepted. In 1903 the Barristers Board refused to allow Edith Haynes to sit her final examinations as they considered her ineligible for admission.

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1915

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Edith Cowan is the first woman appointed to the Bench in Western Australia as a lay member of the Children’s Court.

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1921

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Edith Cowan is elected as a member of Parliament in Western Australia and is the first woman so elected anywhere in Australia.

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1923

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Edith Cowan presents a private members bill which later becomes the Women’s Legal Status Act 1923, allowing women to be admitted to the legal profession on the same terms as men.

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1928

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Law is taught at the University of Western Australia. The first class of law students includes four women: Margaret Battye, Kathleen Hartrey, Molly Kingston and Enid Russell.

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1930

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Alice May Cummins is the first woman in Western Australia to be admitted to practice as a legal practitioner (having previously been admitted in South Australia), but she never practices in Western Australia.

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1931

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Enid Marjorie Russell is the first woman in Western Australia to be admitted and practice as a legal practitioner in the jurisdiction and take up practice as a lawyer.

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1933

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Margaret Battye, Kathleen Hartrey, Molly Kingston and Sheila McClemans are admitted to practice and all practice as legal practitioners. In June of this year, Margaret Battye is the first woman lawyer to represent a client in a Western Australian court (she won).

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1934

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Enid Castieau Whitfield is admitted to practice in Western Australia.

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1935(TBC)

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Joan McKenna is admitted to practice in Western Australia

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1936

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Enid Miles becomes the 9th woman to be admitted to practice in Western Australia. By this year, Molly Kingston and Sheila McClemans are practising in partnership, Margaret Battye is practising as a sole practitioner, Kathleen Hartrey, Enid Whitfield, Joan McKenna and Enid Miles are associated with prominent city legal firms, Enid Russell is with a legal firm in London and Alice Cummins is prominent in Perth business circles.

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1975

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Valerie French is the first woman to elect to practise as a barrister in Western Australia – she is followed very shortly thereafter by Antoinette Kennedy.

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1981

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Vivien Edwards is appointed Western Australia’s first female prosecutor.

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1982

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Women Lawyers of Western Australia Inc formed. 

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1985

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Antoinette Kennedy is appointed to the Bench of the District Court of Western Australia as a judge (later to become Chief Judge). Her Honour is the first woman legal practitioner to be appointed to the judiciary in Western Australia.

Carolyn Martin is appointed as the first female Stipendiary Magistrate in Western Australia (later appointed to the Family Court).

June Williams is appointed Western Australia’s first Equal Opportunity Commissioner

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1987

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Deborah Bennett-Borlase is appointed the first female Magistrate in Western Australia

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1993

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Judge Mary-Anne Yeats is appointed to the Bench of the District Court of Western Australia.

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1994

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Christine Wheeler is the first woman in Western Australia to be appointed Queens Counsel – this is the same year she joined the Independent Bar.

Judge Valerie French is appointed to the Bench of the District Court of Western Australia

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1995

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Judy Eckert is the first woman to be elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia. Since then half of the Presidents of the Law Society have been women.

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1996

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Justice Christine Wheeler QC is the first woman appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Justice Carolyn Martin is the first woman appointed to the Bench of the Family Court in Western Australia.

Shauna Deane is the second woman appointed Queens Counsel in Western Australia.

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1997

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Carmel McLure is appointed Queens Counsel.

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1998

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Narelle Johnson is appointed Queens Counsel.

Judge Shauna Deane QC is appointed to the Bench of the District Court of Western Australia.

Kate O’Brien is elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

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1999

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Justice Julienne Penny is appointed to the Bench of the Family Court.

Judge Kate O’Brien is appointed to Bench of the District Court of Western Australia.

Elizabeth Woods is appointed Magistrate

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2000

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Elizabeth Woods is appointed Deputy Chief Magistrate

Bronwyn Keighley-Gerardy is appointed as Western Australia’s inaugural Information Commissioner

Her Honour Diana Bryant is appointed the inaugural Chief Federal Magistrate (and so the first woman to be appointed to that position) and is the first Western Australian woman (we acknowledge that Victoria claims her too) to head the jurisdiction of any Australian Federal court.

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2001

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Gillian Braddock is appointed Senior Counsel.

Justice Carmel McLure QC is appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Judge Lindy Jenkins is appointed to the Bench of the District Court of Western Australia

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2002

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Jane Crisford is appointed Senior Counsel (later to be appointed to the District and then Family Courts).

Clare Thompson is elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

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2003

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Justice Narelle Johnson QC is appointed to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Elizabeth Heenan is elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

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2004

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Her Honour Antoinette Kennedy is the first woman to be appointed as Chief Judge of the District Court of Western Australia and is the first woman to head the jurisdiction of any court in Western Australia.

Justice Lindy Jenkins is appointed from the Bench of the District Court to the Bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Judge Jane Crisford SC is appointed to the Bench of the District Court.

The Honourable Diana Bryant is appointed as Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia.

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2005

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Gillian Braddock SC is the first woman to be President of the WA Bar Association.

Ros Fogliani is appointed Commonwealth Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in WA and is the first appointed to head up a law enforcement agency in Western Australia.

Troy Sweeney is appointed Senior Counsel.

Judge Judy Eckert is appointed as Judge of the District Court to be part of the inaugural Bench of the State Administrative Tribunal.

Judge Julie Wager is appointed from the Magistracy to be a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

Justice Christine Wheeler QC and Justice Carmel McLure QC are appointed to and are founding members of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Celia Searle is elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

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2006

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Judge Troy Sweeney SC is appointed as a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

Justice Jane Crisford SC is appointed to the Bench of the Family Court.

Maria Saraceni is elected President of the Law Society of Western Australia.

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2007

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Anette Schoombee, is appointed as a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

Gail Archer SC is appointed Senior Counsel.

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2008

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Gail Archer SC is the first woman to be appointed as Acting Commissioner to the Crime and Corruption Commission in Western Australia.

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2009

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Felicity Davis is appointed as a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

Janine Pritchard is appointed as a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

Justice Carmel McClure QC is appointed first female president of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Western Australia

Patricia Cahill SC is appointed Senior Counsel in Western Australia.

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2010

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Janine Pritchard is appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia

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2011

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Gillian Braddock SC is appointed as a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia

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2012

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Susan Duncanson is appointed as a Judge of the Family Court of Western Australia

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2013

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Karen Farley SC, Katrina Banks-Smith SC and Linda Petrusa SC are appointed Senior Counsel in Western Australia

Ros Fogliani is the first woman to be appointed State Coroner in Western Australia

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2014

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Kerry Sanderson is the first woman to be appointed Governor of Western Australia

Judge Vicki Stewart is appointed from the Magistracy to be a Judge of the District Court of Western Australia.

*Note – The purpose of this document is to record the ‘firsts’ for women in the legal profession in Western Australia and to capture all appointments as silk as well as to the intermediate and superior courts sitting in Western Australia.

This document was last updated on 24 October 2014, however there are some matters that are not complete. If you have any additional information that you believe fits this criteria please contact WLWA via email on our website www.wlwa.asn.au.