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RAAF marks new legal milestone

written by Staff reporter | December 24, 2021
F-35A Lightning II (A35-038) taxis into RAAF Base Williamtown for the first time after ferrying from the United States (Defence)

The Royal Australian Defence Force marked a new legal record this month, when five new Air Force legal officers were admitted to the ACT Supreme Court on the same day.

Flight Lieutenants Courtney Westphal and Felicity Shearer, and Pilot Officers Allisha Harvey, Rachel Ibbotson and Jarrad Salmon all took part in the formal ceremony, which took place on 10 December, and represented the most number of ADF officers to be admitted at the same court on the same day.

Following the ceremony, their names were entered on the roll of legal practitioners.

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ADF Director General Military Legal Service Air Commodore Patrick Keane said being admitted was a significant moment in a legal officer’s career.

“It’s the culmination of years of study and on-the-job practical training that then gives legal officers the right to practise, and every ADF legal officer must be admitted to practice before an Australian supreme court,” AIRCDRE Keane said.

“Each service would usually welcome a couple of new legal officers each year, so to have five at one time being admitted to the ACT Supreme Court is momentous.

“There is a lot of interest in joining the Military Legal Service and it says a great deal about the calibre and commitment of these new lawyers that they have succeeded in being admitted not just to legal practice, but to military legal practice.”

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The newly admitted legal officers will become part of the joint legal team and continue to build their skills through practical training. In time, they will go on to further study and complete a master’s degree in military law as their careers progress.

AIRCDRE Keane said their admission signified the beginning of their contributions to Defence’s legal capability.

“They’ll be posted to single-service and joint units where they’ll advise on the full gamut of legal issues in support of ADF activities under the mentorship of more senior military lawyers. This includes joint operations, personnel management, discipline and WHS, sometimes all on the same day,” AIRCDRE Keane said.

“We are on the cusp of exciting new developments in military law, including the introduction of new capabilities in space, AI and augmented systems.

“So while our new Air Force legal officers will become experts in support of air power, they will also become experts in legal support across the joint force as a joint and integrated capability.”

ADF legal officers work in strategic, operational and tactical environments covering a range of legal matters from discipline and administrative law through to operations, maritime and international law.

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