The current Ngara Yura Committee members are:
- The Honourable James Allsop AO, Chief Justice, Federal Court of Australia
- Mr Jason Behrendt, Legal Executive, Chalk & Behrendt Lawyers and Consultants
- Ms Una Doyle, Director, Education, Judicial Commission of NSW
- Her Honour Magistrate Sue Duncombe, Children’s Court of NSW
- Ms Dixie Link-Gordon, Senior Community Access Officer, Indigenous Women’s Legal Program, Women’s Legal Service NSW
- The Honourable Justice Lucy McCallum (Chair), Supreme Court of NSW
- Her Honour Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley, Local Court of NSW
- The Honourable Justice Rachel Pepper, Land and Environment Court of NSW
- Mr Ernest Schmatt AM PSM, Chief Executive, Judicial Commission of NSW
- His Honour Magistrate Brian van Zuylen, Local Court of NSW
- Her Honour Judge Dina Yehia SC, District Court of NSW
Judicial Commission of NSW Staff
- Ms Joanne Selfe, Project Officer, Ngara Yura Program
Committee Member Biographies
Chief Justice James Allsop AO
Chief Justice, Federal Court of Australia, appointed to the Committee in July 2013
Chief Justice James Allsop was admitted to the NSW Bar in 1981. He was appointed Senior Counsel in NSW in 1994, Queen’s Counsel in Western Australia in 1998, a judge of the Federal Court of Australia in 2001, an additional judge of the ACT Supreme Court in 2003 and President of the NSW Court of Appeal in 2008. He became an officer of the Order of Australia in 2013. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia in March 2013.
Mr Jason Behrendt
Legal Executive, Chalk & Behrendt Lawyers and Consultants, appointed to the Committee in July 2016
Jason is a legal executive at Chalk & Behrendt, Lawyers and Consultants. Jason has practised as a solicitor for over 20 years, primarily in the areas of litigation, environment and planning, Aboriginal land rights, native title and administrative law, with a particular focus on assisting Aboriginal people. He represented and advised Aboriginal communities and organisations in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland. He has been the Chair of the Indigenous Issues Committee of the Law Society of NSW since 2012 and is a member of the Indigenous Issues Committee of the Law Council of Australia. He has been a Board Member of the Law and Justice Foundation since 2003 and a member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies since 1988.
Ms Dixie Link-Gordon
Senior Community Access Officer, Indigenous Women’s Legal Program, Women’s Legal Service NSW, appointed to the Committee in July 2016
Dixie is a proud Gurang Gurang woman from South East Queensland. She moved to inner city Redfern 36 years ago, and is proud to call Redfern home. Dixie has earned respect in her community as a domestic violence community educator and advocate across NSW. Her current role is Senior Community Access Officer at the Women’s Legal Service NSW. She has previously worked as a Project Officer, Rape DV Services Australia, Dixie was the CEO and Founding Member of Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Women’s Corporation from 1991–2014.
Among her many achievements, Dixie was awarded the Edan Ryan Award in 2005, the Bright Spark Award in 2015, the Gowland Domestic Violence Award in 2016 and was nominated for a Justice Medal in the NSW Law and Justice Foundation award 2017.
Ms Una Doyle
Director, Education, Judicial Commission of NSW, appointed to the Committee in December 2015
Ms Una Doyle has worked for over 20 years in legal education. Prior to joining the Judicial Commission, Una was the Head of Professional Development, Membership and Communications, at the Law Society of NSW. The role was responsible for the continuous development, improvement and implementation of continuing professional development programs and services for the legal profession. She has also held the position of Director of Continuing Professional Education at the College of Law, a leading not-for-profit provider of vocational post graduate education to Australian legal practitioners. Una is the immediate Past President of ACLEA, the International Association for Continuing Legal Education and co-chaired ACLEA’s International Committee from 2007-2009. She was President of the Continuing Legal Education Association of Australasia from 2005-2007, and is currently a member of its Executive. In a previous life, Una was a lawyer. She maintains a keen interest in the development of legal education worldwide and amongst other qualifications, holds a Masters of International Law. Una believes that participation in the work of the Ngara Yura committee brings a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and social issues, thereby facilitating the development of bespoke educational activities for judicial officers.
Magistrate Sue Duncombe
Children’s Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in March 2014
Magistrate Sue Duncombe was appointed to the Local Court of NSW in January 2010. She was appointed to the Children’s Court of NSW in September 2010 and has maintained that appointment since. Magistrate Duncombe was instrumental in the establishment of the first Youth Koori Court in NSW in February 2015 (pilot). She presides over that court on average each Friday at Parramatta Children’s Court. Prior to her judicial appointment, Magistrate Duncombe was a foundation director of the Mawul Rom project, a cross-cultural leadership, mediation and conflict resolution program working closely with, and learning from, Elders and respected people in North East Arnhem Land.
Judge Dina Yehia SC
District Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in July 2016
Judge Yehia SC was admitted as a solicitor in 1989. Following admission she travelled to Western NSW to take up a position as a solicitor at the Western Aboriginal Legal Service (WALS). Based in Dubbo, she appeared for clients in many towns including Bourke, Brewarrina, Wilcannia and Broken Hill. During her 7 years with the WALS she represented thousands of Aboriginal people in the Local, District and Supreme Court jurisdictions.
Her time in Western NSW also allowed her to spend a lot of time in Aboriginal communities where strong friendships were forged. She also appeared on behalf of the Boney family at the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Commission sat in Brewarrina to take evidence relating to the death of Loyd Boney.
She speaks of her time at WALS as the best of her professional life. Her work brought her into contact with many Aboriginal people and she learnt of the resilience, strength and good humour of her clients and their families in often difficult and deprived circumstances.
Judge Yehia continued to appear for Aboriginal people during her time as Solicitor Advocate at the LAC and as a Public Defender. She took silk in 2009 and became Deputy Senior Public Defender in 2013. In 2013 she appeared as lead counsel in the High Court in the case of Bugmy v The Queen.
Her Honour was appointed a District Court Judge in 2014. She is currently the Chairperson of the District “Koori” Court Working Group.
Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley
Local Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in June 2009
Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley became a member of the Ngara Yura Committee following her appointment as Deputy Chief Magistrate responsible for the co-ordination of educational programs for Local Court magistrates. As a magistrate, she has sat in both the Local and Children’s Court in many places throughout NSW. All too often she has seen Indigenous men, women and children who have lost their way, separated from their culture and community, and who have found themselves in the criminal and care jurisdictions of the court. Involvement with this committee gives Jane a chance to develop educational opportunities for other judicial officers to raise an awareness of the cultural and social issues facing contemporary Aboriginal people. With appropriate education, judicial officers will be better equipped to help those in Indigenous communities who end up before the courts, to find their way again.
Magistrate Brian van Zuylen
Local Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in September 2018
Magistrate van Zuylen was appointed to the Local Court in 2007.
Justice Rachel Pepper
Land and Environment Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in March 2012
Justice Rachel Pepper was appointed as a Judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW in May 2009. From 1997 until her appointment in 2009, she was a barrister at the NSW Bar. Rachel’s principal areas of practice were general commercial law and public law, including Aboriginal land rights. She has long since held an interest in Indigenous legal issues, both civil and criminal. While at the Bar, she was the Co-coordinator of the Aboriginal Legal Service/NSW Bar Association Pro Bono Barrister Scheme. The scheme was established to permit barristers to voluntarily assist the Aboriginal Legal Service in defending accused Indigenous persons in criminal matters. Membership of the Committee will assist in facilitating a greater understanding and appreciation of the complexity of issues, both legal and non-legal, affecting Aboriginal persons today.
Justice Lucy McCallum
Supreme Court of NSW, appointed as Chair of the Committee in July 2016
Justice Lucy McCallum was appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW in January 2008. From 1991 until her appointment in 2008, she was a barrister at the NSW Bar. Her Honour was appointed Senior Counsel in September 2005, and appointed to the Bar Council in 2007. Her Honour worked as a prosecutor for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions. She has long since held an interest in Indigenous legal issues, both civil and criminal.
Mr Ernest Schmatt AM PSM
Chief Executive, Judicial Commission of NSW, appointed to the Committee in 1997
Mr Ernest Schmatt was admitted to the Bar in 1979. He held senior legal and management positions in the public sector including Solicitor for the Public Service Board of NSW (1984–87) and Solicitor Assisting the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Police Investigation of the Death of Donald Mackay (1986). He was appointed the first Deputy Chief Executive of the Judicial Commission of NSW when the Commission was established in 1987 and was appointed Chief Executive of the Commission in 1989.
He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1997 for service to public sector management and reform, public sector industrial relations and judicial education in NSW. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2018 Australia Day Honours list for service to the law in the field of legal education and review, and through the use of technology to assist the judiciary.
Mr Schmatt was elected to the Board of Governors of the International Organisation for Judicial Training (IOJT) in 2009 and as a member of the IOJT Executive Committee in 2011. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute and serves on the management committee of the Asia Pacific Judicial Reform Forum. He is also an Honorary Associate in the Graduate School of Government, the University of Sydney.
Following the Royal Commission Report into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 and in particular Recommendation 96, which relates to judicial education, Mr Schmatt was keen to see the Commission implement the recommendations without delay. In 1992 the Local Court of NSW chose the theme “Aborigines and the Law” for its Annual Conference. The Commission’s program to implement the findings of the Royal Commission has developed from that first conference into what is today the Ngara Yura Program. In May 1997, the Commission and the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration established a joint steering committee to develop an education program to promote Aboriginal cultural awareness, which included visits to Aboriginal communities within the State. He was an active member of that committee from its inception and remains a member of the Ngara Yura Committee.
Ms Joanne Selfe
Project Officer, Ngara Yura Program, appointed to the Committee in 2013
Ms Joanne Selfe has over 30 years’ experience working in various positions within the public sector, private enterprise, community-based organisations and higher education. The implementation of the recommendations of The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families formed a basis and direction for her work that continues to this day. This has led to her involvement in Reconciliation. She was Deputy Chair of the NSW State Reconciliation Committee and Chair of the Reconciliation Events Committee Corroboree 2000. Her knowledge and focus in her various program and policy roles has been dedicated to enhancing cultural understanding of her people and increasing access to programs and services for Aboriginal people by breaking down barriers. Joanne is a founding member of Warringa Baiya, the Aboriginal Women’s Legal Service, a member of the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW, and The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Joanne has previously worked with the judiciary on cross-cultural awareness and understanding. She was involved in organising the first Aboriginal community visits that the Commission undertook in NSW in the 1990s. Joanne has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of NSW; a Diploma in Contract Management; and an Associate Diploma in Communications.