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  • 21 Sep 2017 11:42 PM | Sining Wang (Administrator)
    The William Ah Ket Scholarship is an annual prize open to all lawyers admitted to practice in Australia and with up to five years post admission experience.


    The $5000 scholarship is designed to foster the development and promotion of cultural diversity in the legal profession.

    The scholarship is named after William Ah Ket, the son of Chinese migrants who was admitted to practice in Victoria in 1903. William completed his articled clerkship at Maddock Jamieson (now Maddocks) before signing the Victorian Bar roll in 1904. He practised as a barrister until his death in 1936.

    William is believed to be the first person of Chinese background to practise as a barrister in Australia.

    The William Ah Ket Scholarship has been devised by the Asian Australian Lawyers Association and is proudly sponsored by Maddocks.




    ‘William Ah Ket did not ever sit on the Bench, though he would have been a very competent judge. He was a phenomenon at the Victorian Bar, a full-blooded Chinese born in the north-east of Victoria. He was a sound lawyer and a good advocate.’ – Sir Robert Menzies, barrister and Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

    The story of William Ah Ket is a significant one in the history of the Australian legal profession.

    William was born in the Victorian country town of Wangaratta in 1876, the son of Mah Ket, who arrived from Canton during the gold rush, and his wife Hing Ung.

    Fulfilling his father’s wishes, William studied law at the University of Melbourne. While there he won a prize of 40 pounds from the Supreme Court in 1902. He served his articles under Richard Cross of the firm then known as Maddock & Jamieson (now Maddocks) in 1903. 

    He joined the Victorian Bar in 1904, reading with Stewart McArthur – who later went on to be a Supreme Court judge – and became the first Chinese barrister to practise in Melbourne. He is also believed to be the first Chinese barrister to practise in Australia.

    William was well regarded as a barrister. He specialised in civil law and acquired a considerable reputation as a negotiator of settlements.

    A report in the Victorian Bar News of Winter 1984 records that he enjoyed “an excellent general practice” and “was recognised as an able cross-examiner with a superb command of language”.

    However, as Sir Robert Menzies, who was a friend and practised with Mr Ah Ket in Selbourne Chambers, observed “[a] certain prejudice among clients against having a Chinese barrister to an extent limited his practice”.

    Despite this, between 1905 and 1928, he appeared before the High Court on at least 12 occasions. This included a number of cases, Bishop v Chung Brothers, Potter v Minahan and Ingham v Hie Lee, that involved challenges to legislation that discriminated against those of Chinese origin. Indeed, as his daughter Toylaan noted in a paper on her father,  this was an issue that he was passionate about, having been involved in forming a committee to agitate against the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 and the unreasonable conditions imposed, such as the infamous dictation test.

    William was a member of the Chinese Empire Reform Association of 1904 and the Anti-Opium League of Victoria, organisations which supported modernisation and social reform among Chinese at home and abroad. He was also a delegate to the first interstate Chinese convention held at Melbourne in 1905 and was co-founder and president of the Sino-Australian Association, considered to be the first Australian-Chinese club.

    He visited China in 1912-13 as the delegate of the Victorian Chinese Chamber of Commerce to participate in the election of overseas Chinese to the new parliament of the Republic. He was also the acting consul-general for China in 1913-14 and in 1917.

    William died on 6 August 1936.



    The William Ah Ket Scholarship is an annual scholarship of $5000 to be given to the young lawyer who produces the most outstanding research paper in the field of equality, diversity and the law.

    An initiative of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association and sponsored by law firm Maddocks, the scholarship is designed to recognise the historical contribution of William Ah Ket to the legal profession as the first Asian Australian lawyer in Australia.

    The William Ah Ket scholarship is aimed at lawyers with no more than five years post admission experience.

    To apply for the William Ah Ket scholarship, lawyers will need to submit an unpublished paper of no more than 10,000 words (including footnotes, appendices and tables) on a topic dealing with equality, diversity and the law, by 1 November 2017.

    In 2017, the judging panel for the William Ah Ket Scholarship will be:

    ·         Michelle Dixon, CEO, Maddocks
    ·         Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner
    ·         The Hon. Michael Kirby, AC, CMG, Former Justice of the High Court of Australia
    ·         The Hon. Chief Justice Wayne Martin, AC, Chair of Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity

    You can download an application form here.

    For more information, please email scholarship@aala.org.au

  • 21 Sep 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    The Executive Committee of the AALA is seeking expressions of interest from members to volunteer to assist with the day-to-day administration of the AALA, including membership, administration and corporate secretarial tasks. The role will involve providing administration assistance to the AALA National Secretariat and Treasury, which are key parts of the organisation and its Executive Committee.

    The AALA National Secretariat is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the organisation and providing general administrative support to the national Executive Committee. Specific duties include:

    • coordinating meetings, including meetings of the Executive Committee, and annual and other general meetings – preparing agendas (set by the President and Committee members) and taking minutes for Committee meetings; and
    • perform duties or functions as required under legislation and rules pertaining to incorporated associations and not-for-profit organisations, and the AALA Constitution – including recording, maintaining and making accessible relevant registers, minutes, securities and other relevant books and documents.

    The AALA Treasury is responsible for the day-to-day membership administration and the finances of the organisation, including sponsorship and membership administration relating to events. Specific duties include:

    • liaising with prospective and current members about membership and responding to membership queries;
    • assisting with processing membership applications and renewals; and
    • perform duties or functions as required under legislation and the AALA Constitution relating to membership and finances.

    You will be assisting and working under the guidance of the Secretary and the Treasurer to assist to discharge the above tasks, responsibilities and duties.

    Individuals interested in applying for the role will need to demonstrate excellent organisation and time-management skills, attention to detail and be able to work autonomously and proactively.

    To apply, please send your CV and a short covering letter to info@aala.gov.au.

  • 12 Sep 2017 10:30 PM | Anonymous

    The Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) stands for and celebrates diversity and equality in Australia. Our members come from all walks of life and our doors are open to lawyers and other members in the legal community no matter their race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. The AALA Executive Committee stands with the Law Council of Australia; the Human Rights Law Centre; our patron, the Honourable Michael Kirby AC CMG; and numerous other legal industry luminaries and organisations in Australia, and unanimously affirms that freedom from discrimination is a fundamental human right.

    Many of our leaders within the Asian Australian community support this change for good because it will greatly enhance the lives of the LGBTIQ community, some of whom are integral members in the AALA. Our Vice-President and current Acting President, William Lye OAM, recently stated in his acceptance speech at the Australian Law Awards 2017 that, as beneficiaries and champions of diversity in Australia, we must press on for equality for all.

    The Yogyakarta Principles, a set of human rights principles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity developed in Asia, clearly state that sexual orientation is integral to an individual's dignity and goes to our shared humanity. Similarly, the Supreme Court of India recently held that "discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform."

    Accordingly, the AALA Executive Committee considers our support for marriage equality to flow from a shared value of inclusion that seeks to enhance the dignity of our own members. A change in the law to allow same-sex marriage is the right public policy outcome that will allow two people (regardless of gender) to make a strong and recognised commitment, strengthening the institution of marriage and making our society more inclusive.

    The AALA Executive Committee is comprised of leaders from different cultural backgrounds and of many creeds. But on this issue of inclusion and progress we are unanimous: it’s time for change. The AALA Executive Committee encourages all those in the Asian Australian and legal communities to consider their support for marriage equality and vote 'yes' if they so choose in the upcoming postal survey.

  • 05 Sep 2017 10:16 PM | Anonymous

    Congratulations to AALA Vice President and acting President William Lye OAM who was awarded both the Barrister of the Year 2017 Award and the Lawyers Weekly Excellence Award 2017 (top gong for the night) at the recent Australian Law Awards. Members of the AALA National Executive Committee were on hand to celebrate this incredible achievement with William.

    Executive Committee Member Brydon Wang (Allens) represented the Queensland Branch and flew into Sydney for the Awards ceremony. Here's his social story on Storify of the incredible night.

  • 05 Sep 2017 11:27 AM | Wai Kaey Soon (Administrator)

    The Annual William Lee Address, named in honour of NSW's first barrister of Chinese descent, will be held at the Law Society of NSW, 170 Phillip Street, Sydney, on 13 September 2017 from 6:00pm.

    There will be a panel of distinguished speakers - Lee-May Saw, Vice President of Australian Women Lawyers and Immediate Past President of the Women Lawyers Association of NSW; Professor Andrew Lynch of the University of NSW and The Hon. Melissa Perry, Judge from the Federal Court of Australia.

    Registration and other details can be found in the link to the flyer below:

    Cultural Diversity in the Law (Final)

  • 05 Sep 2017 11:17 AM | Wai Kaey Soon (Administrator)

    Amrita Goel of the AALA NSW Committee will be speaking at the University of Western Sydney in Parramatta on Cultural Diversity and the Legal Profession on 7 September 2017 from 5:30pm.

    Details of the event, including registration can be found here: https://www.daretoknowpublications.com/community-event-2017

  • 24 Aug 2017 1:45 PM | Anonymous

    ENGAGING CHINA:  Reflections on lessons from four decades of legal and professional engagement with China

    The Queensland Branch has invited Mark Day to speak on his observations on the differences in legal practice from his 40 years of legal and professional engagement with China. Our free knowledge session will be held at Level Twenty Seven Chambers on Thursday 7 September 2017 at 6pm (for a 6:30pm start).

    The session will cover:

    • Exploring the cultural & legal trends in Chinese commerce
    • Guanxi: doing business in China - networking and cultural IQ
    • Q&A session
    Find out more on the event and our speaker, Mark Day, here.
  • 13 Aug 2017 7:31 PM | Jing Zhu (Administrator)

    The AALA and the Women Barristers Association are proud to host a panel of esteemed speakers to speak on their experiences of diversity in the law.

    Our speakers Judicial Registrar Tran of the County Court; Tuan Van Le, Executive Director, Dispute Resolution at the ATO and Rochelle Castro, Principal at RC & CO Lawyers will share their experiences of diversity in the law and provide their insight as to how best to improve diversity in our profession.

    This is a unique opportunity to hear from the leaders in our profession and forms part of Herbert Smith Freehill's Diversity Week. 

    The event is open to AALA and WBA members. We are also pleased to invite members to register non-member guests to attend this free event.

    The event will be followed by networking and drinks. 

    Click here to register http://aala.org.au/event-2631205

  • 08 Aug 2017 12:47 PM | Jing Zhu (Administrator)

    AALA members are encouraged to register and attend an event being held by the Australian Human Rights Commission 'Cultural Diversity in the Professions' this Thursday 10 August 2017 at Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

    Click the link below to register: 


  • 04 Aug 2017 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    Frank H. Wu, author, law professor, former law school dean, and head of the prestigious non-profit Chinese American membership organisation the Committee of 100, has written widely about reform of legal education and disruption within the profession.

    The AALA, Women Lawyers Association of NSW and Victorian Women Lawyers are proud to welcome the Distinguished Professor Wu to Sydney and Melbourne where, in two special presentations hosted by King & Wood Mallesons, he will:

    • talk about opportunities for global law firms in an increasingly international and transnational practice environment, with an ascendant Asia embracing rule of law;
    • consider changes in the structure of the leading law firms, as competition compels the development of new models for delivery of professional services; and
    • consider how best to include people of diverse backgrounds to achieve better client services and realise ideals of a democratic society.

    Sydney: Wednesday, 16 August 2017, 5.45pm for 6.00pm start
    Friday, 18 August 2017, 12.45pm for 1.00pm start

    Sydney: King & Wood Mallesons, Lvl 61, Governor Phillip Tower, 1 Farrer Pl, Sydney
    Melbourne: King & Wood Mallesons, Lvl 50, Bourke Place, 600 Bourke St, Melbourne

    Free to attend for AALA, VWL members and invited guests only; please RSVP below.

    RSVP Sydney

    RSVP Melbourne

    Proudly hosted by

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