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The role of the Executive

Promoting professional discussion and consultation, as well as preparing position papers and submissions on a range of matters affecting the family law jurisdiction. The Family Law Section has developed a reputation as a source of sound advice to those responsible for framing family law legislation and for determining policy and organising the administration of family law in Australia.

Developing and delivering quality continuing legal education on a national basis. This is considered important particularly given the history of the government and the courts making regular major changes to the areas of family law and child support.

Meeting on a regular basis with various government and other agencies. These meetings are an important part of the Executive's work and provide an opportunity for FLS to have input into a wide range of matters which affect family law in Australia. Such agencies include:

  • The constituent bodies of the Law Council of Australia
  • Family Law Practitioners' Associations
  • The Attorney-General's Department
  • The Family Law Council
  • The Department of Human Services (Child Support)
  • The Family Court's Rules Advisory Committee
  • Combined Family Court and Federal Circuit Court working party on Self Represented Litigants

The FLS Executive consists of:

  • One barrister and one solicitor from each of NSW, Victoria and Queensland
  • One practitioner from ACT, SA, WA, Tasmania and NT (from 2016 election)
  • The immediate past Chair of the Section Executive.

The members of the FLS Executive are elected every two years by members of the FLS, with the poll being declared at the FLS AGM.

The FLS Executive has a Chair, Deputy Chair and Treasurer, elected by majority vote of the Section Executive. The Executive is supported by a small team led by the Director.

The current members of the FLS Executive are:

Paul Doolan (Deputy Chair)

Paul Doolan (Chair)


Barkus Doolan Family Lawyers
Level 9, 370 Pitt St
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone:(02) 9265 0111


Paul is a partner of Barkus Doolan Family Lawyers in Sydney and has been the NSW Solicitor Representative on the Family Law Section Executive since 2010. After serving as Deputy Chair since February 2016, he was elected Chair in December 2018.

In 2015, Doyle's Guide to the Australian Legal Profession rated Paul Doolan as the Market Leader of all Australian family lawyers and in 2016 as one of the pre-eminent lawyers in the country. The firm of Barkus Doolan was rated in both 2015 and 2016 as one of a select group of Tier 1 family law firms across Australia.

Paul was the first Legal Associate to Justice Lindenmayer in the Appeal Division of the Family Court and admitted to practice as a Solicitor in 1995. After working with Hunt & Hunt Lawyers in Brisbane in corporate, tax and family law areas, he joined a Sydney practice in 1998 and made Partner the following year. He holds a Master of Laws degree and is an accredited family law specialist.

Paul is a member of the Editorial Board of the Australian Journal of Family Law, a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a former Director of the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators and a member of the Family Law Issues Committee of the Law Society of NSW.

Paul has presented or published over 60 papers on family law. These include parenting issues such as the unacceptable risk test and the court's approach to interim parenting disputes, together with financial matters such as the taxation aspects of family law settlements, the impact of bankruptcy in family cases, the approach in superannuation cases, the resolution of big money financial disputes and problems surrounding Financial Agreements.

Michael Kearney SC (Treasurer)

Michael Kearney SC (Deputy Chair)


Waratah Chambers
Level 16, 175 Liverpool Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9264 8444


Michael Kearney SC joined the Section Executive as the New South Wales Barrister representative in December 2011. He was elected Treasurer in November 2012 and was elected as Deputy Chair in December 2018. Michael was Co-Chair of the National Family Law Conference in Sydney in 2014, having also been a member of the organising committee for the National Conference in 2000.

Michael was admitted to the NSW Bar in January 2000 and took silk in 2012. Since admission as a legal practitioner in 1994, he has practised predominantly in the family law area.

Michael is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, a Member of the New South Wales Bar Association and of its' Professional Conduct and Family Law Committees. He has previously held positions as Appeals Editor of the Australian Family Lawyer and as a Casenote Editor of the CCH publication ‘Current Family Law'. 

The majority of Michael's practice is in the area of family law, encompassing all issues including complex financial and parenting disputes. Michael has a particular speciality in appellate work in the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia throughout the Eastern States and has also appeared in the NSW Court of Appeal and High Court of Australia.

Di Simpson

Di Simpson (Treasurer)


Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson
18 Kendall Lane
Canberra City ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6212 7600


Di joined the Section Executive as the Australian Capital Territory representative in November 2016 and was elected as Treasurer in December 2018.

Di was admitted to practice in 1993, having completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws at the University of Melbourne. Di first worked in regional Victoria and Melbourne before moving to Canberra in 1998, where she continued to practise family law with a national firm.

In 2007 she was a founding partner of DDCS Lawyers.

Di is an Accredited Specialist and a highly regarded solicitor advocate who undertakes pre-trial and trial work in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

In Doyle's Guide to the Legal Profession, Di has been consistently regarded by her peers as a pre-eminent family lawyer in the ACT. Di is the only ACT family lawyer noted as a recommended family lawyer nationally.

She is Chair of the ACT Law Society's Family Law Committee, a member of the Law Society's Legal Profession Act and Ethics Committee and a member of the Women Lawyer's Association of the ACT.

She regularly presents to students, lawyers and other professionals about family law and professional development and is actively engaged in mentoring and supporting the development of young practitioners.

Wendy Kayler-Thomson (Immediate Past Chair)

Forte Family Lawyers
Level 2, 535 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9248 5800


Wendy was Chair of the Family Law Section from February 2016 to December 2018, having been Deputy Chair since November 2012. She continues as Immediate Past Chair of the Section and has been a member of the Executive since November 2007.

Wendy was admitted to practice in 1993, having completed a law degree and commerce degree at the University of Melbourne. She has practiced exclusively in family law since that time.

In addition to obtaining specialist accreditation, Wendy has also completed a Master of Laws degree at Monash University, focusing primarily on family law related subjects. She has also completed training in mediation and collaborative family law. Wendy has written and presented papers on a variety of family law related topics to family lawyers, non-family lawyers and non-lawyers.

Wendy served on the Executive of Victorian Women Lawyers for many years and in 2000/2001 was the Convenor of the association. Wendy has also served as a board member of Australian Women Lawyers.

Sydney Williams QC


Level 9, Inns of Court,
107 North Quay,
Brisbane QLD 4000


Sydney Williams QC was admitted to the Qld Bar in 2004 and took silk in 2018. Family law has been a predominant area of practice throughout his career, with particular focus on financial cases involving significant asset pools and complex company, trust, partnership and valuation issues, and also complex parenting matters.

Sydney is the Chair of the Queensland Bar Association’s Family Law Committee, and also an accredited Arbitrator. He regularly presents papers throughout Australia on family law issues. He was appointed as Queensland Bar Representative to the Executive of the Family Law Section of the Law Council in January 2020. He has appeared in the High Court of Australia, and the appellate divisions of the Family Court of Australia and various State and Territory Courts.

Greg Howe

Greg Howe


Howe Jenkin
Level 9, 111 Gawler Place
Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8232 8422


Greg has been a member of the Executive since November 2008. He is a director of the firm Howe Jenkin, a specialist family law firm in the Adelaide CBD and is a senior Adelaide family law practitioner with over 38 years experience. He has acted primarily in financial matters, and has particular experience in those matters involving companies, businesses and trusts and more complex financial issues including property disputes in de facto relationships.

Greg is also a fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL) and is one of only three practitioners in South Australia who are members of IAFL. In April 2008, Greg chaired the Organising Committee for the successful 13th National Family Law Conference held in Adelaide.

Jaquie Palavra

Jaquie Palavra


Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission
Telephone: (08) 8999 3000


Jaquie joined the Executive as the first NT representative in November 2016.

Jaquie was admitted into practice in 1988 as a solicitor in New South Wales joining a small general practise in Sydney and later the Central Coast. She took a break from the law to travel, live and work abroad in Italy for 10 years studying dry-cargo shipbroking and became a Member of the Institute of Charted Shipbrokers in London, whilst working in a small dry-cargo shipbroking firm.

In 2001, Jaquie returned to Australia and the law practising in New South Wales, Queensland and currently the Northern Territory as the Manager of the Family Law Division of the NT Legal Aid Commission. She has practised almost exclusively in family law and child protection since 2003.

Jaquie represents clients from diverse cultures and backgrounds and the best interests of children as an Independent Children's Lawyer. As a registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner, she also assists parties in negotiating and settling their disputes at legal aid family law conferences.

Marcus Turnbull SC


Ogilvie Jennings Lawyers
Level 4, 39 Murray Street
Hobart TAS 7001
Phone: 03 6235 0800


Marcus Turnbull SC was admitted to practice Law in 1991. Initially Marcus practiced principally in the areas of criminal and Industrial Law but now specialises in Family Law, including child support and de facto relationship cases. Marcus is also a Child Representative in the child protection jurisdiction and an Independent Children’s Lawyer in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia.

Marcus often appears in complex property and children’s matters as counsel in trials and appeals before the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia. He is regularly briefed by other law firms. Marcus has been recognised as a pre-eminent and a leading Family Lawyer in Doyles Guide. Marcus is also an accredited mediator and regularly conducts mediations in Family Law matters. He is the Tasmanian representative on the Board of Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators (AIFLAM). Marcus has a keen interest in ongoing legal education and is a regular presenter on Family Law related topics. Marcus has lectured in Family Law at the Tasmanian Legal Practice Course.

Marcus was elected to the Executive of the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia in December 2018. He is also a member of the Tasmanian Family Lawyers Association.

Minal Vohra

Minal Vohra SC


Owen Dixon Chambers East
205 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9225 7157


Minal has been at the Victorian Bar since 1997. Prior to this she was a Solicitor at Slater & Gordon practicing in personal injury, class actions and family law. She now practices exclusively in the Family Law jurisdiction.

Minal graduated from the University of Melbourne as a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Law. She has also obtained a Masters of Law from Monash University.

Minal has been the Victorian representative on the Family Law Section Executive of the Law Council of Australia since 2007. She is a regular presenter for TEN on family law issues. She has presented papers for the Family Law Section Intensives around Australia. She has also written and presented papers for the Law Institute of Victoria, Victoria Legal Aid, the Leo Cussen Institute as well as the Tasmanian Family Law Practitioners' Association and the WA Family Law Practitioners' Association. She presented a paper on the role of Independent Children's Lawyers for LAWASIA's 2009 Singapore Conference.

Minal is an accredited Arbitrator. She is also an Advocacy Trainer for the Australian Advocacy Institute.

Jason Walker


Level 25, 600 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: (03) 9612 8299


Jason Walker joined the Section Executive as the Victorian Solicitor representative in December 2018.

Jason is a Partner at Gadens and has dual accreditation as specialist in Family Law (2005) and as a specialist in Children’s Law (2012).  His practice involves complex property and complex parenting disputes.

Jason has previously served as the Chair of the Family Law Section of the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) and is a current member of the Executive of the LIV Family Law Section.  He has also served on a number of LIV committees and was a founding member of the LIV Children’s Law Specialisation Advisory Committee, which is responsible for assessing and examining candidates for specialisation in Children’s Law.

Along with Wendy Kayler-Thomson, Jason was the co-convenor of the Family Law Section’s National Family Law Conference held in Melbourne 2016, the largest legal conference of any kind in Australia, attracting 1,100 registrants.

Jason’s is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

Jason has regularly been named as a “Leading Victorian Family Lawyer” and “Leading Parenting & Children’s Matters Lawyer” in Victoria and in the annual publication of Doyle’s Guide.

Nicola Watts

Nicola Watts


O'Sullivan Davies Lawyers
Level 27, 197 St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000
Phone: (08) 9426 4711


Nicola joined the Section Executive as the Western Australian representative in November 2016.

Nicola grew up in Tasmania and worked in all areas of litigation from her 1993 admission until she moved to Melbourne in 1997.

Between 1997 and 2013 Nicola practised family law in Victoria and has trained as a Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer.

Since 1995 Nicola has acted as Independent Children's Lawyer in Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. In 2011 Nicola was made Citizen of the Year by the City of Stonnington for her services to youth.

Nicola moved to Western Australia in June 2013. 

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