This week two passionate advocates for survivors of domestic violence, WLS’s Cheryl Bentley and Keertan Samra were recognised as innovators and trail blazers by their legal sector peers. Both women have worked tirelessly to improve access to justice for survivors and their children impacted by domestic and family violence.
- Earlier this week, Domestic Violence Unit Solicitor,Cheryl Bentley, has been named as a finalist in the Lawyers Weekly Women in Law Awards in the Not-for-profit Lawyer of the Year category.
- Solicitor,Keertan Samra has been named as a finalist in the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland Inc. Awards in the Emergent Lawyer of the Year category as sponsored by Griffith Law School.
- Both awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding women shaping and influencing the legal industry.
“The initiative and tenacity shown by Cheryl and Keertan have seen them become regarded as dedicated practitioners who provide sound advice and obtain positive outcomes for survivors and their children. On behalf of all WLS staff and the WLS management committee we congratulate them both for receiving these individual nominations.” Angela Lynch, CEO of Women’s Legal Queensland said.
Cheryl Bentley – Not-for-profit Lawyer of the Year
You could describe the case work of Cheryl based at the WLS Domestic Violence Unit on the Gold Coast as intensive and highly complex, involving a number of both social, cultural and legal issues.
“When I joined the unit three years ago I found that the highest risk domestic violence cases involved parenting and property matters with older women involved, but now we are finding many cases involving much younger women with tiny babies on various problematic visas” said Cheryl.
“I grew up with domestic violence as a child and young adult so I understand the personal cost of this global epidemic. Every matter is high risk, complex, urgent and different from the last, but it’s extremely rewarding to provide access to justice to those without the means.”
Cheryl’s expertise has made her a natural advocate in the domestic violence space. She’sa steering committee member for the Gold Coast Family Law Pathways Network and the Domestic Violence Integration Group and maintains strong ties with staff from several NGO’s and the DV Court at Southport to ensure the Court process works for the women experiencing high risk DV and to ensure their safety while at Court.
Cheryl will find out 22nd November if she is the overall winner in the national Not-for-profit Lawyer of the Year category.
Keertan Samra – Emergent Lawyer of the Year
In just three years of legal practice Keertan Samra has cemented herself as an innovative and trailblazing specialist domestic violence and family lawyer. Keertan has provided legal advice and assistance to thousands of women throughout Queensland, coordinated the development of a financial empowerment app ‘Penda’, and developed and managed multiple client legal and professional education programs on behalf of WLS.
Keertan has also become a great role model to other CALD women entering the legal profession. As a proud Sikh and Punjabi woman, Keertan has experienced discrimination from people who do not consider law as a respectable career for women but she’s encouraged to see universities more actively supporting CALD women to pursue careers in the legal sector.
Keertan has overseen the establishment of the WLS vulnerable women’s divorce and in the process provided opportunities to volunteer female solicitors and law students (via the UQ Pro Bono Centre) from diverse backgrounds. Keertan supports law students by creating opportunities to observe legal appointments, draft legal documents and receive supervision and feedback. She also acts as a mentor to placement students and junior solicitors.
Keertan will find out on 25th October if she is the overall winner in the Emergent Lawyer of the Year category.
Good luck ladies!