Chalk & Behrendt - Lawyers & Consultants

Our People

Dominic Beckett


Director, BA /LLB (Hons) USyd

Before joining the firm in 2001, Dominic acquired broad legal experience in areas as diverse as criminal law, family law, tax and customs revenue and administrative law, as well as land rights and native title. He previously worked for the Australian Government Solicitor, the Northern Territory Legal Aid Commission and the Northern Land Council. He has also practiced as a sole practitioner in Darwin and as a mediator.

Dominic is a highly competent technical lawyer but with a strong ability to perceive a client's underlying objectives.

He counts amongst the highlights of his career:

  • Negotiations over uranium mining in the Northern Territory,
  • Judicial review proceedings over aspects of the Northern Territory criminal justice system,
  • Aboriginal land claim and native title proceedings, and
  • Advising on major structural reforms to land rights in NSW.

Dominic has written and presented papers for various conferences and has volunteered his time as a legal adviser and board member to several community legal centres.

Jason Behrendt

Managing Director

Managing Director, BA / LLB, LLM UNSW

Jason joined Andrew Chalk Associates in 1996, the predecessor of Chalk & Fitzgerald which became Chalk & Behrendt in 2017. He previously worked for the Office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

An Aboriginal person himself, Jason has acted for many years as an external adviser to Aboriginal land councils and representative bodies across the nation. He has extensive knowledge and experience in relation to land rights, native title law and natural resources law.

Highlights of his career have included his involvement in:

  • Many successful Aboriginal land claim appeals in NSW, including the first appeal to be dealt with by the High Court,
  • The successful Wellesley Islands native title (seas) claim on behalf of the Lardil, Kaiadilt, Yangkaal and Gangalidda Peoples, and
  • The successful native title claim made on behalf of the Githabul people of north-eastern NSW.

Jason is a board member of the Law and Justice Foundation.

Andrew Chalk


Director, BA (Hons) / LLB UNSW

Andrew established the firm Andrew Chalk Associates in 1996, which has since undergone transformations to become Chalk & Fitzgerald in 2001 and currently Chalk & Behrendt in 2017. Prior to that, Andrew worked for both a large and small Sydney firm and also for the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service.

Andrew has earned his personal reputation for legal and strategic advice, as well as for his dedication to advocating the interests of his clients, through playing a key role in many successful proceedings and negotiations. This includes his role in:

  • Representing Indigenous bodies in relation to the enactment of the Native Title Bill 1993, and the Act's amendment in 1997-1998,
  • Numerous successful Aboriginal land claim appeals in NSW;
  • Successful native title claims for the Lardil, Kaiadilt, Yangkaal, Gangalidda and Waanyi Peoples in the Gulf of Carpentaria region of Queensland,
  • Advising Aboriginal Land Councils and representative bodies throughout Australia over many years.

Andrew has written and presented numerous papers on environmental and planning law, administrative law, cultural heritage protection, land rights and native title.

Andrew was the founding Chair of Gawad Kalinga Australia Limited, the regional arm of the international community development organisation. He is also a former Chair of the Environmental Defender's Office Ltd (NSW), a director of the Mark Tonga Relief Fund and the Secretary of the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Administrative Law.

Rochelle Coggan


Lawyer, BA/LLB Macquarie

Rochelle joined Chalk & Behrendt, then Chalk & Fitzgerald, in 2014, having previously worked as a property lawyer at a large commercial firm and as a policy advisor in the NSW Division of the Property Council of Australia. While completing her law degree, Rochelle worked as a Research Associate with the Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Research Unit at the University of NSW.

Rochelle has experience advising on general property and environment and planning matters, commercial leasing, property acquisitions and disposals, and corporate due diligence processes. Her experience also includes policy development and advocacy.

Rochelle was admitted as a lawyer in 2011.

David Meale


Director, BA / LLB Macquarie (Hons / University Medal)

David joined Chalk & Behrendt, then Chalk and Fitzgerald, in 2011. He was previously a partner in a large national firm and, in addition to his role leading its Sydney Communications, Energy & Infrastructure team, was staff partner of its Sydney office – a role in which he contributed significantly to the development of that firm and its people.

David has extensive experience advising on large scale infrastructure projects, privatisations and joint ventures and on a wide range of commercial transactions and corporate and governance issues. The focus of his work with the firm is in assisting Indigenous Australians in realising their aspirations, pursuing opportunities and developing more effective organisations.

In addition to his work with the firm, David conducts his own consultancy in organisational development, leadership, conflict resolution and change. He has extensive experience providing strategic, commercial and governance advice to Indigenous organisations, including the Wik Peoples of Cape York.

Between 1997 and 2014 David was the Chairman of the Karen Lynch Foundation, which awarded an annual Memorial Scholarship to an Indigenous university student. He also chairs the W1 Foundation, which aims to improve the wellbeing and status of women and children in Pakistan.

James Walkley


Consultant, BA /LLB (Hons1) Adelaide

James has practised as a solicitor since 2000. In that time he has worked extensively on native title and land rights matters, across South Australia, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. His expertise includes:

  • preparing and undertaking litigation of native title claims in the Federal Court, including in response to future act notices;
  • future act negotiations and implementation of agreements;
  • ILUA negotiations and authorisation;
  • certification of ILUAs and native title claims;
  • conduct of litigation relating to corporate governance and decision-making processes by Aboriginal groups and corporations;
  • conduct of litigation relating to future act processes (compulsory acquisition);
  • negotiating Aboriginal heritage processes under State and Federal laws, and disputes about the operation of those processes;
  • resolution of disputes between Aboriginal people and representative bodies (including NTRBs, NTSPs and PBCs).

Highlights of his work include representing the nguraritja of De Rose Hill (SA) and representing the Goolarabooloo People in relation to native title, Aboriginal heritage and future act issues at James Price Point (WA).

James has been with the firm since 2008.

Geoffrey Winters

Graduate Lawyer

Graduate Lawyer, BA(Hons)/LLB Usyd

Before joining the firm in 2015, Geoffrey was a graduate at a global law firm in the Sydney litigation team assisting banking clients in relation to corporate and trustee duties in the context of class action proceedings. During this time he was also seconded to the in-house legal team of the Bendigo Adelaide Bank. In 2014 Geoffrey was the tipstaff to the Hon. Justice Wright of the NSW Supreme Court and inaugural President of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal and in 2013 he was tipstaff to the Hon. Justice Basten of the NSW Court of Appeal. Prior to this Geoffrey was a paralegal for over five years at a top-tier Australian law firm working in the commercial litigation team.

While at university, Geoffrey was President of both the Australian Law Students' Association in 2012 and the Sydney University Law Society in 2011. Also in 2011 he completed an honours dissertation in the broad-discipline of Political Economy concerning western and traditional concepts of land and the Native Title Act 1993.

Geoffrey is an Aboriginal man descending from the Kamillaroi people.

In 2015 Geoffrey was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to the governing Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the leading Australian Indigenous research, policy, publishing and cultural heritage organization. Geoffrey was also appointed an augural governor of the AIATSIS Foundation which was launched by the Governor General in 2015 and aims to work with corporate and other partners to pursue key projects aligned with the Institute.

Sonja Nichols



Sonja Nichols leads our support team and is responsible for general administration.

Jason Zheng

Financial Controller, BCom (Acc)

Jason Zheng joined the firm as our Financial Controller in 2015 with over ten years experiences in financial services.