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Annual Report 2016 - 2017

Board members

“We are an organisation which attracts people who want to make a difference, who believe in social justice and who are brave, committed and very professional in their work."
Bill Grant

Craig Smith

Dip Law (BAB) Dip Crim (SYD)


Craig was re-appointed by the NSW Attorney General as Chair of the Board from 23 June 2016 to 22 June 2019.

A solicitor and former Judicial Registrar, District Court of New South Wales, Craig has 42 years’ experience in the administration of justice in New South Wales. 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 before his appointment as Judicial Registrar in 2010.

Craig has served as Chair of the Legal Aid NSW Board since 18 February 2013.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Bill Grant


Chief Executive Officer
(1 July 2016–2 December 2016)

Bill recommenced as CEO of Legal Aid NSW in December 2011. Bill was appointed by the then Attorney General after a four-year absence from the organisation. He previously served as CEO of Legal Aid NSW from 2001 to 2007.

Bill retired in December 2016, ending an illustrious Public Service career and leaving a bountiful legacy to Legal Aid NSW.

His vision for the future of Legal Aid NSW includes strengthening ties with private lawyers, community organisations and key stakeholders so that socially and economically disadvantaged people have equal access to justice.

Bill had these words to say on his last day: “Our creativity and willingness to try new things, to evaluate them and seek to fund them if successful, makes me very proud to have been the CEO of this outstanding organisation.

Sadly, Bill passed away shortly after his retirement. A short eulogy to Bill appears in Professional and personal achievements.

(Attended 2 meetings)

Richard Funston

BCom LLB EMPA, Accredited Criminal Law Specialist

Acting Chief Executive Officer
(5 December 2016 –19 May 2017)

Richard’s earlier experience includes eight years with Legal Aid Victoria and four years as Principal Solicitor of the Inner City Legal Centre in NSW. During his 20 years with Legal Aid NSW, Richard has held leadership roles across the organisation.

Richard held the position of Acting CEO for almost six months until a permanent appointment was announced.

(Attended 3 meetings)

Brendan Thomas


Chief Executive Officer
(22 May–current)

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

Before this, Brendan was the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Justice.

Brendan worked for the 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.

Brendan has worked in crime prevention and criminal justice for more than 19 years. He has written widely on crime prevention and Aboriginal justice issues.

(Attended 1 meeting).

Dr Peggy Dwyer

BA LLB (ANU) Ph D (University of Edinburgh)

Board member

Peggy was re-appointed by the NSW Attorney General as representative of the NSW Bar Association for the period 23 June 2016 to 22 June 2019.

Peggy appears in a wide range of criminal matters, including jury trials, contested hearings, appeals, Children’s Court matters and State Parole Authority hearings. She has a busy practice in coronial proceedings, appearing as Counsel Assisting the Coroner (in the Northern Territory and New South Wales) and counsel for interested parties. Peggy is currently Counsel for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Peggy also appears in disciplinary tribunals including the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal and Medical Council, for both prosecution and defence.

(Attended 3 meetings)

Ainslie van Onselen

LLB (UWA), MAppFin, GDipAppFin (Finsia), GAICD

Board member

Ainslie was re-appointed by the NSW Attorney General as representative of Consumer & Community Welfare Interests for the period 23 June 2016 to 22 June 2019.

Ainslie has practised as a commercial litigator for over 19 years and is admitted to practise law in several jurisdictions across Australia.

Ainslie was the former Director and National President of the Migration Institute of Australia, former columnist for the Legal Affairs section of The Australian Newspaper, former panelist on The Contrarians—Sky News and former an Associate Professor of the University of Western Australia.

Ainslie is currently the Global Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion & Diversity of the Westpac Banking Corporation.

(Attended 4 meetings)

Michael Coleman

M Comm, B Comm, FAICD, FCA, FCPA

Board member

Michael was appointed as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit the Commission for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

The Board also appointed Michael as Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee from 29 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Michael is a Chartered Accountant. He retired from KPMG in 2011 after a career that included 30 years as an audit partner and practice leader.

Michael is a member of the boards of Macquarie Group and Macquarie Bank, where he chairs the Audit Committees. He is a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Audit Committee; a member of the Advisory Board of Bingo Industries Limited and has a number of significant roles with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

His current roles include Adjunct Professor, Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales; Chairman of Planet Ark Environmental Foundation; a board member of Osteoporosis Australia and Belvoir St Theatre Foundation.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Emeritus Professor Richard Henry

AM, MB BS, MD, FRACP, Dip Clin Epi

Board member

Richard was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit the Commission for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Richard is Emeritus Professor and Pro-Chancellor of UNSW Australia. He was Professor of Paediatrics at both the University of Newcastle and Univeristy of NSW, and held senior leadership roles in both the university and health sectors. From 2006–2012, 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 Pro-Chancellor at UNSW, Director Children’s Cancer Institute, Trustee Sydney Grammar School, Chair Board of Centre for Social Impact and Director 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 serving in a range of roles with professional medical organisations.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Sue Gilchrist

LLM, BA LLB (Hons)

Board member

Sue was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative who, in the opinion of the NSW Attorney General, possesses skills and experience that would benefit the Commission for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Sue is the Regional Managing Partner, Asia and Australia of Herbert Smith Freehills. Sue is also 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. Sue was the lead partner acting for Apple in the Apple v Samsung patent and design litigation relation to tablets and smartphones.

Sue is regularly recognised in legal directories, for example she is ranked in Band 1 for Patents and “has an enviable reputation, with sources singling her out as one of the top lawyers in her field” (Chambers and Partners 2014, 2015 and 2016).

In her role as Regional Managing Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills, Sue is involved in Herbert Smith Freehills’s pro bono and diversity initiatives.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Darryl Browne

LLB, Accredited Specialist (Wills and estates), FAICD, Public Notary, TEP

Board member

Darryl was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of the Law Society of NSW for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Darryl is an Accredited Specialist in Wills and Estates. His forte is estate planning (involving wills, superannuation, powers of attorney, enduring guardian appointments, advance care directives, trusts and related aspects), but he also conducts estate and other litigation for clients. He advises clients concerning commercial law issues (including business acquisitions, leases, employment issues and planning matters) as well as with conveyancing and related real estate transactions.

Darryl’s professional achievements include Director (Councillor) of the Law Society New South Wales, Chair of Ethics Committee, Chair of Elder Abuse Working Group, Member Specialist Accreditation Board, Member Property Law Committee, Member Criminal Law Committee, Member Fidelity Fund Management Committee, Director of Lawcover Insurance Pty Ltd, Member SMSF Association, Member Law Council of Australia’s Elder Law and Succession Committee.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Associate Professor Anna Cody

LLM (Harvard), GDip LP (UTS), LLB (UNSW), BA (UNSW)

Board member

Anna was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of bodies providing community legal services for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Anna is an Associate Professor and Director of Kingsford Legal Centre which specialises in discrimination and employment law. The Centre is part of the University of New South Wales Law Faculty where Anna teaches law. She has worked at the Centre for over 16 years.

In 2007 Anna won the NSW Women Lawyers achievement award in the government/community lawyer section.

From 2011 to 2013, Anna was the Chair of Community Legal Centres NSW and member of the Board of LawAccess NSW. She was also the Deputy Chair of the NSW Legal Assistance Forum. She is currently a Board member of the National Association of Community Legal Centres.

(Attended 7 meetings)

Rachel Francois


Board member

Rachel was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as representative Unions NSW for the period 23 June 2016–22 June 2019.

Rachel is a barrister at the NSW Bar. Rachel specialises in discrimination law and consumer protection cases and also practices in administrative law and commercial litigation. Rachel was employed by Legal Aid NSW as a lawyer in civil litigation between 1996 and 2000. During that time, Rachel was a member of the PSA Departmental Committee and a delegate to the Peak Consultative Committee.

Rachel has a strong commitment to union principles and social justice. Rachel was a member of the NSW Bar Council in 2007 and was junior counsel assisting ASIC in its investigations into the corporate wrongdoing of HIH Insurance and James Hardie. Rachel’s more recent cases include the class actions against Cash Converters in relation to alleged unlawful interest rates and the landmark sexual harassment decision in Richardson v Oracle (2014) 223 FCR 334.

(Attended 6 meetings)