Queensland Law Society

QLS Roadshow: Law in the Tropics - Welcome

Thursday 17 August 2017, Port Douglas

President's welcome

Good afternoon.

I would like to formally acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this reputable part of Queensland that we are all meeting on, the beautiful country where rainforest meets the sea. I am advised that Port Douglas is the northern most part the Yirganydji saltwater Djubaki people would traverse. It was also a shared area between them and the Kuku-Yalanji people. I would like to respectfully recognise them as the original Nations from these lands, the keepers of culture and strong traditional practices of law and governance to these areas.

We pay our respects to the elders past present and future and ask the Ancestors of this area for safe passage for all of us who are visitors to these lands as we conduct our business over the coming days.   

Good Law. Good Lawyers. Public Good.

Those are the words by which your Society stands by.

Advocating for good law, supporting good lawyers, for the public good.

This is what you – our members – join with us to accomplish each and every day.

It is truly a pleasure to be here in Port Douglas with you – we are very lucky to have such amazing weather!

 

Regions

Being here provides myself and my team to connect with our north Queensland practitioners, and to acknowledge the great work that you carry out in your local communities.

It is also a bonus to enjoy the beautiful weather and get some sun while here.

I have visited our northern regions a few times this year, and am always struck by the collegiality and warm welcome that greets me.

As a solicitor from the regions, I am always supportive of new ways that we can assist you or promote the good news stories coming out of your areas.

It has been great to see some new judiciary members appointed in our north Queensland areas in recent months, and I will continue to work with our government to advocate for a better allocation of resourcing to our regional courts.

And of course, throughout Queensland as a whole.

Connecting with you through events such as these allows us to discover the issues specific to you and your communities.

I ask you to provide us with your latest practice issues and insight into the local legal environment. Only through you, do we get a better sense of the issues affecting you and how we can better advocate for you.

With the changes in our profession and technology, I believe that it is in our regional areas that we can further utilise the local knowledge and enthusiasm that our DLA members possess.

I believe that our DLA’s energy, ideas and local knowledge is integral to ensuring that we may remain connected.

 

Achievements

Speaking of working together, I would like to share with you some of the amazing work that we have achieved in my year as president so far.

One of our most recent campaigns has been working for the benefit of our community to raise elder abuse awareness.

On June 15 we recognised World Elder Abuse Awareness Day with the launch of a joint campaign with GPs in Queensland.

Our profession are leaders in this space. We are doing this by starting the conversation and bringing this scourge into the light.

This trial saw GP clinics provided with collateral and fact sheets that will assist them in identifying the signs of elder abuse. Small business cards will also be handed out to patients identified as potential sufferers of abuse.

Through this campaign, we are raising awareness of elder abuse and giving a language to those suffering or witnessing these acts; increase reporting figures; and encourage the Government to fund assistance programs for elder abuse sufferers.

Some of our other highlights include the reinstatement of funding for community legal centres by the Federal Attorney-General.

I on behalf of QLS have been relentless in lobbying for a reversal of proposed cuts and I was pleased to receive a personal invitation from Federal Attorney General George Brandis to attend his announcement.

In expressing my and the profession’s gratitude for this reversal of cuts, I cautioned that this was merely a reinstatement of the status quo and that we would continue our advocacy for resourcing in this vital area.

In regard to access to justice, we released our annual Access to Justice Scorecard report after surveying our profession in 2016 and have just wrapped up the 2017 survey.

I’d like to thank our Access to Justice Committee for their work in this space.

In specifically advocating for the solicitors’ branch of the profession, I have been an avid advocate for the appointment of solicitors to Queensland courts.

This year, we have seen appointments – including some solicitors – to the Magistrates Courts, District Court, Supreme Court, a new Senior Judge Administrator, Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal president and Court of Appeal President.

These appointments have been back-filling roles, and we look forward to working with the government to appoint further resources to our courts.

Our judges and magistrates are at the coalface of our profession, and I will continue to lobby for further resources to assist them in undertaking this very difficult and busy job.

We have also worked tirelessly on fostering collegiality in the legal profession. This has included a new initiative that our president spearheaded – the Modern Advocate Lecture Series.

The series features talks from notable figures within the legal profession dealing with advocacy issues relevant to the junior profession, with a particular focus on female practitioners. Our QLS Ethics Centre has run two successful lectures so far to promote engagement between solicitors and barristers.

The Society has also advocated for and are pleased to report that the Government has reinstated the Drug Courts, confirmed the permanency of Southport’s Domestic Violence Specialist Court and announced two new specialist courts to roll out in Townsville and Beenleigh.

I have also advocated across the nation’s media outlets on topics including:

  • High-profile cases to encourage public confidence in our justice system
  • The Mental Health Court and a high-profile decision
  • Domestic violence and bail laws
  • Elder financial abuse
  • Townsville’s youth court
  • The removal of the gay panic defence, and
  • SPER debts.

I’ve overseen and personally signed off on no less than 90 submissions, with over 100 successes in our advocacy work this year. This includes work on:

  • Moves to expunge historical gay convictions
  • Launch of the Search Warrant Guidelines in collaboration with the Queensland Police Service
  • Participation in the Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Stakeholder Reference Group
  • Contributions to ongoing property law review project, including body corporate reform
  • The Farm Business Debt Mediation Bill
  • Updates completed on the REIQ contracts in conjunction with REIQ following amendments to the Federal Government’s foreign resident CGT withholding framework
  • The Competition and Consumer Amendment (Misuse of Market Power) Bill
  • The State Penalties Enforcement Amendment Bill
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Bill
  • The Police Powers and Responsibilities (Commonwealth Games) Amendment Bill
  • The extension of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Funding compliance regime to solicitors
  • The Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Bill
  • The Land and Other Legislation Amendment Act
  • The compulsory third-party insurance scheme review.
  • The Society has also been approached for our committee’s expertise on a range of topics.
  • Another item which I have been agitating for is additional Commonwealth Family and Federal Court judicial resources to address the nasty delays.

I along with several Society staff also worked with our members during the Cyclone Debbie weather event and aftermath, ensuring continued engagement with those affected.

This included visits to our north Queensland, Logan and western members who were hit rather hard – many of their regions being labelled disaster zones. My team included Ethics Director Stafford Shepherd, Ethics Solicitor Shane Budden and Media and PR Advisor Mel Raassina.

We took away a lot of learnings from these trips which will inform us in future natural disasters and weather events.

These achievements are more than a mere laundry list. They are a commitment I made to you when standing for this position.

And they reflect the incredible value that you – our members – give to our society and indeed YOUR Society.

I think it critical that your contribution – nay I say – your valuable contribution to the rule of law is a contribution to the fundamental fabric of our Society.

In standing for this office, I made a commitment to the profession of inclusivity and equity for our members. I committed that we as individuals could contribute in ways to make the collective greater.

To that end, I was pleased to recent award our Equity and Diversity Awards for 2017, and to introduce a new award – the President’s Equity Advocate Award.

Nevertheless, it is important that the legal professions pauses from time to time to take stock of our valuable contribution to the fundamental fabric of our society – the rule of law.

I would like to thank all of our solicitors and guests that sit on our 27 policy committees and our advocacy team who tirelessly work in putting together our submissions.

Unashamedly – but tongue in cheek – I consider QLS to be the upper house when it comes to legislative development.

Recently the QLS has committed to developing and delivering an action plan where we engaged First nations people in the profession across the state to direct what we as an organisation needed to do to alter the current status of the over representation of Indigenous people facing the criminal justice system and increase the underrepresentation of First Nations professionals in the legal fraternity.

We have made good progress since launching in July and continue today in the same vein to understand our place with First Nations People across not only Queensland but wider Australia. In doing so we seek to follow protocol and practice culturally appropriate and culturally competent actions to ensure we are acting in an inclusive and respectful manner. 

Recently, we launched the first Reconciliation Action Plan for Queensland solicitors at a special launch attended by Indigenous Elders, judiciary and government representatives.

Through our Reconciliation Action Plan we seek to promote unity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians.

I ask you to join us on this journey by considering what you and your firms can do to promote reconciliation in our profession.

 

Closing

Before I introduce today’s highly anticipated debate, I would like to say a few quick thank you’s to everyone who participates in events such as today.

These events are the culmination of the work of many. They would not be a success without the efforts of so many – in particular, I thank our sponsor – Legalsuper – for continuing to support our regional initiatives. Thank you also to Bupa, PEXA, ESS, LEAP, GlobalX, Herron Todd White, AlliedLaw and BUPA for joining us on our Roadshow journey.

A big thank you to our presenters and chairs for their time in being with us today and tomorrow.

And of course – thank you all for being with us.