05 February 2017

Central Coast solicitor Pauline Wright has outlined her agenda for her presidency of the Law Society of NSW, representing more than 30,000 solicitors across the State.

Speaking at the traditional Opening of Law Term dinner, Ms Wright said addressing the erosion of the rule of law, finding a fairer way to deal with asylum seekers, and closing the justice gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be high priority during her year as President.

Ms Wright said she is concerned that there has been a steady erosion of the rule of law and civil liberties since the 9/11 attacks.

"In a pervasive climate of fear, governments have taken steps no Australian politician would have dreamt of - with barely a whimper of public protest.

"These include laws allowing the right to question and detain without charge, to detain beyond sentence, laws which erode the right to silence and those which demand data retention.

"The rule of law is fundamental to a free and prosperous nation and the liberties, rights and principles it embodies are worth restoring and respecting," she said.

Ms Wright said that the rule of law has also been a casualty in the asylum seekers debate.

"Fear must not be allowed to make us turn a blind eye to human rights breaches in our offshore detention facilities.

"The plight of people fleeing their homes because of so-called 'push factors' such as war and persecution is something we cannot ignore. As lawyers, we are duty bound to call out injustice when we see it," she said.

Turning to the Indigenous justice gap, Ms Wright said that the most glaring failure of our justice system remains the over representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our jails.

"The problem is complicated, but my own experience tells me that there is bias at work, whether unconscious or conscious.

"I have seen behaviour by young Aboriginal people that is treated as criminal when it would be regarded as mere 'larrikinism' or 'skylarking', from blue-eyed kids at Bronte," she said

Ms Wright said that the Law Society of NSW will explore all options to address the justice gap, including justice reinvestment, restorative justice in Indigenous communities and culturally appropriate legal advice in courts in rural, regional and remote areas.

Ms Wright who is an accredited specialist in Local Government and Planning Law is also a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is Senior Vice President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties and is a recent appointment to the Executive of the Law Council of Australia. Her main interests outside the law are theatre, music, ocean swimming and surf lifesaving.

Her other goals for the year include continuing to work to deliver a fair reform of the NSW CTP Green Slip scheme, calling for adequate legal assistance funding, and proper resourcing for country courts.

Media Contact: Jacob O'Shaughnessy 02 9926 0288 or 0413 440 699

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