I can finally report some awesome news from Australia ( usually they are not good news). And I am absolutely elated to actually write about this because it is a long time coming. 2 Chinese Australian barristers have just been appointed as senior counsels – making them the first in Australia who have Chinese descent. Both WILLIAM LYE and CAN TRUONG were among 25 advocates who made the cut as Senior Counsel in Victoria. FYI, I actually know William Lye personally and think this is such an awesome development in the legal field. In Australia the background of the legal field was always ( and in many ways still is) seen as RACIST and an old white boys club. 

For those who are unaware of what “Senior Counsel” means essentially a “senior lawyer”. It is used in British colonized countries like Australia. At the end of your name you have an SC. Formerly the term was “Queens Counsel (QC)” before it was changed to “Senior Counsel” (SC). It is actually a really big deal. Here are a few excerpts from the Australian Financial Review:

“When I came to the bar (in 2005), there was only William as a Chinese barrister,” said Mr Truong.

“It was seen as not a safe course to take as an Asian law student.

“There may have been cultural issues of not wanting to be involved in disputes and litigation, but I didn’t have that mindset…

“I think people, are now seeing it as a legitimate career path, where as before they would choose accounting or commerce, or stay on a more cautious career path within commercial law.”

Both men have Chinese parents. Mr Truong, 43, was born one month before the fall of Saigon in 1975 and came to Australia aged three. Three times, his family tried to cross the Arafura Sea without success before Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government chartered a plane and brought it to Australia with a load of Vietnamese refugees.

Both men have broad commercial practices, with Mr Lye specialising in cross-border transactions and Mr Truong in trade practices law and commercial law disputes.

Mr Truong says about 20-30 people of Asian background are in the junior ranks of the bar in Victoria, with even more coming through.

“That’s happened in the last two to five years so the composition is certainly changing,” he says.

“I share the Chief Justice’s view that all levels of the profession should reflect the society in which we live – and we know for a fact that one quarter of Melbourne is born overseas – a significant part of that is from Asia.”

Mr Lye says “it’s often the case that people can be stereotyped”.

“All we are asking – for those who are culturally diverse – is to be given a chance.”

This is such an awesome development, considering the first major achievement in the legal area for Asian Australians is William Ah Ket becoming the first barrister of Chinese descent in 1904. So this new development is huge, and let’s hope it will continue to grow. 

Images via Australian Financial Review

To read the original article, please click on: Victorian barristers take silk road to smash ‘bamboo ceiling’