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Women in law: the first 100 years

17 July 2018 | Australia

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To commemorate the centenary of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW), artist Yvonne East has created a striking portrait of the first female Chief Justice of the High Court, The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC. The portrait, which will be on display at the Art Gallery of NSW until September, was sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills, and has been selected as a finalist in the Art Gallery’s 2018 Archibald Prize.

Herbert Smith Freehills is supporting an ambitious initiative commemorating the centenary of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW), which first enabled women to practise law in NSW.

Based on a similar project founded in the United Kingdom, the First 100 Years was brought to Australia by Rachel Scanlon, a consultant with Allen & Overy’s Peerpoint platform, with the support of the Law Society of NSW and the NSW Women Lawyers’ Association.

The First 100 Years Steering Committee has been working on a range of initiatives to commemorate the past and current position of women in the Australian legal industry.

As one of their key projects, the First 100 Years commissioned artist Yvonne East to paint a portrait of the first female Chief Justice of the High Court, The Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel AC.

Yvonne East’s striking and personal portrait, which was sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills, has been selected as a finalist in the Art Gallery of NSW’s 2018 Archibald Prize and will be on display at the Art Gallery until September 2018. The design of the portrait acknowledges the First 100 Years project, with 100 books shown in the painting’s background to symbolise the centenary, and their spines left blank to represent the anonymity of the many women in the legal professions whose stories have not been told.

In addition to the portrait of the Chief Justice, the First 100 Years has also commissioned three photo mosaic digital artworks of pioneering Australian female lawyers Ada Evans, Marie Byles and Jane Mathews. Other initiatives forming part of the centenary celebrations include an educational video, a leadership development program for female lawyers, and a gala dinner at Government House to mark the passage of the Women’s Legal Status Act.

Chief Justice Kiefel has signed on as the First 100 Years’ Patron, and Danielle Kelly, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Head of Diversity & Inclusion (Australia & Asia), is a Champion of the project.

For more information, click here.