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A Sydney solicitor in the legal advice and legislation team of NSW Department of Education has been named this year’s recipient of the Michelle Crowther PSM Excellence in Government Legal Service Award.

The award recognises significant contributions by public sector solicitors in honour of the late Michelle Crowther PSM, a Legal Aid NSW solicitor who was a fearless advocate for some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Dayna Greenfield (pictured, above right) who leads a small team of inhouse lawyers in the department supporting the Early Childhood Directorate (the regulatory body for 5800 education and care services at more than 14,000 locations in NSW) was today named as the 2021 recipient of the award.

Greenfield was recognised for her work implementing the Education and Care Services National Law and applying it in NSW. She has spent her entire 32-year career in the public service striving for excellence in the field.

Law Society of NSW President Juliana Warner said Greenfield was “renowned” for her understanding of the national law, for “her commitment to the professional development of her staff, and for her careful and diligent approach to litigation”.

“Dayna works collaboratively with her team and external legal representatives to ensure that the knowledge and expertise of those around her is utilised for the best outcomes of the Department,” President Warner said.

“Dayna has pioneered the evolution of implementation of the National Law in a highly specialised area of education and care services law. She willingly shares her knowledge with colleagues and contributes greatly to the wider understanding of this niche area across legal practice.”

Greenfield said she was “deeply humbled to receive this award because there are so many out there who have worked tirelessly in the background and who deserve recognition for all that you do”.

“I am but one of many,” she said.

President Warner also congratulated Vaughan Roles, a solicitor at Legal Aid NSW, who received a High Commended nomination in the Michelle Crowther award.

Roles is regarded as a skilful advocate and representative for clients with intellectual disabilities or major mental health conditions who may not have family or close friends to advocate their rights. He said he was humbled to receive the award, particularly after having worked with Michelle Crowther at Legal Aid and having first-hand knowledge of the contributions she made. Roles, who is blind, has also represented Australia in Blind Cricket.

John Hennessey Legal Scholarship award

Also announced today was the recipient of the Law Society of NSW’s annual 2021 John Hennessey Legal Scholarship.

Callum Hair (pictured above left), a solicitor in the Mental Health Advocacy Service at Legal Aid NSW, was awarded the esteemed scholarship, which offers a NSW public sector solicitor funding to undertake a research project into legal systems in another jurisdiction or undertake further study.

Hair has chosen to conduct research into “what a specialist detention option might look like for forensic patients with cognitive impairments, including intellectual disabilities and acquired brain injuries”. In his current role at Legal Aid, he provides legal advice and assistance about mental health law and regularly represents people with a disability appearing before the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT), NCAT and the Supreme Court of NSW.

In accepting the scholarship, Callum said he was looking forward to undertaking his research project and thanked the Law Society for the opportunity.

“I hope to be able to use what I learn to better inform advocacy around the establishment of a specialist therapeutic facility in NSW for persons who have been found to be unfit to be tried as a result of cognitive impairment and who are serving a limiting term,” Callum said.

As part of his research project, Callum hopes to visit specialist disability facilities that have been established in New Zealand and other Australian states.