Interview with Kendra Turner
2021 Australian Young Lawyer Award Winner
What does it mean to you to be awarded the 2021 Australian Young Lawyer Award?
For me, being the recipient of this award, is recognition that young lawyers really can steer the legal profession to be more inclusive, to be safer, and to recognise and respect the importance of maintaining our mental health in such a demanding career. When I look around at my colleagues and young lawyers in the profession, I see a lot of bright, driven, and enthusiastic change makers, that are redefining what it means to practice as lawyer, and that push for changes in policies and practices in ways that are more than just performative.
I see a lot of my peers involving themselves in their workplace’s reconciliation action plan committees, diversity and inclusion committees, and industry associations that promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion in businesses and communities. I think that young lawyers are definitely at the forefront of this paradigm shift, and I see my recognition as confirmation that how we approach conversations around mental health and sexual harassment, and the lack of diversity in positions of leadership in the profession, can and will change for the better.
Over the course of your career so far, what are some of the key highlights you are most proud of?
This year I have had the honour of receiving this award, as well as the Law Society of Western Australia’s Lawyer of the Year Award (less than five years’ experience), and the Women Lawyers of Western Australia’s Junior Woman Lawyer of the Year Award, which I am incredibly honoured to have received, and am grateful to those who thought of me as a worthwhile nomination. Another highlight for me has been working with the brilliant minds behind the Society of African Australian Lawyers Inc. (SAALI), Dalitso Banda, Kaday Conteh, Inzwie Murapata, Linda Mulenda, Natalie van Bergan, Ebenezer Assibey-Bonsu, Ayaan Omar, Louis Kristopher, and David Mavundase.
SAALI is an incorporated not-for-profit association established to organise, promote and support people of African heritage in the Western Australian legal community. Since we launched in November 2020 we have:
- held events with the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pitcher Partners, the College of Law, and MSC Jobs & Skills Centre;
- partnered with African Professionals of Australia, and separately with the Australia- Africa Minerals & Energy Group to offer paid internships to African law students and graduates within the mining and resources industry;
- participated in joint interstate events such as the African Australian Legal Network’s mooting competition;
- developed a mentoring programme to support law students within the SAALI network; and
- participated in the 2021 Law Access Walk for Justice and raised $1,155 for Law Access.
Knowing that Western Australian law students of African heritage will graduate university with the support of SAALI is something that I’m incredibly proud to be a part of.
What’s next? What do you aspire to do in 2022 and beyond?
I’m currently practicing as a lawyer in the Perth office of Corrs Chambers Westgarth (Corrs), however I have just settled into Corrs’ Financial Services team which is based in Sydney. Once it’s safe to do so, I plan on packing up shop in Perth and making my way over to work in Corrs’ Sydney office. It’s hard to say where I want my career to take me, but for now, I feel challenged and supported working within the Financial Services team and involving myself in all things SAALI. I think regardless of where I end up, I’ve always been passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion within business and communities, so my future will likely involve a combination of the two.
From your perspective, what are some of the key legal issues and challenges the legal profession needs to focus on, particularly for young lawyers?
In light of global movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, workplaces have started asking themselves how they can provide an environment that is safer for their workers, and an environment that promotes, celebrates and retains a diverse workforce. We have seen discourse around these movements filter through to the legal profession, with legal businesses now considering how their current hiring policies and practices may disadvantage or exclude certain marginalised groups, and whether their graduate intakes reflect the diversity of each university’s graduating law student cohort.
We’re also now having more open and considered discussions around how we can retain and support senior women in leadership, marginalised groups, and staff returning from parental leave, as well as accepting the duality that our colleagues can be both a competent lawyer and a person who struggles with their mental health. With this, there are many challenges facing the legal profession, which require a re-think of outdated policies and practices, and from looking at the people around me, I really do think that young lawyers are at the forefront of this paradigm shift.