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Australia Day awards honour women legal leaders in Queensland

Three outstanding women – an environmental lawyer, a veteran court administrator and a domestic and family violence university research professor – are among those recognised for their contributions to Queensland’s legal profession in the 2022 Australia Day Honours List.

The trio – environment solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg; Queensland Supreme, District and Land Court chief executive Julie Steel and former University of Queensland law Professor Heather Douglas – were part of the largest percentage of women ever recognised in the annual awards.

Australian Governor-General David Hurley AC today announced honours to 1040 people in recognition for their service or contribution to the nation.

His Excellency said that, of the 732 awards in the General Division of the Order of Australia, awards for women reached its highest ever percentage (47%), while 45% were for service to local communities.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDOQ) chief executive Jo-Anne Bragg – also a recipient of Queensland Law Society’s 2020 Agnes McWhinney and Access to Justice Awards – has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her significant service to environmental law.

Ms Bragg graduated from Sydney University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws.

After a stint working with law firm Minter Ellison in Sydney, Ms Bragg moved to Brisbane in 1992 to take up the position at the EDOQ and is the longest-serving EDO solicitor in Australia.

Former University of Queensland (UQ) TC Bernie Law School deputy dean of research Heather Douglas – who was appointed a professor at University of Melbourne’s Law School last year (2021) – has been appointed as a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia for her service to tertiary law education and the community.

Since beginning her legal career as an article clerk at Grace and MacGregor Solicitors in 1990, Professor Douglas has worked as a lawyer for First Nations Australians (1991-93), as Queensland Law Reform Commissioner (2001-07), a member of the Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research since 2003 and an academic, lecturer, deputy dean and researcher in law at UQ (2006-20).

Meanwhile, Queensland’s Brisbane-based Supreme, District and Land Court CEO Julie Steel has been recognised for her outstanding innovation to the state’s courts with a Public Service Medal (PSM).

The Governor-General’s office said Ms Steel had excelled in her CEO role over the past decade and had been at the forefront of court innovations.

“Her leadership and talent for organisation and innovation have supported the courts to manage their workloads efficiently, while greatly improving accessibility to the public,” the statement said. “Her talent lies in system organisation and staff leadership, resulting in vastly improved registry services over the last decade to the benefit of the judiciary, the legal profession and the public.

“Her ingenuity has enabled the higher courts, with very limited means, to advance some way into the digital age. Importantly her efforts have ensured the courts have been able to cope with existing conditions, while anticipating and evolving forward.

“Ms Steel has formed a highly skilled team who is strategically focused and delivers widely acclaimed outcomes for court users. These skills were particularly evident during the COVID period of 2020 and 2021 when, in collaboration with the heads of jurisdiction, she put extensive strategies in place to ensure the continued operation of the courts.

“Ms Steel is innovative, resilient and flexible and she works tirelessly to adjust to changing circumstances. During the entire COVID period she has ensured the courts have been open for users in a suitably adjusted environment.”

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