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A life of Yvonne Swift

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The extraordinary story of how a devoted nun became an equally devoted campaigner for justice – as a successful criminal defence lawyer. 

When Yvonne Benedicta Swift entered the Sacre Coeur convent in Rose Bay in 1938, she was determined to dedicate herself to religious life. But in the 1970s she did something unusual: retrained as a lawyer, established her own practice and defended some of Sydney's most notorious criminals.

In her shift to the law, 'Swifty', as she was known, left behind an impressive career as principal of the Rose Bay School of the Sacred Heart, and later Sancta Sophia College at the University of Sydney. In her legal practice she took on clients who she believed had been wronged, especially by the legal system itself. Known for her plain-speaking approach and her deeply compassionate outlook, Swifty went on to represent the likes of convicted murderers Douglas Rendell and Arthur Loveday, underworld figure Bill Bayeh, and Bandidos gang members for everything from traffic offences to murder. 

The story of this extraordinary woman, who treated everyone from bishops to bikies equally, is a truly unusual and remarkable one.