Executive Management Team

The Director of Legal Aid WA is our Chief Executive Officer, who is responsible for the daily activities of Legal Aid WA. The Director is supported by the Executive Management Team, which is made up of the head of each division within Legal Aid WA.

Board of Management

The current management structure was implemented in July 2021. Lawyers on the Executive Management Team have current certificates to practise law in WA. The Acting Director of Business Services is a qualified Certified Practising Accountant (CPA).

This picture shows the core sections within each division of Legal Aid WA (click to enlarge). Profiles of members of our Executive Management Team are included below. More information about the work of each division is included in our annual reports.


Helen De Brito - Director of Legal Aid WA

Helen started her career at Legal Aid WA in 2005 and has practised predominantly in criminal law.  In 2011 Helen was appointed Acting Solicitor in Charge of the Fremantle office, before going on to manage the Legal Practice Development Division and the Criminal Law Division.   Helen was also responsible for establishing Legal Aid WA’s Virtual Office service in 2019. Helen is strongly committed to improving service delivery and delivering positive outcomes for Legal Aid WA’s clients.  She is passionate about resilience and wellness in the legal profession, regional service delivery, and the development and mentoring of staff. Helen is a long standing member of Legal Aid WA’s Reconciliation Action Plan Committee, has managed the Graduate Program, and the Country Lawyers Program.  

As the Director of the Criminal Law Division, Helen was instrumental in maintaining criminal law services during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, including establishing duty lawyer hubs.  In 2022, the Institute of Public Administration Australia awarded the duty lawyer hubs as Best Practice in Innovation.  

Helen has a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from Murdoch University, achieving First Class Honours in Law.

Lee Baker - Business Services

Lee commenced working at Legal Aid WA in November 2003 and has held the position of Chief Finance Officer for the past 10 years. She is a qualified Certified Practising Accountant and is a member of CPA Australia.  

Since May 2017, Lee has also been the Acting Director of Business Services. In this role, she is responsible for the delivery of corporate services to support the operation of all the other Divisions of Legal Aid WA. Additional responsibilities include overall agency financial management, reporting to external stakeholders, policy advice to the Attorney General and providing a secretariat at Legal Aid Commission meetings.

Karen O'Sullivan - Lawyers Engagement Network

Karen joined Legal Aid WA in August 2021 as the Director of the newly established Lawyers Engagement Network. She graduated from the University of Melbourne Law School with Honours and a Master of Public & International Law. After practising for several years as an employment lawyer at Minter Ellison in Melbourne, she took up a role with the United Nations in Timor-Leste as a legal adviser in the Prime Minister’s office, focused on family violence law reform.  She then spent several years as a senior lawyer in the Department of Premier & Cabinet in Melbourne, and as a senior officer in the Department of Justice in Perth, where she led key legislative reforms in the Attorney General’s portfolio.  

Karen is passionate about improving access to justice in Western Australia, particularly for women and children, and brings strong strategic policy skills to the Legal Aid WA executive team. She recently completed the Oxford Executive Leadership Program and is committed to developing staff, and optimising Legal Aid WA’s impact across the justice system.

Julie Jackson - Early Intervention Services

Julie began work at Legal Aid WA in 1985 and has established herself as a recognised leader in representing children in protection and care, family law and criminal law matters. In 2009, Julie was awarded WA Woman Lawyer of the Year in recognition of her commitment to her clients and the legal profession.

Julie has an active role in the development of law reform and policies regarding child protection, family law and family violence. She has a special interest in improving court processes, information sharing and interagency collaboration, to achieve better court outcomes for children and victims of family violence. In 2010, Julie completed a Churchill Fellowship researching the integration of Family Court and Children’s Court services in other countries. From 2011 until June 2021 she was the Director of Legal Aid WA’s Family Law Division. She has served as Chair of the WA Family Pathways Network and currently serves on its Steering Committee.

Julie is a Convenor of the Family and Domestic Violence Advisory Network and a member of working groups overseeing the information sharing protocols between courts, the police and other government agencies regarding child protection and family violence issues. In 2021, Julie was appointed as a member of the Family Law Council, a body that advises the Commonwealth Attorney-General of family law matters. In July 2021 July became Director of the newly formed Early Intervention Services Division, responsible for client intake and triage, discrete family law and virtual office advice services, and community legal education.

Gemma Mitchell – Civil Law

Gemma joined Legal Aid WA in 2021 as the Civil Law Division Director, having previously worked as the Managing Solicitor at Consumer Credit Legal Service. She was born in the UK, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology with Honours, and later moved to Australia, gaining her Bachelor of Laws with Honours degree at the University of Notre Dame Australia. She brings a wealth of private practice and in-house experience from a range of leadership and management roles, and is passionate about providing a voice to people experiencing entrenched disadvantage through strong legal advice provision. 

Gemma uses a values-based approach to her work and leads her division effectively with integrity and enthusiasm, empowering those around her through a sense of purpose and direction. She pro-actively shaped the organisation’s future when she joined the Legal Aid WA Executive team, and over the past three years has remained committed to delivering quality services and expanding the scope and remit of the support that the organisation provides. She is experienced with change management, providing organisational strategic direction, and strengthening the division that she leads.

Katy McDougall - Criminal Law

Katy has worked at Legal Aid WA since 2007, commencing as an articled clerk in the graduate program. Upon being admitted to practice, Katy has practiced primarily in criminal law, working extensively as a duty lawyer across a range of specialist courts, as well as representing clients in relation to indictable, appeal, parole and mentally impaired accused matters.

In 2016, Katy turned her focus to legal education, staff development and training, leading her to obtain a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. From November 2020 until August 2023, Katy was the Managing Solicitor of CLE and Training for our inaugural Early Intervention Services Division. In this role Katy was responsible for Legal Aid WA’s graduate and volunteer programs, professional training, legal resources and community legal education programs, as well as managing the Virtual Office program.

In August 2023 Katy was seconded to work as a Principal Policy Advisor to the WA Attorney General, providing advice in relation to various areas of law reform. Katy returned to Legal Aid WA in July 2024 to take up the position of Director of the Criminal Law Division.

Colleen Brown - Family Law

Colleen was admitted to practice in NSW in 1988 and to practice in WA in 1992. Her journey in law has taken her to different parts of Australia, working in a range of environments including a large-scale national firm in Sydney, regional offices in Port Macquarie and Busselton and a boutique family law firm in Perth. Colleen joined Legal Aid WA in 1996 as a children’s representative and went on to set up Legal Aid WA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Program in 2001.

She was  the head of Legal Aid WA’s Client Services Division from July 2008 until June 2021, responsible for client intake and assessment and creating clear, positive pathways for clients requiring legal assistance. Colleen is a qualified Independent Children’s Lawyer, Arbitrator and Collaborative lawyer with a longstanding background and interest in family law.

Jane Stewart - Regional and Special Projects

Jane joined Legal Aid WA in 1994 and over the years has held a range of senior roles. From July 2008 to July 2021, Jane was the Director of the Legal Practice Development, responsible for graduate recruitment and training, the Country Lawyer's Program, career planning with in-house lawyers, professional development and training including Legal Aid WA's annual Summer Series, audit and compliance, legal resources and content, and creating community legal education resources including the Blurred Borders resources.

At different times, whilst Director of Legal Practice Development, Jane has held line management responsibility for a number of regional offices including, Kununurra, Broome, Kalgoorlie, Bunbury, and the Central Wheatbelt outreach Service.

Recently,  Jane has been assisting the Director of Legal Aid WA with strategic projects. This has included building our inhouse  evaluation capacity, assisting with strategic planning including the development of Legal Aid WA’s Employment Engagement Strategy, Client Centred Strategy and Client Centred Service Delivery Guidelines.



Reviewed: 17 July 2024


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