Thursday 13 July 2017, Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Gold Coast
President’s welcome speech
I now have the opportunity to share with you the wonderful work that the Society – and all of you – have been carrying out this year in the family law space.
This annual event provides a great opportunity for Queensland’s solicitors working in family law to forge new connections, reconnect with colleagues and attend a premier professional development tailored to you.
This is the 32nd year of a specialised event for family lawyers and the Society continues to support our solicitors working in this important practice area.
Our longstanding and positive relationship with the Family Law Practitioners Association (Qld) continues, and we look forward to another 32 years of collegiality.
Family lawyers in Queensland have a tough job to carry out – as I’m sure you all are aware.
Tonight and over the next two days we will have rooms full of family lawyers and those interested in the area.
This practice area is constantly evolving and growing, and is also one that often cops flack from those going through what is often the worst times of their lives.
You are the trusted advisor of community members when they need a legal helping hand.
You are also often the brunt of lawyer jokes – especially the divorce ones!
The Irish-American author and playwright Jean Kerr once stated that a “lawyer is never entirely comfortable with a friendly divorce, any more than a good mortician wants to finish his job and then have the patient sit up on the table.”
And the reality is that you are there to serve your clients the best way you can.
Family lawyers have passion and compassion. Otherwise you would not have chosen this often difficult area of law.
- Our family lawyers do a great job dealing with often emotional and complex clients.
- Our family lawyers are also incredibly motivated to be the best in their field, with 188 family law accredited specialists in Queensland.
- This is 37% of our total accredited specialists which is a great achievement.
- Even more interesting is that 57% of our family law accredited specialists are female.
49% of our family law accredited specialists are based outside of Brisbane, which is a testament to our regional practitioners and their connection to the profession and the Society, regardless of the distance.
Some of the great work that your Society and our Family Law Committee have been carrying out in the past year include submissions in relation to:
The Marriage Amendment Bill:
- QLS supported the draft Bill to the extent that it amends the definition of marriage under the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) from being between a ‘man and woman’ to ‘two people’.
- The Society also supported the recognition in Australia of same-sex marriages validly entered into in other jurisdictions, as provided for in the draft Bill.
Our Committee also made submissions to the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence) Bill 2017:
- The Society welcomed the Parliament’s efforts to reduce family violence and supported legislative reform that increases the capacity for the law to appropriately respond to family violence.
- We supported the proposed amendments to the Act on the basis that the family law courts remained the primary forum for the resolution of family law matters
- Family law is a highly specialised jurisdiction and the determination of family law disputes requires considerable expertise.
- Our state courts are already overworked and we did not support any measures seeking to transfer responsibility for the current unacceptable backlog in the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia to state courts.
- We once again called for the current delays in the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia to be appropriately addressed with increased funding and additional judicial resources.
Our committee also contributed to the inquiry into how the family law system should be improved to better protect people affected by family violence.
We have continued to advocate for additional court resources as well as for the reversal of funding cuts for community legal centres.
Following significant advocacy from the Society, we welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement in May of this year that the funding cuts for CLCs and ATSILS would be reversed.
Perhaps the most exciting change coming in family law is the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into the family law system.
This will be the most comprehensive review of the family law system since the 1970s and we are very eager to engage with the ALRC in this process.
We also welcome the announcement that a Bill will be introduced to prevent the direct cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses. We have yet to see the Bill but we look forward to working with the Parliament on this important piece of legislation.
As you can see, we have been incredibly busy in the family law space, and it continues to be an area of great interest for the Government, our profession and the community as a whole.
Family law touches many people in our community and we will continue to advocate for the best laws to protect our vulnerable.
Please join me in the foyer now for our welcome drinks
I look forward to seeing you at 9am tomorrow in the Grand Ballroom for registration from 8.30am.