Ngara Yura Committee Members

The current Ngara Yura Committee members are:

  • The Honourable Justice Natalie Adams, Supreme Court of NSW
  • Mr Jason Behrendt, Legal Executive, Chalk & Behrendt Lawyers and Consultants
  • Ms Una Doyle, Chief Executive, Judicial Commission of NSW
  • Her Honour Magistrate Sue Duncombe, Children’s Court of NSW
  • His Honour Magistrate Richard Funston, Children’s Court of NSW
  • His Honour Judge Warwick Hunt, District Court of NSW
  • Ms Catherine Kenny, Director, Education and Research, Judicial Commission of NSW
  • The Honourable Justice Rachel Pepper, Land and Environment Court of NSW
  • Mr Andrew Smith, Barrister-at-Law, University Chambers
  • The Honourable Justice Dina Yehia, Supreme Court of NSW, Chair of Committee

Judicial Commission of NSW Staff

  • Ms Joanne Selfe, Project Officer, Ngara Yura Program

Committee Member Biographies

Justice Natalie Adams

Supreme Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in February 2022

Justice Natalie Adams graduated from the University of Sydney with a combined Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) in 1988. She was admitted to practice as a solicitor in 1989 and commenced her legal career as a commercial lawyer at the firm then known as Freehill Hollingdale and Page (now Herbert Smith Freehills) that year. In 1990, she started as a Level 1 lawyer at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions where she worked until early 1996. She completed a Master of Laws at the University of New South Wales, studying part-time, during that time.

In early 1996, Justice Adams left the ODPP to work at the Legal Aid Commission for just under two years. She spent half of that time as a duty solicitor at Sutherland Local Court and the other half in the indictable section at Parramatta Legal Aid. In 1997, she joined the Criminal Law Team at the Crown Solicitor’s Office, where she worked until early 2001 at which time she was called to the bar. She was appointed as a Crown Prosecutor in early 2002 after a year at the private bar and practised as a Crown Prosecutor for nearly 10 years, predominantly conducting trials.

In late 2011, she was appointed as the NSW Crown Advocate and in 2012, she was appointed as senior counsel. During her time as the Crown Advocate she appeared in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Court of Criminal Appeal and the Supreme Court in a range of criminal matters.

On 5 April 2016, Justice Adams was sworn in as a Judge in the Common Law Division of the NSW Supreme Court.

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 Una Doyle

Chief Executive, 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.

Magistrate Richard Funston

Children’s Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in February 2023

Magistrate Richard Funston worked as solicitor Children’s Legal Service with Legal Aid Victoria from 1987 to 1993, then principal solicitor Inner City Legal Centre NSW from 1993 to 1998. Richard was appointed solicitor in charge Children’s Legal Service at Legal Aid NSW from 1998 to 2003. Richard was a member of the Executive at Legal Aid NSW in various roles including Director Grants, Director Criminal Law, and Deputy Chief Executive Officer from 2003 to 2018. Richard was appointed a magistrate in 2018 and specialist children’s magistrate at the start of 2023. Since being a magistrate Richard has frequently worked in country NSW, including two years based in Albury NSW. Richard has been a regular attendee of Ngara Yura events since being appointed a magistrate.

Judge W Hunt

District Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in July 2022

Judge Warwick Hunt was admitted in December 1981.

As a solicitor he worked variously in private practice and at the Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid NSW. He specialised, first, in civil litigation and then was among the earliest cohort to be accredited by the NSW Law Society as a specialist in criminal law.

After some years sitting on various Tribunals from 1995, his Honour was appointed in 2000 as Local Court and Children’s Court Magistrate, sitting principally in the Illawarra and Campbelltown areas.

His Honour was called to the Bar in 2007, practising at Forbes Chambers. He specialised in jury and appellate work, inquests, child protection and medical disciplinary law. His Honour served on Bar Council and numerous other Bar Association committees.

In 2016, his Honour was appointed to the District Court of NSW sitting almost exclusively in crime in both metropolitan and regional Courts. He sits on the District Court’s Education Committee and is often asked to speak on Advocacy and Ethics. Since July 2022, his Honour is the principal Judge sitting in the Court’s Walama List, an innovative program designed to address over-representation of First Nations in custody and before the criminal justice system. Before accepting that role, his Honour served for some years as a director of Weave Youth and Community Services.

His Honour joined the Ngara Yura Committee as the District Court’s representative, upon Justice Dina Yehia’s appointment to the Supreme Court in 2022.

Ms Catherine Kenny

Director, Education and Research, Judicial Commission of NSW, appointed to the Committee in March 2023

Ms Catherine Kenny has worked for over 30 years in legal education. She re-joined the Judicial Commission in 2023 to take up the newly created role of Director, Education and Research. Through this combined role she hopes to see a comprehensive focus on the Commission’s implementation of recommendation 96 and the Terms of Reference of the Committee. She views the Ngara Yura Committee as the conduit to better understanding how the Commission can respond to the emerging and existing issues facing Aboriginal communities and offenders in the context of the historical and social factors which have impacted their communities. Following practising as a lawyer, Catherine has predominantly worked in professional and postgraduate education and project management at the College of Law, University of Queensland, Queensland Law Society and Judicial Commission of NSW. As Director of CLE, Queensland Law Society, she was instrumental in the publication of Diane Eades’ Aboriginal English and the Law: Communicating with Aboriginal English-Speaking Clients: A Handbook for Legal Practitioners, Brisbane: Queensland Law Society (1992). Recently, she internally project managed the WA College Reconciliation Action Plan with the Executive Director, College of Law (WA). She has been a member and Executive member of the Continuing Legal Education Association of Australasia for over 30 years and a member of ACLEA, the International Association for Continuing Legal Education.

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.

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. 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 (2010–2019). 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.

Mr Andrew Smith

Barrister-at-Law, appointed to the Committee in September 2019

Andrew is a proud Wiradjuri man of the Tubba-Gah people. He graduated from the University of New England with a Bachelor of Arts/Law in 2005.

He was admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in August 2005 and in 2009 was called to the NSW Bar. He has been and remains a member of the NSW Bar Association First Nations Committee since its inception in 2017.

Since being called to the Bar, Andrew has appeared in multiple jurisdictions including the Supreme Court, District Court and Local Court of New South Wales, Supreme Court and District Court of Queensland, Supreme Court and County Court of Victoria, Federal Court of Australia, Federal Magistrates Court and various federal and state Tribunals. Andrew primarily practices in the areas of building and construction, corporate insolvency, commercial, equity and mortgage and securities litigation.

Andrew is currently a candidate for a Master of Laws (Research) in which he writing a thesis in respect of insolvent trading laws.

Justice Dina Yehia

Supreme Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in July 2016, appointed Chair in 2022

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.

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 served as the Chairperson of the District “Koori” Court Working Group. She was appointed a Supreme Court judge in 2022 and is currently Chair of the Ngara Yura Committee.