Queensland Law Society

President's Update

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Last week was very much about celebrating the profession of law, and for us Law Week was definitely a tremendous success.

It began for me on Tuesday in Cairns as I joined colleagues for the Queensland Legal Walk along the foreshore. There is something inspiring about hundreds of members of our profession walking together, united in a common cause – in this case access to justice – with the beautiful Queensland autumn weather across the state certainly adding to that special feeling.

Later that day, as a member of the Queensland Government’s Better Regulation Taskforce, I participated in a Cairns community forum, helping to lead discussion around improvements in regulation for businesses.

Our QLS Open Day has only been going for a few years, but it has already grown into a significant annual event, with many members attending our complimentary professional development events and sharing the collegial spirit.

At Wednesday’s Open Day, one of my day’s highlights was the opportunity to present this year’s QLS Equity and Diversity Awards. It was auspicious that the day coincided with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. You may have noticed the rainbow on our social media channels and around Level 2 in acknowledgment of this.

Recognising the firms which lead the way by embracing and innovating in equity and diversity is important to us. This year, our award for large practices went to Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers, which has five diversity streams in its practice, including gender and flexibility, accessibility, LGBTIQ issues, age and Indigenous, and culture.

The small firm award went to Miller Harris Lawyers, a previous winner which continues to strive for an equitable and diverse work environment. Miller Harris has policies, processes, facilities and a recruitment program that actively promote diversity.

This year I introduced the QLS President’s Equity Advocate Award, which recognises and celebrates efforts to promote and foster diversity within the legal profession, whether in private practice, a government agency or as part of wider community engagement, or volunteer work.

I was very proud to present it to the president of the Indigenous Lawyers Association of Queensland, Linda Ryle, who is a tireless advocate for the promotion of Indigenous lawyers in Queensland. Her desire to amplify the voices and perspectives of Indigenous women has been a lifelong commitment, and she has been professionally engaged in the area of Indigenous affairs since the late 1990s.

My thanks go to the Equalising Opportunities in the Law Committee, now known as the QLS Equity and Diversity Committee, for its work in promoting and conducting these awards.

Thanks also go to two members of the QLS Wellbeing Working Group, Rolf Moses and Phil Ware, who shared their knowledge and experience at the wellbeing breakfast seminar which followed on Thursday morning. This focused on developing workplace leadership to enable team leaders to support and promote wellbeing within their teams.

The week ended with the 2017 Offermans Partners North Queensland Law Association Conference on Hamilton Island, where I was delighted to be able to present an opening address, as well as chair a session presenting tips to early career lawyers on running a litigation file.

With many members of the judiciary and QLS members at the conference, I was grateful for the opportunity to discuss stakeholder concerns across a variety of areas in order to improve our offerings to our members.

Yesterday I was back on my home turf – the Gold Coast – to speak at a welcome ceremony for Magistrate Michelle Dooley at the Southport Magistrates Court.

This Friday I am looking forward to catching up with many of our members at the QLS Ball. To my mind, this is usually an apt way to bookmark the end of Law Week, though this year it falls in the week following!

Going from one important week to another, next week is of course National Reconciliation Week, running from 27 May to 3 June, and I would like to mention that we have now received conditional approval of our QLS Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) from Reconciliation Australia.

This is about to go to Council for formal approval, and we anticipate an official launch in early July.

We will be observing National Reconciliation Week at QLS with a staff morning tea and Linda Ryle as our special guest. Our acknowledgement of First Nation people ties in appropriately with the concepts of reconciliation, equity and diversity within our profession, and I commend these important principles to all our members.

Christine Smyth

QLS president