NSWCCL Executive

The Executive officers are elected each year at the NSWCCL AGM. The Executive conducts business in between Committee meetings. 


Lydia Shelly 

Lydia became President of NSWCCL in 2023 after serving as Vice President for two years.

Lydia is admitted as a solicitor with the Supreme Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia. She is a practicing solicitor in Western Sydney and joined the committee in 2014.

Lydia is concerned over the erosion of fundamental legal principles and civil liberties due to increasingly draconian legislation, such as counter terrorism legislation. With a Masters of Terrorism and Security Studies, Lydia has a strong understanding of the policy frameworks that intersect with legislative responses.

Strengthening social cohesion in communities through democratic participation is one of her passions and she regularly engages with diverse stakeholders on civil liberty issues – including on drug law reform, the right to peacefully protest and police powers.

Lydia strongly believes that those in positions of power have a responsibility to promote and defend civil liberties – including the right to peacefully protest. She has appeared in various local courts, the District Court of New South Wales and the High Court of Australia on a pro bono basis for protestors, refugees and on a range of civil liberty-based issues.

Lydia has presented evidence at many Parliamentary inquiries (state and federal) into proposed laws and reviews, including the NSW Modern Slavery Act (2018), Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014 and the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2016. She has also written civil liberty-based articles for a range of media such as the Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Lydia believes that “truth telling” is an important step towards securing justice for First Nations people. She believes that a Bill of Rights for all Australians is long overdue and necessary to ensure civil liberties and human rights are protected.


Sarah Baker


Sarah was elected Secretary in June 2022 having served as assistant Secretary since October 2020. Sarah has been a member of NSW CCL since Sept 2019. In the UK, Sarah earned a Bachelor Degree in Business Economics and Accounting as well as further qualifications in accounting. Her corporate career has focussed primarily in the Healthcare sector, latterly with a specific focus on M&A transactions. She currently enjoys supporting and guiding entrepreneurs through a Sydney Angel group as well as managing various investments of her own.

Sarah has always had a keen interest in civil liberties. However, her interest piqued when she noticed the stark differences between the UK and Australia when she settled here over 20 years ago. Notably in Australia, the criminalisation of abortion, lack of human rights legislation and substandard refugee treatment. 


Stephen Blanks


Stephen Blanks became Treasurer of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties in October 2018, having served as President since 2013 and previously as Secretary since 2005.  Stephen has been a solicitor since 1985, and has a small legal practice located in Rozelle, Sydney.

Stephen has been a member of NSWCCL since 1993.  He was prompted to join when acting for a book publisher who had published a book about corruption and a NSW Government agency wrote to all major booksellers demanding that they not sell the book.  NSWCCL was vital in obtaining publicity for the publisher, leading to a speedy withdrawal of the demands.

Stephen’s particular civil liberty interests include asylum seekers, free speech, privacy and racial vilification. 

Although Stephen’s legal practice is primarily commercially focussed, Stephen has over the years taken on many legal cases involving civil liberties issues, including unpopular cases involving asylum seekers, protesters, paedophiles and people smugglers.

An important part of Stephen’s involvement in civil liberties is supervising Australian and foreign students undertaking internships.

Immediate Past President


Josh Pallas

Josh Pallas was President of NSWCCL from mid 2022 to our AGM in October 2023. Josh has been a passionate and effective NSWCCL member since being placed with the Council as an intern under Stephen Blanks’s supervision by the Law School at the University of Wollongong. He has been active since 2016, joining the management committee in January 2017, becoming Vice-President from October 2017 - 2019 and again in October 2021.

He holds Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts degrees with First Class Honours from the University of Wollongong and a Master of Laws in Criminal Justice from the University of New South Wales. He was Tipstaff to the Hon. Justice Megan Latham in the Supreme Court before moving into criminal, public and commercial law practice and then to the Crown Solicitor's Office focusing on counterterrorism, criminal law and environmental crime.

Josh is completing a PhD on preventive detention and supervision laws in NSW at the University of Sydney. He has published academic works on criminal and human rights law in a range of journals including the Public Law Review, Current Issues in Criminal Justice and the University of Tasmania Law Review, as well as pieces for non-specialist audiences across the broader media including the Sydney Morning Herald and SBS.





Other committee members