Go to content

Annual Report 2021 - 2022

Board members

Untitled Document

1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022

Craig Smith

Craig Smith

Dip Law (BAB) Dip Crim (SYD), Chair

Craig Smith was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as Chair of the Legal Aid NSW Board in February 2013. Mr Smith has been reappointed until 2 September 2022.

A solicitor and former judicial registrar of the District Court of NSW, Mr Smith has four decades of experience in the administration of justice in NSW. He has worked in various government legal and policy positions, including senior positions with the NSW Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was a director of court services and then director of judicial support before his appointment as a judicial registrar in 2010.

(Attended six meetings)

Brendan Thomas

Brendan Thomas Board Member

BA, Chief Executive Officer (until November 2021)

Appointed by the NSW Attorney General, Brendan Thomas was the CEO of Legal Aid NSW from 22 May 2017 until 1 November 2021.

Before this, he was a deputy secretary in 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 and has written widely on crime prevention and Aboriginal justice issues.

(Attended two meetings)

Monique Hitter

Monique Hitter

BSW, Dip Law, Acting Chief Executive Officer (from November 2021)

Monique began acting as CEO in November 2021. She was previously the Deputy CEO of Legal Aid NSW.

Monique has been practising law since 1997 and has also served as a Senior Member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal in the Administrative and Equal Opportunity Division.

In over 30 years working in social justice, Monique is especially proud of having established the Civil Law Service for Aboriginal Communities, the Children’s Civil Law Service and expanding the reach and scope of the Legal Aid NSW Civil Law Division, such that the Productivity Commission in its landmark Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements, stated that it set the national benchmark for the provision of civil law services.

More recently in her role as Deputy CEO, Monique led a process to establish new policies in response to sexual harassment and unacceptable behaviour, the development of the Family Law Blueprint and Legal Aid NSW’s response to the pandemic.

(Attended four meetings)

Peggy Dwyer

Peggy Dwyer

BA LLB (ANU) PhD (University of Edinburgh), Board member

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

Dr Dwyer was called to the bar in 2010 after more than 10 years as a solicitor, specialising in criminal law and, later, coronial law. She 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 disciplinary 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.

(Attended four meetings)

Ainslie van Onselen

Ainslee Van Onselen, Board Member

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

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

Ms Van Onselen is an experienced, strategic executive with an extensive background across financial services and law. As a seasoned business leader with strong commercial acumen, she has extensive experience in change management, talent development, forward thinking strategy development and execution, digital transformation, advocacy and risk and compliance governance.

She is the Chief Executive Officer of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand. Prior to this role, Ms Van Onselen held senior roles over six years at Westpac Group including Managing Director of RAMS, General Manager of Deposits and Unsecured Lending, Chief of Staff to the CEO, and Global Director of Women’s Markets and Inclusion and Diversity.

With a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Western Australia and a Masters of Applied Finance, Ms Van Onselen has over 20 years’ experience including as a litigation law partner, law academic and as a non-executive director of various listed, government and not-for-profit organisations including membership bodies. She is currently the Chair of Kambala Girls School, and a non-executive director of Global Accounting Alliance, Chartered Accountants Worldwide, and share registry company Automic. She is also the former Deputy Chairperson of the Insurance Commission of Western Australia.

(Attended five meetings)

Michael Coleman

Michael Coleman, Board Member

M Comm, B Comm, FAICD, FCA, FCPA, Board member

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 2 September 2022.

The Board also appointed Mr Coleman as Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee from 29 June 2016 to 2 September 2022.
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 board member of Macquarie Bank Limited, having been a director and Chair of the audit committees of Macquarie Group and Macquarie Bank from 2012 until 2022. He was Chair of Bingo Industries Limited from listing in 2017 until its takeover in 2021 and was a member of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s audit committee and holds several significant roles with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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

(Attended six meetings)

Richard Henry

Richard Henry, Board Member

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

Dr Henry is an Emeritus Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). He was Professor of Paediatrics at both the University of Newcastle and UNSW and has 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. Dr Henry’s current unpaid roles include Director of the Children’s Cancer Institute, Chairman of Trustees of Sydney Grammar School and Director of the Luminesce Alliance.

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.

(Attended six meetings)

Sue Gilchrist

Sue Gilchrist, Board Member

LLM, BA LLB (Hons), Board member

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 2 September 2022.

Ms Gilchrist is a senior intellectual property disputes partner at Herbert Smith Freehills. 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 has strong management experience, having been the Regional Managing Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills for Asia and Australia until 2017. She is a member of the Global Council of Herbert Smith Freehills, and is also Chair of her firm’s global governance body for Pro Bono and Responsible Business. Ms Gilchrist is Co-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 Reconciliation Australia. She is also a member of the Finance Audit and Risk Committee of the Art Gallery of NSW.

(Attended six meetings)

Anna Cody

Anna Cody, Board Member

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

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

Professor Cody is Dean of the Western Sydney University School of Law, providing legal education to students from a range of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are sometimes the first in their families to attend university. She 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, leading it for 15 years. During this time the centre tripled in size and gained increased expertise in employment law and health justice partnerships.

Professor Cody 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 the Chair of the Board of Community Legal Centres Australia.

(Attended five meetings)

Brett McGrath

Brett McGrath, Board Member

LLB (Western Sydney University), GDip LP (Western Sydney University), Board member

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

Mr McGrath is a Senior Registrar with the Federal Circuit and Family 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 primarily on supporting early childhood literacy in disadvantaged communities.

Elected to the Council of the Law Society of NSW in 2018, Mr McGrath is the Treasurer and Chair of their Audit, Risk and Finance Committee. He also sits on various committees including the Family Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee and the Fidelity Fund Committee. He is currently a sessional lecturer at Western Sydney University

(Attended four meetings)

Alison McRobert

Alison McRobert, Board Member

BA LLB (Wollongong University), Board member

Alison McRobert was appointed by the NSW Attorney General as a representative of Unions NSW for the period 2 September 2019 to 2 September 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 for over 20 years and previously worked at several employment law firms including McNally Jones Staff and Haywards Solicitors. Ms McRobert previously served as a Director at Federation Law Pty Ltd from 2013 to 2016. In November 2020 Ms McRobert was appointed as an advisory member of the Rule Committee of the Industrial Relations Commission of New South Wales.

(Attended six meetings)