Una Gailey Prentice

6 November 1913
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
25 March 1986
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Bick, Una (birth name)

Una Prentice (nee Bick) was the first woman law graduate admitted to the Bar of the Queensland Supreme Court, first woman admitted to the Bar of the High Court, and first female Commonwealth Prosecutor.

Having already completed her Bachelor of Arts, Una Prentice (nee Bick) was one of four people to enrol in the newly established law course at the University of Queensland in 1936. On 29 April 1938 Una Prentice became the first female graduate from the Faculty of Law at the University of Queensland. Over the next two years legal firms showed no interest in her, as either a solicitor or barrister. Finally Una received an offer from the University of Queensland to catalogue the vast book collection of Sir James Blair, who had just retired as Chief Justice. This collection became the nucleus of the Law Library of the University of Queensland.

When World War II broke out, and because of an associated skills shortage, Una was offered a job with the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor. In 1942 she became the first female lawyer to be employed in the Department, performing legal duties as well as being the office bookkeeper. Despite her prestigious position, Una was paid as a typist - the only salary scale the department had for women. After a few years Una eventually was paid a proportion of the legal officer's scale.

Una joined the Brisbane firm of Stephens & Tozer in 1946. She then became 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. Una married Tony Prentice, a barrister, in 1946 and they both practised law until Una's legal career was cut short, due to the birth of their son Roger. With no provision for working mothers at that time, Una was contented to stay home and raise her son and actively involve herself in a number of community organisations.

Sources used to compile this entry: Biographical cuttings on Una Prentice, Dr., first woman to graduate in law from the University of Queensland, BIOG; National Library of Australia Newspaper Microcopy Reading Room; Grant, Heather, 'Una Prentice (1913-1986): Queensland's first law school graduate', in Office for Women, Queensland Government (ed.), Great Queensland Women, Queensland Government, Brisbane, 2005; Grant, Heather, 'Una Prentice', in Women's contributions to Queensland: 1930 -1939, Office for Women, State of Queensland, Brisbane, 2009, http://www.women.qld.gov.au/q150/1930/index.html#item-una-prentice; Kerwin, Hollie and Rubenstein, Kim, 'Law', in The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia, Judith Smart and Shurlee Swain (eds), Australian Women's Archives Project, 2014, http://www.womenaustralia.info/leaders/biogs/WLE0624b.htm; Nissen, Judy, 'Una Prentice', in Purdon, S. and Rahemtula, A. (eds) (eds), A Woman's Place: 100 Years of Queensland Women Lawyers, Brisbane Supreme Court of Queensland Library, Brisbane, 2005; Supreme Court of Queensland Library, 'Una Prentice', in Women in the Law in Queensland, Brisbane, 2003, http://www.sclqld.org.au/schp/exhibitions/witl/biographies/prentice.htm.

Prepared by Lee Butterworth