Those of over a certain age are probably familiar with the tale of the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, a tale of bravery wherein a little boy notices the wall of a dike has sprung a leak, and he plugs the hole with his finger. As the tale goes, his actions save Holland from inundation.
The story is pure fiction, made up by a writer in the United States, and it is of course unlikely that a catastrophic flood could be prevented by a finger, but it is beloved because it illustrates the benefits of courage. What if, however, the boy had noticed another leak a few yards away?
He would have had a choice: abandon the leak he was plugging to address the new leak, or keep plugging the original leak. Either way, with only one of him there his chances of plugging two (or three, or four or five) leaks are basically nil. Curiously, this appears to be the general approach taken in relation to resources in the Family Court.
As you will have seen, in the last week or so two judges flew in to Brisbane to address the backlog in the family court, and that is certainly welcome news for litigants—at least in Brisbane. Those judges had to come from somewhere, however, and that means wherever that is will now miss out; just as we would need a legion of Dutch boys to plug a legion of leaks, we need new judges in the family court; simply moving them about conjures the old analogy of deckchairs and the Titanic.
That plan is of course pure genius compared to what we are hearing from the co-chair of (yet another) inquiry into Family Law, Pauline Hanson. Hanson’s views seem to suggest that she feels the little Dutch boy should simply have knocked another hole in the dike to let the water back in. In all seriousness, however, the real issue here is that we do not need another inquiry; we know the problem is simply one of resources.
Queensland allegedly has one of the worst backlogs in the country, despite a significant percentage of settlements being filed in the Brisbane registry. That tells me that our members are doing a great job of settling matters when they can be settled, and everyone knows how hard our judges and registry staff are working; the truth is that we don’t have the numbers.
We do not need this inquiry, nor the cavalcade of unsourced anecdotes from Ms Hanson that will apparently accompany it. We just need to appoint more judges; I can assure the federal government that the ranks of Queensland’s solicitors are teeming with good candidates.
Many (although by no means all) of those candidates possess specialist accreditation with Queensland Law Society, which is my way of seguing into the fact that nominations are now open for the QLS Outstanding Accredited Specialist Award. This award recognises Accredited Specialists who have demonstrated a commitment to the QLS community of Accredited Specialists through leadership, education, promotion and awareness of the Specialist Accreditation brand. If you are aware of a person who fits this category I urge you to nominate them to ensure they get the recognition their efforts deserve.
In closing, some of you at least will have watched the AFL Grand Final last Saturday, and if you are a Tigers fan you will no doubt have enjoyed it. I raise it not to rub salt into the wounds of any Giants fans out there, but to make mention of the feel-good story of Marlion Pickett.
Picket played his first-ever AFL game in the Grand Final, and performed brilliantly, unphased by the big stage. Possibly that was because he had overcome bigger odds to get there. In 2010, Pickett’s footy games were played behind fences and largely for the entertainment of prison guards, as he did time for burglary offences at the Woorolooo Prison Farm.
There are plenty of people—the aforementioned Ms Hanson likely among them—who conform to the ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ view of the justice system, but Marlion Pickett showed why people should get second chances and why rehabilitation is the focus of our system. He is now a contributing and valuable member of society, holding down a great job and providing inspiration for other youngsters who might be struggling to stay on the rails. Pickett was a winner the minute he stepped on the field, and so was our justice system.
Bill Potts, QLS President