A fierce crusader for equity and social justice in her more than 30 years as a solicitor and barrister, NSW District Court Judge Dina Yehia SC is adding a new role to her impressive resume.
Judge Yehia, who spearheaded the Walama List in the District Court aimed at reducing Indigenous incarceration, will be sworn into the Supreme Court of NSW in July.
The Arab-Australian judge will be joined at the bench by barrister Dr Nicholas Chen SC, adding more cultural diversity to the jurisdiction.
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said the new appointments mark another step towards ensuring the judiciary reflects the community that it serves.
“The NSW justice system is fortunate to be able to call on judicial officers and lawyers of Judge Yehia’s and Dr Chen’s calibres,” Speakman said in a statement.
“Her Honour Judge Yehia has enormous experience in criminal law and has long campaigned for social justice. Dr Chen brings a wealth of experience in commercial and common law, medical negligence matters, and inquests and inquiries.”
Judge Yehia has been with the District Court since May 2014, and is Chair of the Ngara Yura Committee, which raises awareness amongst judicial officers in relation to Indigenous cultural and social issues. She is also Chair of the Walama Working Group and a Council member of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration and the National Judicial College of Australia.
In an interview with LSJ in 2021, Judge Yehia said the justice system must reflect the reality of a multicultural population by having practitioners and judges from diverse backgrounds. Her Honour has always been a strong advocate for the under representation of diverse women in the senior ranks of the profession.
“While I acknowledge that quotas are not popular in some sectors because of the risk that they promote tokenism, we must also acknowledge that it is important to redress the imbalance in a meaningful way … We must ensure that when two applicants apply for a senior position, the diverse woman doesn’t miss out because of unconscious bias or stereotyping,” she said.
“It’s a very slow process but I think that as more women from diverse backgrounds enter and remain in the profession, [greater diversity on the bench] is only a matter of time.”
Dr Chen was admitted as a solicitor in 1992, called to the Bar in 1998 and appointed Senior Counsel in 2016. While at the Bar he has been Director of the Barristers’ Sickness & Accident Fund (Barcover) and a member of the NSW Bar Association Common Law Committee. Dr Chen holds a Doctor of Juridical Studies degree from the University of Sydney Law School and received the Academic, Civil & Legal Prize for the highest mark in the NSW Bar exams.
Judge Dina Yehia SC will be sworn in at the Supreme Court on 4 July 2022, and Dr Chen will follow on 11 July.