I can’t start this update without acknowledging that a great deal of media—quite rightly, too—has been focussed in recent times on the almost incredulous fact that on any given day 200 or more Queensland kids are being held in watch houses around our state. I am not talking kids of 17 about to turn 18. I am talking about kids as young as 10. If you want to read the grim detail, check out QLS media maven Tony Keim’s excellent piece on our LawTalk blog.
For those who haven’t had to collect or interview a client in a watch house, I can assure you these places are usually challenging for adults. Some of the watch houses would have livestock turning up their noses. For children, this must be a nightmare made real.
Watch houses often reek with the stench of urine, blood or simply those who have long been denied the chance to bathe and wash their clothes (five minutes in the average watch house will make anyone appreciate the awesome work of Orange Sky). They can be crowded with the sort of people you would rather children not contact. Most times that I have collected a client from a watch house I have felt a powerful need to shower, and a strong desire to get my client out of there as soon as possible.
To be clear, I cast no aspersions on the police officers in charge. They do a great job in trying circumstances and I can absolutely assure you they do not want to be holding terrified children in these places. People become police for a variety of reasons, all connected in some way with helping society. I have never met a single member of our thin blue line who went through the academy and worked their butt off in the hope that they would one day throw frightened kids in watch-house-cells. You would struggle to find a single police officer who wants to hold kids in this way.
This is the sort of thing we as a profession need to rail against—and relentlessly. We are a modern, civilised state and we can clearly do much better.
On a more positive note, we are coming up to World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. I am not saying that elder abuse is a positive thing, of course, but QLS is holding its World Elder Abuse Awareness Day breakfast seminar on 14 June. This is a great initiative which gives us the chance to highlight the dangers of elder abuse. Sadly, it is becoming more prevalent as the Baby Boomer generation ages and the question of what happens to its accumulated wealth becomes of interest to the generations that follow.
Solicitors are usually the last (and sometimes only) line of defence when it comes to elder abuse. We need to be alive to the possibility and aware of the things we can do to combat it. QLS has established a superb team of experts to edify practitioners on this important issue, so get along to the seminar if you can.
Finally, I know that as we wind down the financial year, things can get tough as we look at budgets and balances and perhaps concentrate a bit on the negative. It is a good time to remember that you have a Society that is there for you. The QLS Ethics and Practice Centre and Senior Counsellor’s service to lend a hand in trying times as is the LawCare service if you really need some help with how you are handling things.
It is also worth remembering at these times that we, as a profession, do a lot of good. It is us standing up for the elderly, railing against children in detention and taking up a hundred other issues in the cause of the rule of law. It never hurts to remember that we are a force for good.
So make sure you say that to yourself, at least once per day: I am a force for good. It is one of the perks—and a good one—of being a solicitor.