Fierce litigator worked pro-bono to champion human rights

Steven Glass

Steven GlassCredit:Ben Rushton

As the son of refugees, the cause closest to his heart was asylum seekers. Steven ran several cases to the High Court, challenging the government’s ongoing attempts to restrict the rights of people escaping persecution. He also provided pro-bono legal advice to young Saudi Arabian women who had fled abuse in their homeland and were seeking asylum in Australia, and he provided pro-bono legal counsel on Chasing Asylum, a documentary expose of Australia’s offshore detention policies.

Steven was a longstanding volunteer at RACS the Refugee Advice and Casework Service where he worked behind the scenes to assist hundreds of people seeking our protection: drafting statements and submissions to support claims, drafting appeals and review applications for those who had been rejected, and appearing on their behalf. He was instrumental in establishing a legal advice service to the clients of the Asylum Seekers’ Centre. He also travelled to detention centres at Villawood, Curtin, and even Christmas Island (at his own expense) to provide direct legal assistance to people detained there.

Outside of work, Steven was the vice-president of The New Israel Fund, which funds progressive organisations in Israel. Its focus on defending the rights of women, minorities, Arab-Israelis, African refugees, Palestinians under occupation, promoting democracy and ending the occupation resonated with Steven, who believed that it was essential to broaden the conversation in and about Israel.

Steven was famous as a mentor. He was the partner with whom all the junior lawyers wanted to work. He was unfailingly patient and generous with his expertise, as long as the protege agreed to follow the rules in the first edition of Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage and strike legal inanity from their lexicon. He was a lawyers’ lawyer. He believed in the rule of law, had unblemished integrity and was ethical almost to a fault. Many Gilbert + Tobin partners will tell you that he was the cleverest litigator they knew. Most importantly, he had the most impressive shrine of Barack Obama merchandise outside of the USA.

Steven was a family man who loved cooking, food and Bondi where he lived for many years. He was immensely proud of his children Samantha and Jason and was full of love for them and his wife of almost 30 years, Michelle, so much so that he forgave her the very great transgression of always eating what she wanted and never getting fat.

Steven Glass had an enormous heart, and on February 6, 2019, it stopped beating too soon. He was 58 years old and leaves behind Michelle, Samantha and Jason, as well as his mother, Ellen, and siblings Jeremy and Dina, and a very large number of heartbroken colleagues, clients and friends.

Compiled by a group of Steven’s friends and colleagues: Asia Lenard, George Newhouse, Ju Lin O’Connor and Eva Orner.




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