Newcastle lawyer honoured for commitment to social justice

A Newcastle-based lawyer who uses her skills and expertise to advocate for vulnerable people has received the 2020 Australian Lawyers Alliance’s (ALA) Civil Justice Award.

Catherine Henry, founder and principal of Catherine Henry Lawyers, was presented with the award during the ALA’s conference in the ACT today.

“Catherine Henry is a truly deserving recipient of our annual Civil Justice Award,” said Mr Graham Droppert SC, National President, ALA. “For many years, Catherine has effectively used the law to support and advance social justice and human rights in Australia.

“Using common law litigation and consumer law remedies backed up public advocacy, Catherine’s work has contributed to positive reform in aged care and health services.”

Over the course of the last decade, Catherine Henry has campaigned on several important social justice issues including women’s reproductive rights; the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; the rights of people experiencing mental illness; and the rights of older Australians, particularly those in aged care.

“Catherine’s commitment spans more than one issue and draws from her experience as a health lawyer and aged care lawyer,” said Mr Droppert SC.

“Catherine has been an advocate for the rights of older Australians living in aged care and a public campaigner for reform of the aged care sector for the past decade. It is pleasing to see that reforms that Catherine has been calling for, such as changes to the Aged Care Act, have recently been acknowledged by the Aged Care Royal Commission.

“Inspired by the people she meets through her practice and their often very distressing experiences, Catherine also campaigns for improvements in healthcare and uses her medical negligence case work to promote change in healthcare delivery and the professionalism of health care providers.

“Catherine is an excellent example of a lawyer who uses her expertise and time to make a positive difference to the lives of others. This is especially valuable in the regional areas where Catherine works, as health and other civil justice outcomes and support services can lag behind those of Australia’s capital cities.”

Previous recipients of the ALA’s Civil Justice Award include former prime minister Malcolm Fraser AC, Indigenous rights activist Eddie Mabo, lawyer Bernard Collaery and politician Andrew Wilkie MP.

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