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Asian Australian Lawyers Association establishes new branch

JESSICA TEOH, DIRECTOR, LAITY MORROW; AND BRIAN VUONG, DIRECTOR, KAIN LAWYERS

President of the SA Branch of AALA Jessica Teoh and Secretary Brian Voung

President of the SA Branch of AALA Jessica Teoh and Secretary Brian Voung

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On 1 October 2020, a new State branch for the Asian Australian Lawyers Association (AALA) was established in South Australia, one that we are pleased to be a part of.

AALA was established in 2013 with the goal of promoting diversity in the legal profession through a range of mentoring, networking, professional development and education initiatives.

With the recent establishment of the SA Branch, AALA now has branches in SA, ACT (also established on 1 October), WA, Victoria, Qld and NSW, cementing its place as a national organisation.

Jessica Teoh, a Director at Laity Morrow, is President of the inaugural SA Branch and Brian Vuong, a Director at Kain Lawyers, is Secretary of the inaugural SA Branch.

We decided to be part of forming the new SA Branch because:

• while society in Australia comprises a wide range of cultural backgrounds, to date, we have not had many opportunities to deal with other Asian Australians within the legal profession, particularly in SA;

• we think a more diverse workplace fosters new and different ways of thinking, which ultimately contributes to the culture of the firm and can more thoughtfully service clients of equally diverse backgrounds;

• we see immense value in establishing a network of Asian Australian lawyers (and others interested in cultural diversity) to support each other, and a mentoring program to help Asian Australian law students and junior lawyers would help increase cultural diversity within the legal profession; and

• we are fortunate to be in a position where we can contribute back to society and help promote cultural diversity within the legal profession.

Seeing what AALA has managed to achieve so far, including the reach it has had across Australia (AALA’s members hail from more than 10 countries in Asia, between them speak almost 20 different Asian languages and dialects and include, lawyers and principals from small, medium and large firms, barristers, in-house and government lawyers), we wanted to be part of AALA’s push to be a national organisation and establish the SA branch.

Already, we have seen the benefits of being part of AALA, including meeting other lawyers from a wide range of culturally diverse backgrounds, both locally and interstate. We recently attended (remotely!) AALA’s first National Cultural Diversity Summit and heard from a wide range of speakers, including former High Court judge, The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG and Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as California’s Chief Justice.

The other AALA State and Territory branches have already made significant contributions to promoting cultural diversity in the legal profession and we are aiming to do the same with establishing the SA branch.

We intend, as our immediate next steps, to establish a network of Asian Australian lawyers and a mentoring program in South Australia. To do this, we are hoping to increase AALA membership in South Australia and encourage anyone interested in promoting cultural diversity to contact us and become a member of AALA. For those who are keen to join AALA or want more information, please visit www.aala.org.au, and we can be contacted at sa@aala.org.au.