Mary Gleeson has spent the past 12 years of her professional life working with Aboriginal communities, going above and beyond to improve their access to justice.
Gleeson’s outstanding contribution to family law over her 28 years in practice was recognised at The Law Society of NSW’s Annual Member Dinner on 6 December, receiving the President’s Medal for 2021.
“I’m deeply humbled by this,” Gleeson said on accepting the President’s Medal.
Gleeson is currently a Registrar in the NSW Children’s Court and prior to this was a solicitor with Legal Aid since 1988.
In her most recent Legal Aid role, Gleeson provided early intervention services to Indigenous families and was instrumental in setting up the Federal Circuit Court’s Indigenous Families List.
“What we need to do into the future is absolutely walk hand in hand with Aboriginal community members,” Gleeson said.
“They will partner with us, they will walk with us, they will actually run, and we need to take that up, see those opportunities and work with them. I see that as our challenge into the future.
“Anything I can do in the direction, I will do.
“We need to not be afraid of the conflict along the way. We need to let people have a crack, we need to let people say where they’re at, we need to invite those difficult conversations into the room.”
President of the Law Society of NSW, Juliana Warner, said Gleeson’s passion and commitment has created significant improvements in access to justice for so many Indigenous children and families.
“Her innovative and pragmatic approach to legal assistance is underpinned by her deep understanding of the sometimes complex non-legal needs of her clients,” Warner said.
“Her solution-focused approach means that she often goes above and beyond what might ordinarily be required of a family law solicitor.
“The Law Society has also benefited from her practical expertise as a result of her sustained and valued contribution to the work of the Law Society’s Indigenous Issues Committee over the last eight years.”
Gleeson also goes above and beyond in efforts outside her day job. She provides services to The Shed, a male suicide prevention service in Mt Druitt; conducts a Health Justice Partnership clinic attached to Blacktown Hospital; is Chair of DV West, a crisis accommodation service; and is a member of the Aboriginal Family Law Pathways committee.
The President’s Medal is awarded each year to an NSW solicitor and member of the Law Society of NSW who has made a significant personal and professional contribution to the betterment of the law and justice in the community.