Justice Dina Yehia’s leadership and legal acumen are well acknowledged today, but the rise to the top has been challenging for the first Greek-Egyptian woman sworn into the NSW Supreme Court.

“When you come from a different ethnic and cultural background there’s a lot of fitting in to do,” she admitted in a recent interview with ABC.

But she says she feels fortunate for the supportive mentors she came across throughout the years.

Justice Yehia, who is of Greek-Egyptian descent, arrived in Australia as a seven-year-old from Egypt not speaking a word of English.

“It wasn’t easy but I think I’m very privileged to have been given these opportunities.”

She reveals there were many occasions where her name was mispronounced in court, even by judges.

“A lot of judges were too frightened to even have a crack at it and would just refer to me as counsel for the accused, which was always somewhat frustrating,” she said.

Appointed since July, Justice Yehia is New South Wales’ latest Supreme Court judge.

“Diversity on the bench,” she had stated then, “is an essential component of a fair and impartial judiciary. If our institutions are to remain strong and independent, they must reflect the community they represent.”

According to Supreme Court data, she is one of the 10 female judges who have joined to her ranks in the past eight years, comprising half of the total 20 appointments over that period.

Her hope, she said, is that her rise to the the new role can send a message of confidence to other culturally diverse women and men.

“That they belong in the profession, they can achieve great things in the profession.”

“If you understand what your role is … and you have a real commitment to the principles that underpin our criminal justice system, then that commitment comforts you in terms of dealing with those challenges.”

Justice Yehia started her career as a defence attorney for the Western Aboriginal Legal Service in 1989, where she stayed for eight years, before becoming a public defender in 1999.

She was appointed the first female Deputy Senior Public Defender in 2013 and a judge to the District Court in 2014.