Symposium shrugs off a shadow

Notwithstanding the shadow of Coronavirus, Symposium 2020 was held with over 650 members attending.

It was once again a great success with informative presentations, interested and motivated attendees, and enthusiastic sponsors and exhibitors. The cloud of Coronavirus did not dampen everyone’s energy.

Although most handshakes were replaced with elbow touching, bows and other inventive greetings, there wasn’t a facemask in sight and the entire event proceeded with its typical efficiency. The profession’s thanks must go to the QLS Events Team, Professional Development Team and to event partners, sponsors and exhibitors without whom Symposium could not proceed as it does.

There were many highlights, including an opportunity at the Legal Profession Dinner and Awards to present honorary QLS membership to my father and past President Gerry Murphy and to listen to QCAT President Justice Martin Daubney AM, who kindly stepped in to deliver a toast to the profession. I confess to being envious of his Honour’s remarkable ability to deliver such an enthralling and inspiring speech without notice.

The conference and drinks with district law association presidents on Symposium eve provided Council with the opportunity to establish stronger lines of communication, which we will no doubt need in responding to the Coronavirus throughout Queensland appropriately. The productive conference gave us an opportunity to meet, support each other ad discuss our mutual concerns. We agreed to collectively develop strategies to improve the Society’s and district law associations’ support for our profession during 2020 and years ahead.

The following night’s Legal Profession Dinner and Awards was enjoyed by 300 attendees and the awards recognised the achievements of fellow practitioners.


The Agnes McWhinney Award – the 14th occasion this award has been given – recognises an outstanding professional contribution from a female practitioner in Queensland. It was a pleasure to announce Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) CEO Jo-Anne Bragg as a very deserving winner.

Jo-Anne has overseen the organisational development and transformation of the Environmental Defenders Office from 3.5 staff in 2009 to 13 staff today. She has also driven a successful national merger process, combining disparate legal practices from around the country into one organisation, whilst successfully litigating and advocating on a variety of environmental issues, including for community standing rights to be included in the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld).

Jo-Anne was a dual award recipient on the night, also being awarded the QLS Access to Justice Award. Our congratulations go to her and the other award winners.

These include First Nations Solicitor of the Year award winner Keryn Ruska and First Nations Student Award winner Kathryn Dorante, Regional Practitioner of the Year winner Kellie Walker and QLS Emerging Leader Award winner Paloma Cole.

Kiley Hodges received the Workplace Culture & Health Award, while Monica Taylor was the inaugural winner of the Proctor Best Feature Article Award for an article which highlighted the impact of climate change on the legal profession.

Awarding the 2020 QLS President’s Medal was a great pleasure. The medal recognises and encourages commitment, contribution and outstanding performance amongst Queensland’s legal profession, and deciding on the winner – a task undertaken by six QLS past Presidents as judges – is not an easy one.


The winner, Denis McMahon, is an extremely worthy recipient who, in his own quiet, humble manner, is the personification of all the characteristics the medal honours. Denis is recognised as Queensland’s expert for assisting clients with farm debt and farm debt mediation issues. His knowledge of the area is extensive and spans the four decades of his legal career practising and assisting clients in rural and regional Queensland.

2020 QLS President’s Medal recipient Denis McMahon,
pictured with QLS President Luke Murphy

Denis appeared at the Financial Services Royal Commission in 2018 to give expert oral evidence on farm debt issues and has been appointed to the Code of Banking Practice Expert Panel on Farm Debt. He has contributed to numerous reviews and policy inquiries with a focus on systemic issues affecting farmers and rural-based businesses.

It was another excellent evening at the Legal Profession Dinner and Awards, and two days of Symposium.

Let’s hope that, by 2021, the world has regained a sense of normalcy, and we can do it all again with even more enthusiasm, without any virus shadow!

Luke Murphy is President of Queensland Law Society in 2020.
Twitter: @QLSpresident

This story was originally published in Proctor April 2020.

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