Legal Aid WA Commissioners
Hon. Jane Crisford SC – Chair (appointed July 2017)
Jane Crisford is the first female Chair of the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia. The Governor of Western Australia appointed Jane as Chair in July 2017.
Under Jane's leadership, Legal Aid WA envisions a future where all Western Australians benefit from the protection of the law regardless of poverty or disadvantage. She has focused on increasing Legal Aid WA's core services of representation, advice and information, whilst also enabling the launch of innovative new services through advanced technologies. Jane has established a strategic direction for Legal Aid WA that centres on making Western Australia a fairer, safer, and more inclusive community. Jane has extensive experience in civil, criminal, and family law, and comes to the Commission as a highly respected practitioner and former member of the judiciary.
Jane studied law at UWA and was admitted to practice in 1978. She worked at the then Crown Law Department and later at Parker & Parker, before becoming an establishing partner at Key & Crisford, which was one of the first all-female legal partnerships in WA. In 1984 she joined the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA as the solicitor-in-charge of its West Kimberley Office and was later solicitor-in-charge of the East Kimberly Office in Kununurra. She was counsel representing Aboriginal families in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In 1991 she joined Dwyer Durack where she became an accredited family law specialist and later a partner.
Jane joined the independent bar in 1998 and was appointed senior counsel in 2002. She was appointed President of the Equal Opportunity Commission in 2003 and served as a Judge of the Family Court of WA and Family Court of Australia from 2006, until her retirement in 2016. She has previously held a number of voluntary positions, including as a member of the Chief Justice’s Indigenous Committee, Women Lawyers of WA, the Law Society of WA, Legal Practice Board, WA Bar Association and the Australian Association of Women Judges.
Helen De Brito - Director of Legal Aid WA (appointed May 2023)
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.
Most recently as the Director of the Criminal Law Division, Helen has been 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.
Steve Toutountzis - Member (appointed January 2018 - nominated by the State Attorney General)
Steve has been in the State Public Service for over 30 years and a member of the Senior Executive Service for over 12 years. His most recent senior position was that of Director of Performance and Evaluation – Group 1, with the Strategic Policy and Evaluation Business Unit of the Department of Treasury. His responsibilities included analysis and strategic advice to government on budgetary and financial management issues impacting Health, Social Services and Transport Portfolios.
Other senior public service positions have included Chief Financial Officer of the former Department of Treasury and Finance and Director of Business Analysis Department of Health. Steve holds a Bachelor of Business from Edith Cowan University and is a Certified Practising Accountant. He is currently also a member of the North Metropolitan Health Service Board and chairs the Finance Committee.
Elspeth Hensler - Member (appointed May 2018 - nominated by the Law Society of WA)
Elspeth Hensler is a barrister at Francis Burt Chambers, practicing in commercial matters including banking, corporate, insolvency, revenue, mining, construction, and succession matters.
Elspeth is a former Chair of the WA Legal Assistance Forum and former President of Australia Women Lawyers and Women Lawyers of WA. She was a member of the steering committee that produced the 20th Anniversary Review of the Chief Justice’s 1994 Gender Bias Taskforce Report. She also authored the private residential tenancy and social housing residential tenancy sections of the Lawyer’s Practice Manual WA.
In 2014, Elspeth was presented with the Attorney General’s Community Service Law Award and jointly presented with the WA Bar Association Distinguished Service Award. In 2015, she received Women Lawyers of WA’s award for Women Lawyer of the Year.
Curtis Ward - Member (appointed February 2021 - nominated by the Law Society of WA)
Curtis (he/him) is a solicitor at Clairs Keeley Lawyers. He has worked predominately in the area of family law, with a particular focus on matters involving issues of family violence. Curtis has also practised in both criminal and commercial matters, including small business disputes and consumer protection. He has experience in a variety of different workplaces including private practice, the community legal sector and at Legal Aid WA.
Curtis currently sits as the President on the board of Pride Western Australia Inc, a peak LGBTIQ+ community organisation that provides supports to people of diverse gender and sexuality. He has been a member of the Pride WA Board since 2017.
Curtis was previously on the Young Lawyers Committee of the Law Society of Western Australia, sitting as the Social Justice and Human Rights Chair. Curtis is also a selected member of a City of Perth advisory group.
Kristin Berger - Member (appointed June 2023 - nominated by the Minister for Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation & Safety)
Kristin Berger is a Deputy Director General at the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, with responsibility for the Consumer Protection, Building and Energy and Service Delivery Group. She has held this position since 2018.
Prior to this, Kristin was the Executive Director of Labour Relations and Industry Development in the former Department of Commerce. Kristin joined the public sector in 2002 and worked in a number of government labour relations roles which included responsibility for public sector bargaining.
Before joining the public sector, she was employed in the union movement and in the university sector as lecturer in labour relations and human resource management.
Kristin has a Bachelor of Science Hons, Anthropology from the University of Western Australia and a Master of Science, Industrial Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Hon Ken Wyatt AM - Member (appointed July 2023 - nominated by the State Attorney General)
Ken served as the Member for Hasluck in the Federal Parliament from 2010 to 2022. He was the first Aboriginal Australian elected to the House of Representatives and the first Aboriginal Australian appointed to the Federal Executive Council.
Ken served as Australia’s first Minister for Indigenous Australians, as well as Minister for Aged Care, Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians.
Ken has worked across the public, private and political sectors in health and education. Ken has a Bachelor of Education in Advanced Education and is a Life member of the Order of Australia.
Ken is currently also a member of the Western Australian Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Council, Energy Resources Australia Board; Beyond Blue Board; Rock Art Australia Board; EPIC Board; University of Western Australia Public Policy Institute; Worldwide Data Exchange Board and the Swan Districts Football Club Board.
Note: Since April 2000, the Commonwealth Attorney-General has declined to nominate new members to the Commission.
Reviewed: 27 September 2023