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Claire O’Connor SC is a barrister who has been a lawyer in both the UK and Australia for over 40 years.
She has worked in both the private and public sectors before going to the bar in 2005. She has worked in a community legal centre in the UK, at the Legal Services Commission (LSC) and at Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) in Adelaide as well as at Camatta Lempens lawyers.
Claire was on the establishment then the management committee for many years with the Women’s Legal Service SA and was the chair for some years. She had been a member of the SA Law Society Council for almost a decade and served on the Diversity Committee of Australian Law Council for a number of years representing SA.
Claire established the Diversity Committee of the SA Law Society in 2019 and chaired the committee in its first year.
Before going to the Bar in 2005 her career was mostly as a criminal defence barrister but she also – while at ALRM and LSC – worked on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody for families who had lost loved ones, on the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Royal Commission for women who claimed secret women’s business over the island, for Bruce Trevorrow in his litigation over his unlawful removal from his family – still the only successful stolen generation case in Australia and for refugees and asylum seekers (including Ahmed Al Kateb who challenged his statelessness in the High Court and for Cornelia Rau who was awarded $2.5 million for her unlawful detention).
Claire has, since going to the Bar, been involved in further refugee cases including acting in the Manus Island class action, for many plaintiffs suing for harm over immigration detention and for the unwell in detention to get them into places of treatment.
Further she has developed a practice in family law in particular for victims of domestic violence and coercive control. She has also acted in discrimination litigation (both gender and disability) in the State and Federal systems, and in inquests in SA and WA.
She has just finished the inquest for the family of a prisoner who died in Yatala which hearing went over four years, and acted for another Aboriginal family whose 25 year old daughter died while restrained by police in Perth. She acted for the families of the deceased in an inquest into the sinking of the SIEV 221 off the coast of Christmas Island. Almost all of her inquest work is done pro bono.
Claire is currently on the fund raising board for the Spirit of Women project which seeks to have art places and memorials for women victims of domestic violence, is on the committee of SA Women Lawyers and drafted their response to legislative changes around coercive control and is on the committee of the South Australian Civil Liberties organisation. She was the chair for some years.