Celebrating the life and legacy of Tim McCoy

November 17, 2023 |

On Friday 10 November, passionate community lawyers and lifetime change makers attended the 33rd Anniversary Tim McCoy Memorial Dinner at Richmond Town Hall.

The Tim McCoy Memorial Dinner is hosted every year in honour of one of the early and notable members of the Community Legal Centre movement, Tim McCoy, who tragically passed away 33 years ago following an asthma attack. Tim is remembered to this day for his political activism and larrikin spirit, and for dedicating his life to a movement for social justice - a life too short.

Each year, the winner of the Tim McCoy Award is announced at the event, awarded to the individual or group that the trustees of the Tim McCoy Trust feel best reflects the ideals of progress, justice and equality that Tim worked so tirelessly to realise. 

This year, the award was split between two worthy winners: the Victoria Legal Aid team and their clients Deanna Amato and Madeleine Masterton who worked to expose the Robodebt Scheme; and Alaine Prime for her work in family violence prevention and education. We congratulate the winners for their outstanding contribution and thank them for their work to ensure that Victorians have access to justice. Trustee Lou Schetzer, an academic and former community lawyer at North Melbourne Legal Service (now Inner Melbourne Community Legal) and staff member of the Federation, presented the Award. 

The event was MCed by former community lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service,  ex-ABC Melbourne radio presenter, and Tim’s old friend and colleague, Jon Faine AM. Ben Piper, another close friend of Tim’s who worked for many years as a community lawyer at SouthPort Community Legal Service, shared some humourous anecdotes of Tim’s time challenging the “Australia Card,” and gave a toast to his life and memory. This year’s keynote speaker was esteemed activist, CEO of Djirra, and proud Aboriginal woman, Antoinette Braybrook AM. Antoinette spoke with passion, conviction, and dignity about the devastating result of the Voice to Parliament referendum, what it means to Aboriginal communities and women, and to Antoinette personally. Despite the grief that Antoinette and many others in her community and across the country feel, Antoinette remains committed to the cause. "I choose to remain in the yes," she said.  

Antoinette ended her speech with a call to the community legal sector to be strong allies: “Now is the time to use your voices as legal professionals. The great tradition of legal activism of this dinner is needed more than ever. We will continue to call for the implementation of all 46 recommendations from the Yoorook report. Advocate with us.” 

Antoinette, who was recently appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, received an extended standing ovation, which Jon reflected was a first since the Tim McCoy Memorial Dinner began.  

Remembering Tim and what he stands for, and celebrating the power and impact of the community legal sector remains as important today as ever. We are strong because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before, and we thank everyone who ensures Tim’s legacy lives on. 

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