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Our Board

The Legal Aid NSW Board consists of nine part-time members including the Chair, and one full-time member, who is the CEO of Legal Aid NSW.

Part-time board members are appointed by the NSW Attorney General for a period of up to three years, except for the Chair, who is appointed for a period up to five years.

Craig Smith Dip Law (BAB) Dip Crim (SYD)Craig Smith (Chair) Dip Law (BAB) Dip Crim (SYD)

Mr Smith was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as Chair of the Board for the period 23 June 2016 to 22 June 2019.

A solicitor and former Judicial Registrar, District Court of NSW, Mr Smith has 42 years' experience in the administration of justice in NSW. He has worked in various government legal and policy positions, including senior positions with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was Director Court Services and then Director Judicial Support prior to his appointment as Judicial Registrar in 2010.

Mr Smith has served as Chair of the Legal Aid Board since 18 February 2013.

Michael ColemanMichael Coleman MComm, B Comm, FAICD, FCA, FCPA

Michael Coleman was appointed as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit Legal Aid NSW. Mr Coleman has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

The Board also reappointed Mr Coleman as Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee for the period June 23, 2019 to June 23, 2021.

Mr Coleman is a chartered accountant. He retired from KPMG in 2011 following a career that included 30 years as an audit partner and practice leader.

Mr Coleman is a member of the boards and chairs the audit committees of Macquarie Group and Macquarie Bank. He is Chair of Bingo Industries Limited, was a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s audit committee, and enjoys a number of significant roles with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He is an Adjunct Professor at the Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, Chairman of the Planet Ark Environmental Foundation, a Governor and Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee of The Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, and a director of the Belvoir Street Theatre Foundation.

Richard HenryEmeritus Professor Richard Leigh Henry, AM MB BS, MD, FRACP, Dip Clin Epi

Richard Henry was appointed as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit Legal Aid NSW. Mr Henry has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

He is Emeritus Professor and Pro-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He was Professor of Paediatrics at both the University of Newcastle and UNSW, and held senior leadership roles in both the university and health sectors. From 2006 to 2012, he was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) and Vice-President at UNSW. Since his retirement from UNSW, he has worked as a consultant in health and higher education. Current unpaid roles include ProChancellor at UNSW, Director of the Children’s Cancer Institute, Trustee of the Sydney Grammar School, Chairman of Trustees and Director of Paediatrio.

He was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia in 2007, for service to paediatric respiratory medicine as a clinician, researcher, educator and mentor, and for serving in a range of roles with professional medical organisations.

Sue GilchristSue Gilchrist LLM, BA LLB (Hons)

Sue Gilchrist was appointed as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit Legal Aid NSW. Ms Gilchrist has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

Ms Gilchrist is a senior intellectual property disputes partner at Herbert Smith Freehills and she is experienced in all intellectual property areas, including patents, designs, copyright, trademarks, passing off and confidential information. She is regularly recognised in the top ranking of legal profession directories for intellectual property litigation, and in particular, patent litigation.

Ms Gilchrist also has strong management experience, having been the Regional Managing Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills for Asia and Australia until 2017. Ms Gilchrist is a member of the Global Council for Herbert Smith Freehills. She is also a member of her firm’s governance body for pro bono and citizenship, and its governance body for diversity and inclusion. She is Chair of the firm’s Reconciliation Action Plan Steering Committee, and is proud to have helped the firm reach the Elevate level for its Reconciliation Action Plan, as endorsed by peak body Reconciliation Australia.

Dr Peggy DwyerDr. Peggy Dwyer BA LLB (ANU) Ph.D (University of Edinburgh)

Peggy Dwyer was appointed as a representative of the NSW Bar Association by the NSW Attorney General, and has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

Dr Dwyer was called to the bar in 2010 after more than 10 years as a solicitor, specialising in criminal and, later, coronial law. She has previously worked for the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the Northern Territory, and the NSW Crown Solicitor’s Office. As a barrister, Dr Dwyer appears in a wide range of criminal matters, including jury trials, appeals, Children’s Court of NSW matters and State Parole Authority hearings. She has a busy practice in coronial proceedings and a significant interest in medical law.

She appeared as Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse and as Counsel for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Dr Dwyer was an Associate to Justice Michael Kirby in the High Court of Australia between 1995 and 1996.

Brett McGrathBrett McGrath LLB (WSU), GDip LP (WSU)

Brett McGrath was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of the Law Society of NSW for the period September 2, 2019 to September 2, 2022.

Mr McGrath is a Registrar with the Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

He began his career in private practice in 2012 at Marsdens Law Group in south-western Sydney, where he also served as the Regional President for the Macarthur Law Society from 2014 to 2018, before joining the national firm, Gadens, to practise exclusively in family law.

In 2017 he sat on the NSW Business Chamber State Council and held various board positions at both the Camden and Narellan Business Chambers, as well as United Way Australia, which focuses on supporting early childhood literacy in disadvantaged communities.

Elected to the Council of the Law Society of New South Wales in 2018, Mr McGrath sits on various committees including the Family Law Committee, Diversity and Inclusion, and is currently the Deputy Chair of the Professional Conduct Committee. He is also currently a sessional lecturer at Western Sydney University.

Anna CodyAssociate Professor Anna Cody LLM (Harvard), GDip LP (UTS), LLB (UNSW), BA (UNSW)

Anna Cody was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of bodies providing community legal services, and has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

Ms Cody is Dean of the Western Sydney University School of Law, and was previously Director of the Kingsford Legal Centre, which specialises in discrimination and employment law. The centre is part of the University of New South Wales Law Faculty. She worked at the centre for more than two decades.

She was the winner of the 2016 Human Rights Commission law award and in 2007 was named community lawyer of the year at the NSW Women Lawyers Achievement Awards. From 2011 to 2013, she was the Chair of Community Legal Centres NSW and was a member of the Board of LawAccess NSW. She was also the Deputy Chair of the NSW Legal Assistance Forum. She is currently a member of the Board of the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

Ainslie van OnselenAinslie van Onselen LLB (UWA), MAppFin, GDipAppFin (Finsia), GAICD

Ainslie van Onselen was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of consumer and community interests, and has been reappointed until September 2, 2022.

Ms van Onselen has practised as a commercial litigator for two decades and is admitted to practise law in several jurisdictions across Australia. She also sits on the Board of Automic, a financial services company.

Ms van Onselen is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Prior to this role, she had been with Westpac Group for over six years in a range of senior roles. Most recently she was General Manager of Deposits and Unsecured Lending in Westpac’s Consumer Bank, and prior to this, Managing Director of RAMS. She was also the Global Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity.

Brendan Thomas, CEO Legal Aid NSWBrendan Thomas, BA Chief Executive Officer

Appointed by the NSW Attorney General, Mr Thomas commenced in his role as Chief Executive Officer of Legal Aid NSW on 22 May 2017.

Before this, he was the Deputy Secretary of the NSW Department of Justice. Mr Thomas worked for the NSW Department of Justice for more than 20 years and has a strong track record of designing and implementing reforms providing services for victims of domestic violence and for Aboriginal communities.

He has worked in crime prevention and criminal justice for two decades. He has written widely on crime prevention and Aboriginal justice issues.

Alison McRobertAlison McRobert, BA LLB (UOW)

Alison McRobert was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of Unions NSW for the period September 2, 2019 to September 2, 2022.

Ms McRobert is currently the Legal Counsel and manager of legal services at the Public Service Association of NSW. She has specialised in employment and industrial law in the NSW public sector since 2002, and previously worked at a number of employment law firms including McNally Jones Staff and Haywards.

Ms McRobert has previously served as a Director at Federation Law Pty Ltd from 2013 to 2016.