Steve with his family – wife Sue, children Morgan and Caitlin, and his grandchildren.

John Stephen Rees, ‘Steve’ to everyone, was one of Toowoomba’s leading lawyers, a great contributor to the community, and a devoted family man.

He passed away on 8 July 2022 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Steve was 66 years old.

Steve left behind his wife Sue (a state secondary school teacher and writer), son Morgan, daughter Caitlin, and four beloved grandchildren.

Steve and his oldest sister arrived in Mary Kathleen, Australia, when he was two years old with their Welsh father and English mother, a doctor and nurse, who ran the medical practice for the mine. Later, the family moved to Rockhampton and then Brisbane, where his father practised as a GP whilst his mother raised their six children.

Educated at Church of England Grammar School (Churchie) in Brisbane for his secondary schooling, Steve was school vice-captain in his Senior year, and stroke of the winning eight in the last Head of the River held on the Milton Reach in 1973.

He completed his law degree at the Queensland University of Technology (formerly QIT). Following graduation, Steve moved to Toowoomba to commence work as a solicitor in 1982.

In 1994, Steve founded the highly respected firm, ReesLaw. At the time of his passing, Steve had practised as a lawyer for almost 40 years.

Steve’s story is compelling and inspirational, and goes far beyond the law. First and foremost, Steve was a dedicated family man who was actively involved in his children’s school life at Toowoomba East State School and Toowoomba State High School and their many extra-curricular activities.

He served as President of the high school’s P&C for eight years. His grandchildren adored his elephant rides and forays into nature and learned to love animals through Steve’s enjoyment of family dogs.

His sense of family extended beyond immediate family. He provided support to the children of his two brothers who predeceased him, and enjoyed visits of the children of long-term employees of ReesLaw and their families.

Steve was a kind and respectful man. He looked for the good in people and was a loyal, supportive and non-judgmental friend to those lucky enough to have had that relationship. It was rare to hear Steve be critical of any person. He was modest and humble, a true leader who valued and inspired others to achieve their best.

In all areas of his life, Steve strove to make a difference. Known as ‘the White Knight’ during his early years on court duty for his willingness to do his best for every client, Steve practised mostly in family law. He commanded the greatest of respect from clients, fellow practitioners, the community and the courts.

He was a past President of the Downs and South West Queensland Law Association, a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist (Family Law) for more than 25 years, and served as a QLS Senior Counsellor for more than 12 years, providing support to colleagues with ethical or personal difficulties. He also was a very successful mediator for the Queensland Small Business Commissioner.

As a lawyer, Steve was committed to legal professional ethics and strove to provide frank and honest representation of his clients and honest dealings with the courts and fellow practitioners. He preferred to mediate rather than engage in the extreme adversarial approach often seen today, particularly in family law. Steve tried to understand the view of the other side with the hope of building a resolution in the long-term interests of both parties.

One of Steve’s greatest contributions was to co-found the Toowoomba Community Legal Service, now known as TASC, a service which assists thousands each year. He believed everyone should have access to legal and social justice services, and in recent years, he worked with refugee services to assist asylum seekers complete their applications.

A traveller and adventurer in the true sense of the word, Steve visited Nepal on eight occasions and climbed several mountains in the Everest region. During his many trips, he forged a deep connection and bond both with Nepal itself and its people. He provided both legal and fundraising support following the devastating 2015 Nepal earthquake.

Steve knew the only effective way to escape poverty was through education and as President of the Rotary Club of Toowoomba East (2020-2021), he helped set up scholarships for disadvantaged children at the Annapurna School in Kathmandu.

Following his death, Rotary, in conjunction with the Rees family, has established the Steve Rees Scholarship to promote educational opportunities for children in Nepal.

One of Steve’s heroes was late South African Leader Nelson Mandela, who said:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

That was how Steve saw life. To his end, Steve expressed to those close to him his gratitude that he’d had the opportunities he had – to have lived in a beautiful peaceful country such as Australia, to have enjoyed a rich and full life with his family, and to have had the opportunity to help his community.

Vale Steve Rees.

Kelvin Schmidt is a former Brisbane colleague of Steve Rees and Chris Meibusch is a former Toowoomba colleague.

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2 Responses

  1. What a lovely Eulogy for a good man. What a different world it would be if everyone lived life like Steve did.

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