Una Prentice was the first person (of either gender) to graduate from the Faculty of Law at the University of Queensland in 1938. The Una Prentice Award is possible thanks to the generous bequest of Ms Prentice, and each year WLAQ honours and celebrates her memory by recognising the achievements of the highest graduating female law student at each of the Law Schools across Queensland. The award is supported by the College of Law Queensland as an ongoing sponsor.
In 2017, WLAQ announced The Hon Justice Debra Mullins as the inaugural Patron of the Una Prentice Trust Fund.
The following information sourced from Supreme Court of Queensland Library, ‘Una Prentice’, in Women in the Law in Queensland, Brisbane, 2003.
On 29 April 1938, Una Prentice (nee Bick) was the first woman to graduate from the Faculty of Law at the University of Queensland. Having already completed her Bachelor of Arts, Una was one of four people to enroll in the newly established law course in 1936 and one of three to graduate. Una’s parents and teachers encouraged her desire to become a lawyer, the only opposition she received was from the Dean of the Law Department. After graduating, Una was admitted to the Bar in September 1938. Following her admission, Una was not invited to the function held by the Bar. Instead, as the social pages of the Courier Mail informed its readers, she was entertained by her mother and friends at morning tea at Rowe’s. Una looked for a job for two years before accepting a position cataloguing the library of Sir James Blair, which became the nucleus of the UQ Law Library. When World War II broke out, Una was offered work with the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. It was made clear in her interview that she would be dismissed at the end of the war when she would be replaced by a returned serviceman.
In 1942 she became the first female lawyer to be employed in the Department, performing legal duties as well as being the office bookkeeper. She was paid as a typist – the only salary scale the department had for women. After a few years, Una was eventually paid a proportion of the legal officer’s scale. At the end of the war, Una married Tony Prentice, a barrister. Anticipating dismissal from the department, she resigned in 1946 and joined the Brisbane firm of Stephens & Tozer.
Una then became the Australian President of the Business and Professional Women’s Association and attended an international conference, touring England for eight months talking about the status of women in Australia. The following year her son, Roger, was born. At that time there was no provision for working mothers and Una was content to bring up her son and involve herself in a number of community organisations.