In December 1996 a boisterous 4-year-old girl with a toothy grin and an almost shaved head, along with her reserved younger brother, were preparing to spend their first Christmas in an orphanage in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
However, little did these children know, they were actually about to meet two people who were set to change their lives forever. An artistic, warm, generous couple from the Gold Coast, Australia; Tim and Mary.
Minnie Hannaford and her younger brother Konnen had never seen white people – let alone the handlebar moustache her Father sported, or the beachy coastline that would be their home on the Gold Coast! – When they were first introduced to their adoptive parents and they had certainly never been on an aeroplane. You can only imagine the look on their faces when they first arrived in Sydney Australia for Christmas that year.
Being so young, Minnie says memories of her life in Ethiopia are vague, but she remembers always being very determined and protective of Konnen.
“I guess I’ve always been independent, even back then in the orphanage. At the time, we were under the impression our biological relatives were no longer alive, so we really only had each other,” Minnie says.
“I felt very protective and responsible for my little brother, he was like my shadow. I’ll never forget his hand holding the back of my shirt for support and if someone offered us something, he would always look at me before accepting it to make sure it was okay he could take it.”
Growing up on the Gold Coast – 12,719km’s from Ethiopia – Minnie is certainly no stranger to feeling a little ‘different’ from everyone else.
“There weren’t a lot of families that looked like us on the Gold Coast, but I never let it bother me that my skin colour was different or my hair was different. As a kid, I just always made a point of acknowledging my differences before someone else could,” she says, though admitting this became more of a challenge as she got older and especially as she entered her legal career.
“I’ve always strived to be someone who is friendly and approachable and I think if you feel ‘different’ or you ‘don’t fit in’, embrace it. Be your unreserved, authentic self and just own it!”
Fast-forward 25 years and that boisterous, toothy grinning 4-year-old is now a compassionate, driven, accomplished and humble young woman. Minnie’s confidence and independence have never faltered and after completing her law degree at Griffith University in 2014, she is now an Associate litigation and dispute resolution lawyer at Holding Redlich.
She’s also just been elected as the inaugural QLS Future Leaders Committee (FLC) President for 2021.
Minnie says the Future Leaders Committee has been a long time coming and a much-needed bridge for early career lawyers who are trying to make their mark as they navigate the legal profession.
“When you create space for people’s voices and experience’s, you’ll be surprised who shows up and I think the FLC election proved how needed this committee really is for early-career lawyers,” Minnie says.
“I am keen to use this platform to support young lawyers and law students in the way I needed supporting when I was in their shoes.’ It is incumbent on all lawyers, at whatever level and in whichever type of practice, to ensure that the legal profession is one of filled with diverse experiences and inclusive practice.’
“It [is] so hard to break into the profession as an early career lawyer, and I think that’s when you need the support and mentorship the most.”
The FLC election spanned 3 months in 2020 and with only 11 positions available and more than 60 practitioners campaigning, it was an intense election period. However, there were certainly some clear common issues that all nominees wanted addressing for early career Lawyers:
- More networking and mentorship opportunities
- Mental health awareness and support
- More acceptance of diversity and inclusion in the profession.
“It takes a special type of person to put their hand up to be part of a committee like this and I can already see how confident and committed every single FLC member is to making space, providing a voice and enhancing the experience of the legal profession for all early career lawyers,” Minnie says.
“Our moment has finally come and I can’t wait to see the influence we have in the legal profession.”