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Yehia is also keen to promote another cause close to her heart – expanding cultural diversity in the legal profession.

Arab-Australian judge earns her rightful place on NSW Supreme Court

Arab-Australian judge earns her rightful place on NSW Supreme Court


(See translation in Arabic section)

Sydney – M E TIMES Int’l: Judge Dina Yehia SC’s elevation to the NSW Supreme Court from early next month has been endorsed by state Attorney-General Mark Speakman.

 “Her Honor Judge Yehia has enormous experience in criminal law and has long campaigned for social justice,” Mr Speakman said following the announcement of Judge Yehia’s new role.

The Egyptian-born woman, one of the few culturally diverse judges on the bench, Yehia arrived in Australia in 1970 as an eight-year-old who could speak no English. Her father, who had been a high-ranking military leader had at one stage been held in secret detention in their homeland during a period of political upheaval.

 “Our migration to Australia meant that we left behind a very large extended family on my father’s side,” Yehia said in an interview with the Law Society Journal late last year. “They remained in Egypt and have never visited Australia.”

Soon after their arrival, the family settled in Five Dock in Sydney’s inner west, and Yehia was enrolled at Domremy College, a Catholic school, which she attended until the end of Year 10. 

“My parents were advised that the best education would be received in a Catholic school. They both considered education more important than anything else, and they were determined to ensure that their children were enrolled in schools that provided the best education.”

A passion for advocacy, particularly on behalf of the marginalised, was seeded in her early teens.

“I don’t really know where it came from, but I do know that it came in a very big way at a very young age. I may have been influenced by stories I heard coming from Egypt to Australia, about what had happened to my father, when he was arbitrarily detained in Egypt. But if those stories influenced me, it was unconscious. All I know is that from age 13, I knew what I wanted to do, and there was no deviating from it going forward.”

Yehia graduated with a Bachelor of Arts/Law from the University of NSW and subsequently completed a Masters in International Criminal Law at Sydney University.

Pictured with former Chief Judge of the District Court,

The Honorable Justice Reginald Blanch AM.

She was admitted as a solicitor in 1989 and was a solicitor with the Western Aboriginal Legal Service for seven years, until becoming Solicitor Advocate for Legal Aid and then being called to the Bar. She was appointed Senior Counsel in 2009 and became the first female Deputy Senior Public Defender in 2013.

Her busy career has seen her appear in a range of high-profile cases from the Australian terrorism trials R v Baladjam and R v Elomar in 2009, to appearing as lead counsel in the High Court in R v Bugmy in 2013.

Yehia has been a judge of the District Court since 2014 and is Chair of the Ngara Yura Committee, which raises awareness among judicial officers in relation to Indigenous cultural and social issues.

She is also Chair of the Walama Working Group and a council member of the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration and the National Judicial College of Australia.

Her other roles include being chairperson of Diverse Women in Law (DWL), a rapidly growing professional legal network providing mentoring and support for culturally diverse women in the law.

Yehia is also keen to promote another cause close to her heart – expanding cultural diversity in the legal profession.

“There is a lot of good work being done by organisations in terms of championing and promoting women in the law, but I think DWL is the first organisation I am aware of that has focused on intersectionality – so not just women, but diverse women and not just diverse women, but also women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” she said.

From appearing for thousands of Aboriginal people in country towns across NSW, to highlighting the failures in our criminal justice system in relation to Indigenous Australians in her years as a solicitor and barrister, Yehia has been a formidable crusader for equity and social justice for more than three decades.


Copyright 2007