Celebrating Asian Australian Lawyers: From William Ah Ket to Today

Presented by the Asian Law Centre as part of the Asian Legal Conversations Webinar Series.

Asian Australians have played a vital role in the legal profession since the late 1800s, starting with the first barrister of Chinese origin to join the independent bar in Victoria, William Ah Ket.

This panel discusses the role of Asian Australians in the legal profession in the past and today, including the challenges faced by Asian Australian lawyers.  It also discusses the importance of cultural diversity in the workplace and within the community, particularly during a time when racism has become more prominent since COVID-19.


Andrew Godwin is Associate Professor at Melbourne Law School and serves as the Director of Transactional Law, Director of the Graduate Program in Banking and Finance Law, and Associate Director of the Asian Law Centre. He previously worked as Chief Representative in the Shanghai representative of the international law firm Linklaters. Amongst his many accomplishments and interests, is his work on the history of William Ah Ket.

Ms Tienyi Long is the third recipient of the William Ah Ket Scholarship and is now working as a Legal and Governance Officer at Glen Eira City Council. She was previously a policy officer at the University of Melbourne, a member of the Castan Centre for Human Rights and was a Young Ambassador for UNICEF.

Mr William Lye OAM QC was first called to the Victorian Bar in 1988. He took Silk in 2018. Amongst his specialist skills, Mr Lye is an Accredited Mediator and has been appointed Arbitrator on a number of international arbitration panels including serving on the panel of the Foreign Arbitrators' Panel of the Shanghai International Arbitration Center. In 2017 Mr Lye became a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the law, to business, and to the promotion of cultural diversity. With Reynah Tang, Mr Lye is a founding member of the Asian Australia Lawyers Association and served as that Association’s National Vice President between 2013 and 2018.

Mr Reynah Tang AM is a full time member at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, where he hears matters across a broad range of jurisdictions from residential tenancies to medical and legal disciplinary matters.  Prior to his VCAT appointment, Mr Tang was a tax lawyer specialising in the Federal and state tax issues associated with mergers and acquisitions, private equity transactions and major projects.  In 2013, he served as the President of the Law Institute of Victoria and was a founder and inaugural president of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association.  In 2019, Mr Tang became a Member of the Order of Australia for his service to the law and professional legal associations.