Our History

Australian Women Lawyers (AWL) Limited was established on 9 September 1997, in Melbourne, Victoria.

Founding Patron

The founding patron of AWL was the Hon. Justice Mary Gaudron QC who was appointed to this position on 19 September 1997.

Her Honour was the first female appointed as a Justice to the High Court of Australia .

Her Honour continued as patron until 20 February 2009.

Founding Principals

The principals behind the establishment of AWL are articulated in her Honour's key note speech at the launch of AWL on 19 September 1999.

These include:

  • to acknowlede that women lawyers are different and to assert their right to be different
  • to demand that the legal profession take stock of itself and its practices which result in the under-representation of women in important positions of legal practice and in the judiciary
  • to question assumptions in the law and in the administration of the law that work injustice against women
  • to question the way in which legal practice is organised 
  • to draw attention to the way in which the law fails to protect women and fails to respect their equality and denies them equal justice
  • to draw attention to and articulate areas of the law's bias

These principals were reflected in AWL's inaugrual Memorandum of Association that was executed on 9 September 1997 which stated:

  • achieve justice and equality for all women;
  • further understanding and support for the legal rights of all women;
  • identify, highlight and eradicate discrimination against women inherent in the legal system and in the community generally;
  • advance equality for women in the legal profession;
  • create and enhance awareness of women's contribution to the practice and development of law; and
  • provide a professional and social network for women lawyers

Establishment Committee

Between April 1995 and September 1997 a committee of women consisting of representatives from across Australia established AWL. All of these women attended face to face meetings and telephone conferences at their own cost on behalf of their individual State and Territory Women Lawyer Associations.

The members of AWL's Establishment Committee included:

  • (Judge) Gillian Braddock SC (WA)
  • Linda Crebbin (ACT)
  • Candida D'Arcy (SA)
  • Georgina Frost (Vic)
  • Sally Gearin (NT)
  • (Judge) Felicity Hampel SC (Vic)
  • Margaret Hunter OAM (ACT)
  • Kerrie Leotta (NSW)
  • (Justice) Ruth McColl (NSW)
  • Audrey Mills (Tas)
  • Rhonda Penny (Qld)
  • Alexandra Richards QC (Vic)
  • (Magistrate) Kay Ryan (Qld)
  • Merran Short (NT)
  • Clare Thompson (WA)
  • Deanne Weir (Vic)
  • Kriss Will (Vic)

Further information about AWL's Establishment Committee can be found here.

Timeline of Key Events

9 September 1997

Articles of Memorandum signed

9 September 1997

Articles of Association signed

19 September 1997

The Hon. Mary Gaudron QC appointed patron of AWL

19 September 1997

Launch of AWL (Mayfair Ballroom, Grand Hyatt Hotel Melbourne Victoria)

29-30 September 2006

Inaugural national AWL Conference is held in Sydney

12-14 June 2008

Second biennial national AWL Conference is held in Melbourne

21 February 2009

The Hon. Diana Bryant AO QC appointed patron of AWL

6-8 August 2010

Third biennial national AWL Conference is held in Brisbane

10 October 2011

The constitution is amended to allow the Victorian Women Lawyers Association and the Women Barristers Association (both residing in Victoria) to be Directors of the Association at the same time (and hence be eligible for appointment as President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer at the same time) without diluting the equal voting rights of each State and Territory at Board meetings.

The constitution is amended to delete reference to provisions of the corporations legislation which no longer exist; allowing meetings to occur as stated in s 248D and s 249S of the Corporations Act 2001; in order to better reflect the current practice of the Board, expressly allowing resolutions to occur by e-mail and deleting the requirement for the Secretary to conduct and hold all correspondence.

10-12 August 2012

Fourth biennial national AWL Conference is held in Canberra

17 August 2013

15th Anniversary Gala Dinner

Mayfair Ballroom, Grand Hyatt Hotel Melbourne Victoria

4 October 2013

Clause 5.1 of the constitution is amended to enable AWL to host an Annual General Meeting within 5 months of the end of the financial year instead of the current period of 3 months to bring the constitution in line with the provisions of the Corporations Act (Cth) 2001 (section 250N (2)) which allows a public company to hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) within 5 months of the end of the financial year.

3-5 October 2014

Fifth biennial national AWL Conference is held in Adelaide

5 October 2014

Clauses 3.2(a) and 3.8(a) of the constitution are amended to enable the Australian Women Lawyers Association to clearly articulate the term that a President may hold office and to remove the limit on the number of two year terms that a Board member may sit. 


8-10 April 2016


Sixth biennial national AWL conference held in Perth




File DescriptionDownload File
Mary Gaudron - Key Note Speech - AWL Launch 19 September 1997 Speech_-_Mary_Gaudron_-Launch_of_AWL.pdf (201 KB, pdf)
AWL Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association 1997 AWL_-_Articles_of_Association_-1997.pdf (804 KB, pdf)