20 March 2019
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
I don’t like to start on a down note, but it is imperative that I address the tragedy last week in Christchurch. Our hearts go out to the people of New Zealand, and I express our solidarity with them in these terrible times. Our countries and our peoples have grown up together, inseparable allies on the battlefield, fierce rivals on the sports field and co-believers in the ideal that there is nothing better than having good times with family and friends-and that an open and welcoming society is the best way to achieve this.
Pausing to acknowledge the suffering of others, and to offer condolences and support in traumatic times, is basic human goodness. John Donne observed that, “Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Similarly, the tragedy in New Zealand is a tragedy for all human beings, not just the people of Christchurch, and it is right for us to pause for a moment to offer comfort, sympathy, basic human goodness.
The battle against ignorance and close-mindedness is at the heart of Queensland Law Society’s mission, and indeed that of our profession. We are for good law, good lawyers and the public good. We have a commitment to evidence-based policy and reject discrimination, prejudice and bigotry of every kind.
Thankfully, we provide part of the antidote to this through our work, and I had the very great privilege and pleasure of handing out awards at the Legal Profession dinner to practitioners who distinguish themselves by doing just that. Speaking up for the voiceless, defending the downtrodden, striving for access to justice for all - such are the impressive legacies of our award winners.
Those winners are listed below, and their commitment to the rule of law, and their achievements in the realms of justice, diversity, human rights, inclusion – in fact, in freedom itself – are inspirational and a bulwark against hateful ideology and terrorism of any stripe. I tip my hat to the esteemed winners listed below:
- QLS Agnes McWhinney Award: Edwina Rowan
- President’s Medal: Glen Cranny
- Community Legal Centre (CLC) Member of the Year: Bill Mitchell
- Innovation in Law Award: Andrea Perry-Petersen
- Queensland First Nations Lawyer of the Year: Bill Munro
- Queensland First Nations Legal Student of the Year: Giselle Kilner-Parmenter
- Diversity and Inclusion - Equity Advocate Award: Ian Hazzard and Michael Bidwell
- Diversity and Inclusion - Large and Medium Legal Practice: McCullough Robertson
- Diversity and Inclusion - Small Legal Practice: BTLawyers
I would also like to thank all the presenters, sponsors and of course attendees at symposium; you all played an important part in making the event a success. I give a special thanks to the presenters, of course, who for the most part took time away from busy practices to share their wisdom and give back to the profession. Such sacrifice is humbling, and reminds me yet again how fortunate QLS is in the quality of its members and friends.
I must also thank our Events, Learning & Professional Development, Marketing, Design and Communications teams for their long and hard work in putting symposium together. The process of planning and creating Symposium talks far longer than you might think, with initial discussions on content – including with our hard-working policy committees, who also have my thanks in this regard – to begin for Symposium 2020 shortly. Those teams involved show great dedication to the almost year-long process of delivering Symposium, and then of course start to do it all over again! They are indeed champion teams and teams of champions.
I apologise that this update has a sombre tone, and promise to return to dad jokes and tales from my travels in this wonderful and privileged role next time, but for the moment we do need to speak out about this, and spare a thought or two for our comrades across the ditch. Things like this remind us that life is precious, fleeting and fragile; take care of your selves, and each other.
Bill Potts, QLS President
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