The current Ngara Yura Committee members are:
- The Honourable Justice Natalie Adams, Supreme Court of NSW
- 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
- The Honourable Justice Rachel Pepper, Land and Environment Court of NSW
- Mr Andrew Smith, Barrister-at-Law, University Chambers
- His Honour Magistrate Brian van Zuylen, Local Court of NSW
- Her Honour Judge Dina Yehia SC, District Court of NSW, Chair of Committee
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 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, 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 is currently the Chairperson of the District “Koori” Court Working Group and Chair of the Ngara Yura Committee.
Magistrate Brian van Zuylen
Local Court of NSW, appointed to the Committee in September 2018
Magistrate Brian van Zuylen was appointed to the Local Court of NSW in 2007. He has most recently spent three years presiding at Mount Druitt Local Court, where on a weekly basis, he participated in Aboriginal Circle Sentencing.
Prior to his appointment to the Local Court, for 16 years, he worked for Legal Aid NSW, where he represented many Aboriginal people before the Local and District Court.
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 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.
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. 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.