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Law Council of Australia


Law Council 90th Gala Dinner

14 December 2023

                                          Caption: Past Presidents of the Law Council of Australia with current President, Mr Luke Murphy.

Celebrating its 90th Anniversary, the Law Council hosted its end-of-year event, the Law Council Gala Dinner, in the grandeur of the Old Parliament House on 1 December 2023. The event was a resounding success, with more than 230 guests attending the dinner, including the Attorney-General the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP; former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Hon Robert French AC; Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia, the Hon Debra Mortimer; the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, the Hon Will Alstergren AO; other former and current members of the judiciary; and past Presidents of the Law Council of Australia.

Focused on the history and vital contributions the Law Council had made to debates of national significance, President Murphy provided his reflection on his presidency, what the Law Council had achieved over the last 12 months.

“Ladies and gentlemen – the Law Council of Australia's fundamental role and reason for being has not changed for nine decades. As is evident from an analysis of this year's LCA work we continue to encourage, shape and resist action that the Commonwealth government undertakes to ensure that good law is made and that it is in the public interest and that legislation and policy does not compromise the operation of the fundamental cornerstone principles of law upon which our democracy depends.”

“Our committees, working groups and the secretariat staff have devoted significant time and resources to the public discourse at a national level. This has included: the Voice, the amendments to the Family Law Act, the review of Australia's Administrative review process, the justice response to sexual violence, cyber security, the introduction of Anti-money laundering and counter­terrorism finance legislation, judicial immunity, a Federal Judicial commission, consideration of both a Federal Parole authority and a Case Review Commission, and more recently the challenges of the Migration Act to highlight just a few.”

“On an international level there has been continual engagement on four occasions in the last eight months with representatives from the United Kingdom legal profession bodies, in relation to the AUKFTA; there has been engagement with NZ, UK, America, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, India, Hong Kong, and Ireland on anti-money laundering; engagement with representatives from the Pacific jurisdictions, the Attorney-General’s Department and DFAT to secure the survival of PACLII for the benefit of the legal profession and wider communities in the Pacific jurisdictions; engagement in international diplomacy with the support of DFAT in relation to Hong Kong; entering into new MOUs with India, South Korea and Taiwan legal associations; and providing support to the profession in Fiji.”

      Caption: Mr Luke Murphy, Law Council of Australia President. 

“That broad description does not touch on the endeavours to maintain positive working and supportive relationships with all of the constituent bodies, policy committees and sections of which there are many – all of whom make a significant contribution to the fabric of the Law Council.”

Commemorating the historic occasion, the Attorney-General of Australia, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP, spoke at the event and thanked President Luke Murphy and welcomed incoming President Greg McIntyre SC. He also acknowledged the crucial work the Law Council does for the legal profession.

“As a former Director of the Council, and now as Attorney-General, I acknowledge how central your work is to providing the legal profession’s input into policy development and legislative processes. My door is always open to you.”

Incoming President, Mr Greg McIntyre SC, also addressed delegates at the event, sharing his thoughts. His speech acknowledged Mr Murphy’s dedication and passion as President and provided a forward-looking perspective for 2024.

“As I have observed the manner in which Luke has performed the role of President this year, I have been hugely impressed by the level of energy and passion he has applied to the task.”

“I know that Luke has made a point of getting around the country and meeting up with the Constituent Bodies of Law Council fostering the strong partnerships that exist between the Law Council and its Constituent Bodies The legal profession has been very well served by Luke Murphy our 63rd President and those who have gone before him.”

Appearing by video message, Shadow Attorney-General, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, also passed on her thanks to the Law Council and the work it has contributed to the legal profession.

Award ceremonies

An integral part of the Gala Dinner was the award ceremony: the 2023 President’s Award, the 2024 John Koowarta Reconciliation Law Scholarship, and Honorary Memberships.

The President's Award was awarded to Ms Di Simpson, for her commitment to reforming family law on behalf of the community and her contribution to the legal profession.

            Caption: Ms Di Simpson, 2023 recipient of the President's Award and Mr Luke Murphy, Law Council President.

President, Mr Luke Murphy said “There can be no doubt that Di is an exceptionally deserving recipient. Di has been the backbone of advocacy for family law reform at both a territory and national level for over a decade, serving on the ACT Law Society’s Family Law Committee since 2012 and the Law Council’s Family Law Section Executive since 2016.

Another important highlight of the event was the announcement of the John Koowarta Reconciliation Law Scholarship, a national scholarship dedicated to helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander law students achieve their ambition of becoming a lawyer. This year, the honour went to Mr Corey Blyth, a University of New South Wales law student with a passion for criminal law.

Two additional honours were also bestowed during the Law Council’s Gala Dinner, with the Honourable Susan Kiefel AC, former Chief Justice of the High Court, and Dr Gordon Hughes AM awarded Honorary Membership of the Law Council.

“The Directors of the Law Council of Australia were unanimous in their support of our extending lifetime membership to Dr Hughes and Ms Kiefel,” Mr Murphy revealed. “In the awarding of Honorary Membership, the Law Council recognises that both Ms Kiefel and Dr Hughes are models of the best spirit of the profession.”

“The Law Council of Australia: The People, the Profession and the Institutions” Second Edition

In addition to the awards, the Gala Dinner saw the launch of the second edition of “The Law Council of Australia: The People, the Profession and the Institutions” by Dr Gordon Hughes AM. The book offers a detailed insight into the workings of the Law Council of Australia. It delves into the history of the Law Council, its major accomplishments, and the challenges it has faced over the years.

It also highlights the people who have shaped the profession, the institutions that have upheld the principles of justice and the rule of law, and the influence those institutions have exerted on the legal landscape of Australia.

Highlights from the Law Council's 90th Gala Dinner 2023

Photo credit: Alexandra Orme Photography.