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The Women Lawyer’s Association of NSW (WLANSW) launched its 2021 program and achievement awards in Sydney last week.

About 50 members and esteemed judges exchanged handshakes for elbow bumps at the annual – now socially distanced – event on Thursday night. Barrister Renée Bianchi, President of the WLANSW and former President of NSW Young Lawyers, thanked the outgoing executive team for navigating a particularly challenging year and outlined key strategies and events for 2021.

“Our vision has always been and continues to be improving the status and working conditions of women lawyers,” Bianchi said.

“It is also to provide leadership on those issues effecting women in the legal profession by driving and advocating for change.”

High Court Justice Virginia Bell was listed on the event invitation to deliver the keynote address but unfortunately became unavailable on the evening. Instead, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission stepped in to deliver an engaging impromptu speech.

“To stand in for Virginia Bell is not something one takes on lightly,” Croucher joked.

Croucher remarked that it was exciting to see people in 3D after the social isolation and screen time of the COVID-19 pandemic. She paid tribute to Barangaroo, the wife of Bennelong, who she said was an extraordinary advocate in her day.

“WLANSW is almost in its 70s now. In the leadership roles, the baton changes from one fabulous woman to the next,” Croucher said.

“Each year, we invest our intellects, our energies and our own lived experiences into thinking about helping each other.

“As women, we need to stick together, support each other and enlist wonderful allies in support of the things that we hold dear.”

Croucher recounted her excitement at winning the life-time achievement award in 2019 and then sheer embarrassment for losing the trophy during her cab ride home.

“That trophy is probably being used as a doorstep somewhere,” she said.

“So, whoever wins this year, please make sure you get it home.”

Nominations for the WLANSW 2021 Achievement Awards are now open and will close on 31 May. The presentation evening will be held on 3 September and will include an address by guest speaker Governor Margaret Joan Beazley AC QC.