Watson, Dale

Special Counsel

Dale has over 30 years of experience as a litigator specialising in administrative law and was the Client Service Manager for the Migration and Citizenship Litigation Branch of the Department of Home Affairs for over 10 years. She acts for a wide range of government departments and agencies, although in more recent years, her focus has been on acting for the Minister for Home Affairs, defending a variety of decisions in tribunals and courts. She also regularly appears as an advocate in courts and tribunals.

She has managed many high-profile matters, test cases and constitutional challenges for a range of clients, including Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department. She is also experienced in defending claims for false imprisonment, as well as unlawful detention under the Migration Act. She has assisted clients with their response to subpoenas, including making claims for public interest immunity or relying on relevant statutory provisions. She has also advised and appeared in claims of discrimination under the various Commonwealth discrimination legislation, both before the Australian Human Rights Commission and in the courts.

Previously, Dale spent a number of years working for the Hong Kong Government, advising Immigration and appearing as an advocate in a number of migration/refugee-related matters. She has previously been a member of the Law Council of Australia and of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Liaison Committee of the Law Council.

Relevent experience

Dale’s relevant work includes:

  • representing the Minister for Home Affairs in a series of matters involving challenges to decisions refusing or cancelling protection visas on character grounds where a single judge had ruled that these powers were not available, including running test cases before the Full Court of the Federal Court and co-ordinating responses on behalf of the Department in relation to such matters
  • acting for the Minister for Home Affairs in a High Court proceeding which sought to challenge earlier High Court authority on the limits of immigration detention and which resulted in the matter ultimately being dismissed
  • acting in a successful defence of a High Court special leave application which sought to disturb a finding of the Full Federal Court about the operation of the term ‘expectations of the Australian community’ in a Ministerial Direction binding on all decision-makers in character matters.


  • Bachelor of Laws (Honours), University of Sydney, 1985
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney, 1983


Australia Day Award for outstanding client service for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in 2012.