Former High Court judge Michael Kirby AC CMG has been appointed patron of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association.
Kirby, a long-time legal industry diversity champion, said he was shocked by the under representation of Asian Australian lawyers in the legal profession and said the profession greatly benefits from diversity.
“Law applies to everyone. In a broad way it should include everyone: really not just theoretically,” he told Australasian Lawyer.
“That way we can make sure that it encourages active participation from all sectors and overcomes constraining stereotypes.”
He said that Asian Australians need to proactively stand up against unconscious bias and hopes the AALA will give lawyers the ability to do just that.
“Asian Australians need to come out of the shadows of purely private activity,” Kirby said.
“They need to more readily join the public space in Australia. They need to contribute intelligently to our multicultural society. It won’t just fall in their lap. I hope that AALA gives a lead on that.”
Association president Reynah Tang said he looks forward to Kirby’s support and counsel in helping the association fulfils its objectives.
“Mr Kirby has long been an outspoken and passionate champion of diversity in the legal profession and society more generally, so it is only fitting that he becomes our inaugural patron as we seek to promote greater cultural diversity in the law,” he said.
“While the first Asian female was recently appointed to the High Court in the United Kingdom, it is disappointing to see that the recent round of senior counsel appointments has again failed to reflect the increasing cultural diversity in the Australian legal profession.”
Kirby’s acceptance of the appointment follows his launch of the AALA NSW branch.
“Lawyers are sometimes stuck in the mud of old ways,” he said of the industry struggling to make changes on the diversity score card.
“Of its nature, it tends to be conservative. Actually, our diversity in Australia is a tremendous national and professional opportunity, here and in the region. Suddenly, our geography has become a potential trump card for our economic and social future. It is in our interests to play that card.”