Northern Territory Government Newsroom

Northern Territory welcomes first female Solicitor-General

The Northern Territory Attorney-General John Elferink today announced the appointment of Sonia Brownhill SC as the new Solicitor-General.

As the Northern Territory’s principal advocate and legal adviser the Solicitor-General is responsible for the provision of high-level legal advice to the Attorney-General, executive government and the Cabinet Office, acts as counsel for the Crown on behalf of the Northern Territory of Australia, and also holds appointment as the Statutory Supervisor of the legal profession in the Northern Territory.

A legal practitioner with more than 20 years of legal experience, Ms Brownhill has highly developed legal skills, a breadth of relevant experience and a proven understanding of the role and functions of the office of the Solicitor-General.

Ms Brownhill was employed by the Solicitor for the Northern Territory from 1997 to 2011, during which time she worked in the Solicitor-General’s Chambers from 2002 and was formally appointed Crown Counsel for the Northern Territory in June 2005. In this role, Ms Brownhill provided high level advice and representation to the Northern Territory Government and its agencies, and various independent statutory office holders on a broad range of matters.

Ms Brownhill joined the private bar in 2011 and has been practising from William Forster Chambers since that time. She was appointed as Senior Counsel in 2015.

Ms Brownhill has extensive expertise in constitutional law, Aboriginal land and native title matters, administrative and public law and statutory interpretation. Ms Brownhill has appeared in the High Court on many occasions, representing the Northern Territory.

Ms Brownhill will succeed current Solicitor-General, Michael Grant QC, who has been appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and will commence in the position on 5 July 2016.

Mr Elferink welcomed the appointment and said that Ms Brownhill came to the role highly regarded by the profession.

“As a long term Territorian she brings local expertise and experience to a role where all of her qualities will be needed.”

 Biographical details

Ms Brownhill was born in Adelaide and moved to Darwin with her family when she was eight years old.  She was raised and schooled in Darwin.  She undertook her tertiary studies in Perth, obtaining her Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Western Australia.  She completed articles of clerkship with Mallesons Stephen Jacques before being admitted to practise law in February 1995.

Ms Brownhill returned to Darwin in 1997, where she was admitted to practise in the Northern Territory and commenced working for the Solicitor for the Northern Territory in the Aboriginal Land Division.  As a solicitor, she had conduct of a number of significant native title cases in the Federal Court and the High Court including Fejo, Yarmirr and WA v Ward.

After being seconded to the Solicitor-General’s chambers in 2002, Ms Brownhill regularly appeared as junior counsel to the Solicitor-General, including in the High Court.  She was appointed as Crown Counsel and continued in that role until being called to the independent bar in February 2011.  Ms Brownhill was appointed as Senior Counsel in the Northern Territory in September 2015.  Her principal areas of practise are native title and Aboriginal land, personal injuries, medical and professional negligence, workers compensation, constitutional law, property law, mining and resources law, contract and public and administrative law.

Ms Brownhill has been a member of the Northern Territory Bar Council since 2011 and is the current Vice President of the NT Bar Association.  In that role, she is a representative of the NT Bar Association on the Law Council of Australia.  She also holds appointment as a sessional member of the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and has sat as the Chair of numerous Committees of Inquiry of the Teachers Registration Board.  She was a member of the NT Council of Law Reporting between 2014 and 2016.

Media Contact: Dimitra Grehl 0439 640 895