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Remembering Katrina

There is so much to say about Katrina. She never said it herself though. She was a quiet achiever. She was modest and subtle, understated and dignified.

Katrina was very fortunate to grow up in a family that provided her with wonderful opportunities to learn and experience so much. She was one of those people who took those opportunities with both hands and ran with them. She knew she was extremely privileged, but never took it for granted. She was always helping others; her family, friends and community.

At school, Katrina threw herself into a multitude of sporting and extra-curricular activities, but never sacrificed her studies. She achieved a perfect Tertiary Entrance Rank of 100 per cent and was a prefect, the Captain of Debating and a member of the school’s top basketball team.

She went on to attend the University of Sydney where she achieved First Class Honours in Law and participated in various sporting teams that included rowing, basketball and intervarsity heptathlon.

While at the University of Sydney, Katrina lived on-campus at The Women’s College where she was elected Senior Student in 1998. She fully appreciated the opportunities residing at college provided throughout her studies, not only because she formed lifelong friendships, but because she relished being part of an environment that encourages excellence in whatever areas the students had chosen to pursue.

"At the heart of it all, a wonderful young Australian woman of immense capacity, strength of character and purpose. Coming into her own, into the fullness of her life, into the fulfilment of sure foundations, of reaching her extraordinary potential. So much more, for her to do…She was not too good to be true, but very nearly so.” The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO

She furthered her studies by completing a Masters of Law from the University of New South Wales specializing in Human Rights Law where she obtained a High Distinction average.

Anyone who thought that Katrina’s considerable success came effortlessly would be mistaken. One mark of greatness is the ability to make the difficult appear effortless, and Katrina certainly had that quality, but her many and varied successes were born of hard work, dedication, determination, and more often than not, sleep deprivation. …No client who ever briefed Katrina ever got anything less than 100 per cent commitment from her. …There is no doubt that Katrina had great professional and academic qualities, for which she should be justly remembered, but it was her personal qualities that made her a truly exceptional human being.” Jason Potts, Barrister and Colleague of Katrina

Katrina began her legal career at the top tier law firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques where after five years she rose to the rank of Senior Associate.

In 2005 she was called to the Bar and won the Blashki & Sons prize for the highest aggregate in the bar exams. Once at the Bar, she appeared in the High Court of Australia on at least three occasions and appeared unled several times in the NSW Court of Appeal.  Katrina was universally loved and respected - and occasionally feared - by her opponents at the Bar. She was fiercely committed to her clients and across every detail.

And all of this was done with a smile and unfailing courtesy. Her qualities matched what every barrister should aspire to be: seriously intelligent, highly principled, ethical to a fault, unerringly fair and supremely efficient.

“Katrina was quite simply one of the finest young barristers at the Bar. Not just in the sense of her legal skills, although these were exceptional – Katrina had an instinct for justice. She always did the right thing.” Jeremy Stoljar SC, Barrister and Colleague of Katrina

Katrina recognised the responsibility that came with privilege. She was heavily involved in volunteer work throughout her studies and work life. She volunteered at the Redfern Legal Centre, worked pro bono on the District Court Duty Solicitor Scheme and was instrumental in the establishment of the Ask! Legal Service for Kids run by the Ted Noffs Foundation. At the Bar, she continued volunteering in the community and was a Wishgranter for the Make a Wish programme for critically ill children for the Starlight Foundation.

As a wife, sister and daughter, Katrina was loving and selfless, and as a mother, she was perfect. She was dedicated to her family and determined to make sure she gave her kids a loving home with the same opportunities that she was fortunate to have had. Most of all, she wanted them to have fun, as demonstrated by their birthday parties. The cakes she baked for them were legendary and the outfits she prepared for their dress up parties were worthy of the stage! Katrina had a huge capacity for love and friendship. She built very close, special relationships and always made time for her friends. For someone so extraordinary, she was incredibly down-to-earth and often downright silly, with a wicked sense of humour. To her friends she was just Treen – a gorgeous, funny girl who was always there to listen, to laugh and to help out in a crisis.

If there is one thing above all that we can learn from Katrina's example, it is how to love, to show love, to use love, and by loving to make other people and places better. I believe Katrina's greatest achievement was to make sure that those she loved knew that she loved them - her children, Paul, and all of her family and friends.” Julie Taylor, Barrister and Colleague of Katrina

By supporting The Katrina Dawson Foundation, you can give young Australian women the opportunity to contribute to our community in the same way that Katrina did, and would have continued to do so, had she not been so tragically taken away from us all.


Watch the interviews with Paul Smith, Sandy Dawson and Angus Dawson aired on 60 Minutes sharing memories of Katrina and their views for the Foundation.

Jason Potts' beautiful obituary of Katrina in The Journal of the New South Wales Bar Association Katrina's Obituary in The Journal of the New South Wales Bar Association

The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO, former Governor-General of Australia, former Principal of The Women's College within the University of Sydney and Founding Member of The Katrina Dawson Foundation gave a beautiful oration at Katrina's memorial service in December 2014. You can read the text in full: Quentin Bryce Memorial Speech Dec 2014

Cate Stewart was a close friend of Katrina Dawson from the  University of Sydney.  Cate wrote a moving tribute to that was published in the 2015 JurisDiction Magazine (a publication for law student alumni of the University of Sydney).  You can read the text in full: Katrina Dawson Tribute in JuristDiction


Examples of Community Involvement
  • Helped found Ask! A Legal Centre for Kids with the Ted Noffs Foundation

  • Volunteer at Redfern Legal Centre

  • Volunteer Wishgranter for the Make a Wish programme with the Starlight Foundation

  • Volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières

 Career Information
  • Senior Associate & Solicitor at Mallesons Stephen Jaques – 2000 - 2005

  • Barrister - 8th Floor Selborne Chambers, 2005 - 2014

  • Blashki & Sons Prize for the Highest Aggregate in the Bar Exams - 2005

University Achievements
  • Senior Student, The Women's College within The University of Sydney

  • Masters of Laws (Human Rights) – (UNSW) 2004 – High Distinction Average

  • Bachelor of Laws (Hons 1st Class) - (Syd) 1999

  • Michael Harmer and Associates Award for Anti-Discrimination Law (1999)

  • Women's College Prizes - Grace Frazer Prize (1995), Leonie Star Prize (1995), Ellen Bundock Prize (1996-1998) and Women's College Scholarship (1996)

  • Bachelor of Arts – (Syd) 1997

  • Sydney University Athletics Intervarsity Team - 1997

High School Achievements
  • Ascham Member of School Committee (Prefect) - 1994

  • HSC Tertiary Entry Rank 1994 – 100 (Equal 1st in NSW)

    • French (3 Unit) – 2nd in State

    • Modern History (3 Unit) – 9th in State

    • Latin (2 Unit) – equal 3rd in State

    • Maths (2 Unit) – 6th in State

  • Ascham Captain of Debating – 1994

  • Ascham Basketball Firsts – 1994

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