The appointment of Magistrate Rana Daher has been hailed as “significant” and “inspiring” for improving diversity across the judicial benches of Australia.
Daher was sworn in to the NSW Local Court on 10 May. Her Honour wore a hijab during the ceremony, as she has done in her previous roles as a Legal Aid lawyer in NSW Children’s Legal Services and as a registrar at the Children’s Court.
She is the first Australian Hijabi Muslim Magistrate in the state.
The Muslim Legal Network NSW congratulated Daher on her appointment in a Facebook post, acknowledging the importance of diversity at the judicial level.
“It is crucial for the community to see the bench as a representation of the Australian community, as this fosters trust in the legal profession and facilitates a more equitable administration of justice,” the post read.
President of the Muslim Legal Network, Miriam Makki described the appointment as “significant for the legal community at large” as the bench should reflect the diverse community it serves.
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman said Magistrate Daher had to “regularly face people’s fears and prejudice”, especially at the beginning of her legal career.
“There were no other women in hijabs practising law at that time,” said Speakman.
“You were frequently mistaken for the translator, and you’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve had to explain to defence or court staff that you were, in fact, a lawyer.”
Magistrate Daher recalled the first time she went to meet a client in prison. She was not let through because they didn’t believe she was a lawyer. Daher thanked her family for their ongoing support and implored others from diverse backgrounds to become lawyers.
Joanne van der Plaat, President of the Law Society of NSW, spoke at the swearing in ceremony about Daher’s impressive career spanning from August 2000, when she was admitted as a solicitor.
“You’ve distinguished yourself by your integrity; intellect; and consensus-driven approach to the law,” said van der Plaat.
“So infectious was your Honour’s energy and zest for life, that your presence at the Parramatta Children’s Court was likened to a ray of light,” she said.
She also praised Daher’s patience, empathy, and incisive technical legal skills.
“To quote one colleague: ‘she had a knack of being able to listen to what the parties believed were the issues and cut through all the rhetoric to distil exactly what those issues were’”.
Another colleague said Daher “has a passion for seeing other people thrive”.
Van der Plaat noted Daher championed education and made it her mission to serve and improve Australia.
“While working with children at risk of dropping out of school, your Honour always took time to find out what their ambitions for life were, and to connect these back to the importance of education,” said van der Plaat.
“Your Honour’s story – while uniquely your own – is a testament to the vibrancy and strength of our modern, multicultural society. One that continues to enrich both the profession and the judiciary.”
NSW MP for Lakemba Jihad Dib congratulated Ms Daher, tweeting “if you can see it, you can be it! Breaking ceilings and role modelling for young people of all backgrounds who were told they couldn’t make it … this appointment is inspiring beyond what you can imagine.”