Celebrating the past to shape the future for women in law

About the First 100 Years

An ambitious project to commemorate the journey of women in the legal profession, from the turn of last century to the present day

The First 100 Years is an inspirational history project, supported by the Law Society of NSW and Women Lawyers Association of NSW, charting the journey of women in law since enactment of enabling legislation throughout Australia in the early 1900s. In 2018 the project will mark the centenary of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918 (NSW) which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time in NSW, as well as allowing women to stand for the NSW Parliament.

While the First 100 Years currently focuses on NSW in order to coincide with the centenary of the Women’s Legal Status Act 1918, this project recognises that laws were changing throughout Australia from the early 1900s onwards. Victoria was the first state to allow women to practise law in 1903, Tasmania in 1904, Queensland in 1905, South Australia in 1911, and the final centenary will occur in Western Australia in 2023. You can learn more about the key milestones for women lawyers in Australia by exploring the First 100 Years.

The First 100 Years project was originally created in the United Kingdom by Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support. Launching the project Dana said: “People don’t know their history — who the first woman solicitor was, for instance. There is no archive like the First 100 Years to help us place ourselves in history.” The First 100 Years now comes to Australia to recognise the history of women in law, both in NSW and nationally.

The First 100 Years will be marked by a series of events designed to recognise the past and current position of women in the Australian legal industry. The campaign will also involve cultural and educational activities documenting the story of women in law from 1918 to the present day, including video projects and the publication of a historical timeline.

Our aim is to ensure a strong and equal future for all women in the legal profession, by creating positive role models for women in law, a deep understanding of the past combined with a celebration of today, a cross-sector platform for intelligent debate and change and a valuable archive accessible to everyone from law students to judges. This website will be updated regularly with information on upcoming events and projects associated with the First 100 Years centenary.

The First 100 Years project has begun by charting the journey of women in law in NSW. You can follow our timeline to learn more about the key landmarks since Ada Evans became the first Australian woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Laws from Sydney University in 1902.

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We want to hear from everyone, men and women, who would like to support the project or share their stories and archive material.

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